Why “I Don’t Want Kids” is not Your Cue to Say “Yes You Do”

I can’t remember the first time I was asked how many children I want.  But I can remember the last time, and the several-hundred times before that, by every family member and most friends.  The question is a close-second only to “so are you seeing anyone yet,” which is of course, another favorite.

As a woman, you can probably easily answer the question of which of your friends most want children, because it’s a conversation you’ve all had several times.  Family members, friends, and sometimes people you hardly know all want to know how many children you’ll one day pop out, whether or not you’ve expressed any interest in doing just that.  And as someone who can say I personally don’t want kids, my response usually elicits plenty of well-intentioned insinuations that I simply don’t know what I want.

don't want kids

But what if your future husband wants kids?

My favorite thing about this question is the idea that I’ll never have any sort of an important conversation with my husband-to-be before our wedding day.  I don’t know about you, but personally – if a relationship is getting serious – conversations about marriage, where we want to live, and yes, children, will come up.  If by the time I’m ready to get married I still don’t want children, I can guarantee that’s a conversation I’ll have had with my boyfriend; and if he does want children, there’s a good chance we won’t be getting married.

And while I understand that love is a thing, and sometimes you don’t fall in love with the person you’d like to, I also know that certain things about my life are incredibly important.  Of course there are some things you have to sacrifice in a marriage -where to eat dinner, what to do on Friday night, even where you live.  But something as big as having children – something that is going to completely change your life – is a deal-breaker for most people, including myself.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that I will not marry a man who desperately wants children if I desperately do not.  And if you pose that question one more time, I’m going to flip the coin and point out that maybe you’ll fall for a man who doesn’t want children.

You’ll change your mind.

This has always been my favorite (most infuriating) argument, because it’s as though I’m a 5-year-old who can’t decide what she wants to dress up as for Halloween this year.  Maybe you’re right – maybe I will change my mind some day down the line.  But that’s my mind to change, and as someone who’s been told this more times than she can count, take it from me that it is disgustingly and humiliatingly patronizing to be immediately told that your opinion is invalid because it’ll change at some point in the next 10 years.

I am NOT a child.  I do not need for your immediate response to my choice about my life to be “well, you’ll change your mind and agree with me one day.”  You can not know that.  “My former co-worker’s friend’s niece’s daughter used to say she didn’t want kids and now she has triplets!” is not proof that I will change my mind.  It is proof that people change and evolve and sometimes, that means that certain major life decisions change.

Well what if you…you know…get pregnant?

Based on other comments I get, you’d think these people are of the opinion that I am myself still a child.  Which is funny, considering that they’re trying to convince me to get pregnant and have babies.  But seriously, do we live in a dystopian (or Tea Party dominated) society where birth control, condoms, and abortion are all illegal?

While I understand that no form of birth control and safety precautions are an absolute sure thing, I can say with a pretty damn high level of certainty that if I don’t want to get pregnant, and I take the necessary precautions, I won’t get pregnant.  Again, just because your co-workers sister’s best friend’s cousin got pregnant at 22 when she didn’t want children, does not mean the same thing will happen to me.  And no, I don’t want to hear your statistics about all the unwanted pregnancies in America.

But thanks for the vote of confidence.  Or was that just a mild threat?

Isn’t that kind of selfish?

To not bring another unwanted child into a world filled with unwanted and unhoused children?  I don’t think so, but maybe we have different definitions of selfish. Doesn’t this sentiment kind of suggest that a woman’s only purpose is to have children, and that if she chooses not to, that’s the “wrong” choice? Believe it or not, I don’t find making my own choices about my own life to be selfish in the least bit, especially considering that this particular decision is not effecting anybody but me.

So what about you? Do you want kids, and if not – what fun responses have you heard to that decision?

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  • http://www.behappygolovely.com/ [email protected]

    Completely agree with everything you have written here. I have a child however one of my good friends is married and doesn’t want children. She gets so much negativity from her decision and I don’t understand why. She has 7 dogs and tells everyone that they are her children. Personally I think the world is populated enough, there’s no need for all of us to reproduce.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I know it’s definitely going to get worse the older I get. I’m only 22, going on 23, now, so it’s not AWFUL yet – but it’s been since I was in high-school – like why would you ask a 14 year old about kids?! I definitely get what your friend is dealing with!

  • http://mariellegreen.com/ Marielle

    Yes to all of this. My favorite is some kind of remark saying that the ones say they don’t want kids will end up having the most. Such impeccable logic.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      oh my gosh I know! Like how does that even make sense? And SO many people say it – like where does that logic even come from?

  • http://www.anastasiaamour.com Anastasia Amour

    Yes, yes, yes, 100% yes. You said this SO eloquently – thank you for writing this! xx

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank YOU for reading it and taking the time to comment, Anastasia!

  • http://thethingsiamcrazyfor.wordpress.com/ Camila

    Wow those are terrible statements – that ‘selfish’ comment especially. It’s like saying it’s narcissistic to want children – both completely wrong and terrible things to say to women. I also agree so much about your response to the ‘what about your husband’ question – I’m pretty sure those are the kind of things you discuss when a relationship gets serious! I had that conversation with my current boyfriend about 3 months into our relationship because I was like if we’re not on the same page I’m not wasting amazing years of my life dating a man I probably will not want to settle with because our values and desires and needs are different.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      It is awful, especially that so many people seem to believe it. Exactly! If it’s selfish not to, then the opposite is to be narcissistic when you have a ton of kids, and that’s just as ridiculous to say.

      And exactly! Like why would I ever marry a man who wants kids if I don’t? How would that even HAPPEN?

  • Shybiker

    Good, honest post. I applaud you. I also never wanted children and was fortunate to find a woman who shared my preference. She wanted to pursue her career as an artist and rationally concluded that kids would impede that. It’s okay if someone wants to have children but they have no right to impose that preference on others. I’m sorry you’ve been the recipient of rudeness. There’s no excuse for that.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you. I’m glad to hear it worked out for you, that you were able to find someone who wanted the same things as you did :)

  • http://www.socalledhomemaker.com/ socalledhomemaker

    I love the honesty in this post. I hate when women have to justify themselves for not wanting kids. We don’t all have to be the same. You go, girl.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you :) And exactly – that’s wonderful if you want kids, but why do I have to be the same?

  • http://www.littleeli.com/ Amelia

    I’m with you 1000%! At this time, and for all of the foreseeable future, I don’t want kids. Ugh! But luckily enough, most of my closest friends also don’t want kids. My mom didn’t even have me until she was in her late 30s, so there has also never been a pressure to hurry up and have children. On the flip side, I usually find its the smarter, more well educated, and logical people who are deciding to not have children, i.e. the people we need more of. So I have overall mixed feelings about who’s reproducing.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      That’s good, that it’s not something you’re being pressured about. My parents were in their early 30s as well. I don’t know that I think there’s a certain type of person deciding not to have children, but I just don’t think I should be told that I “have” to.

  • http://www.ellierockhill.com/ Ellie Rockhill

    This is incredible. I just wrote on this topic recently as well, because like you I heard this ALL THE TIME. I’m 23 and married, and my husband is 36 with two tween daughters. We raise the kids half the time, and the other half their with their mother and her boyfriend, who has his own eleven year old daughter as well. When the four of us are together, there’s sort of this floating joke between the bio-mom and her man that I’m going to get pregnant any day now… awkward. Her boyfriend always tells me, “Oh, you’ll change your mind. You don’t know what it’s like until you’re a parent… it’s a special thing.” And I’m like, WHAT THE EFF, BEING A STEP-MOM IS FUCKING SPECIAL TOO. You can’t know how special being a friggin’ 23 year old step-mom is until you do that either, bub. It enrages me. My own mother has dared to say to me, “When are you going to have kids?” Me: “Uhh… I already have two.” Mom: “Ohhhh, you know what I mean… kids of your OWN.” -_- That one really smarts. I’m just like, what makes a kid YOURS? Your fucking vagina? (Or a c-section??) Seriously, what if I was infertile? Would you still be making comments like that?! Anyway, it helps hearing someone else share their frustrations as a young woman who’s completely certain about her reproductive choices, and gets flack for it. We’re in this together!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      That’s so awful! I imagine that’s amazing and also a HUGE responsibility to have two teenagers and they are absolutely yours – the idea that they’re not is awful and so insulting. I can’t imagine ever saying that to a person, but I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with it.

  • http://www.the-lifestyle-project.com/ Danielle @ The-Lifestyle-Prj

    Oh my gosh Kiersten I could not agree with you more! Since 16 I’ve been saying I don’t want kids. I was told, “You’ll change your mind when you fall in love with the right guy.” Well guess what – I did fall in love with the right guy, in fact I even married him, and still neither of us want children. We have lots of kiddies running around us between friends and family so (in the best way possible) it’s even more obvious that we don’t them. We play with kids then give them back to their respective parents lol. The selfish argument gets my blood absolutely boiling. I’M BEING SELFISH by not contributing to the human population and by not passing on my genes? Just STFU. It’s hard to be polite to family and friends (and especially COLLEAGUES!! Ooo don’t even get me started on that) when this is the kind of logic I’m hearing about my life choices in a conversation I don’t even want to participate in.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Good for you – I’m glad you found that relationship with someone who wants the same things as you! It’s SO difficult, like you said, to be polite about it when people don’t even realize how incredibly rude and condescending they’re being!

  • http://ournashvillelife.com/ Jackie @ Our Nashville Life

    Most. Annoying. Question. Ever.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Agreed! And only because of the responses you get to it.

  • http://thesubtlehipster.blogspot.com TheSubtleHipster

    Thanks for sharing this! A lot of people just assume that every woman wants children as if its supposed to be this thing that every woman needs or has to go through and I disagree. So yes, thank you for this.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Right? Like it’s what we exist to do, and if we’re not having kids there’s something wrong with us.

  • Kathi Edwards Jarrell

    I have never wanted kids of my own. Now, in my forties, I have no regrets. I love not having the responsibility. I can travel, go out to nice dinners, and I can spoil my nieces and nephew! My answer to why I don’t want kids? Too much commitment and too much time and money. You should see the shocked look on peoples’ faces!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I’m so glad to hear that it’s a decision you’re happy with! And I know – that might sound terrible but I cannot handle that responsibility. I don’t want to know that the majority of my life is being lived for someone else, that everything I do and ever will do will be for them. I know that sounds awful, but I just….I don’t want to do that.

  • http://www.chitsandgigglesblog.com/ Kristyn

    This is something I am struggling with and posted about before. I don’t want kids now and I’m not sure I ever will. It’s just not on my plan right now. Does that mean it never will be? No. But at this moment, there is no need for me to get pregnant…not ready.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Exactly! My decision might change one day – I have no way of knowing. But it’s just so condescending to have everyone tell you like “those who don’t want kids have the most” and “you’ll change your mind.” Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but I don’t need your input!

  • http://snowintromso.com/ Van @ Snow in Tromso

    I don’t want to have children either and I absolutely hate all those questions. Not only because these people don’t take you seriously but because they imply that it’s your duty as a woman to get children just because you can…..

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      EXACTLY! Like that’s what we exist to do, and there’s something terribly wrong with us if we don’t have kids.

  • Kristen Warren

    I have always wanted kids but I have seen too many people have kids who never should have, and regret it. Though I want kids, I don’t want them right now and it is so infuriating when I say we’re not ready yet and people immediately say ‘you’re never ready’ well no shit, you can be more ready than not and I am not. People need to mind their own business.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Ughh that’s awful! Like that is ABSOLUTELY something you need to be 100% as ready as possible for. It’s the rest of your life, and nobody can tell you when you’ll be ready for that.

  • http://www.notesfromanewlywed.com Amanda

    I just hate how these days everyone thinks that their opinion HAS to be shared and no one can just shut their trap anymore. We too-often pass judgement on another person’s decisions and by speaking up about it, we create an uncomfortable situation around something that isn’t even our business. I’m guilty of it now and then, but before I open my mouth, I try to think, ‘Is this really worth saying? Is it my business?’ If the answer is no, then it’s just best to shut up and support your friend/co-human being in their decision. Ugh. I feel your pain.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Exactly. I think it’s amazing if you want children. But I just don’t think anybody should be allowed to tell me that I’m wrong somehow because I don’t. It’s a choice, and this is mine, and it’s none of anyone’s business. It’s definitely something I know that I sometimes judge other people, but I really try not to SAY anything, because they didn’t ask for my opinion

  • http://www.kaseyatthebat.com Kasey Decker

    just. all of this. it makes me crazy, as if not having kids is really the worst thing that could happen to me. I also hate when I’m accused of being less of a woman or something for not wanting children. Also, telling me I will change my mind usually makes me more sure that I don’t want to do something.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Exactly – like just because I CAN have kids doesn’t mean I have to. It’s not as though anybody’s telling MEN they have to have kids!

  • http://www.beingmrsbeer.com/ Jess Beer

    From the other side of this (I always wanted kids and have one so far), I applaud you. I HATE the pressure put on women about having children. It’s your life and your decision, and people should leave you alone about it! Being a parent is a LOT of work, and you really have to want it, since it takes so much of your time and energy. In my personal experience, it’s been worth it, but I know that it isn’t for everyone. You don’t need to have children to have a full, happy life.

    A friend of mine who got married a few years ago never wanted kids – it just wasn’t something she and her husband were looking for, and they agreed on it. They have such a fun, full life – they have several pets, go on all sorts of fun vacations and outings, and just look like they’re having a blast all the time. It’s the right decision for them, just like having kids is the right decision for me.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I agree – I think its amazing if you want children, but I dont. I dont try to talk anyone out of having kids. And besides, like you said, having kids is a HUGE and life changing responsibility. If O dont want them why would you try to talk me into it?

  • http://www.rosecoloredwater.com/ Liz Carroll

    Awesome post! And you should go over and give Ashley from http://www.rainstormsandlovenotes.com some love right now because she wrote a post about this today too! I second all your notions! Thanks for speaking out about it!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Ill definitely go check that post out! Thanks!

  • http://ceciliaintherain.wordpress.com Cecilia

    I’m getting so fed up with people assuming you just “want” kids and think it’s weird if you don’t have them after a certain time. A colleague of mine was getting a lot of stick about how she wasn’t pregnant yet for years after she got married, and then when she finally did get pregnant she told everyone that they had been struggling for years to have children but weren’t able to and all their comments about how she didn’t have kids certainly didn’t help. I think it made some people think.

    If people ask me why I don’t have kids these days I just answer that it hasn’t happened yet, and leave it at that. Frankly, it is nobody’s business but mine!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thats so awful! Im sorry for your coworker :( and youre absolutely right – its nobody else’s business

  • http://www.businesslifeanddesign.com/ Jenn @ Business, Life & Design

    I’d say the reverse is far more selfish. When the world is overpopulated and, as you said, there’s kids out there, unwanted, and suffering in foster homes, to have a huge family is entirely motivated by your own desires, while not having children, or especially adopting, would be the more altruistic choice. I don’t think anyone can tell anyone else what is right for them as far as choosing whether or not to have children, but the ones who say you’re “selfish” for not having them need to take a good, hard look at their own motivations and the definition of “selfish” in the dictionary.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I don’t know if I think either decision is selfish – but that’s the point. It’s my life, and I’ll live it how I’m comfortable living it. That doesn’t make me selfish, it means that my decision is different from yours. And if nobody’s condemning someone for having 6 kids, why am I being condemned for not having any?

  • http://howtomakealife.com Sheryl @ How to Make a Life

    This is a topic so close to my heart. When I was in my early 20’s, I truly never had the pull to have children. My husband and I married and stated we would wait 5 years to see how we felt. Later on, I think I got caught up in the fact that all of my friends were having kids and we should at least try (but honestly, I wasn’t desperate). Years of infertility and a miscarriage made us realize we don’t want kids strongly enough to put ourselves through all of the strain. I’ve heard everything from “You don’t know love until you have children” to being told “You MUST adopt.” We have a great fufilled life and are happy. Many married couples with children can not say that. If only we could all simply respect each others choices. Seeing all these wonderful responses makes me so happy.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      That’s so tough to deal with! I’m glad you’re happy with where you ended up though :)

  • http://www.thehungrygoat.net Ktcyril

    i don’t want kids for many, many different reasons. My manager is 40 years old and is pregnant with her first (and probably only) child. She likes to tell me that when she was my age, she would swear on her mother’s grave that she would never have kids and look where she is now.

    I just nod my head and say, we’ll see. Because there’s no way in hell I’m ever buying a soccer mom van.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      HAHAH I just feel like, maybe you’re right and I will change my mind, but maybe I won’t. And that’s my mind to change. I don’t need or want you constantly telling me how I will feel one day.

  • http://www.knockonwoodblog.com/ Amanda Nicole | Knock on Wood

    I don’t want kids either. And all those questions and comments really started pouring in once I did get married. I hate it all, but I am so lucky that our parents are pushing us to have kids. Most of the time it’s friends and strangers trying to convert me. I recently wrote about my decision (or indecision really) on the subject.

    http://www.knockonwoodblog.com/2014/08/i-may-choose-to-not-reproduce.html

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Ooo I’m sure it will get worse the older I get. It’s good that your parents aren’t pushing you, because it’s just such a personal decision!

  • http://www.thenewwifestyle.com/ chelsea

    i love everything about this post. thanks for your honesty and laying it all out there. my best friend is about to have a baby in december and it’s freaking me out on so many levels. a) i still feel 16 and not 27 so i’m weirded that people are actually wanting children b) i have no strong desire to procreate. (not to get all linky up on here but i recently wrote a post after seeing her talking about if my biological clock was broken http://thenewwifestyle.com/is-my-biological-clock-broken/)

    i think it’s also really interesting that people very rarely EVER ask women why they choose to have children but are often all up in the biznass of women who make a choice not to. let’s all remember that it is indeed a choice and thank goodness for that!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you, Chelsea!
      I definitely understand freaking out because you still feel young. I graduated in May, and my news feed on FB is filled with people getting engaged and pregnant and moving and stuff, and I’m just like “but we’re too young for this!”
      And that’s SUCH a good point! Like I don’t get on anyone about why they want kids or try to convince them not to! And nobody gets on men’s business about THEM having kids.

      • http://www.thenewwifestyle.com/ chelsea

        ohhh very valid point about people not getting in men’s biznass either!

  • http://www.sincerelyalaska.blogspot.com alyssa nicole

    This is such an amazing post. I’m still very on the fence about whether or not I want kids but I’m always getting stuff from my mom about how she wants grandkids and how I’ll change my mind or whatever. And it’s like, 1) she has 4 other kids to pop out babies, 2) If I am adamant on not wanting kids, I most likely am not going to change my mind. No woman has to push a human out her lady bits just because the whole world expects her to.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Exactly – and that’s your decision to make. You shouldn’t be getting pressure from anyone on something that’s that big of a life decision.

  • http://bellebrita.com/ Brita Long

    This is great. I definitely want kids, but I only want to have one pregnancy (assuming I don’t have fertility issues). Even if you want kids, there’s something “wrong” with you if you don’t want to have “insert perfect number here” of kids, which is always more than one. Obviously Dan and I talked about this very early in our relationship. We established some pretty major stuff in the first few months, but we kinda already knew we were headed towards marriage, so it was important to cover the big issues before we got even more serious.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Oooo that’s definitely a side of it I’ve never dealt with, but I can see that too. I just think that no matter what decision you make about your life, people are going to feel like it’s their place to butt in. Especially with women’s decisions surrounding children – it’s as though that’s our one main purpose and without it, what’s our use. It’s awful!

  • http://www.jordanharmon.blogspot.com Jordan

    I absolutely love this! I mean, I can’t really relate to the pregnancy comments as I AM a mom, but I mean whenever I make a decision and others try to explain why it was a wrong one, is effing irritating. Nobody else knows what my life is like, nobody else knows every little detail, nobody is living my life, why can’t they keep their opinions to themselves, stop trying to persuade and manipulate me. I’m a grown woman, you can either be supportive of my decision or you can stop talking. Lol
    Woman power!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you! And I definitely agree – for some reason, there are certain topics that people feel the need to butt in on. I’m all about differences of opinion and VOICING those opinions with topics like politics and marriage equality and all, because we need a discussion in order to get anywhere. But my decision not to have children, just like I’m sure a lot of things you’ve dealt with, does not affect anyone and isn’t anyone’s business. It’s not up for discussion or debate and like you said – I’m a grown woman. I don’t need you telling me how to live me life.