Advice for Dealing with the Pressure Friends and Family Put on You to Have Children
Dear April Masini,
I hate kids. There. I said it. My husband and I don’t want them, and everyone makes us feel like lepers. Why do I feel like I'm doing something wrong? Do you have any advice for how we can deal with the plethora of people asking, "Soo, when are you going to start a family?" We already have a family and it includes me and my husband!"
April Masini's Advice :
You are not alone! In fact, I applaud your honesty. The worst mistake anyone can make is having children just to please a spouse, a parent, or a group of peers, when the truth is that they don’t like children.
Unlike driving tests before getting a motor vehicle license or passing the bar exam before practicing law, no one makes people take a test of any kind before having a child, and while taking a test or getting licensed doesn’t prevent bad situations, it does give people pause to think about what it is they’re doing.
Not so with parents. In fact many children are “accidents of passion” and many marriages – in fact many more than most people admit to – happen as a result of an unplanned pregnancy. What this means is that people have children without thinking about what it means to their life – and whether or not they actually want them.
Have the Courage to Just Say No:
Saying no to having children takes courage because it is expected. Going against expectations takes courage. Standing up for yourself can be hard to do.
Saying no to having children means you have to suffer a loss of popularity with your family in many cases. Parents often dream of becoming grandparents. Yet, becoming a grandparent is not something they have direct control over, so if you decide not to have children, they don’t get grandchildren and they don’t get to control you. Both of these things can upset them.
Grandparents suffer peer pressure, too. There is often status associated with having grandchildren, and grandparents can be just as competitive as parents over where their grandchildren go to school, what grades they get, what achievement test scores they have, how popular they are, how beautiful they are, etc. In addition, a tie that binds seniors is talk about their children and talk about their grandchildren. If parents don’t have grandchildren, they lose out on that aspect of their social life.
Parents may associate having children with success and if you decide not to have kids, your parents may feel like failures.
Whether or not you think any of this is sensible, rational, or right is less important than whether or not you accept your family’s feelings – and separate them out from your own. This is easier said than done and can take discipline. In fact, this can be as difficult as telling a parent you don’t want to go into the five generation family business.
Social Peer Pressures:
Ever notice how newly engaged or married people desperately try to fix up their single friends as if they’re saving them from the disease of being single? Well, the same is often true of newly pregnant couples or couples with new babies. Part of their inclination may be that they are so happy that they want to share the happiness by “making you” part of their kids club. But some of it may be that their discomfort and unhappiness with being new parents motivates them to want their friends to go through the same experience so they can all be in the same boat again.
Instead of succumbing to their pressures, try to separate yourself and your feelings from their feelings and their pressures. For instance, when they say to you, “So, when are you going to have children?” You can answer with something like, “I’m not sure I want to,” or “I really don’t want kids.” They are simple sentences, but very hard to say because we are so programmed to take care of other people’s feelings and avoid conflict, which would mean responding, “Oh, I don’t know,” which gets you off the hook of telling the truth, and allows them to continue to pressure you.
Kids as Accessories:
When it feels like you aren’t appropriately attired unless you have a baby in tow, you’ve suffered baby-as-fashion syndrome. Many parents use their children to gain access to social settings and people in society that they would normally not find themselves in contact with.
While children are a great equalizer, using kids to get to business contacts by arranging play-dates with children of families that mom and dad want to socialize with or do business with is common. It’s a lot like nepotism, but the truth is that all’s fair in love and war – and society and business. Instead of feeling left out, focus on what your advantages are.
You Will Be the Object of Jealousy:
The more certain you are that you don’t want children, and the more pronounced you are with your decision, the more you may be the object of jealousy. The truth is you are footloose and fancy-free and you can go away for the weekend or overnight at the drop of a hat. You don’t have to book a babysitter or leave a million emergency numbers for “just in case.” You can drink a couple of martinis on a “school night” and eat at restaurants that don’t serve drinks in cups with lids on them without worrying. You can have a great body without having to work as hard as someone who’s got stretch marks from pregnancy and saggy breasts from nursing – and you will get cat calls and secret glances from men that pregnant women will not get. And you and your husband can have sex in the kitchen or the living room at any hour of the day or night without getting reported to Child Services.
If you expect your friends and family with children to sit by lightly and watch you enjoy yourself without trying to make you feel guilty – forget about it! But you know what? That’s their problem, and the benefits of your choice.
Love ‘Em Without Having ‘Em:
Calm your friend’s jealousies by acting like a good human being who appreciates children, but doesn’t want them for yourself. You can still offer to baby-sit, throw baby showers, and volunteer or donate to your community’s school district. And do it with a smile – you may allow more people who don’t want kids to come out of the closet and enjoy a life they didn’t think they were entitled to.
Since you're kid-free, you'll have plenty of time to keep going on romantic dates with your significant other. Check out my book Romantic Date Ideas for some great ideas.