Childless By Choice
Why People Are Often Critical Of Others Who Choose Not To Have Children
Dear April Masini,
My husband and I have decided not to have children. We are of "prime childbearing age" and "our clocks are ticking" as our families often remind us, but no one seems to be able to get it through their heads that we don't want to have kids.
I'm at the end of my rope. I don't want to be condescending or tell people that their choice to have children is wrong, because I don't think it is, but I am getting tired of hearing people constantly tell me I need to have children and I'm worried that I'll snap. Do you have any advice on how I can handle these people who feel the need to determine what happens in my relationship with my husband?
Sincerely, Childless by Choice
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Childless by Choice,
There are more households without children than with children, and....there are more kinds of households than ever before.
There are more single households, more married and re-married and re-re-married households, there are more couples that are not married living together and more gays living as couples in relationships and living as singles. There is also more intermarriage -- combining races, religions, and geographies in a relationship.
What this means is that there is more tolerance for less traditional types of homes, and that is why there are more homes without children.
Children are a traditional part of family life, but tradition no longer rules. Tolerance does.
It's okay for people to marry and not have children or not marry and not have children or to not marry and have children! There are so many different kinds of relationships, and all are acceptable!
Of course with all that tolerance, there is a bigger gap between those people who tolerate children and those who don't. Ironically. That is part of the result of there being fewer homes with children now.
Children used to be THE accessory to announce status. Then the novelty wore off, and smug marrieds with children began looking wistfully to their DINK (double income no kids) friends and neighbors with child-free lust and envy. And while there will always be those people who think they know what is right for everyone when it comes to marriage, children and family, those who protest too much, may just be acting out.
Not everyone was able to have children naturally, and technology intervened, but the side effects on the children and the mothers of the children born with a boon from technology is unknown and won't be until these children start bearing children. However, the financial, psychological and physical toll that these kinds of pregnancies have on couples and families causes a lot of stress now. And as the stress overcomes the joy of child bearing, many people are just saying no to having kids.
Clearly children are expensive, exhausting and they change everything in a marriage forever. Having children, whether by nature's way or by adopting or having technology help, doesn't assure you will have good kids. There are also surprises around every corner in garden variety life.
When you add children to the mix, the surprises are often too much for many couples to sustain, and divorce is often a reality because of the strains and stresses that having children puts on a relationship.
When families give their grown children flack for not having children, rather than being defensive, the best response is to question the family member's motive.
For example, you may say, "You seem really upset that I may not have children." And nothing else.
In other words, let the upset and the frustration be the other person's issue -- not yours.
If you do find yourself engaging in negative feelings with the family member, examine the reasons for it. But if you're looking for a good line to combat the onslaught of child-itis, "It's not how I choose to live right now. I'm sorry it's a problem for you," will work wonders. Especially if you smile and walk away. It's your relationship and your choice.