Motherhood

8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids

8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids

We talk a lot about the many shapes families take. So, what about those of us who choose not to parent? Here, we spoke to eight women about how and why they decided to remain child-free…

Lauren, 34
When I was in high school, the thought of having children always felt like part of some abstract future plan. I thought about it the same way I did marriage and career, assuming I’d feel the desire for children someday. It’d just happen. Eventually.

Fast forward to my late twenties, and suddenly the pressure was unwavering. The second I got engaged, the baby talk started, mostly from older family members. The more questions I got, the more I started to worry. Why wasn’t I yearning for a baby? I’d had friends cry in my arms about their fertility struggles, and while my heart ached for them, I couldn’t imagine what that felt like to want something with every fiber of your being. I felt like I was somehow broken.

As I’d done with any major life decision, I started researching the hell out of it, devouring books and papers on parenthood. I learned I wasn’t alone in my uncertainty, and it gave me immense relief to realize there were other women choosing to remain childfree.

There are plenty of valid reasons to not have kids, but what it came down to for me was how I felt in my heart. Do I feel guilty that my parents will never have grandchildren? Of course. Do I look at the sweet faces of children and wonder what mine would look like? All the time. Did I grieve for the ‘what if?’ — the loss of that theoretical other life? Absolutely. But I came to realize that for me, these aren’t reasons to bring a child into this world. I can’t make serious life decisions to fulfill the wishes of my family or to satisfy my curiosity. I have to live authentically, even if it means going against the norm.

Dana, 33
My boyfriend and I had been dating for about a year. The topic of kids had come up occasionally, but only in vague ways. Then we went out to a fancy dinner on New Year’s Eve. He gazed at me over the romantic candlelight and said, ‘So, I’ve been thinking…’ He paused. ‘Would it be okay if I don’t want to have kids?’ (Sweet timing, honey! I had to laugh.) Fortunately, we were on the same page. We recently got married and have no plans to have children. We have a pinball machine instead.

Wudan, 28
Growing up, it was never a question of if I would have children, but when. My mother, who’s a Chinese immigrant here in the U.S., always asked, sometimes aggressively, ‘When am I going to have grandchildren?’

I got to a point where I realized that having kids would throw my career for a curve. I’m a journalist who travels all the time, and I truly love my job. I know having kids requires so much energy, and that would take away from the energy I put into my work. Then recently, I did a story about a movement of people who are voluntarily choosing not to have children for the sake of the planet. Doing that piece got me to consider the effects of overpopulation and the beneficial impact of not having children. That’s when I made the decision.

Maria, 30
It’s funny, people often want me to have very concrete reasons for not having kids. But from a young age, I just had a lack of interest in motherhood — even in dolls or any kind of nurturing play. I was always open about it with my parents, and I’m lucky that they never put pressure on me.

By the time I was 20, I decided to pursue tubal ligation. I was on birth control at the time, and it was annoying to take a pill every day. And I knew I wasn’t going to have kids — I was very, very sure about it. It just seemed like the logical thing to do.

But, of course, I ran into a lot of people who felt very differently — and that was a bit of a shock. I had to go to five doctors in the end, before I was able to have the procedure. They would ask me, ‘How do you think your future husband will feel about this?’ That was incredibly patronizing, of course, but I would just say, ‘Well, I wouldn’t marry someone who wanted children.’ Again, it helped that my parents were great throughout the process — my mom, in particular. She’d been a single parent before marrying my stepdad; she understood the reality of raising a kid. She told me she’d support whatever decision I made.

When people ask me questions, it’s usually out of curiosity and not hostility. I live in Indiana, and the midwest is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever lived. I just smile and say, ‘Oh, I’m child-free. My husband and I don’t want children.’ Most of the time, people don’t press.

Charlotte, 33
I never wanted children. I haven’t ever related to the identity of a parent. My politics are also leftist and queer — and though many disagree, I see that as incompatible with performing unpaid reproductive labor.

Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31. I had only a small window to preserve my eggs before starting chemotherapy, but my priority was to save my own life rather than potentially saving my fertility — especially knowing that if I did bring a child into the world, there was a real possibility I might leave him or her without a parent at a young age. There were other reasons, too — like the fact that my cancer is genetic. I also live in an expensive city in order to access top medical care, and I can’t imagine a world where I could pay for rent, treatment and the expenses associated with raising a child. Luckily, my parents, sister and close friends have been really understanding.

Kristen, 44
Before I got married at 20, my husband and I didn’t talk about whether we’d have kids. Still, I never thought it would be an issue. I thought it was always the wife who wanted kids and the husband just went along with it. But soon it became clear that my husband wanted a child. I had such an overwhelming — almost physical — negative reaction that I knew motherhood wasn’t for me. We had other issues, but this was an irreconcilable difference and we eventually got divorced over it.

So, with my second husband, I made sure to tell and re-tell him that I didn’t want children, before we got married. He assured me he was fine with it. But three years in, he admitted he’d always expected me to ‘come around’ to having kids and had assumed I was in a ‘phase.’ Again: irreconcilable differences.

Now, I’m happily married to someone who’s truly on the same page. I honestly don’t mind when people ask questions. I fully understand their curiosity — even I’m curious about why other people choose not to have kids. I’m actually more curious about the decision people make to have them. A child affects energy, finances, work life, romantic life, free time, stress levels. Isn’t that a much more interesting choice to make?

When people do express judgment, I try to be compassionate. And I know if someone is angry at me for not having kids, it’s probably because they’ve felt pressured themselves. We’re constantly bombarded by messaging from media, peers and family, saying, ‘Everyone does it! You’ll figure it out!’ What I’d like to see is more openness to answering questions about reproductive decisions on both sides. I think it could help shift the narrative that everyone should have children.

Debbie
I don’t have a clean or neat answer, but I think it comes down to sovereignty over myself, my body, my mind and my life choices. I am a first generation Taiwanese immigrant. When I was seven, my dad borrowed money from the wrong people. To be safe, he sent my mom, and four-year-old sister and me to California to live with my maternal grandparents, my uncle, and his wife. All seven of us lived in one house, like many Asian families do, and even as a young child I knew very little was mine and mine alone. The financial hardships my mom endured first as an immigrant and then an overstayed illegal immigrant made it extremely difficult for us to save money. We lived paycheck to paycheck and in constant fear of ICE and deportation.

As a kid, I never subscribed to the traditional family model with a mom, dad, 2.5 kids, and a dog. That wasn’t my family, for sure, and I saw children as financial burdens. I was acutely aware of the sacrifices my mom made for us and it broke (and continues to break) my heart. I told myself I would never let myself live like that as an adult. I am going to be self sufficient and my choices will be mine; and my life would never be just mine if I become a mother. I’ve made my peace with it even if many people don’t understand it.

Tracey, 35
I have always known in my heart that I am not called to be a mother. Over time, I came to see that I am meant to be an aunty. I myself have an amazing aunty who, along with my parents, helped shape me into who I am. When I was eight and we moved from a farm to the city, she was the one to soothe me. She gave me bath beads as a gift. Our old home didn’t have a bath, so this city bath was something special, because she made it so. She did the same with training bras. When I was 13, she replaced my mortifying beige one with a jazzy fluorescent number. She modeled the most important lesson about being in a child’s life: just show up.

Now it’s my turn, and I have 14 children who call me ‘aunty’ (I am the biological aunt to just two of them). If you’re a kid in my orbit and I love you, I’m yours, for life. Recently, my friend’s five-year-old did a school project where he traced his hand and then, for each finger, he drew a face and labeled it with the name of someone who is a ‘safe person’ — someone he can trust and go to in tricky situations. I am extremely honored to report to the world that ‘Aunty Tracey’ was awarded the prestigious appointment of Thumb!

It hasn’t always been easy to be the outlier as a non-mum. It was a hard slog sometimes, wanting something different from my peers. But as these kids grow up, telling me their hopes and dreams in a way they don’t always with their own parents, I am more sure than ever that this is my calling. This isn’t second prize, it’s an alternate first.

Thank you so much to those who generously shared their stories! Would you like to have kids? Or not? Or are you on the fence? We’d love to hear your thoughts…

P.S. Five CoJ readers share why they chose not to have kids, and my friend Corrie on being completely ambivalent.

(Illustration by Leah Goren for Cup of Jo. A few names have been changed to protect privacy.)

  1. Holly says...

    I haven’t finished reading all of the comments here, so perhaps this has already come up, but I am curious if anyone’s reason for not having children has anything to do with climate change and the future of our planet. I am 36 and have been married to a wonderful man for over 10 years, and for a long time we were pretty ambivalent about whether or not we wanted to have kids, but the more I have been learning about the path the planet is currently on, that has put me firmly in the “no” category. I read an interesting article in the NYT about this very issue a few months back, but I am curious if this has been a major reason for anyone else?

    • K says...

      Same here. Also 36 and also basing this decision (in large part) on the state of our nation and state of our climate and the maternal death rates in this country and knowing that we see it through the morals and ethics of an environmental imperative—

      And to all the people saying: why aren’t we hearing from 70 year old women without children—maybe the reason is, is because no one at 70 is going to have no regrets. I am sure when I am 70 (if the seas haven’t risen and we aren’t living in some sort of the road scenario) there will be a twinge, a momentary pause of “oh shit, I didn’t become a mother,” but then I’ll look at my dude and I’ll look at our lovely life and know we did okay. That’s the hope, that’s all any of us have, really.

    • courtney says...

      Holly, it is for me! It is really the biggest thing for me. And I feel like when I explain it to people they often don’t take it as a serious reason, so it is very refreshing to see it mentioned here. It isn’t that I feel I need to keep a new child from the future of our world. It’s that every individual is a major contributor to climate change and has a massive impact, and there are already SO many children in existence who don’t have homes. So if I really do want to raise children, I would absolutely adopt. I can’t imagine creating new children when we know the impact that has, and it is absolutely unnecessary, as there are so many children who are waiting for families and homes.

    • Amy says...

      I have two hilarious and wonderful young daughters, and climate change is what makes me feel guilty and selfish for bringing them into this world. It’s what keeps me up at night. It’s what makes me tell my oldest, whose deepest wish is to one day become a mommy, that many people don’t become mommies or daddies and that’s okay, because I don’t think she’ll have the opportunity to decide whether or not she wants to be one. I would love nothing more than to add another little one to my brood, but I waver when I think about introducing another human to the certain pandemonium and disasters of the near future due to climate change.

      How is THIS topic not discussed EVERYDAY, EVERYWHERE? It will affect every single person on this planet. How is it not the defining issue of every election? Shame on us.

    • Amy says...

      It’s making me seriously consider whether or not to have another child.

    • Klara Hermans says...

      Interesting question Holly! This is the one reason I always thought I wasn’t going to have children. A few years ago my hormones went crazy though: my body wants kids, but my mind is often more than not on the climate issue. I’m 34 and often torn over these very opposing issues…

    • Mandy says...

      Commenting to say yes – I thought after mid term elections I’d feel better about having kids, but that optimism was immediately tempered by the climate change report. As someone long ambivalent about kids, I found the terrifying future state of our planet pushing me to no at age 35.

    • Nina says...

      my younger sister decided this many years ago (she’s now early 40s) but since she was in her early 20s so told everyone she thought it was very selfish to have children because of how many people are on the planet and how we negatively impact the environment. Do I find it scary to think my child may have to live in a bubble because the air quality is so bad? yes. Or if he has children there may not be the same flora and fauna I have. Yes. so much to consider.

    • JB says...

      I don’t have kids and I currently work in the sustainability field, and was talking to a friend about this (who did recently have kids) and there seems to be two camps on this:

      1) There’s people who think the planet CAN be saved and choose not to contribute to the problem by adding extra bodies; or

      2) There’s people who think it CANNOT be saved and are choosing not subject someone to what could be a challenging, even horrific, lifetime ahead. My friend who recently had twins said (somewhat jokingly) “If it’s all going down, we’ll go down as a family.”

      I think we will have kids/a kid but I’m between these two camps – I think there are some challenging years ahead that I may or may not be subjecting my offspring to. I think impacts of climate change will be very geographic, and I may be in one of those geographies that will benefit more than suffer from incremental temperature change (but the science isn’t as clear as to what the impacts will be beyond a certain global temperature increase – though most predictions are NOT GOOD). I very much wish I could talk to my great-grandparents about having a family during WWI and WW2 when it seemed the world was doomed then too though then it was much less of a moral choice and perhaps they were much more hopeful of a positive resolution.

    • Jess says...

      Hi Holly! I am not in the determined “childfree” camp… I’m still not sure. However, one of the central reasons I am unsure, even afraid, of having a child is because of climate change. Not only is having a child one of the least green things you can do for the planet (doesn’t mean I’m shaming anyone for doing it!), but I really fear bringing a child into a world that may not really exist for long. I also struggle with anxiety, which makes this uncertainty even more difficult, because I can’t really be sure whether I should listen to my fears. I worry that it’s selfish of me to bring a child into this world, and I fear the potentially frightening life they might lead, but I also do have that desire somewhere. Which leaves me completely undecided.

    • Cait says...

      Holly, my fiance and I most likely will have children but the climate change issue is something that makes me very concerned that I’m setting up other humans to have to live in a very inhospitable world.

    • L says...

      That is precisely why I am on the fence! I just turned 33, have been with my man for 13 years (my god) but still not married. I imagine you are referencing the article with the black cover? It literally took my breath away. I fear for what our lives will look like in 2060, much less any potential child of mine’s life would look like in 2100. But knowing I have something to offer… it’s a challenge. Makes me strongly consider adopting.

    • Mara says...

      For me, definitely. I am unfortunately not optimistic; i dont believe we will manage to solve our climate change problems ‘in time’ for my not existing children.

    • sharon says...

      Yes, I can identify with this! My husband and I are childless by choice (I’m 36 and he is 41, so it’s still very possible, but the questions have lessoned a lot the older I get). Knowing I don’t have to worry about the pollution and state of the planet for my child is just one more reason in the “not to have” bucket. Along with the fact that the world does not need any more people. But for me, I always look at it like any other life choice. There are positives and negatives to each decision. I weigh them and consider them and ultimately decide that the pros don’t outweigh the cons for us. I would also say, having two dogs has solidified it for me. They give me more love than I could ever have hoped for and provide me with something to nurture and snuggle with whenever I have a maternal moment ;-)

    • Lynn says...

      Climate change is one of my main reasons (beyond just not wanting to have kids / feeling like devoting my life to motherhood) I don’t want children. My husband and I have talked about it and are on the same page.

      If I am ever ready to grow our family beyond a four-legged fur baby, I think adoption – giving someone already on this planet a better life – is the best route.

  2. Reba says...

    Haven’t even read all the comments yet (though I definitely will)…just had to jump to the end and say how much I appreciate even seeing this article. I would love to have kids, but circumstances have dictated that it is just not going to happen for me. In trying to make the best of what I’ve got, I too often find myself left out of otherwise enjoyable ‘lifestyle’ media that assumes every woman is/has/wants the same lifestyle Nice to see some variety, and to read the viewpoints of so many articulate folks!

  3. Jane I. says...

    I was so afraid to read this post today after looking at the title. I am 30, been married approximately 3 years and my husband and I decided that 2019 is the year to begin trying for a baby. I was afraid to read this post because I thought it would skyrocket me back into the “No Babies Please” camp where I was for virtually all of my my adult life.

    Obviously, I read the post and scathed the comments. I resonate with so many women here and feel a sigh of relief. I’m happy to say that I will remain in the “Okay, Let’s Have a Baby Even Though I’m Scared Shitless” camp.

    I am terrified of having a baby. Yet, at the same time I am also so excited! I’ve come to grips with the reality that holding both of these feelings in tandem with one another is just a theme of life that will never go away.

    Every major life decision on this planet will invoke these emotions whether its kids, marriage, education or careers. I try to remind myself that the Fear and Excitement I feel about parenthood doesn’t make me a unfit to be a parent, I think it just makes me human.

    • Alex says...

      I never wanted a baby, then we got pregnant. It was a process, but I did fall completely in love with my little one. I couldn’t believe how natural it felt just to hold him in my arms. Such a strange wonderful reality that I’d do anything for my kids and love my (now three) kids more than almost anything.

  4. Amanda says...

    Thank you for this post. I’ve never had a strong desire for kids. But when I hit 34 (I’m 39 now), my husband and I started having THE conversation. He’s eight years older than I am and has always been on the same page as me, but we started feeling the pressure of age. Having PCOS, I honestly didn’t think pregnancy would come quickly or at all for me, so imagine our surprise when I got pregnant after only a few tries.

    As soon as I heard the news, I knew I had made a mistake. Nothing about it felt right. At all. I felt like the floor dropped out from under me. I cried for days, and started researching my options (sadly, in my state, there are few – another conversation for another day). Five days after I found out, I miscarried, and what followed was a horrible mix of emotions that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yes, I felt relief, but I also felt a sadness that is still hard to explain. I continued to cry long after the whole ordeal.

    Looking back, I think we would have gone through with the pregnancy had I not miscarried and we would have been good parents. But that didn’t happen and I am so glad. I think the universe was on my side that week, as horrible as it was. I love my life. I love my husband. I love sleeping in, and snuggling with my cats. I love traveling, cooking, and gardening. I have a rich and full life, with absolutely no regrets when it comes to being child-free.

    • Bonnie says...

      Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Kristin says...

      this is a beautiful, touching story that hits close to home. i am beginning to feel the same way about my infertility — that it’s the universe gently nudging me in MY right direction. sometimes i feel like because i’ve started trying, i now have to go down the IUI/IVF route. because i’ve already told everyone what i (think i) want! thanks for the reminder that it’s OK to try and waffle a bit, and eventually decide it’s not for you.

    • Sarah says...

      Thank you for sharing so openly! May I ask a question if it’s not too personal? How did your husband feel about the miscarriage? Did it affect your relationship negatively at all?

    • Amanda says...

      To answer Sarah: My husband has always been on the same page as me, when it comes to having kids. We both were always on the fence, and both leaned a little more toward the “no children” side. But at the same time, we often talked about what our future kid would be like, and even had names picked out. (We often joked that those names would probably go to cats instead.)

      When I got pregnant, he was more excited about it than I was (albeit in shock, too). My reaction to the news definitely caught him off guard, as it did me, too. I’ll be honest: It was a very stressful week with lots of tears from both of us and even some arguments. But we’ve been through a lot in our 21 years together, and he was still very supportive. In the end, he felt the same way I did when I miscarried: a mixture of relief and sadness.

      Looking back, it reaffirmed our choice to remain child-free, so, in that way, I’m grateful it happened the way it did. We knew after that we didn’t want to try again. And it lifted a weight off our shoulders in terms of future planning.

  5. Kelsey says...

    I haven’t read many of the comments but one other scenario is those who had children when they didn’t want them. I have a 10 month old baby, and I love him dearly but I never wanted a child. I felt a lot of pressure to have children from EVERYONE and before I knew it I was getting off of birth control and pregnant a month later. It’s not my son that I struggle with, it’s motherhood. I’m tired, lonely, don’t feel like myself, and miss my freedom. When I’m asked about having a second child, my heart gets sick. People can be so overwhelming with the baby questions. It’s hard to find the courage to stand up and do the opposite of what’s expected of you.

    • Em says...

      I would love to hear from these mothers, I know there are more out there than are probably willing to admit it <3

    • Alex says...

      Motherhood can be so isolating! Find a moms group, a church, or some means of support. Seriously, it’s not something anybody wants to do alone!

    • I wish i could hug you, Kelsey, and take you out for a cup of coffee! You are a good mama and you have a community of women loving on you from afar. Motherhood can be so hard, I know, and people shouldn’t put pressureon you like that. Talkspace has been a really good resource for me to have a counselor to talk to when motherhood got to be too much. Hope you find some peace and sending hugs your way.

    • t says...

      You are not alone kelsey and you are doing great. hang in there mama.

    • Annie says...

      I have always known that I would be perfectly fine without kids, and that I would not want to have kids under the prospect of being a single parent.

      Now I am six months pregnant, single and dreading the decision I made to keep this child when abortion was a safe and available option for me. I let myself be ‘convinced’ by the many (well meaning) people who told me, that having a child ‘will be the most meaningful thing you do’ etc.. I now wish I’d had the strength and clarity of mind to know that what is right for many people, is not what is right for me.

      Your words that it’s not about your son but about motherhood resonated with me. I already feel attached to the life inside of me, but I also know, without a doubt, that I do not want to be a mother. My son will be loved and prioritised above all else in my life – and my life will be less happy than if he had been my nephew or neighbour or friend.

      I hope the stories above of women who knew what they wanted and who had the strength to stay true to that knowledge will make it easier for other women (and men) to make the decision that is right for them – whatever that is.

    • Jill says...

      “My son will be loved and prioritised above all else in my life – and my life will be less happy than if he had been my nephew or neighbour or friend.”

      What a sad assumption. You haven’t met him yet. Give your child a chance to be your son before saying your life will be less happy because he is yours.

    • Laura says...

      Annie, have you considered placing your son for adoption? I am in the exact opposite situation…yearning for motherhood but not able to be pregnant. My husband and I are pursuing adoption. If you’d want to connect, I can share my email address with you.

  6. Lindsay says...

    Some don’t want kids, some want 10, some really struggle once they have a couple, some don’t get to choose. Whatever each person’s choice is, it is theirs to make and live with, even make the best of, and should never be judged by others. We are all so different and our desires should be respected.

    • Gabriela says...

      Amen

  7. A says...

    I am under immense pressure to have children from my family. I have some relatives who believe they wont go to heaven unless I give birth to a boy. I have parents who think I am being selfish for not making them grandparents. I really really wish they would get off my back and let me be. Thank you so much for this post. I love this blog and all the wonderful people who support each other out here.

  8. Alice says...

    I have always known I want to be a mom so I actually completely understand when women say the opposite! Sometimes you just know one way or the other, and sometimes it takes time to come to such a big decision. I loved reading these womens’ opinions and wish people would stop assuming all women want children.

    • Anon says...

      I was just thinking the same thing. To the lady in the article who wonders what are the reasons why people decide to have kids, I can’t say it is a decision that I came to at a specific time or for any specific, logical reason, just a question that I know the answer to! If that’s how people who don’t want children feel, I get it!

    • Carrie Jone says...

      Anon, I agree. I have some concrete answers as to why I do want to be a mom some day, but mostly it’s just a feeling. I just….know.

  9. Annie says...

    I’m 27 and know I do not want children. It didn’t fully dawn on me until about a year and a half ago when my brand new boyfriend told me he didn’t want them. That got me to sit and really think about it. I was one of those girls that grew up referencing my future kids. I just also assumed that’s what I’d do. Get married, have kids. Then when I thought about it, I realized more and more over time that it’s not at all what I want. I love being able to do what I want, when I want! And I want to spend my money how I please, travel, etc etc. There are many reasons I can list for why I don’t want kids, but overall it’s because it’s just not the lifestyle I want. Plus, I didn’t grow up with the “picture perfect” family, and I honestly have no interest in it. I’ll take a puppy please! :)
    Thanks for this post!

    • Morgan says...

      I’m right here with you, Annie!! I’m 28, and it wasn’t until my boyfriend told me that he doesn’t want kids that I really took the time to think about whether my ideas about my future were things I really wanted or things that I just assumed would happen because… that’s just what happens. It can be hard to separate the true wants out, especially when you’ve told yourself the same story for your entire life, but now I’m solidly in the “do not want children” camp. I love my life and already feel like I don’t have time for everything I want to do with it!

  10. Natalie says...

    Like many commenters here, I went back and forth through my twenties trying to decide whether or not I wanted to have children. I never babysat growing up, wasn’t interested in other people’s kids and didn’t feel very maternal. However, deep down, when I pictured my life and what I wanted it to look like, having children was in the picture. That is what helped me decide. Now I have a 2 1/2 year old toddler and a ten month old baby. Knowing who they are, and the love I have for them, I am so glad we decided to have children. However, I absolutely respect other people’s choices to not become parents and can understand why they would choose that path. I just thought I would share my perspective, as someone who wasn’t sure she ever wanted them and is now happy to have them. Being a parent is by far the most challenging but rewarding part of my life. (Acknowledging that for others it may be their career or a relationship, etc). Sometimes though I do think about how different our life would have been if we had decided not to have kids, and I think I would have been happy with that decision too. There were several paths I could have gone down, and at some point I had to make a decision.

  11. CB says...

    Great piece and comments!

    Very often I am the only person in my group of 30ish year old friends who is constantly asking “but why do you want kids?”. A personal question but one that I am struggling with myself.

    • Paula says...

      I HEAR YOU! When I hit 30, suddenly, that’s all we were talking about with my girlfriends. NOBODY in my circle was ready! We were 30! I wasn’t ready when they wheeled me into the labor/delivery room at 31! I don’t think one is ever ready and it is terrible for those who find out they aren’t fit for the role AFTER the fact. Thank god I was in the other camp-I loved it and had another kid. Having said that-now that I’m in my 40s, I also see a lot of women regretting not having kids. That would be an interesting post as well. One of those people is my sister. She’s STILL unsure about the prospect but having that biological door slam in your face does something to your psyche.

  12. As a 41 year old woman whose deepest held dream was to be a mother but who never met the right partner, it’s actually heartening to hear these stories. I may always grieve the dream of home and family, and have never had a stronger dream, but listening to these felt soothing and allowed myself easy access to the parts of me that have always been ambivalent. Children for me are entirely contingent upon the right partner, and without that, there is no sense of wanting to do it as a single parent. I’ve never had a good partner, and this is the first time in my life that I feel capable of even recognizing one. So life had other plans, and I’m grateful for much, even as I struggle to understand my purpose outside the dream. I love these kinds of topics, and I love to learn about motherhood, so I suppose I’m not at all bitter. It just goes to show that raising children is a passion of mine, and maybe there will be a future outlet to channel it.

    • Kelly says...

      I became a mom at 42 because I couldn’t find the right partner in my thirties. Made me feel like shit that my dreams were so dependent on a generally disappointing male population. But now I know many first time moms I’m their mid forties! Don’t give up hope!

      My baby is only six months and he is the love of my life. I sometimes feel not totally in love with his father – or to be candid I think a lot of moms feel pretty resentful – since a lot of dads seem to weasel out of the tougher aspects of parenting (night feeds, buying diapers, taking to doctors appointments, etc). But I can safely say he’s almost an afterthought relative to the joy and fulfillment my baby provides me. Just saying.

    • gy says...

      Three things…one of my friends found her “perfect” husband and co-parent (I knew him – he was great) by saying right up front in her dating profile that that’s what she wanted. A LOT of men actually Want to be fathers IN a healthy relationship. Asking for it up front makes it easier for them to find you.
      Secondly, someone I knew was born in the 50’s of a mother who was 43. 43! In the 50’s! That was extremely rare back then, more common now.
      And third, your option of “a future outlet to channel” maternal instincts is just what the world needs right now – more female input in places where it matters to bring the world back in balance. Imo… Best of luck!

    • Avril says...

      This your story touched me, thank you for sharing Crystal.

    • Wish says...

      Thank you for sharing. Your story let’s me know I’m not alone on this!

    • E says...

      I became a mother at 44, quite by surprise, but happy surprise. I had always wanted children but hadn’t found the right partner. I think you hear so much about losing your fertility in your mid to late thirties, and it isn’t always true. So don’t give up hope!

    • Kate says...

      Thank you, Crystal–this is the perspective I was hoping would be represented here! I’m right there with you.

  13. Anon says...

    So many comments! Which I suppose is to be expected because it feels like this particular topic is one EVERYONE assumes is their business :)
    I am mid40s and childfree by circumstance (some biological, some timing of when I married, some other) and I wish I were mother, but I’m not so I try to find examples of other childfree women being…not necessarily celebrated but at least ACKNOWLEDGED, as a worthy and complete state of womanhood. It’s hard. Hollywood does not know what narratives to give us!

    The comments that I love: Women sharing their aunty status, women sharing their full, worthy, childfree lives. The comments that sting: “Not everyone is cut out for parenthood” – parenting is hard, but we all do hard things and many of us would and could be cut out for parenthood if necessary or able.

    My current struggle: My social network is largely friends with kids, and their social lives revolve around their kids and kids’ activities. They meet other parents, but I have found it VERY hard to build a social life as a middle aged person with no children.

    • Jodi says...

      Agreed, Anon. People have said they’d like to hear from older child-free women as to whether they have any regrets. I’m nearly 50 and knew I would never have kids, and have zero regrets! Your comment about friendships & social circles is a valid point though. As my peers are still actively parenting, I have found that my closest friends are often 20 years older than myself (most have grown up children). It has been a surprising and wonderful thing to form these friendships! The conversations and perspective they offer is so rich, and although they’re nearly my parents age, they are not at all “parenting” me. Life is indeed different when you’re not following the norm, but in my experience it has only added depth.

  14. Jenn P says...

    I always wanted kids, and always assumed I’d have them. As I started to get older and hadn’t found my person yet, I started to think that maybe it wasn’t going to happen to me. Then I met my person. My person is not a kid person, but we talked about it and he was willing to think and discuss when the time came. The time never came. I ended up with some health issues that took the decision out of my hands. I’m now learning to live with that. I have a ton of (non-biological) nieces and nephews that I love the heck out of, and my work brings me in contact with kids all the time. It’s hard, but as long as my friends keep having kids that I can love, I’m choosing to look at what I have versus what’s been taken.

  15. Mel Thea says...

    Married 20 years, mid-forties, no kids by choice – no regrets (for both of us)! If anything, the desire to remain childless has grown stronger (for both of us). We enjoy the freedom and flexibility of this life – we don’t even have pets, much as I love animals. I have also had some chronic health issues to deal with in the last ten years, and not having children has made those issues much easier to manage.
    For those who worry about regretting remaining childless in older years – please remember that there is no guarantee that you will be the happy grandparent surrounded by happy adult children and happy grandchildren. You probably will (and not having a guarantee is also NOT a reason to avoid children, if you truly want them)! But … life (and children) can go many ways. There are many good reasons to choose children, but possible regret is not one of them.

    • Sasha L says...

      “possible regret is not one of them” I agree with this so much! You may or may not regret your choices in life, that’s just life. Trying to avoid potential regret is just not a good enough reason to bring children into the world. It’s actually a really selfish reason.

  16. Hillary says...

    I am six weeks pregnant with our first child and excited/terrified. I did not want children at all until I met my husband. I could actually see myself raising kids with him. I’ve never felt particularly maternal and have struggled with mental health issues, but my biggest worry is losing myself. I don’t want to settle into a suburban life because it’s easier once the baby is here. I don’t want to lose the sense of adventure that has kept me going through many hard years. The amazing thing to me about this journey has been the permission I’ve given myself to change my mind. I was adamant that I didn’t want kids and hated the questions women always get about expected babies. It almost felt like I was turning my back on that woman and conforming to a standard that I have fought so hard to avoid. Now, I realize that real power is choosing how I live my life without needing to give reasons. I have friends who don’t want kids and are a little baffled that I’ve changed my mind and I think that is not only okay, it’s beautiful. Life is messy and hard and confusing and I support all women who choose to live their life in a way that is true for them.

    • Amanda says...

      I feel like you are inside my head… I felt the exact same way. I have a two year old now and I’m not the exact same as I was before her, but I’m still me. And whenever I mourn that woman that seems lost, I call up my friends that knew me pre-kid and pre-husband to rehash old times. It’s helps me remember her and appreciate where I’m at now. Congrats as you prepare to meet the love of your life! And remember you’re not alone.

    • Paula says...

      You are very wise about this and so I have faith that you got this! I commented above-but I wasn’t sure I wanted kids (with a wonderful dude that I knew would make an awesome dad, and thank god I was right) all the way until delivery room. When I left home with an infant-I was unsure. Infant stage is a darker stage for sure. You DO lose yourself, you DO lose money, the freedoms, but then it’s over. I have two kids OUT of an infant stage now. The new freedoms, the new joys of traveling with them, experiencing the world with them-I cannot say enough what a wonder that is. But, like you said, life is messy, hard. Sometimes I hate it all. When I do, I book a round trip ticket, alone, or with girlfriends, for short, exotic vacation!

  17. Emily says...

    This post was an interesting one to me. I’m wondering how many of these decisions are influenced by the idea that everything must be perfect. People thinking they must have perfect finances, no debt, perfect jobs, and perfect lives to have kids. When in reality nothing is ever perfect. I understand not wanting to have kids and I have friends in that position, but the reasoning of not being able to give a child a perfect life seems like an odd one.

    The comment about “unpaid reproductive work” was an interesting one as well. I’ve been rolling it around in my mind and all I can think is thank goodness none of our mothers were worried about getting paid otherwise none of us would be here.

    • Carrie says...

      I was confused by that comment; what exactly did it mean?

    • Merrilyn says...

      I’ve also been rolling that same comment around in my head and trying to make sense of it. I’m saying this as a person who is a parent, and always wanted to be one. If you look at childbearing as a task or work to be compensated, then I can understand why one would choose not to have kids. But what I don’t understand is why someone would look at it that way. The process of bringing a child into your life, whether by birth, adoption, or any other way, is by its very nature sacrificial. Maybe someone with a different perspective can help me understand.

    • Lauren says...

      Yes, on the one hand I understand the comment in the sense that it really is unfortunate or unfair that parents have to work and sacrifice so much (compared to some other species where parenting is much easier). On the other hand, it made me think of my relationship with my partner: each of us perform ‘unpaid romantic labor’ but of course I wouldn’t have it any other way! It so happens that he finds it much easier to do a lot of mundane household tasks than I do, and I find it much easier to do more outside work, so I’m not in the all too common stuck-with-the-housework scenario of so many women.

    • Rashmi Krishna says...

      And perhaps it would have been a better world if there were fewer of us in here! If only more of our parents and grandparents had thought this way.

    • Nahal says...

      Emily, Thank you for posting your comment. “Unpaid reproductive work” sounds soulless and void of love…. and does not sit well with me. We are not machines. You can never put a price tag or wage on love. The act of loving our friends, family, significant others, pets (which are also family)–would that also be considered unpaid work? Yikes! Must we be paid in order to justify loving?

      Also, what makes life beautiful is its imperfections…. yes some times may be better than others for having kids (for those wanting kids) but there will never be the perfect time to have kids just as there is no one perfect way to raise kids or one perfect way to live. We try our best with what we have.

    • Marina says...

      I’ve also been thinking about that comment. I even find it a bit offensive.

      Not everything in life is a commodity that has a price and can be traded. I actually think this is quite a neoliberal vision of life, and not leftist at all.

      There’s no money in the world that can pay what I do for my kids. It’s just too hard, demanding and boring, too often. I do it for love, not for money, and so does their father.

      I have 4 children, I would have more, if I could (I can’t, for a number of reasons). I didn’t have them because I wanted babys or small children, nor for a grand vision of my later self in a house full of adult children and grandchildren home for Xmas. I had them for me, because I wanted to create little people and help them grow to be happy, adjusted, caring adults. I love that process, that mission in life, I love the way it changed me, as a person, and continues to do so (I hope for the better, most times).

      That said, I have huge respect for people who are true to themselves in every way. Not wanting kids is a legitimate choice, and having children should always be a CHOICE. The world needs and should embrace all kinds of paths. Many of my best friends do not have or want kids, and I am so very grateful for their role in my children’s lives, and so proud of their achievements in other areas of life.

    • Sadie says...

      There are many societies that compensate women for the labor of childbearing, whether by offering medical treatment to pregnant women and children, subsidizing childcare and education, or just cutting a monthly check to help with the expenses of raising children. This is a way of acknowledging that raising new citizens is valuable work that benefits society at large, as well as a form of social insurance, since having children is generally done by people who are younger and may not have been able to accrue enough wealth to meet all costs.

      I, for one, wish American mothers had worried a bit more about compensation– we might not be the only developed nation without paid maternity leave!

      Having children will always involve sacrifice, but the only reason it requires so much sacrifice is because we, as a society, choose not to compensate it. I now live in the UK with my young child, and it is staggering how different life is for mothers when access to maternity leave, childcare, and medical care is a given.

    • Sam says...

      For me, it means that the world is really hard. It’s hard to be a kid, hard to be an adult. It would be hard to see the person you love the most struggle and experience heartbreak, things that all people have to go through. The environment is at risk, the world is scary and people can be cruel. I don’t want to bring a child into this world and I think the world is better off that way. Everyone has different reasons for having children or not having children but I think they mean that they can’t give someone they love a fair and loving world. You can do that at home as much as possible but even at home, they’d have to confront really ugly things like racism and privilege, like sexism and hatred existing in the world. In that way, there are some sacrifices and selflessness in both having children and not having children.

    • Lauren says...

      Sam, I want to thank you for your comment: your reasons are so similar to mine and my husband’s reasons, and I haven’t run into other like-minded people in real life. There are many unavoidable parts of life that I wouldn’t wish on an enemy; all the less would I ever force them upon someone I loved, just to fulfill my own longings.

      Something else I think about is how when you’re young, you think that finding “your person” is an end goal. Now I see that the more you each love each other, the worse the pain will likely be, for one of you, in the end. Loneliness is awful too, and love is the most important part of life: I just don’t see the justice in forcing someone to be alive, when I can’t promise them a life filled with love to the very end. It’s hard for me to understand how more people don’t think this way; nobody I’ve ever asked these things about in real life has ever had a satisfactory answer: the best they can do is to say that a person shouldn’t think of those things. But I want to be as kind as possible to any prospective child, and I think the kindest thing is to not make them!

    • Emily says...

      Lauren,
      The idea that the “kindest thing is not to make someone” aka not to give them life and all the chances of happiness seems unbelievably cruel to me just as allowing someone the risk of being hurt seems horrendously cruel to you.
      It reminds me a lot of my thinking when I was suffering from depression and was suicidal, about how to me in that time the kindest thing would have been death and to feel nothing. Years later, after therapy and medication and help, I cannot be more grateful to have been given life for it is so much sweeter than my depression-fogged mind could comprehend.

    • Lauren says...

      Emily, it doesn’t harm anyone to not give them life, because they wouldn’t be around to know the difference! I don’t see how it could be cruel. Of course most people are glad to be alive, but the small chance of someone not liking it is enough for me to not want to take the risk.

      I do have a history of depression, and even though my life is good now, I would never be willing to re-live those times for the sake of what I have now. It was just too awful, and I don’t want to risk subjecting anyone to that or to any other unbearable suffering. Again, unborn children don’t know the difference, whereas real suffering people do. I think it’s better to regret not having children, than to possibly regret having them.

      I realize that it’s not a popular opinion, and that it’s very associated with mental health problems.

      I’ve felt this way for years, and only this year realized that there’s a name for it: antinatalism. It’s a philosophy that I wish more people would understand and consider, even if they ultimately reject it.

    • Emily says...

      Lauren,
      Interesting you bring up anitnatalists. From all the research I can find on the philosophy and those who subscribe to the philosophy just about all followers are depressed and an overwhelming majority of them are suicidal. Vice news had a good article on this.

      Again, it has me wondering about how much of the “life is not worth living if people experience pain” philosophy is a philosophy and how much is untreated mental illness.

    • Emily says...

      Further, I’d add that if we are getting philosophical than it is the life not lived and all those lives who would have been impacted by the life who are harmed by a life not existing. It may not harm a person in a way we can measure if a life is “not given” (as you say), but what about all those who would have been impacted by that life? Lovers, friends, that life’s children, possible work or discoveries or assistance given. All of those are impacted in the world even if they do not know it.

    • Lauren says...

      Emily, I just read the Vice article and it seemed very balanced to me; if anything it didn’t give ‘pro-lifers’ enough defense. It didn’t say that ‘just about all followers are depressed’ or suicidal, though that may be the case.

      Being depressed and having a philosophy isn’t an either-or thing. It makes sense that people who take pain worse than others would have a lesser view of life than people who don’t. Like, whose word do we take about gender inequality: high-status straight white men, or the ones who have suffered from it more? I think it’s important to say that because not all cases of mental illness are treatable, we can say that mental illness is a fact of life, as are painful deaths, and so on. Some people are more horrified by these things than others; it’s difficult to say if one view is wrong.

      I don’t see the logic of your second comment: by that reasoning, it would be good for everyone to have many children, just in case they benefit someone; it also doesn’t take potential harms into consideration. The position of antinatalists is that it might be best for sentient life to not exist at all. We don’t mourn the absence of sentience on Mars; how would it matter if Earth was similar?

      A question I ask people: if you had the choice to leave things as they are, or to push a button that would make 1000 people come into existence, 999 of which would have great lives, and one of which would have a life of horrific pain, which would you chose? I think it’s an interesting thought experiment.

  18. KC says...

    Thank you for posting this! I’ve always known I wanted kids. I was an only child until I was 8, and I helped out a ton with my little sister and enjoyed it. I loved volunteering with kids and babysitting all of her friends from a young age. And I loved the new community of people that opened up to my family as they raised my sister (they had that with me, too, but I got to observe it with my sister). However, now I’m in my early 30’s, recently married, and we are preparing to begin trying to start a family. For the first time in my life, I feel hesitant! It’s nice to read other perspectives, and this post has actually helped me see that what I’m feeling is probably just fear of this huge life-shift, rather than a change of heart.

  19. Marti says...

    I will NEVER EVER get over the comment sections of CoJ and this incredible community of readers!
    What a timely post this was for me… three of my closest friends are all pregnant right now with their first children. There is only one other married couple in our friend group that does not have children, besides myself and my husband… we are all around 25-29! I myself am 27 and am currently in the throes of realizing that, maybe, I don’t want children soon. Maybe not at all. That phrase is a hard one to even type. I have always loved children. I was a babysitter, a camp counselor, and a teacher for many years. It has always seemed like a no-brainer to me that I would someday have children and that I would have them “young.” Somewhere in my past, I set this invisible boundary for myself that at 27 I would have my first child. I married my wonderful husband at 24 and, over the last three years, our talk of having children has ebbed and flowed, but it always seemed to be an inevitability.
    When asked by family, friends or strangers about when we would we start having children, I would always be lighthearted in my answer of “someday!” But with these recent pregnancy announcements from my close friends, I suddenly felt incredible pressure. My emotions were wildly paradoxical. A welling-up of jealousy and then a quick return back to feeling extremely grateful to not be navigating those massive changes. Excited for them, but also expectantly bummed about the changes our friendships will experience. But also, a big looming feeling of: is parenthood really what I want right now? After a long, tearful (on my part) talk with my husband, the answer was a pretty clear NO. We decided to take it a day at a time. And maybe we will reach our mid-thirties and look back with a fondness on the life we have built together, just the two of us, and decide that our future is bright and missing nothing. But maybe, one day down the line, we will both feel a much clearer (or at least far less conflicted) call to parenthood.
    The not-knowing is a hard place to occupy, but I feel a weight has been lifted in even identifying that I don’t know what I want. And that is definitely a gift, in and of itself.

    • Rachel says...

      So much yes!! You’re comment really resonates with me. I’m 31 and have always thought I’d have children. I always said by 25 (what was I thinking?), then by 30 and now that I’m 31 it’s more like 35?? Maybe?. Thanks for sharing, so nice to know there are other young women out there feeling the same way.

    • Bex says...

      I think we’re the same person, Marti. All of this- from the age boundary (I had to be a “young” mom!) to jealousy/relief at friends’ pregnancy announcements- is how I’m feeling now. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Ali says...

    I find it interesting that the assumption is that someone will have children and have to justify a choice not to. As for regrets there are lots of things that a person might have periods of sadness about, but it doesn’t mean it was the wrong choice, just that sometime neither choice is perfect. Some choices you have to make with so little information about how either choice will actually look and whatever choice you make, the what-if of the other choice will always remain.

  21. Elise says...

    Thank you for opening up this topic.

    One of the best things I read years ago:
    If one decides not to have kids, do not isolate yourself from them. At age 74 I enjoy the company of young children. They seem to enjoy me. I have a young friend in college who is a delight in my life. AND I can brag about other people’s kids! Do I have regrets about my choice? No.

  22. Heather says...

    I’ve learnt in the past year that it’s one thing to choose to be child-free and its another to have the choice removed… I’m 38, and grew up with a very maternal older sister (who has 4 lovely kids aged 1 to 19yrs!)… but I’ve never felt the same maternal urge. I assumed the combination of age, and meeting the right person then it’d ‘just happen’ – a really passive approach. Until, last year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer (no genetic issue, just bad luck). They also offered to harvest my eggs, but the timing (post-mastectomy, pre-chemo) was so tight, it was too much to ask of my body that was already going through too much. Also, it was expensive, and the egg thawing survival rates are terrible compared with frozen embryos. Now, the doctors want to remove my ovaries, or be on suppressant injections every 28 days until the menopause (!). In this situation, I’ve had to move from my ambivalence to realising that even if my feeling change, this door has already closed. Even if I fought for egg harvesting at this stage, the very act of being pregnant increases the hormones that my tumors were so responsive to. It’s just so much loss. However, if I’m being honest, I think even without the cancer, I probably wouldn’t have children. I’m scared of not being able to create a fulfilling life without having children (or meeting my husband).

    • T says...

      Gosh Heather, you have been through A LOT, you’re a freaking warrior! I don’t know cancer but I do know how you feel re: babyless future; a baby seems like a one-stop plan right? You’ve got holidays sorted, old-age visits, legacy, how to spend the next twenty years… without that locked and loaded it can feel like a massive abyss in front of you. How to be meaningful without babies? The thing that helped me more than anything was to imagine what I could have, instead of what I didn’t. I could have nieces and nephews that I had the time and energy for, I could have meaningful work, travel, a dog that is too pampered, delicious dinners out, time for my health. I could have the proper time my friends crave to just reflect and think. What is it that you like that you could have?

    • Maaike says...

      Should you ever decide you do want to be a mom – there are many worthy ways of being a mother, or a mother figure, and they do not necessarily mean you have to be biologically related to your child. And there are also many other ways to create a fulfilling life without being a mother. They do all have one thing in common though: they require you to be alive. I am so sorry you have to go through this, I don’t mean to belittle the loss you must be feeling in losing your fertility and I know from my own experience how unfair cancer can be and what it can take from you, but you are doing what’s right for you right now. Sending you love and light.

  23. Wooo hooooo!!! #TeamNoKids! A childfree life is a great and happy one. 42, never wanted kids, so happy I don’t have them. I am free, retired, financially independent, travel a ton, never have to drive anyone to soccer practice. Life is a joy without kids. Kudos to people happy with kids. Strength to anyone feeling pressure to have them. Know that you can have a rich and happy life without.

    • Gloria Lord-King says...

      Thank you for upping the tone of this conversation from dutifully earnest to joyful! I agree that a life lived without is an amazing fate, not just a misfortune tolerated. We need so much to normalize this idea in our family and child-centered culture.

    • Gina says...

      Sending you a high five. : )

    • Tabitha says...

      So much this! I’m 45, and happily child free. I would have been a great Mom, but I have zero interest in the lifestyle. My husband and I enjoy being adults and living like them. We travel, have a second home at the beach, will retire early, have an active social life. I can’t imagine stopping all that to have kids. I didn’t like being a kid, why would I want to have them?!

    • Cat says...

      Love this! I would love to know how are you retired at 42! Congrats on being financially independent and free – you sound like you’re living my dream life! I’m 38 and also living a childfree, rich, fulfilling and joyful life but still working towards being financial free :)

    • Michelle says...

      THANK YOU! This is what I was hoping to hear! My husband and I have been married for 10 years and are child-free. At first, it wasn’t by choice (unexplained infertility, an endometriosis diagnosis, several rounds of medications and IUIs, etc.). In the waiting, we’ve gone out of our way to do things for each other and together as much as possible. As time continues to drum on, we have built a rich, fulfilled, happy, and adventurous life. We’ve decided to embrace being child-free and embrace each other even more. A tiny part of myself still worries if I will still be this happy in 10, 20, and 30 years, and your comment brought joy to my heart! Thank you, a million times, thank you.

    • Charli says...

      Exactly! Have you read “No One Tells You This” by Glynnis MacNicol? This resonates.

  24. christy says...

    So NICE to see a non-motherhood monday post!! It’s strange to me that the default for adults seems to be: get married and have children. It’s 2018, and there are SO many different paths to take in life! I’m so inspired by these women’s stories, thank you for making this blog post!!

  25. lee says...

    I’ve never wanted children. Even as at a young age I knew this. When I look at babies I rarely think “aww how cute”. Now puppies..that is another story. Fearing regret in the future doesn’t seem like a reason to have a child. Shouldn’t it come from a place of love and being whole with or without one?

  26. CC says...

    This is a lovely idea for a post, and I enjoyed reading everyones take.

  27. Kirstin says...

    Lauren — we’re you listening to the conversation I was having with my husband just this morning? I found so much comfort in your words. Thank you for having the courage to commit them type.
    “Do I feel guilty that my parents won’t become grandparents? Yes.” For someone who still hasn’t settled on a decision, I feel like a small weight has lifted off of my shoulders just knowing that someone else’s internal dialogue sounds like mine.

  28. Katie says...

    I think the most basic, kind thing we can do here is to realize, accept, and share that life and the choices that come with it, are rarely perfect or unregrettable, for any of us. Speak up if you disagree, and we can have a discussion about that, but I think the most important exercise from this post is to listen, think about, and most of all, be kind about, other choices and ways of life. It doesn’t really matter what my choice is or I’ve always really known I wanted, or if I found my way into parenthood or not. Isn’t the sharing and learning from each other what our world needs? And jo, isn’t that what you’re trying to do with this post? Thanks!

  29. Polyana says...

    Reading what Lauren wrote on her decision was like reading my mind!

    I didn’t think much about whether or not I wanted children until I fell in love with someone who absolutely does not want to have kids. And once I realized I would have to choose between him and having children (because it of course would not be fair to “force” a man into fatherhood”), I researched obsessively about the topic, talked to my friends who were having kids, and those who did not want children.

    In the end, I came to a moment much like Tracey’s where I realized I really wanted to be an aunt, and motherhood probably isn’t for me. I am an entrepreneur who works with sustainable and community based travel, which besides being fulfilling, keeps me traveling quite a bit and meeting special, hard working people every day. I am also a “dog mom”, and love my little rescue pup unconditionally. It still does tear at my heartstrings to know I won’t give my parents grandchildren, which I know they are pining for, but have also convinced myself this shouldn’t be a reason to have children, and know I will be the one who will be able to take care of them once they are older. So I use the money I have left over from not having children to travel with them!

    For those who have been asking about older women with no children, I have 3 aunts who do not have children and are an inspiration to me. One is married, 50, and loves her life. She’s changed professions many times, incredibly independent and takes so much care of the rest of our family, especially those with less means. The other two are single, retired, and in their 60s. Both live with my grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. I feel so grateful to them, admire their love and care for their mother, as well as the love and care they provide to all their nieces and nephews (there are 18 of us!). All three show me you don’t need children to love deeply, be selfless and nurturing. They’re also super active in their communities, have lots of friends who they share dinners and travel with!

    • Lauren says...

      Thank you very much for sharing this—felt like such a positive account of what the future could hold, hearing about your aunts!

  30. Bridgette says...

    This post and comments have been so honest and insightful! I am 32 and newly married. I do want to have kids but feel both unmotivated and afraid to do what is required to get there. It feels like a burden to have to consider my age and worry about fertility. I find myself calculating when is the LAST possible month we could try to conceive and still have a baby in our mid-30s. What I’ve come to realize is that it is the thought of being pregnant that terrifies me and not being a parent itself. What if I miscarry? What if I feel terrible all the time? What if it feels like an alien is inside of me? What if my anxiety gets worse? What if something happens during childbirth? It is also hard for me to imagine walking through the world as a pregnant person. Perhaps, this is due to my own shallowness and the way women are but into a box by society. I still feel young and value my attractiveness. I also work in a male dominated field where I have never seen a pregnant coworker. I fear that being pregnant would forever alter the way people treat me and probably the way I view myself. It feels unfair that I will be carrying a child while my husband is gallivanting through the world without anyone knowing that he will be a father, drinking beer and eating stinky cheese. I should focus on the fact that I will hopefully get to have a bond and experience that a man will never have but I still wish that my baby could just be delivered by a stork.

    • Meredith says...

      I’m 13 weeks pregnant, and my husband and I were desperate to have a child! We tried for almost a year and I literally found out I was pregnant the day before our first consultation at an infertility clinic. I always knew we would be parents, but I thought I might have to grieve the idea that I would ever get to be pregnant, something I desperately wanted to experience.

      Well, pregnancy SUCKS!!!! (At least for me). Of course I’m so, so grateful, and I will probably try to go through it again so that we can have two children eventually, but OH MY GOD I DO NOT LIKE IT. So just wanted to validate what you’re saying, Bridgette, and also remind you that there are other ways to start a family if you’re ambivalent about the pregnancy thing. And here’s hoping the second trimester gets better!

    • Bridgette says...

      @Meredith I so appreciate the validation and thank you for the reminder that there are alternative paths to consider. Congrats to you and your husband! I hope that the rest of your pregnancy sucks a whole lot less :)

    • Bridgette says...

      @Meredith thank you for the validation and reminder that there are alternative paths to consider. Congrats to you and your husband! I hope that the rest of your pregnancy sucks a whole lot less :)

  31. Kim says...

    Love all these points of view! What struck me from Kristen’s list of considerations about having one child (work, energy, stress, finances, etc.) is that these are the exact same considerations my husband and I have been weighing in relation to a third child. In the end, for mostly practical reasons around stress and free time, we’ve decided to stop at 2. Our decision / process is so similar to someone who has decided not to have children – the only difference is which # child we were deciding about. Also, <3 the image of being a trustworthy and reliable aunty! Those kiddos are lucky to have you!

  32. jenny says...

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m 34 and don’t think kids are a likely outcome for me – the environmental strain and societal upheaval we’re experiencing doesn’t give me the hope I think is necessary to reproduce. I’m also surrounded by women who are my age but are also deliberately childless and I wonder if this is becoming more common? In any case, I’m excited to spoil the kids my friends do have while also being wild and having the double-income-no-kids adventures a kid-free life can support.

  33. Kimmie Rodriguez says...

    I come from a different perspective, yet still get the question about having kids. I actually do want some, just not anytime soon (I’m 26 & dating, and only plan to have kids if I’m married). Whether I get married in the next year or later in my 30s, I always wanted to have at least 3-5 years of just me and my husband before I even think about it. However, I’m already getting the “When will you get married so you can have kids?” Hate to break it to some people, but just because I’m married doesn’t mean I’ll be in a rush, regardless on whenever it happens!

  34. Elizabeth says...

    I’m teary reading this post, and comments. I have always wanted children. But life had other plans for me. Did not meet the man of my “dreams” until 2 years ago. I am 45, 46 in April. He is 8 years younger than I am. He knows my chances of ever having a child are next to nil. I think he is keen on the idea, but also doesn’t want to bring any children into this messed up world. If we had only met even 5 years ago, we may have had the chance. But at this point, I believe it is a no go. I cry at this thought but am resigned to the fact this is my destiny in life. I know I must not be the only one out there who met Prince Charming a little too late.

    • Krystal says...

      Elizabeth, I just wanted to say, my friends were close to 50 when their twin girls were born via surrogate and they are wonderful parents. Perhaps there are possibilities for you beyond the most straightforward route?

  35. Nicole says...

    Something I didn’t see here but is equally important. Those of us who may have wanted kids but won’t have them for one reason or another and a trying to accept the hand that life dealt them. For me it was a diagnosis that my husband received that led us down a no child path. A few people (who have kids) have said that I will regret it down the line, but it was important for me to choose his health first.

  36. Laura says...

    I would certainly never question anyone’s decision not to have kids–I think any reason is a valid one! I have three young kids who have obviously changed my life in enormous ways. Like some of these women, I never fantasized about marriage or family when I was younger and in fact was totally surprised by the deep biological/hormonal pull to have children when I hit my late 20s/early 30s. I think I also completely underestimated how much work children are; when I was growing up it just seemed like something people “did” as they also got on with the rest of their lives. Perhaps it’s our current “parenting” culture (I’m very on the fence about this neologism; no one would ever say “daughtering” or “wifing”), but having kids seems much more all-consuming these days. In any case, I’m curious about the commenters who want to hear from people who’ve aged without kids, because I feel like that’s what we want to know–but can never know–on any particular issue–e.g., will I regret it if I take this job (or don’t)? Will I regret moving to a new place (or not)? Will I wish I had married this person (or not)? You (usually) can’t travel both paths, only one–which is what makes life so hard/interesting!

  37. Laura says...

    I honestly have not read the other comments, but wanted to share my story since it is different and is journey from wanting kids to being ok without.

    I always assumed I would have kids, but after getting married and trying naturally for awhile, we realized this was not going to be an easy process. We sought medical intervention and went through two years of testing, various drugs and procedures, but I eventually reached an emotional breaking point where I could not do it anymore. Unexplained infertility is very stressful and while there are many medical advances, it is often still very hard both physically, emotionally, and financially. We decided to take a break, but did nothing to prevent a pregnancy.
    We have talked over the years about the options- trying different drugs or procedures or adopting, but it never felt right. We are also blessed with many friends/family that have gone through all sorts of scenarios both heart breaking and miraculous. In the end, we decided that we just would not have kids. And I am at peace with that decision. I really admire the women that can and do struggle through infertility and are able to become moms in one way or another, but it was not for me and my husband.
    Many really do not understand and think I will regret this, but I focus instead on the joy of helping with the many children in my life and thethings we can do that would not be possible without children.

    • Michelle says...

      Thank you so much for sharing this! I could have written this about my own life. Please feel comforted and encouraged by knowing you’re not alone.

      My husband and I have been married nearly 10 years and are currently child-free. We’ve tried a variety of tests, procedures, and interventions and decided we just couldn’t do it anymore for so many reasons. It’s overwhelming to enter into an endeavor with a certain amount of constant desperation.

      While we waited, we focused on each other. And after a while, that became our only focus. We’ve built a vibrant and adventurous life that we wouldn’t change for the world, and we pour ourselves into the kids in our lives – nieces, nephews, friends’ kids, etc. It seems like a beautiful balance for us.

      We’re in this together. Wishing you well!

  38. Aa says...

    For better or for worse, my thoughts:
    In this day and age, one’s carbon footprint should be, at the very least, a consideration in family planning—but most people ignore it outright. Which to me is a far greater tragedy than not having a kid. Because here’s the thing: If you’re not thinking about the planet, you’re not thinking about the future. And who inherits the future of this planet?The young.

    I have all but decided not to have children (because despite what I say above, the pull exists for me, too), and the environmental argument does well in keeping me at peace with the specter, as some would call it, of childlessness. But I also find such curiosity and joy in the kids my friends and family have. I want the best for them, and that also helps me stay the no-kids course, somehow.

    En fin, I really don’t know how you could decide to have a kid right now, but there are a lot of people out there either braver, more ignorant, more stubborn, or more optimistic than me who do. And honestly… sometimes, those people keep my hopes up. Once in a blue moon.

    • Em says...

      AA, thank you so much for putting into writing what I am constantly thinking. I find it incredibly difficult to share this concept in conversation without people somehow getting angry at me and misinterpreting what I’ve said – so I have all but stopped (except for in conversation with my sister, who feels the same!). I love kids, and most days, humanity as a whole, but I also worry desperately about the planet and the future of said humanity.

    • Emma says...

      This was always my argument, and then I met my current beau and his niece and arguments ‘against’ have kind of flown out the window. I totally get NOT having kids, for any and all reasons–having children does seem bafflingly hope-filled and I am not that kind of person. But at this point, frankly, I don’t see a lot of hope for the future of humanity (not the world, mind you -the planet is going to persist with or without us for awhile longer) and to some extent I think it’s not the most consequential decision–there are so many bigger carbon footprint equations going on. In my partner’s family I’ve seen joy-in-family that I’ve never experienced before, and I long to expand that net of family connection and warmth. Whether or not it also warms the planet.

    • ZZ says...

      Thanks for this. I was browsing the comments hoping to see others sharing this perspective.

      I am 30 and having to start thinking about whether or not I will have kids, and cannot shake environmental concerns: Can I bring a child into a world that will be ravaged during their lifetime? Do I love actually love my child if I knowingly bring them into this world, where climate situation which may be catastrophic by the time they are my age? Is it selfish of me to have children for my own desire, despite my fears of the environment?

      I really do want children, but am completely frozen by this.

    • N K says...

      @ZZ I am a firm believer that our desires direct us to our paths. Have faith in your desires, trust and respect them. Wishing you luck as your chart your course. XO

  39. Lisa says...

    Great post! I’m 45 and never had the urge to have kids, even though people always told me I would change my mind. When I was a teenager I used to watch this television show called What Every Baby Knows hosted by child expert Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. I would watch these new mothers learn to adapt to their life with a baby and they always looked and sounded exhausted and defeated. Of course, I know those stages in life are temporary and you get the hang of what to do with a little baby, but it really had a deep impact on my understanding that as a parent, you can never really have a sick day, you can’t stay in bed for a migraine or run out to the store or the movies or dinner with friends on a whim. I realized that I am entirely too selfish with my free time to have kids. Thankfully, no one ever pushed me to have kids or questioned my reasons for not wanting them and many of my friends feel the same way and are child-less.

    • A says...

      I think there is a misconception that people without kids are selfish. I know that I would not be a good parent–I could not handle it, physically or emotionally. It would be very hard for me, socially and financially. This realization isn’t selfish, it’s smart. It’s when you ignore these concerns and “worry about it later”–that can be selfish.

  40. Nicole says...

    I knew deep in my heart that I never had a real desire for children of my own. When I met my husband, he wasn’t certain. I was open to a one and done for him. However, we agreed to write down a list of all the things we wanted to accomplish before starting a family. When travel to Mongolia made its way onto the list, we realized it wasn’t something either of us really, truly wanted with every fiber of our being. And we agreed it wasn’t fair to bring a child into the world if that wasn’t the case. We’re now trying to find our way as the safe place for the children in our lives.

  41. Amanda says...

    Thank you for this post. I think it’s odd that it is “unusual” that more people don’t want kids and to remain “free”. I am happily married and I DO NOT want kid(s) ever. Just not for me, nope, not at all 100% NO. A day w/ my husbands grand kids (that we may see 2-3 times a year) they are 4.5 yrs old and good kids, but I would rather lock myself in my car than play a game w/them…,(bad, right?) I just can’t take it

  42. AP says...

    I enjoy hearing other women’s perspectives on their choices, and always am always fascinated by the biological and psychological reasons for why people do or don’t want kids. However, only one thing always seems to hold me up—and that’s about liking children or feeling maternal toward them. I have never been one to hold a baby (in fact I didn’t even hold one until I was 28). I find myself awkward and non-nurturing torward them. But I have a 4 year old daughter and she is my life. I suffer through her play dates with children I don’t really enjoy because they make her happy. The maternal bond with my daughter knows no bounds. When making a decision, I hope everyone remembers that other people’s kids will not be YOUR kid. You won’t look at your own child like you do the snot-nose kids on the playground.

    • Jessica says...

      On the flip side to this, you can also love children and be a highly nurturing person and not desire to have your own children.

    • Tabitha says...

      Yeah, I just don’t think that’s a thing. Or it’s overplayed as the idea that it’s why we are child free. Kids are fine — like all people some are great and some just aren’t. I would be a great Mom, I just don’t want to be one. It’s not that hard to understand. We know it’s different with our own, we just still don’t want to have our own.

    • AP says...

      Yes to you, Jessica! Tabitha, it definitely is a thing. I have lots of friends that struggle with this. I did myself until I was 33 and had my child. I didn’t know if I wanted one for my whole life until I just jumped in, consequences be damned. Obviously, that’s not everyone’s choice and that’s just fine and should be praised. I wanted to make the point that some women do make decisions based on how they feel about others’ kids. And that’s not the way to go.

    • Natalie says...

      It definately is a thing! I was exactly like AP. I didnt like kids so I was afraid I wouldn’t love my own. But it is SO completely different when it is your own. I think she’s just trying to offer a perspective to the many commenters here who are afraid of not loving their own children because they aren’t naturally drawn to kids.

  43. J Lyn says...

    What always strikes me whenever I read an article similar to this, or readers comments, is the fact that women often feel the need to validate their choice not to have children. Some women explain that they aren’t “monsters” because they’re not interested in motherhood. What about questioning why women want children? Because it’s the social norm and regularly regarded as an achievement? I’ve never wanted children, and at age 40 I still don’t. I love my little family consisting of my husband and our 2 dogs. I expect that I’d likely be unhappy if I went the route of motherhood simply to please society and avoid being the odd one out. Being a parent is a tough job, and I commend those who do it well. It’s simply not for every woman.

    • Rashmik says...

      Thank you for saying this! Isn’t it odd that in 2018 we have to read an article like this? Extremely thoughtful responses from the women questioned… but why? When we see other motherhood posts why aren’t the women in those questioned as to why they chose to have kids? The choice of omission is certainly less of a big deal here.

  44. Elizabeth says...

    Thank you for printing these. I’m child-free, but not by choice; fertility struggles meant I had to give up my hopes of having a baby. But coming to terms with that loss is *so much worse* because of the endless societal pressure, the assumption that any woman who hasn’t had a baby is inadequate/unfulfilled/etc. Sharing more viewpoints like these–of women who are happy without children and are leading good lives–is a valuable part of helping to ease that social pressure. Certainly hearing from other childless people has helped me focus, not on the dream I lost, but on the many other ways in which I can build a fulfilling, meaningful, enjoyable life.

    • Cass says...

      Elizabeth, I’m in the same situation. I do agree. I didn’t choose to be child-free, but I’m building a wonderful life in a different way. Having other perspectives helps. Best wishes to you in doing the same.

    • Jessica says...

      Elizabeth, I am not in your own situation but I am childfree largely because it’s not a feasible option for me: I am single and do not desire to be a single parent. If I had a partner, or perhaps even a much better paying job than I do, then I would definitely try to have a child. But you’re exactly right that it is possible to find peace and contentment, and to build a fulfilling life, even if it’s different than how you imagined. It can be hard to do that when it feels like every woman around you is on a different path, and one that you’d like to be on as well. I’m also grateful for this post as a reminder that I’m not alone.

  45. bliss says...

    Thank you for this post. I am 45, married, and have two children, but I know that motherhood/parenting isn’t for everyone, and I appreciate hearing these perspectives. It is important to know who you are and what you want. Bravo!

  46. Kristina says...

    For me, it was reading another post on this site and on this topic that really resonated and gave me sudden clarity as I was still deciding when I was ready… the post or comment was “it was easier for me to decide I did not want to, then to decide when I was ready” and it’s exactly that. When I began dating my now husband nearly 10 years ago, he was going through a divorce with a 2 and 5 year old. He was very clear he wanted a partner who also wanted to parent them (he has them 1/2 time) and have a family. He’d be over the moon even today if I ‘changed my mind’ to have a baby, but I’m quite simply not interested in it- and now with a 12 and 15 year old in tow, we’re definitely not eager to go back in time to relive these days in another decade :P

  47. Susannah says...

    I already commented, but this post is hitting me where I live today… A note to all the “Aunties” out there from a Mama: my brother died in a car accident when he was 29 and I was 26 so he will never know my daughter, his niece. All of her “Aunties”—some of whom have children of their own, some of whom don’t— are THE BIGGEST GIFT to her… and to me. Losing my brother wasn’t a choice, but I DO have a choice to surround my daughter with chosen family who can give her the greatest gifts: of seeing us show up for each other, of being loved in many different ways, and of seeing so many incredible women living their lives exactly how they want to live them so that she may do the same. AUNTIES 4EVER.

    • Aa says...

      this is so, so kind. thank you.

  48. rt says...

    Would have been nicer if there were some older women featured in this post. I know some woman always knew they didn’t want kids but I think a lot of people are more ambivalent than totally sure and a lot of the people featured still are relatively young, early 30s. I was really not ready to have kids for a while, even at 35 I wasn’t ready at all, very on the fence. Fast forward and I have 2 little kids that are the light of my life. I’ve had the most fun with them and love being a parent. But if you asked me at 33 or 34 I might have sounded just like the people profiled. So I’m not sure this is the best way to discuss a difficult/complex topic, IMO.

    • Leah says...

      I was thinking the exact same thing reading this. In my 20s & early 30s I did not want to have kids. And here I am today at 45 with 2…

    • Sue says...

      I agree. Women in their 40s and 50s and beyond who opted out would have added a lot more depth to this topic, especially with how it affects friendships, dating, career, marriage, etc.

    • Porkchop says...

      I agree. Some of the women in the article are young enough that they might change their mind and end up having kids!

    • Tabitha says...

      I’m 45, child free mostly by choice. I never wanted them but right when I was just about too old, I wondered if I’d made a mistake. It made dating really hard, especially in my 30s when all.the.men wanted to have a family that included kids. I stayed with not right for me people for far too long thinking I had to settle to make sure I didn’t end up with a life I didn’t want. Luckily for me, I met the man of my dreams right after my 40th birthday (we married 6 months later). Everyone assumed it was a shotgun wedding – it wasn’t – neither of us wanted kids. Five years out, we are happily married. We have a great life without our own kids. We have niblings, which is nice – we can influence little people and enjoy them in small doses. We are lucky enough to have a lot of friends – many with kids and some without. We see the friends without kids a lot more often though, and we miss the closeness with our friends who have them. We aren’t worried about growing old – we’ve seen enough friends break contact with their family of origin to know there are no guarantees, and we financially plan for our own futures. Because I was single for so long, I never got used to the idea that anyone but me would take care of me. . I strongly feel life is what you make it and that designing one that’s right for you, even if it’s against the mainstream way, is worth it.

    • Julie says...

      Luckily there are many thoughtful reader comments from women in their 40’s and beyond who are sharing their happiness being childless. Best comment section in the internet, by far! :)

  49. Whitney says...

    I’m the child of a mother who shouldn’t have had children, I think. While I, of course, don’t regret being alive (nor do I regret any of my 4 awesome siblings), I grew up a household with an emotionally abusive, deeply narcissistic, and very mentally ill mother. While my Dad wasn’t a perfect parent, I realize a lot of what he did now was to support the family and keep us kids being taken by CPS. The close bonds I have with some of my siblings now are something that could only be forged in the midst of such trying times, but it terrifies me to think that some mental illness (both my mother and her twin suffer similar sorts of crippling mental illnesses) could be genetic; so I’ve chosen to not have biological children based on that, and I suspect I will likely not adopt, lest I suffer a late-breaking illness similar to my mother’s. That said, my life is rich in relationships with family, friends, and I have a career I really have fun with, so I hope I don’t end up pining over past choices in the future.

    • Sarah says...

      I feel you 100% on this. My situation doesn’t sound quite as crazy as yours (props to you and your siblings making it through all that!), but I did have a mother with some mental health issues and severe anger, and a father who provided for us financially but didn’t seem to want to invest a ton of emotional support. I do believe mental health troubles are genetic, or at least brought on by the turmoil we have had to survive. I think about that as well when considering children. I definitely would not want them to have to struggle through my issues with me. Just wanted you to know you’re not alone :) All the best to you!

  50. Sadie says...

    I’m reading this post as I oscillate between wanting and not wanting kids. Something one of my male friends has been sticking out to me though, he said, “I don’t have to decide now because I want to make that decision with someone, and I don’t have that someone.” I think for me, finding a life partner is something I’m sure I want, but having children is something that I’ll have to decide on with them.

  51. Kiley says...

    Joanna – I always think of a blog post you wrote way back when were you posed the question (or your father did?) “why do you want kids?” That always stuck out to me. As someone who grew up always wanting children, I had never asked myself WHY I wanted them. Now on the precipice of having my first child, I’m already wondering if it’s something I want to do again. The comment about “unpaid reproductive labor” resonated with me. As supportive as my partner is, he has no idea how physically and mentally demanding this pregnancy has been, and his career likely won’t be as affected. Motherhood demands a lot of sacrifices that I know will be worth it to me personally, but I can’t imagine being on the fence about wanting children and diving in headfirst.

  52. Sonja says...

    I completely understand those who choose not to have children. It’s certainly not something that one should go into willy nilly; seriously; my vagina will never be the same and under eye circles are like my signature look.

    I have one child whom I love more than I could possibly explain and baby fever has set in again. The depths of love I’ve experienced and my view of the world is beyond what I would have been capable of without that experience. I feel a deep responsibility to my fellow humans to raise a good person. More than anything I want to help raise people who have empathy, love, and tenderness for humanity just spilling out.

    • Maddie says...

      I love your comment. Same!

    • Kiki says...

      “The depths of love I’ve experienced and my view of the world is beyond what I would have been capable of without that experience” is so incredibly condescending. People without kids can feel great deep intense love, can view the world in profound ways. Coming into a conversation about not having kids only to extol the wonders of motherhood, as so many posters in this conversation are doing, is disappointing and insulting.

    • agnes says...

      Kiki, why would you see this as condescending? For Sonja, motherhodd is how she discovered deep love, she didn’t say it was the only way… For me it was when I cared for my mother through her last months of life. I am a mother, but the intense love I have experienced until now has been towards my own mother. I think Sonja’s testimony is just sincere.

  53. Sam says...

    “This isn’t second prize, it’s an alternate first.” Thank you COJ team, this truly helps and resonates as someone who has always questioned wanting children. I often wonder if I am making the right choice. This is a great reminder that I’m not settling for second prize, I’m listening to my heart with an alternate first.

  54. A says...

    Yes, but your comment counts on the fact that people are surrounded by grandkids or kids they still are in contact with. I honestly think there is a low return on investment when it comes to children. Looking at the families I know, I see a lot of alienation and people not talking to family members.

    What I see with friends is a lot of investment until the kids are teenagers and then the parents basically becoming like their childfree counterparts as their kids age and leave home.

  55. liz says...

    When I saw this article, my first thought was THANK GOD! 1) basically the worst thing you could ever do (ordinarily, I don’t mean like set off a nuclear bomb) to the planet is have a child. There are wayyyy too many of us to begin with, so I feel like 2) if you’re going to have one, you better reaaally want one. 3) the cost of children (energy/financial/romantically/person liberty) is so insanely high, I get so angry how badly people judge those who don’t want any. 4) Also, no, you don’t know better than anyone about what is good for them. there’s always so much arrogance and unsolicited advice in these conversations imo

  56. Kim B. says...

    Tracey, thank you for your positive spin on being an Aunty! I am childless, not by my own desire, however I am an Aunt to nearly 20(!) nieces and nephews, some not related by blood. I appreciated your reminder that, while I don’t have children of my own, and perhaps because of it, I do have time for the other children in my life. And, probably because I don’t have my own children, I am able to give in different ways than I would if I was a parent. I will always remember your words as a powerful reminder of the goodness in that. I am so grateful to be an Aunty, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had “hoped for.”

    • Tracey says...

      My sister is in the same boat. My peace with being an Aunty has given her the confidence to retire from IVF. I genuinely see being an aunty as such a big contribution because it was modeled to me by my mothers’ sister. This Aunty is in failing health now and it absolutely breaks my heart, her legacy is not lost on me, throw yourself into Auntying and yours won’t ever be lost either. Xx

  57. Katie says...

    I have never had the desire to have my own children, and I always thought I would one day adopt. I remember being twelve years old and telling my parents I wanted to adopt several children for anywhere and everywhere. And, when I was 28, I was diagnosed with Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Soon after, I met my now husband and fortunately, he doesn’t care to have a biological child. But at 33 (this year), I was diagnosed with a severe case of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Fortunately, I am receiving treatment. And, as I age, parts of my body will become deformed. How can I chase after a child? How can I be an involved parent? The conversation has changed from, “maybe we’ll adopt”, to probably not having children at all. Part of me feels relieved and part of me is sad. Because I know I would be a good mother.

  58. Loved Tracey’s comment about being Aunty! My best friend is child-free and plans to stay that way, but she loves being aunty to our son. And I treasure thinking about how their relationship will grow as he gets older. It makes me so happy to know that she gets to pursue her exciting life exactly the way she wants it to be, but that he’ll always have her there to offer support and love.

    (And I love that when she and I get together, I get to be completely out of mom-mode and just hang out with my bestie. I think every parent needs friends who are non-parents in their life!)

  59. Megann says...

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for posting this. As a childless woman by choice (who loves kids, I swear I’m not a monster) I often feel judged and misunderstood by women who have chosen to be mothers. And honestly, there’s not a lot of dialogue about living a “worthy” life without having kids. And what if it isn’t a choice? You are still worthy and whole. I just wish we’d all realize that YOUR way is never the “right” way and that everyone is valid, and worthy, regardless of their child status.

    • Alexandra says...

      I am sorry that people are so judgmental towards you. As someone who has 2 children (it’s not that I always wanted them, but my husband and I were open to having kids if it worked out that way, and I am happy to have them) and a number of child-free friends I am trying to be very careful to value their choices. You are not less worthy and their is no right way, children or not. There are lots of women who should not have had children. You need to be happy with your choice, it’s nobody else’s business. My daughter especially loves my female friends who don’t have children on their own. They make her feel special and grown-up when we get together and she is with us.

  60. Kristin says...

    Thank you for this!! I can’t wait until I have time to read all of the comments. Our daughter told us she didn’t want children when she was 6, and insisted on knowing how NOT to have them (long story about how she persisted in that demand, even though I told her there were many ways, and I would tell her long before she needed to know, ended up with me getting her a great book and talking about it. I told her not to tell her friends because their parents had to decide when it was ok for them to talk about it, but didn’t think to say the same about her 4 year old brother. She apparently educated him immediately, and he went to preschool and drew a sperm and an egg picture, which his awesome teacher labeled for him, and then they added a zygote). Anyway, I struggled for a while with her decision until I realized it was about HER and not ME, and what I want is for my children to be happy and healthy. She is 24 and still has no plans for children, and it is so hard to be polite when people say things like, “Oh, give her time.”

    • Tracey says...

      Don’t be polite. Stand up for her and you will be her hero, something simple like “she knows her mind, leave her be” or something shows your allegiance without going ott. It will mean the most to your daughter age 25-35 when the comments REALLY ramp up.

    • Kristin says...

      Good point, and good advice Tracey! Thank you. I still forget that we don’t always have to be polite, and that there are some things that are more important.

  61. alana says...

    Like Maria, I’ve always had a lack of interest in babies and young kids. I’ve also always seen myself as decidedly un-maternal, at least in the traditional sense. For most of my young adult and adult life I figured I wouldn’t have children – until about a year ago, when one of my close friends mentioned that she doesn’t really want to have a *baby* but wants to have grandchildren someday. It was like a lightbulb went off for me. I’m still not excited about the thought of having a baby or a young child, but I deeply want to have adult children (and grandchildren). While a lot of my peers seem to have an urge to snuggle newborns and chase toddlers, my dreams of motherhood involve a house bustling with adult children who have come home for Christmas or a dinner table packed to the gills with my children, children-in-law, and grandchildren on a Sunday evening.

    I completely respect and support the decision not to have children, and I am not trying to convince anyone who has made that decision to change their mind – but as someone who never felt fully comfortable with the idea of having a baby OR with the idea of *not* having children, I found such relief in the realization that the desire to have children can look different for different people.

    • Emilie says...

      Love this comment – good food for thought for a 30 year old very solidly in the I just don’t know/am ambivalent category. I love and cherish my relationships with my parents and parental figures now that I am an adult; as rich or richer than my closest friends my own age.

    • Meg says...

      Alana, just as food for thought, have you considered that having the former doesn’t guarantee the later? (Having babies does not guarantee a house bustling with adult children and grandchildren at holidays, many years from now?) Just using my own experience: I had a great childhood with good, hard-working parents. I have one sister. Both of us have decided not to have children, for our own reasons. So our parents will not have grandchildren, which they’re thankfully understanding about. Both my sister and I live totally across the country (5 hour flight) from my parents, so I only get back to their house about once per year. We spend most holidays apart for cost and logistical reasons, and honestly because we’re just not super close (which is more mine/my sisters fault than my parents, I’m sure they wish we were closer). If my parents had kids just so that they could someday have a bustling house on holidays, they would be very very disappointed right now. If you’re just struggling through the baby/toddler/young years hoping to get what you want later down the line, that feels like a big gamble. What about forming a huge friend circle or getting closer with existing family so that on holidays you have that big group to enjoy? Or cultivating a community of friends that you can regularly have over for dinners and enjoy that company?

    • NN says...

      As someone who is now facing immense pressure to have kids (family expectations, friends with kids, no couples-only social life anymore), this is the post that resonated with me the most. I also relate to the non-maternal aspect of my personality – I was the youngest kid and a complete tomboy with no interest in child-rearing or interacting with little kids. I always grew up with siblings/cousins who were a lot older and felt I had to catch-up all the time. What I’m saying is I have 0 baby experience.
      Then my sister had kids. I didn’t enjoy their baby phase. Tbh, in our presence, she didn’t too. There was so much tension, in-law equations change, lots of ideas about bringing up kids, doing this not that etc. (especially in south-Asian cultures where a grandchild is the ultimate blessing!). It was so stressful! I remember soothing tempers, doing so much night-duty, pacifying agitated elders during family functions and dealing with so much unwanted new awkwardness. Whose house does the baby stay in while visiting your home-country – mom or dad? Which grandmother should cook? Why is the baby wearing the dad’s side’s outfit first and not ours? I cannot describe how awful it all felt. The baby rearing seemed so mechanical and very puppy-like – so much attention, constant diaper changing and feeding. A baby brings out so many unknowns in marriages and suddenly the grandparents have so many conflicting opinions and quarrels and it sometimes felt competitive!
      Why am I telling you this? It changed my mind about kids. From age 21-30, I never wanted them. They were sweet and naughty and it was fun to be around them, but the initial years were bad – not just rough labor wise, but socially, it was very agonizing. Now that they are older, I love them to the moon and back, they are fun, sassy kids who can have a decent conversation and entertain new thoughts. Then I thought, I LOVE this stage. They learn quickly, think, enjoy new hobbies and are kind, sweet people with new perspectives. This stage and beyond ( I know the teenager part n all) is something I can deal with when I can reason, learn new things and teach them complex ideas and open their eyes to the world. The whole extended family situation has also cooled down since the kids can answer for themselves and behave.
      This older stage is appealing to me and it helped change my mind about kids. It is not only the hard work, but it took me a long time to convince myself that all the battles I will have to fight ( in addition to the biological ones) will be worth it and it is something I really want. I have discussed very fine details (thanks to the experience of elder siblings) and know where to draw the line if conflicts around names/ceremonies/traditions/expectations arise. But it was not easy at all.
      Forgive me for the length of the comment, but having kids has big cultural and societal ramifications and it transforms your life – even your marriage. Maybe in the American/Western cultures, what I am saying might make no sense (‘Oh, why can’t you tell this person off?, ‘Why don’t you just say no?”) but in reality, it is near impossible. Traditions and culture-wars add another dimension to the labor of new parents. It is a also constant cultural battle to do what you want the way you want it. Not to mention all the work that goes into rearing a child!

  62. Bonnie B says...

    My story is similar to Charlotte’s in that I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my 30’s and had to choose to preserve my eggs before starting chemo. And like her, my priority was to stay alive and start treatment asap. The cancer was aggressive and my oncologist was confident that I’d be able to still have children naturally down the road. My husband and I had always been on the fence about having kids and I had literally gone off birth control to see what would happen a few weeks before my diagnosis. So, in a way, cancer made the choice for us. We consulted with fertility specialists and were given options but in the end, we didn’t want to put my body through anything more after enduring 14 months of infusions, 6 weeks of radiation and 5 surgeries including a double mastectomy and reconstruction. To complicate things further, my cancer was hereditary (BRCA 2) which was a real concern for my husband and me. There was also adoption but we chose not to pursue that for many reasons – the ambivalence of whether we wanted a child, the costs and “competing” with others that wanted it more than we did.

    Overall, there were no easy choices. I’m almost 45 and am mostly at peace with it. I do find myself drawn to other childless women and their stories and lives. It helps me feel less alone and validated. I’m going on 8 years of survivorship and understand how lucky I am to have that.

  63. Kate says...

    I find these discussions so interesting! My husband and I are expecting our very long awaited and much anticipated first this spring. However, all the most important people in our lives have opted to not have kids (his older sister, my older sister, my best friend, his best friend). Of the people you can call at 3 in the morning with an emergency, only my cousin has kids.

    When we were going through infertility treatments, it confused the hell out of me. How could I want something so bad that they weren’t even interested in?! Even though I didn’t fully understand it, I always respected their choice and they’ve done the same for us.

    I love knowing our kiddo is going to have so many devoted aunts and uncles in her life! I’m also excited for her to see the wide breadth of lifestyles people can choose as she grows up – so many pathways to happiness that they will expose her to by just popping over occasionally and sharing their lives with her.

  64. CB says...

    This is a really interesting post, and I’m reminded of how much work we still have to accomplish as feminists. Is having Children unpaid reproductive labor? You bet! Too many careers necessitate either putting off the choice to have children or giving it up altogether? Again, yes. He’s a societies could current standards but I don’t *have* to be. Changing labor laws to allow more space so that parents can also have successful careers, subsidized day care, and heck, even the allowance of using pretax dollars to pay for childcare, would all go along way to improving our society as a whole, Whether or not you choose to have children.

  65. BL says...

    Thanks for this post. My big question (as someone in my early 30s who is childless) is: share with me your life as you age without kids, because I’d love to hear and have a new vision board to look to. We’re so inundated with happy family goals (Christmas commercials kick it to overdrive!) but, if you don’t put that time and money and brain power into raising kids, what are the wonderful ways you use those resources that are now available? Do you travel more, do you have other markers of time and celebration? I would love to see and fantasize about that kind of future. I think that’s what hard for me, as someone who is goal oriented, to see inspiring examples of happy lives without offspring, but I believe them to be out there. I also find it hard to be childless and surrounded by friends who are dealing with the evergrowing responsibilities of parenting; social lives change with them. How do you navigate that? Thanks!

    • t says...

      I wish I could respond from my own experience but I am in the thick of it with children right now. BUT my assistant is in her late 40’s and is vibrant and smart and doesn’t have children. She only works part time because that is all the income she needs and she values her free time: she hikes, she paints, she is a wonderful aunt to her nieces and nephews and most importantly she is a calm and kind presence which counterbalances my frenetic and often brusque demeanor (mostly due in part to feeling like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders). She is my ultimate inspiration.

    • Jessica says...

      BL, these are such good questions! As a childfree 36 year old woman, I struggle with the same thing: when everyone else around you is going through these common “life markers,” it’s very easy to feel alone and left out. I’ve started trying to practice doing for myself what I would do with a partner and/or children: this summer I traveled to Paris by myself; I’ll cook a nice meal at home and light the taper candles, just for myself; I institute small traditions like cooking spicy sweet potato soup in the lead-up to Christmas every year. It does actually take effort to treat yourself with the same love and care you might for a family, but it can make a really big difference in how you feel about your own life. I used to always feel compare my life to my friends with families and just see nothing but lack–I don’t do that as much anymore, probably because I’m more in practice of seeing my own life as full and happy and fulfilling. It does take work and I don’t have that many answers, but you’re not alone in trying to figure this out.

    • H. says...

      Yes, I second this request! I’m 31 and on the fence about kids, and a big part of it is trying to imagine what life as a childless 40 or 50 or 60 year old would look like, especially as all my friends settle down and buy houses in the suburbs and have kids. I like my life very much, but I worry that I’ll feel a little bit like something is missing if I don’t have that sort of “purpose” that comes from being responsible for kids. Would love to hear from people who have been there!

    • Nicole says...

      As someone who is childless though not by choice I am happy that I had some amazing role models growing up. #1. Amazing Auntie- non-bio aunt to at least half a dozen of us, she’s retired now, traveling the world, still well connected to our family as aunt and has a rich and robust social circle. I also had the pleasure a year ago to go out with her and some of her former coworkers and supervisees— they way they spoke about her mentor ship over the years was heartwarming and jaw dropping in its impact. Some of that I’m sure comes from the fact that she was child free and able to give so much to so many. My inspiration for sure

    • Yulia says...

      Jessica, I would love to know you and have you as a friend. You sound wonderful. <3

    • Laura says...

      I put my story in below, but essentially I am now 40 and kids were not in the cards for me or my hubby.
      Instead, we focus on 2 things. We spend lots of time with our friends and families that have kids. We cuddle the babies, play with the older kiddos. We’ve taken some of the kids on solo outings and gone on vacations with the whole crew. We totally value this time, but . . .
      We also love coming home to our calm home where we focus on the joys of not having kids. We can stay up late, sleep in, spontaneously go out of dinner or a movie, and we travel a lot. Plus, we have extra resources to give to charities and are thinking about ways to help our nieces and nephews later on, maybe with college costs for example.
      I think the key, with so many things in life, is to focus on what you do have. It is too easy to see what we don’t have and think that if we just get x,y, or z we we be happy and fulfilled. That is not the case.

    • Anon says...

      I’m just going to answer the reverse, what does one give up to have children? Perhaps that gives insight into what you do without them.

      I can’t say with any certainty what I would have done with my life, but I know what I wanted to do and didn’t, and that had a lot to do with having children.
      Get my PhD.
      Have a career based on that PhD path.
      Have financial security (like a retirement, life insurance, health insurance).
      Travel.
      Be emotionally and financially independent. (I stayed with my husband because of my kids).

      I don’t regret having children, I don’t regret staying with my husband (now). I don’t regret my life, I’m very happy. But I’m not dumb. Having children changed the trajectory of my life in irreparable ways (for good too, I love my children more than I thought it possible to love). I know plenty of women with all of those things and children too, but I’m sure they too would tell you there are things they gave up. Do women who are child free understand what they might have or have achieved or experienced because of that choice? I hope so.

    • M says...

      This is actually replying to Anon who replied to this post. It’s not too late! If you want a PhD go for it! Go for you dreams.

      My MIL started and finished her PhD when her children were in elementary and middle school. She was accepted to an Ivy and had to fly (!!) back and forth from home because she wanted that degree. It paid off in the long run and my spouse talks fondly about how even though she wasn’t there every day for a few years she made the time she had with all her children special. Yeah they struggled and it was damn hard work but she is one of my inspirations.

      My aunt got her graduate when her kids were older and she started an entire new career. Even attending classes at a college close by or online courses are nice. It can be done!

      I think the moral is: we all only have one life, use it and do with it as you see fit.

    • Elizabeth says...

      I am 45 and my husband is 47. My husband and I both work 40 hour week jobs. On Friday nights in the winter we enjoy coming home after work and opening a bottle of champagne and enjoying the sunset from our hot tub. We usually end our weekend with another sunset and a bottle of champagne. We live close to the lake so in the summer we enjoy taking our jet skis on the water and meeting up with friends. Many of our friends have children and we just tie up to their pontoon boats and hang out with them and their children.

      We are both into fitness and workout most nights after work. We enjoy preparing healthy meals together to support our fitness goals. We have 3 dogs that we enjoy spoiling and spending time with. We like to go to concerts, hike and bike. My husband plays a lot of golf.

      We travel a lot. We joke and say instead of a college fund we have a travel fund. We travel somewhere at least 6 months out of the year. We have met many awesome people on our travels and have stayed in touch with them. We now plan trips with our “vacation friends” so that we can visit with each other throughout the year.

      Social lives can be a little challenging. We find that most of our friends are couples whose children are high school age or older or empty nesters. We do have some younger friends who are childless. We also find ourselves hanging out with same sex couples who are also childless. Making friends just gets harder as you get older and regardless of whether you have children or not you have to put yourself out there and make the time for people.

      We are aunts and uncles and enjoy spoiling our nieces and nephews. My oldest niece has always said I was the “cool aunt”. I have a friend who is taking her daughter on a trip for her 16th birthday. Her daughter has requested that I come along.

      On the holiday’s we attend parties like everyone else. Our family is close by so we do spend our holiday’s with them. Once our parents are gone and our siblings begin to spend their holiday’s with our nieces and nephews we plan to either tag along or go on a nice vacation.

      Like many other women I have been judged for being childless and been made to feel like a monster. But, we never talk about the jealous looks on parents faces when they hear about my lifestyle or all the snarky comments they make about my ability to travel, sleep in or disposable income. I would be interested to hear from people who have had children, but given the choice to do it all over again wouldn’t. I have met three men that have been very open and honest with me about the love for their children, but have also expressed that knowing what they know now they would chose not to have children. I wonder how many women feel the same way.

  66. Bevin says...

    These lines from Kristen’s story struck me: “I’m actually more curious about the decision people make to have them. A child affects energy, finances, work life, romantic life, free time, stress levels. Isn’t that a much more interesting choice to make?”

    Isn’t that just SO true? This is coming from a (tired but happy) mom of two teenagers.

  67. Rebecca says...

    Most of these women are pretty young, in theory young enough to change their minds. I would be interested to hear from more older women who felt that they made the right decision in not having children. I am 29 and while I don’t feel the drive now, I worry a lot about being regretful in ten or twenty years.

  68. Kate says...

    Thank you for doing this post. I’m in the no-kids-for-me camp and while it causes heartache for others, my husband and I are very, very comfortable and happy with our decision. And we love being able to devote our time to each other and our selves, but we’re also able to help out our friends with their kids and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    When my husband and I really hashed it out, I did feel an intense wave of sadness that I couldn’t place, so I googled “mourning the decision not to have kids” and it’s a pretty common sentiment. It’s not mourning the would-be children, but more realizing that you might be closing off a certain potential life path, and that’s a heavy thought (as with any major life decision, I’m sure).

    • Julie says...

      I’m 48 and I do not have kids. I had a pretty serious bout of thinking that I wanted them around the time I met my husband, at age 37. He was pretty sure he didn’t want them, but he was a perfect match for me in every other way. We went back and forth about it for a couple of years and finally came to an agreement not to have them. I’m not going to lie, there were some pretty difficult emotions to go through. I’m not super-human either, so I still struggle at times. A counselor once suggested to me that I might mourn this loss from time to time throughout my life. Is this regret I am describing? At times, perhaps. But, for a few years now, more often than not, I most often just feel a sense of relief to not have kids. I’m coming up on five years as a mentor (through a local non-profit) to a now pre-teen girl and I value the time and focus I have been able to give to her. My husband and I are looking at relocating in a year or two to live in a different country for work. I have learned to think of making art as a creative expression akin to the creative expression that I missed out on (creating life). Finally, whenever I think about the devastation of global warming, I am SO thankful that I am not faced with having to worry about kids of my own. I’m pretty sure I’d be a pretty intense helicopter parent and I wouldn’t wish it on any kid to have to carry the weight of my worry about their fate on our warming planet.

    • Kate says...

      YES! The state of the environment is a gigantic factor in my decision. Thanks for sharing your story!! I’m so glad to hear another woman who has had similar thoughts and feelings.
      xo

  69. EC says...

    Tracey, I just want you to know your words moved me to tears. An aunty is a special person indeed. Thank you.

    • Emily N. says...

      Me, too! My aunts were so special to me, and at 41, I don’t have my own children but love being an aunty to quite a few kids (my brother’s boys and my friends’ children). I feel so fortunate to be able to be an extra “safe person” for them!

    • Tracey says...

      Thanks EC. I am so lucky to have had such a role model and am so proud to step into her shoes. One of my ‘nieces’ recently was learning about the family tree at school (grade 2) and had a big argument with her teacher when it was pointed out to her that “mother’s cousin” is not actually an aunty. “SHE IS SO!” *feet stomp*. Lol, love their little hearts.

  70. Avigail says...

    I think it’s inportant to note most these women are still of child bearing age and can’t regret their choice yet. Certainly some of them will always be happy with their choice but I know many people who felt this way through their 20s, 30s, and 40s until later in life they regretted it and it was too late. Often the pain of having all their peers surrounded by grandchildren is difficult and what appears to be a good choice when someone is young, isn’t always what’s good in the long term of someone’s life. Having children is an investment in a long term relationship. Obviously with all that in mind some women won’t have children and will always be happy with their choice but I’m not sure someone can always know that and be so totally at peace with the decision at such a young age when it will affect the entire rest of their lives.

    • Laurel says...

      Yeah, we can know and be totally at peace with it.

      I am going to infer here that you either have or want to have children and can’t imagine anyone feeling any other way. And that’s okay. That’s the way you’re wired.

      But others of us simply don’t have that maternal wiring. I didn’t choose NOT to have kids, as if motherhood is a default. I can’t imagine longing to have a kid, can’t imagine being willing to go through pregnancy and childbirth, and can’t imagine having to spend 18 mandatory years (because we all know that it’s usually more) of my life worrying every waking moment about taking care of a kid. That seems like a very strange choice to me, even though I know it’s the norm.

      I got married, and didn’t change my mind for a second. He happily volunteered to have a vasectomy. I’m nearing the end of statistical peak fertility…and I don’t care. I’m not thrilled about the other aspects of physical aging, but if I learned that my ovaries and uterus wouldn’t let me have kids, I’d have the same reaction as when I learned that my knees wouldn’t let me run for exercise: “I never wanted to do that anyway, so it happened to the right person!”

      It may mean that I will have to work a bit differently to have a community when I’m older, as a family one has created is the default (I guess?). I’m okay with that. I have interests and hobbies that involve people of all ages and foster friendships that become familial. I’ll be fine having not opted in, just as others will be fine having chosen to be parents.

    • Amanda says...

      So, we’re supposed to have children anyway? In case we are lonely when we are 70? Why should I sacrifice being happy in my 30s, 40s, 50s for my older self? It’s a conundrum only women are pressured to face, and I think it’s a flimsy reason to have a kid. Having children ALSO affects the rest of your life–and you cannot tell me that choice isn’t full of regret at times. Please respect women who choose to live without bearing children instead of projecting regret into our futures.

    • Amanda says...

      I am sure it is true that some people regret not having children, but I also know people who will admit (privately, of course) that they regret having them. Or regret having as many as they did.

      The reality is that we can never perfectly predict what choices we will regret when we are older. We can only make the choices that are right for us right now. And respect other people’s choices that they make for themselves, of course.

    • agnes says...

      Hi Avigail, isn’t it the same for so many decisions we take? I regret so much I didn’t tell my mother a few important things, but it’s too late now, she passed away. Or, I regret I didn’t have a child when I was 20, I’m the same age as the grandmothers ofsome of my son’s friends… Some women regret they had children, some regret they didn’t… Ageing is about regrets, let’s face it. It’s tough! But making choices is also empowering!

    • Jenny says...

      You sound like my doctor, my mother, and literally everyone I have ever met that finds out I do not want children…I have never wanted children. I’m 32 years old. Since I got my period at 9 years old, I’ve known I do not want children. I love kids, I work with and volunteer with, and babysit kids and generally enjoy them, but I do not want my own. I’ve had relationships end for this reason, with people I loved and would have created a life with otherwise. It’s one thing to say that you don’t understand someone else’s choice, but it’s another to project your own feelings onto them. I don’t want children, and yes I am still of “childbearing” age – but no, I will not change my mind and I will not regret my choice. It’s like telling someone they don’t know their own sexual orientation, because they’re young. What does age have to do with it, really?

    • Johanna says...

      I agree with you that it’s good to hear from a diversity of ages.

      Of course, the flip side of that coin is that having children is also a choice some people feel totally at peace with in their younger years and then later grow to regret; it’s also a choice that will affect the rest of their lives.

      So it makes sense to me to trust that these women are making the right choice for themselves, the same way that I trust that women who chose to have children are also making the right choice.

    • AN says...

      You presume that women only become parents by bearing their children and are therefore limited by age. There are millions of women who adopt at any age they choose, whose female partners bear children, etc. Please consider opening up your aperture.

    • jenny says...

      Having kids isn’t a guarantee that you’ll have them in your life when you’re older. Frankly, think the idea of having kids and not having them around as they age and move on with their lives is much lonelier than not having kids and building a robust community to support me as I get older!

    • Erin says...

      I would also be interested in hearing from older women about whatever decision they made. I wonder if we’re at a place yet where a personal could say they loved their children but did not necessarily consider them the best, most amazing thing they’d ever done. And I wonder if the feeling of not wanting to have children is an evolutionary trait!

    • Laurel says...

      Eleanor Roosevelt said, “it did not come naturally to me to understand little children or to enjoy them.”

      I feel the same way. I love my nieces and nephews, but I understand and enjoy them far more when they’re school aged!

    • Sumi says...

      Thanks for your comment, Avigail. I think comments like yours are as relevant to this conversation as all that have been made. Many who have similar thoughts might not be able to articulate the difficult/complicated feelings that this post evokes.

      Just wanted to offer one more perspective. I am an internal medicine physician and I worry that many Americans assume that the health care system can absorb the burden of the exploding population of geriatric patients, many of whom require near or total around-the-clock presence of caregivers. The health care system in its current form cannot handle such a burden. I respect the choices of women who decide against having children–two women extremely close to me have made this decision with no questions from me. Its so important, however, to plan for old age and start researching, investing and planning for our olden-not-so-golden-years in our 30’s whether or not we make this decision. 24-hour care at home or in a facility is costly and NOT completely covered by insurance, if at all. When my team has a patient that needs such care but has no children, or has children who are unable/unwilling to provide care, we find a way to get the patient taken care of. Often the solution is less optimal and means the patient has to leave home for assisted living/nursing home earlier than necessary. There are also always costs that patients are NEVER prepared to pay because they assumed that insurance would cover whatever was ‘medically necessary’.

      The healthcare system needs to educate the public to prepare early, whether you have children or are relying on community/friends/siblings’ children to care for you. This is not about projecting regret into our futures; it is about being responsible for ourselves.

      Alternatively, lock down a life partner at least a decade younger than you ;)

  71. C. says...

    I loved this – thank you! I have always, always wanted to have children, but my husband and I struggled with recurrent miscarriage for several years before my current pregnancy (17 weeks and counting, eek!). Going through this has made me so much more cognizant of how our society just assumes that wanting (and having) children is (and should be) the default for women my age (mid-30s).

    I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked if I have or want children, often by total strangers. And I get it – people just want to make small talk and bond over what, for many, is a shared experience. But that question was so painful as I went through loss after loss, and I imagine that it can be tiresome or frustrating for women who have chosen not to have kids and don’t feel like justifying or needing to explain their totally valid (and usually deeply personal and well-considered) choice.

    So thanks to these women for their openness in sharing their stories and for holding the space for this conversation!

    • escondista says...

      As a lady who had two miscarriages this year I LOVE hearing success stories. Please share yours often..never know who needs to hear it!

      Congrats and thanks for sharing too!

    • Lauren says...

      Your post really resonated with me! I had a miscarriage this spring and am currently 19 weeks along. I totally identify with that you wrote and want to share my gratitude for all of these stories. Sending you warm wishes for a healthy second half of your pregnancy :)

  72. Kerri says...

    Tracey’s comment had me 😭😭 Thank you to the aunties out there, biological or not, who may not want to have children of their own but choose to invest in the lives of the mothers and children around them. It is humbling and astounding and life-giving to be the recipient of such attention and affection and to watch my kids be loved by their “other mommies” brings me to a place of intense gratitude. You are appreciated!

    • Amy says...

      Amen!

    • Tracey says...

      Gosh, this is making ME weepy. Thanks for appreciating us, we’re happy to be here.

  73. Tiia says...

    I absolutely agree that no one should have kids unless they really want them. But also that wanting to have children is not a rational choice, no more than falling in love.
    As a mother of two I can also agree that being a parent is incredibly hard. However, I would totally do it all over again. In my experience, it’s the hard things that are worth having – same goes e.g. for my career. It has not been easy, but it has been so many more amazing things! ”Easy” has never been something I look for in life. (Not as an argument to have kids – but as an argument not to regret them if you do.)

    • Katrin says...

      Tiia, you said it perfectly, I feel exactly the same way. It all comes down to what you feel, deep down, is your calling. It’s not about what’s fun and certainly not about what’s easy. It’s about what you feel will make your life meaningful -to you, not to anyone else. And the meaningful things always require effort and work, they’re not easy. Whether that is raising children or something else.

  74. Ana says...

    I have a kid and I want SO SO BADLY to have another one. But I can’t, due to some fertility issues. I always read this type of articles, to find a reason for “not having children” that I can apply to myself, to soothe my desire of having a big family. I have not found it yet, but I continue looking for it. Thanks for sharing your stories and your choices!

    • Rebecca says...

      Ana, I am so sorry you’re struggling with secondary fertility issues. My husband and I struggled with that for years and it is just so hard. Please know you’re not alone – thank you for sharing in your comment here!

  75. M says...

    Thank you so much for this. I am 30, husband is 34, and we don’t want kids. I’ve known since I was little that I don’t enjoy being around children and don’t want to dedicate a significant chunk of my life, the prime years, to raising them. My husband was much more hesitant and always assumed he’d be a father. Lately, he has come around to my perspective. We signed up to be “bigs” to a little boy through Big Brothers Big Sisters and he realized that with our schedules, it’s difficult to even make time 2-4 times per month to hang out with him, plus he doesn’t enjoy it as much as he thought he would.

    We are sure to save extra money for our retirement knowing that we’re on our own! Plus, we probably have more time than most parents to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle, so hopefully we will be independent well into our old age. Even parents can never be certain that their children will care for them when they’re older; some parents sadly end up having to care for their children. I find the questions about old age show a lack of creativity in planning for your own future.

    Finally, we try to contribute to our families and communities. I know that parents do this as well, but studies show that childless people are able to devote more time and resources to volunteering. Just as society needs parents, we also need those who choose to be childless and contribute in other ways.

    • Sasha L says...

      M, good for you for saving for retirement. Good advice, and we ALL should. I find the idea that you should pay extra attention to it just because child free to be a little odd though (I know others brought it up as a sort of warning about not having kids). If one thinks of the hundreds of thousands of dollars a parent will spend to raise a child, child free is the pretty obvious economic answer. And of course there is zero guarantee that a child you raise will care for you economically or otherwise as you age. I think NOT having children would be just about the single wisest financial move any person could make. Of course we don’t have them for rational reasons, but let’s not fear monger those who are child free that it’s somehow a scary financial decision. That’s just silly.

    • M says...

      Sasha L, I think you misread what I wrote. I am saying everyone whether childfree or not should save for retirement. Maybe I said it in the wrong way as I was typing away on my phone and trying to read all the great comments.

      I am just speaking from experience in that two very close family members lived into their 90s (yay) and did not have enough saved because they didn’t think they’d live that long or know the crazy costs associated with retirement decades ago! Also the aunt I was speaking of retired in her late 40s because she did not have children and had saved a significant amount of money! But assisted living and nursing facilities are costly and unfortunately she ran out of funds. I’m not saying she ran out because she was childless but because decades ago she didn’t know it could cost anywhere from 4-10k a month for a nursing facility! So I’m sorry if I made it sound like I am focusing on those who are childless, I am not. It just took a toll on my FIL who had to physically, emotionally, and financially support two family members (one childless one who had children).

      I know where she would have ended up if she didn’t have my FIL to take care of her because they looked into state options which were horrible. So it’s a bigger discussion about all sorts of stuff that needs fixing in this country!

      Also, I’m a different M than above! So apologies to you M from M!

    • Sasha L says...

      M, such a kind response!! I completely agree with you, sorry for any confusion. We definitely need options for elderly care that don’t rely completely on personal wealth or ones’ family/children. It’s a terrible burden for all involved. Yes to societal solutions that would completely take the question of “who will take care of me when I’m old??” out of the conversation about having children.

  76. Amanda says...

    This would have made be feel like I wasn’t crazy earlier on in my life. I never had the yearning to have children growing up and well into my late twenties. I never had the desire to hold babies or be pregnant; I honestly thought that I was not capable of being warm and able to put someone ahead of myself. Then I met my husband and thought perhaps I could have children with him – he was emotionally available (unlike me), kind, goofy, supportive, and helpful around the house. I think knowing I would have my best friend and a partner to raise my family with changed my mind. If we didn’t end up meeting, I know I still wouldn’t want children. Now I have a clever and funny toddler who basically walks around with my heart. I still am in shock that I’m a mother. I still fight to keep pieces of myself. Yet, I’m happy and I look forward to raising an independent and loving little person.

    • Kate says...

      This gives me hope. I feel the same way, and I often wonder if I’m “broken” because I’ve never had that urge to be a mother. I’m 31 and my husband is 34 and he very badly wants to have kids and I am leaning towards doing it for him, but honestly, if he didn’t want kids when we’d met, I’d be just as happy not having kids. I’m happy to hear this perspective because everyone always just says “oh it’s different when its YOUR kid” but that doesn’t really help, you know what I mean?

  77. carolyn says...

    When my son got married, they purchased a house in a good school district, it was important to them. In time, they decided for a variety of reasons (some I know and I’m sure, many I don’t) that they don’t want to have children. When we would talk about grandchildren, I said to them, “Just tell me if you plan to or not. It’s your decision, not mine and I will accept it, but I need to know so I don’t ask you or get my hopes up.” When they made the decision they told me and I’m fine with it for them. I do think my son would have made an amazing father and I will miss seeing that, but he’s also a great dad to their dog, so I find comfort in that. He is also a wonderful son and a good man and that’s what I’m proud of. My daughter made me a grandmother this year and I’m happy about it. My youngest says she doesn’t want to have biological children because she doesn’t want to pass on either her issues or the issues of her partner, which I feel is smart, but she says they will consider adoption if they decide to get married. They’re young yet, so still an open book with pages to be written. I can’t make that choice for any of them and I love them all.

  78. Sasha L says...

    To everyone wondering about older women, how they might feel about not having kids, why do you think their feelings would change or be different than younger women? As I’ve gotten older I’ve understood more and more why a woman wouldn’t want children, and all of the sacrifices and costs she’ll be paying, for a very long time. I think the older a woman, the more she’ll get that. Also, deciding to have children is no guarantee that you’ll have a big happy family all sitting around the table every Sunday or that your children will care for you when you are elderly. As much as we hope our children will bring joy, they may bring sorrow, loss, heartache. Having children, not having them, these choices are not guarantees…… for anything in life. I think I’m hearing a deep need that an older woman child free woman does not regret her decision. We all will have regrets if we are so lucky to become elderly, it’s part of life, and children or no children is way too individual and personal to extrapolate some kind of generalization about regret (or lack thereof).

  79. Omaya Ahmad says...

    I am constantly reminding myself that there is more than one way to lead a happy life. Doing so puts less pressure on big life decisions I may or may not make. I never had a serious relationship until I met my husband when I was 26. I used to stress about never finding a partner. Now I can look back and assess that I was perfectly happy before I met my husband just as I am happy now. The contents of my happiness are different, but the states were both happy. I think the same is true of people who do and don’t have children. Both lifestyles have the capacity for happiness. Congrats to all people who make the choice that leads them to their particular flavor of happiness because that is what’s most important.

    • Brittany says...

      I love this sentiment. We can appreciate each other’s lifestyles without wanting the same thing for ourselves.

  80. Dominique says...

    Thank you so much for this post! While it doesn’t bring me any closer to making the decision in my own life (wouldn’t that be nice though), it’s comforting to know that others struggle with the same conflict.

    For a long time I’ve felt ambivalent about having children – I don’t long to have one, nor do I have an aversion to it though. In the past few years, this has caused so much inner turmoil for me. This comes from the fact that, being in my 30’s, I feel the need to make a decision about this sooner rather than later. Do I stop taking birth control, allowing for the possibility of a child while I still have a good chance of having one? Or do I make the decision to be childless now and start to work on coming to terms with what that means for my life? I’m constantly questioning my motivates in both situations – do I not want it because I’m scared, isn’t that normal? Or do I only want it because I feel that that’s what’s expected?

    I know it’s a decision that I’ll eventually have to make but right now I’m still nervously tip-toeing along the edge of that cliff, not ready to take the leap.

  81. M says...

    I agree it would be great to have more posts on infertility. I have a close friend who has struggled and I want to know how to be a better friend to her. I have a child and want her to be involved but I also don’t want to rub my child in her face or make her uncomfortable. I find myself holding back because she gets upset (understandably so) when my child is around. I do solo events with her (no baby) and don’t just talk about my baby, but it would also be helpful if people could give advice on how to handle and be a good friend. When I was visibly pregant she asked not to see me and I respected that, but at what point do I think about my feelings while also being a good friend?

    • MP says...

      I have struggled with this as well; a friend had never told me she was struggling until I was pregnant and told me it was too difficult to see me. I’ve struggled to know how to be the best friend I can be to her in this situation while also honoring that my life has changed. So far, it has meant never talking about my daughter around her and only seeing her sans child. This doesn’t seem a sustainable way of friendship, and I want to know how to approach this with respect and kindness. Posts on navigating infertility as the circle of people around the couple struggling would be so so helpful.

    • Abesha1 says...

      That’s not a friend.

      When my dad died young, I didn’t ask my friends to stop talking about their own dads… we all have to live with our own circumstances, like them or not. So, go ahead and live your life, encouraging this person to live with theirs.

    • Mel says...

      Abeshai1, please, for the love, do not compare the loss of a parent to infertility. I’ve experienced both and infertility is so much more terrible. I had 16 wonderful years with my mother and I have good memories to bring me comfort. Her life was hard but I know she embraced it and loved it in all of its wonderful strangeness.
      Infertility is terribly complex and anxiety and depression rates due to this disease are second to cancer and AIDS. Many women express feeling suicidal. For women and men that do not experience infertility its easy to say, just adopt! Or, just do medical treatments! But all alternative methods of family creation have steep ethical and economic costs. Am I willing to spend $20,000, $40,00, $100,00 on a chance? Am I willing to parent a child with FASD? Exposure to drugs in the womb? Downs? Infertiles have to do so much soul searching.
      To support a friend–tell her you love her, that you are sad with her. Offer phone conversations if get-togethers aren’t possible. Send her funny texts. Let her know, somehow, that you see her.

    • LS says...

      Oh Mel, I hope this reaches you. I wanted to thank you for describing how hard infertility is. I’m so sorry you had to go through both terrible experiences, but I often feel like people who haven’t faced infertility simply can’t comprehend how devastating it is.

    • Kelly says...

      I went through infertility and also had a time period when I couldn’t be around pregnant women and small children. I had friends fully in the pregnancy baby years who, thankfully, generously, said, take your time, I’m here for you when you’re ready. And, eventually, I was ready, and I’m so grateful to those friends now.

      I also had friends who felt strongly that I wasn’t a good friend if I couldn’t participate in their joy by coming to baby showers and seeing their infants, etc. We’re not close anymore.

      I can imagine people can make the argument for both schools of thought. My personal belief is that if you want to be a good friend to someone who is grieving, meet them where they are at. Eventually they will heal and be able to be more giving with you.

      Now I am a mother to 2 adopted daughters, and I’ve been able to pay it forward with others going through infertility. I have no problem carving out some adult time to hang with my gals facing infertility. There are so many times and ways that my children are front and center and celebrated…when you’re in the midst of infertility there are so very few safe and comforting places. While you certainly can share joyous stories of your child with many people, you may be the only person your friend is sharing her infertility grief with. Give her time.

  82. Lisa says...

    This is very interesting. I have two kids. I was always kind of on the fence about it, but it was very bizarre, as soon as we got married I had this overwhelming desire to have children. Unfortunately it took a few years for my body to catch up and we had to resort to IVF to conceive the first (which I am incredibly grateful for). But as for the comment on “unpaid productive labor” is so spot on. I remember thinking in the weeks after my eldest was born “what the hell have we done?!” (And this was a very wanted baby). I can’t imagine going through the mental, physical and emotional strain of parenthood without really wanting to. As the mother, regardless of how equal society pretends to be the physical and emotional burden falls more heavily on you, and bearing a child can be at the expense of your own health.
    Conversely, I remember discussing having children with my aunt one time and she said that her mother didn’t really want children (and made it known) and that pain of rejection has lived on in my aunt for nearly 70 years. She said no one who doesn’t want to become a parent should become one; it’s not fair on the child and it’s not fair on them.

    • SPOT ON. I’ve always said that I feel like I’m the smarter one by being vocal about not wanting children – because I know in my heart I would resent the amount of time/energy/money they require, and like you said that is absolutely unfair to the child! I think it’s hard for people to understand, because at our absolute basest, most Id levels, the purpose of our species is to ensure the continuation of the species. So when people decide not to do that, I think it hits a nerve that’s hardwired into (most of) us.

  83. R says...

    Ah I really related to Maria’s comment about not being interested in dolls, nurturing play, etc. I was never one to want to hold babies or play with them, and am still this way. My mom is already a grandma, so I feel less pressure, but this year I told her to not expect grandchildren from me. She was so disappointed, but I think deep down she’s always known that I’ve always uninterested in motherhood, especially since she’s seen me around extended family’s children. On another note, I’m finding that dating can be challenging, I’m 26. I mentioned my feelings to the guy I am dating now, and he seemed slightly disappointed (to be fair, he would make a great father and also it’s ok for him to want kids) But it’s tough, do I just end it or maybe in time either of us change our minds (I don’t see that happening on my end) or maybe it doesn’t even work out and this concern was for nothing. Plus, as someone who has some body image issues, I worry they could spiral out of control during and after pregnancy. Sigh. I really did appreciate this story, though.

  84. Kristin says...

    I love when you do posts like this.

    My husband and I have been married for seven years. We don’t have kids and I am just into my late 30s now. We go back and forth on it a lot. Right now I am at a point in my career where I 100% cannot have a kid. With that said, things should be different in one year and we will have to make the big decision then. My thinking is that if we feel we will regret not doing it, then we should do it. Thankfully I don’t feel pressure and his family finally stopped asking us.

    It’s worth noting that if you are “older” like me your obgyn can do a blood test to get a sense of how fertile you are. They told me I am “very fertile for someone my age” which was both great and a little offensive :)

    • Anon says...

      I had the bloodwork done (amongst other tests) at age 29 after unsuccessfully trying to conceive for one year. The results were perfect, as were my husbands!

      Age 30 and a half we are still trying and likely to start IVF in the next few months.

      I suppose what I want to say to people who leave it til their mid to late 30s to make this decision is… you may not have as much time as you think! Even if everything looks great on paper, what if you are one of the 1 in 8 for whom things inexplicably take a little longer?

      I regularly reflect on how lucky it is that we started trying when we did, my chances of success with fertility treatments age 31 are better than they would be if we had waited a few more years to find out that we had unexplained infertility.

      My advice now to anyone who says they want kids is that this is one thing which you can’t control or guarantee, and which can’t be put off or picked up at a later date. If you want kids, try now as it may be that things don’t work out straight away!

      I wish we had started trying earlier, there were several years after we got married where we talked about it but put it off as it didn’t seem urgent at the time.

  85. Marie says...

    I fall in the camp of, “when I was younger, I always assumed eventually the maternal ‘I want kids’ feeling would naturally show up.” Now, at the age of 36, I still haven’t ever felt that overwhelming feeling to be a mother. When I hear other people wax lovingly about the pure love for your kids, I can honestly say, I’ve never felt anything like that. It doesn’t mean that I might not feel that way if I did have a child, but like some of the contributors to this post, I never felt compelled to have children on the unknowns of the future, i.e., who will take care of me when I’m older (I’ll pay a nurse), what if I wait too long and change my mind (not going to have kids just for the sake of hedging off future potential regret).

    But above all that, I think the reason so.many.people. don’t really get the not-wanting-to have kids, or think you-will-one-day, mostly has to do with biology and centuries (and centuries, and centuries) of ancient-to-modern gender roles. I’m fortunate that I’m just young enough to not have had to deal personally with breaking the glass ceiling, and I’ve always worked in the progressive non-profit sector which is filled with powerful, executive-level females. So I’ve never (& very thankfully!) had to deal much with misogyny professionally or personally. But, I do really “get” the pressure of not having kids, which I think comes from these gender norms. I’m so grateful to be living in #MeToo and every right that women now have, but really, we’re only a few decades removed from all of these new social norms that put women on the same level field as men. And part of that, is that women are “supposed” to have kids – it’s just the norm. It wasn’t until recently, being on this now leveled playing field, that women had the option to put career first, to not be married, to be financially independent, to make choices that put their own interests/pursuits/emotions/body above what’s biologically and gender-expected of us. Even though there’s a lot of good dialogue around the issue, I think we’re still a really long way away from society (western society specifically) accepting the choice to not have kids.

  86. Louisa says...

    This story spoke to me when I was wrestling with the decision:
    “One can’t know what it’s like to have a child of one’s own before actually having such a child. And that means that our childless decision-maker isn’t in a position to evaluate one of her options to see how it stacks up against the alternative.” … “If you are happy, you shouldn’t congratulate yourself on your wise decision—you should be thankful for your good luck. Choosing to have a child involves a leap of faith, not a carefully calibrated rational choice.”

    https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2013/03/11/173977133/is-having-a-child-a-rational-decision

    (12 months after that story came out I had a baby girl and to say I’m glad I did doesn’t even begin to capture it.)

    • Laura says...

      Wow, as someone in the trenches with a newborn, this feels spot-on.

  87. Jessica says...

    Thank you for this! I am on the fence about having children. It’s always been more important to me to find the right man, and a life of my own creation that I’m proud of. I make decisions based solely on what I want – not what I have to do to provide for a family. I don’t want to say I’ll never be a mother but it’s not very high on my list of hopes and dreams. That said, I recently celebrated my 31st birthday and at dinner my friends went around the table and shared their favorite memory we have or something they love about me (it was amazing). My friend Ashley commented on how well I had taken on the role of Aunt Jess with her baby boy Sullivan and the other kids in our group. It warmed my heart and made me realize how content I can be to play a big role in the lives of the many children I know but go home and have 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep ;)

  88. At 48, I feel so lucky that I have never felt pressure to have kids from any front — not family, not friends, not strangers. I know how unusual I am to have never wanted to have children, but I don’t feel weird or bad about it. It’s just who I am and it has always felt like the right thing for me. I’ve been with my male partner for almost 19 years and we’ve always been on the same page about kids, no regrets but instead a family of various cats over the years who we dote on and care for. (I know, not the same, but with its own set of joys and challenges!)

    I also have a number of cherished women friends who are also child-free by choice. The reasons why are myriad, but mostly when it comes down to it? I just didn’t want that path for myself, so I didn’t do it. I’m grateful that I had the choice.

    • Kristen says...

      Same for me Amy G. I’m 45 and always knew I didn’t want kids even while I was a kid! Nobody ever made any kind of big deal out of it in my family, they just accepted it. I never felt odd about my decision and all of my best girlfriends are child free for the same reasons as me, we just never wanted them. In my mind, not wanting kids is the same as those who know they want them. Sometimes we’re just ‘wired’ one way or another and I never stopped to analyze why or question myself.

  89. M says...

    This may be way off topic, but could we ever discuss having one child or more than one? I have one child and it is so difficult sometimes, but I am getting pressure from family to think about it having a second. I am not ready for a second right now and I foolishly told my MIL I don’t even know if I want more than one. Big mistake!!! *side note* she has a horrible relationship with her sibling.

    Any thoughts from people who have one child and those who have more? Thanks!

    • I just wanted to chime as a very happy “only” to assure you that it is a childhood that has many perks. I was lucky to have grown up with a close family on my mom’s side, so I had cousins who were like sisters to me (and still are!). I know I am biased, but if you ask me there is nothing wrong with only having one. (I’m also happily child-free, funny enough!)

    • Courtney says...

      I would love a post on this! I am currently 7 months pregnant with my second and people (lots of people! But my mother and sister being the ones that ask often) ask me when I will HAVE A THIRD? I don’t really think you ask someone who is currently carrying 28 pounds of extra weight with her when she would like to get herself into this again, but it baffles me! I know Joanna did a lot of posts about having 2 or 3 children and one about being an only, but I would love to see another post like that just to read the goldmine of comments!

    • Kerri says...

      I can understand the pressure and judgement from people for the amount of children you have. We are about to have our fourth and our oldest is five. People have a lot to say about that, mostly that we are crazy ☺️ It doesn’t bug my husband much because he cares far less about what people think than I do, I so admire this about him. It has caused a lot of heart-searching though for myself… Why do I care what people say? (Am I really seeking their approval? Even a stranger’s??) Am I happy? (Thrilled!!) How do I want to choose to respond when people make hurtful comments? (I hope with compassion) Have I been insensitive in the way I’ve spoken about others’ families? (Oh, I’m sure I have! This grieves me) Anyway, I just want you to know that you’re not alone, and most of the time the hurtful questions and comments have more to do with the state of the questioner’s heart and mind, not yours ☺️

    • raq says...

      Happy, well-adjusted only child here! I really think that if the only reason you’re having additional children is to give the first someone to be around, that is not enough of a reason!

  90. Nancy says...

    As a now 50-year-old, I can share that I have not regretted my choice not to have children and do not expect to do so. For me, it came down to – having kids and raising them well is hard! So to do so, I needed to really want them. And I just never did. That baby hunger that others feel somehow skipped me. It helps that my siblings have children and there is no societal need for more kids in our world so any guilt over my decision is lessened. I greatly admire those who are raising children and hope they respect my decision to focus on rescue dogs instead ;)

  91. Taylor says...

    I am all for people who do not want kids not having kids! I want people who don’t want kids to stop having kids because they think they should, or because of societal expectations!

    I know far too many people who suffered from indifferent parents, or parents that made it clear to their children they were just expected but not treasured or desired, like window dressing. I cannot imagine guilting or shaming someone for not having kids they do. not. want. Why submit a child to that kind of situation?

  92. Alexandra says...

    Tracey will you be my Aunty ?? lucky kids to have you!!

    • Tracey says...

      Would love to! I need some info first; Age (including half years), favourite foods and favourite colours ;)

  93. Susannah says...

    All of this is so, so good. Reading Lauren’s part felt very familiar… supporting friends going through heart-wrenching fertility issues and thinking “what clicked for them to make them want this with such clarity and certainty?” I even asked my best friend who did IVF “How did you know” and she (a feminist scholar and hypercommunicator) was like “oh, you just know”. Like if I can’t get clarity from her then, who!? After going over and over all of the insane existential dilemmas/gendered awfulness of everything/personal sacrifices required, I ultimately used this to decide: when I envision my future, myself as an old woman, what does that dream future look like? And in that future I had a family. So I decided to have children, and I do not regret it. It is occasionally an incredible bummer, but it’s my bummer and it is often a triumph, and it is an exquisite triumph. The point is: in making that decision, there were no tools, no dialogue. And perhaps there are no openhearted discussions because it feels like so many people are tied up in validating their own decisions and it is so vulnerable to say “this is how I want my life to look, period. And here’s how I’m going to make that happen” (and maybe many people who haven’t given themselves the power to make those choices in that framework end up feeling threatened by the potency of a woman doing it her way). Anyway. All of that to say: I honor everyone here for doing the hard emotional and inquisitive work towards living their own best dream future.

  94. I am so impressed how nice the comments are so far. Usually when this topic comes up the comment section is a battlefield.
    I can´t have kids of my own and have known since I was 17. When I met my husband we were planning on adopting at one point but actually as the years passed we both didn´t feel the need to have a child. I think if you´re facing the financial and emotional tiring process of adopting you think long and hard if that´s the right choice for you. I´m now 42 and don´t regret it one bit, even if you stand out in a society convinced that having kids it´s “just what you do”. I once had to justify myself to a supermarket cashier! It´s society that makes it hard not to have kids and not the decision itself.

  95. t says...

    I am 40 and have children; I love them and I am a great mother (If I do say so myself) and I am happily married but I wouldn’t do it again if I were to live life over.

    I completely understand the choice these women made.

    • Beth says...

      I feel precisely the same way. I love my kids but would not have kids again if I could do it all over again. This American culture (in my opinion) makes it much too hard.

    • Noemi says...

      I agree, I too have 2 children, I adore them and don’t regret them but I wouldn’t do it again.

    • Maureen says...

      Same. I love my babies and our life together. But I know I would love a child-free life too.

    • Catherine says...

      OMG, T, bravo to you for saying that ! I can so often read that in friends’ eyes and it’s so so rare for a woman to dare say it.

    • Meg says...

      T, thank you for your comment and honesty. This comment section is amazing me – such a range of experiences, affirmations, doubts, support, everything. Life is complicated. Love to you all.

    • AN says...

      T, would you be willing to share a bit about (generally) why not? It’d be so illuminating if you felt like it.

    • K says...

      I love this comment and applaud your honesty! Can I ask you how old your kids are? Did you wait until you were in your 30’s and lived a little for yourself or did you have kids young and you feel like you wish you could have experienced life more beforehand? I’m honestly curious.

      Signed- someone who’s struggling with this decision big time right now. 31, married, wonderful marriage, husband wants kids badly.

    • t says...

      An- thank you for asking. First, I was truly content before having children. And although having children was something I wanted to do with my spouse I didn’t feel like my life was incomplete without them. Second, it is such a huge strain on finances, time, energy, time alone, time alone with my spouse, time doing what I love. I am a full time working mom and I feel like I have to constantly juggle the kids needs and my work needs all at the sacrifice of doing things I love to do like reading, traveling, working out, spending time with my spouse, etc. (PS my spouse feels the same way.) I HAVE ZERO TIME FOR ME (except for the few minutes I sneak away at the office reading this blog). I can tell you that there is something inherently unique about a love between a parent and their child(ren) but I don’t feel like it fulfills me more or differently than living a life rich in personal interests and friends. And if I were doing that I think I would feel less stress and I would smile more.

    • t says...

      K- I had kids at 34 and my kids are now 6 (twins). We were married for two years before having kids and that time was so fun. I miss it. I think so much of this is personal though. I feel like I am giving 200% to everyone except my spouse and myself and that makes me sad. Maybe others are able to juggle more? I don’t know. I can say with certainty that the parents I know who are happiest have the most help. Help from family or can afford a nanny or date nights or all of the above. Everyone tells me when I am older and the kids are out of the house I will look back on this time fondly but what does that even mean?

      Good luck with your decision.

    • Kelly says...

      i went through infertility and spent years adopting and now have 2 beautiful daughters and I actually feel the same way!

      Or maybe another way to say it is that parenting is really, really hard – and can also be really, really joyful – but I now realize that I really would have had the same average level of happiness as a child free person. Maybe I would have missed some joyful extremes, but also would have skipped some really horrendous parenting moments and a lot of general everyday stress and overload. I would definitely miss the 30 seconds of wonder and joy in my kids’ eyes when they come down stairs on Christmas morning, but also would have skipped the prior month of organizing all the things that go into the holidays for parents of small kids, and the galloping greedies they develop, and them fighting over who got more toys etc etc.

      It’s not that I want a different life than the one I have – but that I feel I’ve matured to recognize we all, to some degree, have to find our happiness within the life we have, and I would have found it within a child free life (eventually, after grieving, though at the time I thought I never would be happy without children).

  96. Katie Larissa says...

    Genuine question: what does “performing unpaid reproductive labor” mean??

    • Nicole says...

      I wondered the same thing!

    • Noemi Hallett says...

      I have been wondering the same thing…

    • Ashley says...

      I think the gist is that people aren’t paid to be parents

    • Laura says...

      I’m guessing she’s referring to the toil and trauma the female body goes through in conceiving and bearing a child.

  97. I actually experienced this struggle not over having any kids at all, but over having a second child. After my son was born, I knew right there in the hospital room that I would not be coming back to do it again. But, of course, it’s “weird” to not have multiple children. I had to get over that and accept what my heart and head were both telling me. Just like what Lauren said, I sometimes envision this alternate life with more kids but the idea that you “should” have kids is definitely not a good enough reason to do it!
    It would be nice to see more child-less or singleton families in the media, and I get excited over the Disney shows my son watches that feature such alternatives. Vampirina is an only child, and the owner in Puppy Dog Pals just has two pups and a cat, and no significant other! Plus, the girl who lives next door in the show is an only child. I think these things are pretty cool.

  98. Julie says...

    Can Wudan link her article about not having kids to save the planet?! I love it!

  99. Ana says...

    This is my story too! I’m 31 and my husband and I have decided not to have children. The main reason is just that the desire to have children never came to me, the way it does to many women. My husband is the same, and from the very beginning of our relationship, we planned a life together that doesn’t include children. (“It’s just you and me” is what we always say to each other). There are so many things I want to do with my life that would be hard to do with kids, I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface of all my plans and goals. I’m also fiercely protective of my own free time, my independence, and my ability to do exactly what I want, for myself, whenever I want it.

    I’ve honestly gotten zero push-back from anyone in my life about this decision. Probably because I live in a major city and among my peer group, it’s fairly common for people to not have children. My mom would love grandchildren, but she respects my decisions and would never try to guilt me into doing something I don’t want for myself.

    Cheers to all of you making this big decision, whatever you decide.

  100. Can we get all of these women in a room and celebrate one another, please? I am immensely grateful to Joanna for creating space for this conversation. I’ve often thought about gathering essays about this topic for a book, because it is a topic of great weight and importance for me. So much of what you all said resonated deeply – from societal expectations to feeling like you may one day regret your decision. For me, choosing not to have children is at once liberating and incredibly lonely. As the director of an organization created to empower girls and an aunt to three boys, I have many opportunities to connect with, support, and love children. However, at 40, most of my female friends have their own children, or soon will. Despite loving these women and their families, having children is not an experience I will share with them. That can feel isolating.

    Thank you again for creating a space for this conversation, and to everyone for their contributions. And if anyone wants to make that book of essays a joint effort, let me know!

  101. Jessica says...

    I have always known that kids weren’t in the cards for me. I am not a nurturer and, as I’ve always told anyone who ever asked me, I’m just too selfish to have kids. Really, I think I knew from a very early age that I never wanted the responsibility that having children means. To be completely and totally responsible for someone’s life, to raise them, educate them, etc. It was was just too heavy of a responsibility. My husband and I have always been on the same page about not wanting children, instead we have two dogs and a cats. Fortunately when very large fibroids were discovered in and around my uterus and my doctor was nervous about the removal of the fibroids and how long I would need to be under for such a procedure. When I told her I was more than happy for her to perform a hysterectomy I could practically hear her sigh of relief. My surgery and recovery went so smoothly and I was fortunate that I had made that decision long ago and it prevented me from facing what could have been a very taxing and potentially dangerous procedure.
    (Sidenote: now I’m living the best of both worlds (for me), no possibility of getting pregnant, no periods, and no menopause, because my ovaries are still intact!)

  102. Robber soup says...

    I love how you showed that every woman has a different reason for not having kids of their own. Everyone is unique, and we should not judge anyone if they choose a path for themselves that we didn’t choose. I feel like people get upset because they realize they did have a choice, but they didn’t realize it. I have three, and I love them, but oh my god the effect on my mind and body has been astronomical. Not something to enter into lightly.

  103. Cynthia says...

    Not everyone is cut out for parenthood. I see nothing wrong with not having children. As a recently retired teacher, I have seen too many children who should never have been brought into the world. My youngest daughter has medical issues and can’t have children, and she and her husband don’t want children. She’s great with children, but doesn’t want the responsibility. My oldest isn’t married yet, but she doesn’t want any. She likes children, but she doesn’t feel that urge. My husband and I won’t be grandparents, but I respect their decisions. Having a baby so your parents can be grandparents is not a good reason for having a baby.

    • Glenda says...

      Yes! to all of this! My daughter and sil have 2 boys, and my son and dil do not want any. It’s a big responsibility… and no one should be forced into it.

  104. Sarah says...

    I’m glad to see a Motherhood Monday about not having children, but I’d be thrilled to see some infertility content on here. I know I’m not the only reader struggling with this, and for some of us, being childless is not a choice. The holidays are extra hard.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sarah, thank you so much for your heartfelt note and feedback. i’m so sorry that you’re going through this. we would love to do more infertility content. here are a few past posts, but you’re right, it has been a while:
      https://cupofjo.com/tag/infertility/ lots of love to you. xoxo

    • t says...

      Sending hugs Sarah. I have been there and when you are in the thick of it it is basically all-consuming. You are correct in that you are not alone and that the holidays are extra hard. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the pain you are likely experiencing. So much love and good wishes to you.

    • Kelsey says...

      Elizabeth Holmes is going to be a new contributor for COJ (you probably saw that announcement when I did) and some of her previous writing has concerned her own infertility journey. I hope that she might bring some of that perspective experience to this site as well! (But in the meantime, she’s linked to her IVF articles on her instagram)

    • LS says...

      Hi Sarah – just wanted to say thank you for your comment and “me too.” I respect every person’s right to choose, but it was really difficult for me to read each woman’s rationale for not wanting kids (time, money, etc.) when I so desperately want them myself and would trade those things in a heartbeat if I could… Coupled with the time of the year, this may be my least favorite CoJ post so far. I’m sorry you’re struggling, and fingers crossed we both have some good news in 2019. <3

  105. Sasha L says...

    Amazing. I love hearing women talk about the conscious decisions they make to have the best lives (in every single way) they can. Super inspiring and what makes this blog the best thing on the internet.

    About parents missing out on grandchildren: my children have given me everything. EVERYTHING. They are my life. To think that they somehow owe me something else is bizarre and weird and twisted and unfair. The obligation was mine, 100%, to be their best mom, to give it my best. My children don’t owe me anything. If grandchildren are someday part of our lives, I’m sure it will be wonderful, but what I really want is for my children to have meaningful lives that they feel good about.

    Also, Kristen, your second husband sounds like a complete jerk. One doesn’t marry someone who’s been extremely clear about her choices, secretly expecting her to change those choices just because one doesn’t like them. Giant ego at work there. Ugh.

  106. Anonymous says...

    Thank you with all my heart for publishing this piece and giving a voice to childfree women in the CoJ community. As someone who doesn’t want children, it can be hard to navigate a world in which parenthood is automatically assumed to be a rite of passage. Growing up, we aren’t presented with many role models who have chosen a different path (to the extent where it sometimes feels like there’s only one path and, if you’re not on it, then where even are you?). The few well-known people who remain childfree all their lives tend to be painted as selfish, or eccentric, or somehow tragic.

    All of the quotes here resonate with me in different ways, but I particularly relate to Kristen when she says: “What I’d like to see is more openness to answering questions about reproductive decisions on both sides.”

    I sometimes struggle with the fact that people who choose not to have children (a decision that, really, should affect no-one but themselves) are asked to justify their position over and over – countless times more than people who choose to become parents. It seems to me that bringing another human into existence, and all the incredible commitments and consequences that come with that, should be the more significant choice. And yet we never question it.

    I think that examining both sides of the issue is an important step in helping people to see that this IS a choice and that it deserves to be questioned from more than one angle. There’s so much more I could say on this subject, but I’m just happy that you’ve opened up the conversation!

    • M says...

      “I sometimes struggle with the fact that people who choose not to have children (a decision that, really, should affect no-one but themselves) are asked to justify their position over and over – countless times more than people who choose to become parents. It seems to me that bringing another human into existence, and all the incredible commitments and consequences that come with that, should be the more significant choice. And yet we never question it.”

      This is such a good point. And I say that as someone with two teens. Very well said and I agree!

    • Jodi says...

      Thank you for making this point about child-free women being asked to justify their position. I have chosen not to have children AND I’m a loooong time vegetarian! I cannot tell you how many times I have had to defend myself and my life choices. It’s actually insane.

  107. Sam says...

    I sort of wish I consistently felt the ways described above. I’m 30 and single, and usually I’d really love to have children and am sad that my prospects are dim.

    I have a good life: some friends, a good job, a PhD, busy evenings, and lots of lovely kids I’m “aunty” to. I like my quiet Saturday mornings as much as any reasonable person. But I feel like something I missing… though I have some companions, I don’t feel like I’m sharing my life with anyone, either the ins and outs of ordinary daily life and thinking ahead, or the big special thinks like a trip abroad. I don’t feel like I’m devoted to some shared important project in the way that parents are, or something… and so I just feel like something is missing.

    What’s wrong with me?

    • Kate says...

      Hi Sam – I don’t think there is anything wrong with you. I think you can definitely have a full life as a single person, but if you would like a partner/kids, I think you should keep at it and keep the faith. I met my now-husband when I was 30. A lot of my friends met their partner earlier, and while I think that can be really special, it was great that we knew ourselves a little better and could better appreciate each other, knowing how hard dating can be. It sounds like you have a lot of great things going on. I wish you the best!

    • Anne Elliot says...

      Nothing is wrong with you! Without knowing the specifics of your life, you morals, or your ethics, I would point out that for any American or Canadian woman who wants to have a child probably can do so, though the journey may not be easy or cheap and the result may not be Mom/Dad/2.5 kids. So don’t sell yourself short; your prospects are only dim if that’s where your life and conscience lead you. And I will be honest in saying that is the place mine led me: I would have really like to have had kids, but I never met Mr. Right and the decision for me — without any judgment of anyone else’s decision — was that I would not intentionally have a child without a father. So: No kids. And that IS for me something that’s missing, but I don’t let it define me or ruin what is otherwise a pretty great life. Having regret that this life opportunity never materialized for me, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me, or anything wrong with you. It’s a perfectly legitimate way to feel.

      And although my not having kids was not something intentional or fully voluntary, I too have been irritated by the assumption (voiced or unvoiced) that there must be something wrong with, or missing from, my life because I haven’t reproduced. It’s presumptuous and it devalues women. I’m glad to see a voice given to child-free women and respect given to their choices.

    • Meredith says...

      I’m 36 and single; I had my baby girl in March of this year as a single mother by choice. I could not be happier. I ALWAYS wanted to be a mom and it’s everything I hoped it would be. Obviously it’s harder without a partner, but the two don’t have to be linked! Not having a baby would have broken me, not having a husband is “eh”.

    • Lisa says...

      Absolutely nothing is wrong with you. If you are wanting someone to share your life with, are you actively working towards that goal? It’s tough to put ourselves out there, but if a long term relationship is what you want start a list of qualities you want in a partner and start dating (online, blind dates) and look for someone with those qualities. You are still young, you have time. I got married for the second (and last time :)) at 40 to the love of my life. We became parents this year (I’m now 44), through the amazing gift of adoption. So don’t give up hope!

    • Miranda says...

      Sam, thank you for your honesty. I am 33, great family, friends, career, etc., but have always been single and am heartbroken that nobody has ever “loved” me. I know having a partner or spouse doesn’t “complete” you, but you are so right that it’s hard to never have someone to spend life moments with, travel, and ultimately care for each other. Keep the faith and I will be sending you good vibes! xx

    • Sam says...

      What a nice surprise to find these kind and thoughtful replies to my comment. Thanks for your encouragement. Wish I could buy you all a round. ❤️

  108. R says...

    This post really spoke to me, as a woman in my late 20’s who does not want children. I am very lucky to have found a long-term boyfriend who similarly does not want children. We are looking forward to a beautiful life with one another, travel, careers we adore, and a lot of dogs. I can’t imagine a life better than that.

    I have always felt that while a child *could* be wonderful, I feel more strongly that I might regret having a child just to find out what it would be like. As Lauren said, curiosity is not enough of a reason to have a child.

  109. Amanda G says...

    My husband and I are coming up on eleven years together, and I’m thankful that we have always been on the same page about children. We both have had non-traditional adult lives, working in emergency medicine with EMT and Paramedic certificates right out of high school before going back to college for full-on Bachelors degrees. We graduated when I was 27 and he was 32, and he immediately went into a graduate program. Now we are 30 and 36, and still wildly ambitious about what we want to do with our lives – travel, career advancement, potential relocation. Sometimes he even brings up the idea of medical school!

    In all of this, children have just never fit. Luckily, e receive very little push-back on this from either of our families, which I am so thankful for. I just hate the questions like “who will come visit you in the nursing home when you’re old?” I never know how to answer those – but the idea of it truly doesn’t bother me!

    • Amanda says...

      Hi from another Amanda!

      I’ve gotten the “who will come visit you in the nursing home when you’re old” question too!! It’s annoying and unfair. My answer is “Oh, I won’t be living in a nursing home, I plan on dying in a freak circus accident”. Or something along those lines ;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha yes to the circus line! so good :)

    • Amanda G says...

      Haha, I love it! That’s a great response!

      The other reply I get constantly is something along the lines of, “oh, so you must hate children.” Not the case at all! I love all the children of my family and friends, adore holding babies, smile at toddlers in the store, etc. But generally that’s when people look at me like I’m reeeeeeally crazy – when I say I don’t want kids but I love other people’s!

    • Lauren says...

      My answer to this is maybe too serious, but my answer is, yes, I expect that being childfree may cause me some pain in my later years. But, since one of my main reasons for not wanting kids is that I’m not a huge fan of life in general (how we often have to lose the people we love, how our bodies decline with age instead of getting better, how humans have such a huge capacity to feel pain [as opposed to plants]), my reply is that I’m willing to go through that pain, knowing that ‘the buck stops with me’. I consider any sadness I might feel as a result of being childfree to be a sacrifice I’m making for the sake of not bringing more children into this world!

    • Mel says...

      Ugh, the nursing home question! I’m like, I would never want to do that to my kids! I think it’s such an awful reason to have kids, to have someone to take care of you when your older. I hope to pool resources with friends–buy a big old mansion, hire in-home help, keep each other company, and then be able to retreat to my own room at night to read all the books I can’t read right now.

  110. Anonymous says...

    I never wanted kids. I always loved kids, and I babysat all through high school and college, but I never wanted any of my own. So much so that when my husband and I were dating I told him not to propose to me if he wanted kids because I was absolutely never going to have them. I had a strange childhood and I didn’t really want to take on the awesome burden of raising kids differently from how I had been raised, and I had big plans that completely hinged on total freedom. Then, a month before I went back to college to finish my pre-requisites to go to medical school I discovered I was pregnant. I. Was. Devastated. I cried daily. I considered terminating the pregnancy, but I went forward with it. My daughter was born two weeks late and when I was in the hospital room waiting to be induced I got undressed and into my gown, but wouldn’t get into the hospital bed because I knew what was going to happen there. I had a rough labor, and an emergency c-section, and my baby almost died. I didn’t see her for four surreal hours. When I finally did see her she was screaming in hunger and suddenly all of my maternal impulses kicked in and I fell hopelessly in love with that baby. I went on to have two more, and I would have even more if I could.

    This is such a complicated issue. I was lucky that I adjusted quickly and well to motherhood, but even so it has been difficult. I had my baby under the best circumstances possible. She was born to happy, stable, healthy parents, and she and her siblings are perfect, but raising children is the most all-consuming way to spend your life and it’s at the service of other people. I still yearn for freedom (as I’m sure all mothers do). I would certainly never question someone’s choice to avoid the journey altogether, and I love hearing stories from every perspective.

  111. Denise says...

    I find it odd/interesting that several people commenting have wondered how people feel in their older years about choosing not to have children. I’m middle-aged and I’ve never regretted my life decision to not have kids. Perhaps I’m defensive from a life of constant disapproval on this topic but it feels judgmental to assume older people won’t be just as happy with their lives and choices as they age. I love not having kids now, in mid-40’s, and I’ll love not having kids in my mid-70’s as well.

    • Yulia says...

      Maybe it’s because so many people define themselves partly (or primarily) as parents or grandparents. People who ask that question might not be able to see that life can be full to the brim, even overflow with joy, for people who choose to live differently. I don’t mind such questions–I think they come from a place of curiosity (at best) or a failure of imagination (at worst).

    • B says...

      I don’t think people are asking because they are assuming/hoping in a weird way that the older women will express regret. I think they’re asking because they want the perspective of someone who has made the decision fully. In fact I think they are asking with the hope that some older women will talk about the wonderful things they’ve learned through their childless lives! I know the younger contributors and commenters have expressed feeling patronized by people assuming they aren’t “sure,” but cmon––haven’t you ever had a strong belief in your life/while young that you’ve gone back on? There are also numerous commenters here who said they never wanted children and then ended up having them. Frankly, asking a 26-year-old about not her decision to not have children is like asking someone who has been in AA for a month to share his/her thoughts on long term sobriety: it’s the difference between reflecting on a life lived after having made a decision, and simply fantasizing about what that life will look like. The NPR article someone linked to above explains the difference. It’s a question of epistemology, not ethics.

    • Katie says...

      As I mentioned earlier, I did have a strong instinct to have children. I was going to be a mom. I’m caring and empathetic and would have made an excellent mother. Around age 33 something changed. The thought of having children, no thank you. I’m closed for business. I felt the complete opposite of the motherhood pull. In fact, I’m taking every precaution so I don’t have an oops baby.

      I’ll be 39 in a few weeks. I will not change my mind. I have a full life. I’m a professional, an aunt, a world traveler, a volunteer, a wife, a sister, a friend, an avid reader, a walker, a pilates student, a foodie and cook, a daughter and so much more.

      I do find the comments about regret a bit patronizing. How old do you have to be for people to not question your decision? The best we can do is to authentically live our own lives.

    • Hanh vu says...

      I’m one of those people who have such wondering. It doesn’t come from a judgmental place in me. It comes from a place of curiosity. Having children wasn’t always an GIVEN to me. I thought seriously about not having children. I always wondered how i would feel in my 70s-80s without children. There’s no way for me to know, because I did decide to have children. But i’m still curious.

      I honest do not care that much about this kind of decisions made by other people to judge them, since it doesn’t affect me at all. As in, it’s none of my business to judge, i’m just curious to hear that perspective that is absent from this conversation.

  112. Jasmine says...

    Thanks for this piece!
    I never warmed to children… I like hanging out with them but for 5 minutes max!
    Now in my midthirties, I am just afraid I will regret this when I am older and feel alone or bored. But I dont think these fears should be valid reasons to have kids.
    I realize that I want to have purpose in life, things to do and a community around me as I get older, and then I feel that opening a yoga center/community project cafe appeals more to me…
    My 2 cents worth :) Thanks again for this article!

  113. Antonia says...

    This was so interesting and thought-provoking! Thank you, CoJ, for keeping your content so diverse.

    I have two major questions though:
    Kristen: How did you manage to find someone you wanted to marry three times? I’m 28 and haven’t even had a serious relationship with someone yet, let alone consider getting married. Seriously, how do you it?

    Tracey: I love how you see your role as an aunty! I am also an aunt to 4 darling nieces and nephews, two of which are even my godchildren. I want to be a safe person to all of them as well and really be in their life and let them know that I am always there for them. Right now they are all pretty small (babies/toddlers) but I guess that is where the foundation is laid! Any tips for being in a toddler’s life, esp. if they live in another city? And for dealing with the parents, as well? ;-)
    Maybe this could be a post on the blog, as well!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      re your second question — my sister is hugely, hugely important to my kids, and she lives 3,000 miles away. i think kids can innately grasp how important someone is, by how that person treats them, how their parents respond to the person, etc. she also does cute things like “aunt treats,” where she’ll sneak them off for a little cookie at a cafe or something, and be really cute about it, like “joanna, i’m sorry they aren’t really allowed to have a cookie, but THIS IS AN AUNT TREAT.” the boys get so excited about it and feel like they’re all being so sneaky.

      anyway, all to say that i’m sure you will be so important and dear to them, no matter what :) and i’d love to do a post with ideas from lots of people! xoxoxo

    • Meg says...

      I’d love to see a post about how to be an awesome Auntie! I will not be having children (I posted below), but I love and support my friends and family who do have kids. I sometimes feel like I’m not great with kids, just because I haven’t really been around kids my whole life and haven’t had practice. So some practical tips on how to show up for the kids in my life, what to say etc., would be great!

    • Samantha says...

      I’d love to contribute ideas here! I have the most amazing 9 year old goddaughter, and she is MORE than enough for me. Even though I don’t see her all the time, I make a point of having special things for her when we do see each other. When buying gifts, I purchase meaningful, educational things rather than dolls. When she’s older I want her to remember learning about incredible women in history, not just the octonauts.

    • Leanne says...

      I love what Tracey said about just showing up for them. One of the greatest joys for me right now with our toddlers is that we know their neighbourhood friends and we see them build connections with other adults in their lives who can teach them things (like how to skateboard, or play the drums). I know that they’ll have relationships like the ones Aunty Tracey does, and that’s the best. Like she says, they won’t always come to their parents when things get hard, and it’s so incredible that they have adults they trust who they will be able to go to. Likewise, I love when the three-year-old down the street says, “Oh that’s my friend, Leanne! I LOVE HER!” about me. I make a point to ask kids about their days and just listen to their fantastic stories and ask more questions. We talk about (and read!) so many books, and they love sharing their own adventures.

    • Ashley says...

      seconding a post about being a dope auntie

    • Lisa says...

      That would be a great post! We don’t have any family nearby but my kids (2.75 and 1) adore their aunts and uncles. Their favourite aunt is single and unlikely to have children. The older one is obsessed her – she does fun things with him that we wouldn’t think of doing (line yelling “surprise!” When changing a dirty nappy), teaching him tricks and generally just having lots and lots of fun with them. Their second favourite is my older brother (who has two kids in their late teens) and he will happily sit there for ages while my son shows him every toy he owns, or shows him cool videos of trucks.

    • shannon says...

      As someone who lives far from siblings, I’d love to read a post (and comments!) on being a wonderful aunt long distance!

    • Amanda says...

      Just coming here to echo the request for more posts about awesome Aunties and their relationships with kids. From an aspiring awesome aunty to 2 nieces and a nephew.

    • Tracey says...

      1. POST STICKERS. The end.
      Just buy a bunch of stickers and once in a while post a sheet. Kids lose their tiny minds at post and stickers combined.

      2. FaceTime them when they open it so you get the credit. Credit=bonding with little kids. You want them to remember you.

      3. If necessary, write down their birth years, favourite colours, interests. Remembering these key things are ESSENTIAL for small humans. Never ever call a 9 year old eight!

      4. Display their artwork properly. I frame it and hang it with “real” art and their eyes go glassy with pride when they see that.

      That’s it. When you do see them, get down on their level and let them lead the play. If they’re a bit icey at first, stay, they’ll warm up/need you to open a juice box soon enough.

  114. Joyce says...

    Thank you for writing about this important topic. Echoing what others have said, it would help to hear from women who are no longer in their child-bearing years. Only one or two women interviewed here are over 40. I didn’t want children at 28, 30, 33, 34, or 35 either, but at 37 I did, and it wasn’t because of a change in partner—I’d been with the same person since I was 24. I guess my change of heart came from seeing positive examples of parenthood in friends and family, which were missing in my childhood, as well as signs of my mortality. So I feel that some of these women may (and can) change their minds, only because I did–although of course some (or all) may not!

    • I noticed that, too! I responded here and I am 48. Never did want kinds and don’t regret not having them AT ALL.

  115. Amy says...

    From a different perspective, as an (almost) 39 year old, single, straight woman, I am currently struggling with the reality that I might never have a child. I have the desire to do so but I don’t want to be a single parent, I don’t think I could do it alone. I may also have fertility issues, I only have one ovary. It’s a hard reality and I’m not sure how I feel about it all yet. Maybe the path will lead me toward being a step parent, I’m open to dating dads. Maybe I’ll just be Aunty Amy. Maybe it will just be me, with or without a partner. The fear of the unknown is so strong right now.

    • Mk says...

      You gotta do what is right for you, but I grew up with only one parent. My dad died right before I was born. I know it was extremely hard, but my mom was amazing! She also made sure I had strong male role models in my life (she never remarried or seriously dated when I was a kid) with uncles, grandpa, and a close friend’s dad. I consider one of my uncles a father figure. So yes it is difficult, but not impossible! Even though she was “alone” she wasn’t because wehad so many people around who loved us. It takes a village! I’m rooting for you whatever happens.

  116. Jen M. says...

    I was never opposed to having kids, but also never overly enthusiastic either. Over the years, I have developed a couple of chronic health problems which, while now under control, have always made me hesitant to consider adding the variable of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood into the mix.

    A few years ago, I met my husband, who has two school age children he has every other week, and I realized that step-parenthood is exactly what I wanted. I have great kids I get to help raise and my husband and I get some time for ourselves without having to hire a babysitter (and there are three other adults who can do emergency pickup if someone has a last minute meeting instead of just one). And, a huge perk: I got them when 1) they were old enough I didn’t have to change their diapers and 2) they could turn on Netflix on a Saturday morning and entertain themselves while their dad and I slept in!

  117. K says...

    The younger version of myself carried around a vision of motherhood that I am now realizing was, and still is, based on my own health and reproductive ability aligning with constantly varying “entry level” thresholds of financial, material, and relational security. I think I still do desire to be a parent, but simply do not have the margin and resources to go there right now. I might not get there during my own child bearing years, honestly. I couldn’t call it a deliberate choice-it is so much more tentative, and sometimes grief-filled; at best it is an ongoing heart calculus.

  118. Madeleine says...

    I’m 32 and until 2 years ago I was adamant I didn’t ever want kids. I never had this desire to be a mom or never felt there was a missing puzzle piece in our life. My husband was definitely more keen than I for children but not impatient and never pressurized me. At the end of my 30th year, however, I started to feel this “worry”…that the clock was ticking and maybe we should have kids. I also had this huge fear that I’d regret never having children when I’d be old and it would be just my husband and I, wishing we were surrounded and loved by lots of children. Slowly but surely I started to look forward to becoming a mom and to add a new member to our family. And so 10 months ago I gave birth to our son whom I love more than life itself and i so wish we had him earlier. And now I CANNOT wait to add more babies to the family very soon.

  119. Amanda says...

    Thank you for this (and all the wonderfully honest comments). I have felt alone and unable to accurately articulate my feelings. This has helped me put language + understanding to the lack of heartfelt desire for children. So much gratitude.

  120. S says...

    Really interesting perspectives here.
    I will say to people who are on the fence, to not wait too long to decide. I have a good friend who has been married since her mid/late 20’s. She and her husband were on the fence about kids and traveled widely and loved their child free city life. A year or so ago, at 35, they decided that, yes, they did want children, and it turns out that she has some pretty significant fertility issues, some of which may not have been as tricky a few years ago. She now says that she wishes that she had faced the issue of whether or not to have kids head on a few years ago. Not that everyone unsure will decide to have a child (or should! ) but the biological clock can’t really be ignored.

  121. M says...

    I just had my first child and I will say it’s very hard. Maybe more so because we aren’t by family. My sister doesn’t want children and she’s happy and has a wonderful life. I sometimes want her life — she has Saturday’s to herself, she lives alone, she has uninterrupted sleep, etc. She also confided in me that she envied me because I am married. But ultimately we are both very happy and fulfilled in our lives and realize how fortunate we are in all aspects of our lives.

    On a side note: My FIL took care of his aunt into her 90s because she had no children, but it was tough on him because he was also taking care of his parents. She had no one else to take care of her (we helped whenever we visited to my in-laws a break). So whether or not you have kids make sure you save for retirement! If you run out of money it’s either on the state (and those facilities are not good) or family to take care of you. I know this is off topic, but it really impacted everyone in our family. So save people, save yo money!

  122. amber says...

    I love this post! I’ve always thought that I wanted to have kids (and I have two) but at a certain point, I debated the question actively. Maybe I didn’t really want them at all? Sheila Heti’s book Motherhood is the most honest testament to this question I’ve ever read and I recommend it to everyone I know asking themselves the same question. At a reading of the book a woman in the audience stood up and said that even though she has a kid, the questioning never stops. That really resonated with me. I’m a happy mom but there are so many days I imagine my life positively without them. What would my friendships, my relationships or my career be like if I did not have kids? Who would I be without them?

    • Mk says...

      Thanks for this.

    • k says...

      Yes. No one talks about this, but the thought goes through my mind semi-regularly. Even though I’m pregnant (planned) with my second! It’s so strange to be drawn to having children, have them and be a generally happy mother, and also continue to question it. I resonated with a lot of the stories in this post which even got me thinking – oh my gosh, did I do this for the wrong reasons? Ultimately, it’s the path I’ve chosen and I am happy, but it’s good to remember that no matter what there will always be what ifs and lingering questions and that that is a normal part of life.

  123. ac says...

    To second (perhaps 5th) everyone else, it would be very interesting to hear from women beyond their 40s and what the choice not to have kids has meant for them.

    • I am 48; never wanted children and I’m not regretful at all about not having them.

    • Jenny says...

      I’m 45 and do not regret it. I have a sister who is 50 with 3 kids and we have confided in one another that we each sometimes think about the other’s life and wonder….but that is human nature. We don’t obsess about it, but ‘what if’s’ can come into play with anything in life that requires a decision. I always thought the desire would kick in. It didn’t. And I love my life. On another note, I have read a few pieces about mothers who regret having had children — and there are many more of them than you would think! But they simply won’t admit it out loud because it makes them feel guilty, and because of the possible impact finding that out could have on their children. There are chat rooms devoted to mothers who want to vent that if they could do it all over again they would choose NOT to have kids.

      And, as many others have mentioned here, having kids is no guarantee of anything. I know so many people who have VERY difficult — heartbreaking even — relationships with their children. Anyway, like I said, 45 and don’t regret it. Occasional wistful thoughts are part and parcel of life — and not just those that are child-free.

    • Jodi says...

      Hi AC, I’m 48 and continue to live happily with my choice to not have children. I could write a lot about the impact this choice has made on my life, the freedom, the financial ease, etc, but what it really comes down to for me is that I have been able to live a really intentional life. The things I felt strongly about in my 20s are things I’ve been able to hold onto, from my diet to my habits as a consumer, to where and how I live, to remaining curious and traveling and so much more. While I’m sure raising children is a rich experience, I have witnessed friends who are so maxed out they let go of many things they once held dear. Things that matter. Things that impact their health and the planet. To be honest, some of them seem so tired and are juggling so much, they really aren’t very thoughtful about the world outside their family & their concerns. I know there are plenty of exceptions to this, but I’m speaking from my own observations.

      In addition to that, the relationship I have with my partner of 18 years is very different from our friends with kids. We have time for one another, we have interesting talks & swap books, we take walks, we give one another massages and go on long trips. If you are a parent and imagine all the energy you spend on your children being yours to spend how you’d like, well, that’s how it feels. No complaints from me!

      I know some readers will think I come off as selfish, or holier-than-thou, but that’s truly not where I’m coming from. Choosing to not have children is a sacrifice, a rich life experience that I won’t have. But the thoughtful life I get to lead instead isn’t a luxury, it’s a choice, and one that I don’t regret.

  124. Emily says...

    Thanks for sharing these perspectives!! Much respect for everyone’s point of view and choices. Live your life!

  125. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I always knew I didn’t want to have children or get married. I love my space and being the only person in it!
    I also knew I wanted to work with children and have been a paediatric speech and language therapist for over 20 years. If I could I would only work with children under 5 and I love babies……………….but I don’t want one.
    I hear the highs and lows of having children from family and friends and I know I could not do it.
    I have 4 siblings and my lovely sister is the only one who has had children, so I get to be MAS, (Mad aunt Sharon). My mutti would have rather stuffed her mouth with bees than say to any of us that she would have liked grandchildren, so I’m so glad my sister obliged.
    The choice was taken out of my hands when I had to have a hysterectomy at 32, that was very upsetting as although I didn’t want children I didn’t want the choice taken away from me.
    I’m now in my 50’s, no regrets

  126. Megan says...

    I loved this! Thank you so much for sharing, everyone.

    At 33, I now find myself at a weird stage where I’m still on the fence/disinterested, but many of my friends who were once also disinterested are getting pregnant. I’m thrilled for them, but also harboring a small amount of sadness at – god, I don’t know – the feeling of my people growing and changing in ways that I’m not? In feeling left behind, even though I don’t want to join?

    • Jasmine says...

      My exact sentiments!!! I’m 36, I feel left behind but DO NOT want to join! ;(

    • Carrie says...

      I am 32, married but no kids yet. I DO want to join. It’s painful also. This weekend I found out my bosom best friend is expecting her 2nd baby and I had to have a good cry before I could respond to her. It’s very hard. Not yet trying to conceive, husband is still getting himself mentally ready.

    • Amanda says...

      Megan, I’m also 33 and feel this exact same way. My husband and I are NOT ready to have children right now, and we may never want them. All my close friends have at least 1 child…but they seem like they’ve lost a part of themselves in the process (they’re children are still toddlers and I know this is a hard age). I don’t want to lose myself or my relationship with my husband. It’s a weird place to be and I feel very selfish sometimes for not wanting to procreate. But the flip side is it’s MY life either way…why not just live it in the way we are happiest?

    • Ana says...

      Well said Meghan. I’m 30 and my first few friends have recently announced pregnancies and had babies. Most of my friends are still very much single or newly married and kids are a ways off for them. But I foresee this huge change in my social group that is coming and it’s a weird feeling. My husband and I talk a lot about deciding not to have kids is just as big of a decision as deciding to have kids (maybe a bigger decision, since it’s a less typical path and some people just have kids by default?) And so we talk and plan for the time when most of our friends will be busy caring for babies and the two of us will just be us!

    • annie says...

      i am right here with you. two close friends just announced their pregnancies this month, and i was joyful, but first (i admit) i was bereft, because i’m losing who they were, and who WE were. for me, that’s a big part of the sadness. it speaks to life, doesn’t it? the march of time. we all get older, and it’s just never going to be easy. <3

  127. Yulia says...

    I’m 34 and will probably never have children. I’ve never wanted kids, no hesitation, but I always wondered if I might one day hit some magical fertile window where my body convinced my mind I wanted to get pregnant, have a child, and become a mother. The biological imperative hasn’t happened yet.

    The only time I actually felt like I’d consider having children was when I thought about my partner dying before me. If I could look into the eyes of our son and see my husband there I would be consoled.

  128. katie says...

    Thank you for this!

    From a young age, I wanted to be a mom. I always thought it was a given. Something I’d do. And I’d be good at it. I have the “mom gene.” However, with each passing year, that need dwindled until I decided children were no longer in the cards for me. Then I met my funny, intelligent husband, me 35 and him 33. Children weren’t in the cards for him either. Game. Set. Match!

    Finally, people have stopped asking whether or not we’re going to have children. I know my mother hoped I’d change my mind. I won’t. She has stopped asking.

    I occasionally will ask myself if I think I’m missing out by not having children, but that thought leaves just as quickly as it comes. I honestly don’t know what changed my mind.

    I’ll always be the first person to ask to hold your baby and then happily give him or her back.

  129. Gina says...

    Thanks for this post and all of the women who shared. I appreciate the reminder that I’m not alone.

    I work in Seattle where it’s normal to not want kids. But I live an hour south of Seattle and my friends here all have multiple kids and think that I’m a little abnormal for not wanting to have some of my own; my husband kinda thinks this too.

  130. june2 says...

    After a successful babysitting business in my early teens (I didn’t get an allowance, my parents thought I should earn it, so I started a babysitting business!) I learned very quickly that having children was a LOT of 27/7 work – yes, there was the love, but at the cost of the rest of your life, it seemed too high a price to pay. I’ve never regretted not having them, I suppose because I got my ‘fix’ early in life.
    Now I use my considerable skills to nurture society at large and feel like I am contributing so much more to life then I ever could have otherwise. That feels really good. Yes, some women manage to do both. I think it is an entirely personal decision. That said, now that I am 50, would I have a child if I could do it healthily (State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, notwithstanding, heh…) Yes, I would but only because I’ve been able to satisfy my need to contribute to the world at large. I suppose one could do it the other way around and that is probably what many do, but a lot of women are just tired after 30 years of child rearing and do not end up adding further refinements to society. I feel like being childless has allowed me (by giving me time and energy and using my need to nurture in other creative ways) to contribute the feminine perspective and help bring balance to the male dominated parts of our world.

  131. Alex says...

    “How do you think your future husband will feel about this?” ughhh

  132. kiki says...

    Charlotte: I’d love to hear more about what you mean by “performing unpaid reproductive labor”. I have not heard that point of view before, and would like to learn more about your perspective.

    • Amy says...

      I think I might know what she means, even though it sounds like Charlotte and I have otherwise very different circumstances — I’m a straight, cis-gendered mother. I just had my first baby recently and I struggled with feeling bitter than women carry 100% of the physical burden of pregnancy. For many women in the world, they continue to carry most of the physical burden after birth thanks to breastfeeding (if there is no formula available to them). It was hard for me to reconcile the fact that in order to become a parent, I had to endure an extremely dangerous experience (1 in 1000 women in the world die in childbirth/pregnancy complications! Yes, in 2018!). My body ached and leaked and bled and I underwent a major surgery (c-section) in order to have a child. Meanwhile, my husband went through 0 physical challenges to get the exact same result. His body did not change at all; mine went through hell and back.

      PS I love my child and partner and I’m thrilled to become a parent! Just a little jealous that my husband got to become a parent without, ya know, dealing with morning sickness.

  133. Kate says...

    Thank you for this post! As a 32 year old woman with zero drive to have children I would love to hear from more 40, 50, 60+ woman reflecting on their decision not to have kids. I have been told multiple times that because I choose not to have children, I will never experience unconditional love. This is a terrible thing to hear but I’m sure there is more to life than this.

    It feels like every day that a friend posts a pregnancy announcement and while I’m happy for them, I love my life and freedom so much I can’t imagine this for myself. I am very lucky that my husband is on the same page as me because the pressure from society would be too much.

    • Courtney says...

      Totally agree Kate! I am 38, and have never wanted kids. I love that there are multiple perspectives in this piece as to why people don’t want to have children, but what about the obvious one that no one ever wants to talk about? Some people just don’t like children! I am not sure why that is such a hard thing for people to say out loud or accept. I don’t like children, and I have never tried to hide it. It’s just the way it is.

      I love dogs, so I have rescued 2 of them. And unconditional love??! You get that from animals, NOT human beings. Some people love cats, and I don’t judge them just because they like something different from me. To each their own! I’m not sure why having children seems to be in a different category than every other lifestyle choice. I’m so glad that Wudan mentioned the beneficial impact of not having children. I think if more people knew all the reasons NOT to have them, they would think longer and harder about bringing a whole new person into the world.

    • agnes says...

      When I was 41 and not pregnant, three older friends (in their 60s and 70s), came to me, separately (they didn’t know each other), and said “don’t have children, they complicate everything”, or “if I had to do it again, I would not have any children”; the 3 of them are great mothers though! I got pregnant at 42, after so many years of not wanting children (I changed my mind, one day!). But it was always clear to me that motherhood is not that fantastic thing everybody tells you about. It is wonderful, yes, but you can live without it! and, come one, inconditional love? how many parents and children don’t get along! Love is everywhere! I know I could have been fulfilled and happy without a child, had it been my choice. We always have regrets for the lives not lived…
      Enjoy and embrace your choices!

    • Amanda says...

      Would also love a post on this!

    • Claire Miller says...

      Kate, I’m 42 and never had kids. I grew up the oldest of four, so I spent a lot of time taking care of kids. And even though I like kids just fine, I never felt the urge to have any of my own.
      When I was in my early thirties, I was married to a man who wanted kids, and I wanted him, so I figured I should try to have one with him. Not to mention the fact that it seemed like EVERYONE had a newborn, or was pregnant, or was trying, and I kind of felt left out of the club. Like, “Hey guys! Wait up! I have a uterus too!!” We tried in earnest for about a month, but nothing came of it. I guess we could have started tracking when might be the best time for me to get pregnant, but I didn’t want to get pregnant like that. If it happened, I wanted it to be because we made love and a miracle happened, not because “it’s noon and we have to do it now because I’m ovulating so get that baby in me!” Then we just kind of forgot about it. I’m so glad we did, because that guy is a total jerk, and we’re divorced. I dodged a bullet. Eventually we both remarried. He’s got twins with his new wife, and I have a wonderful cat with my new husband. And neither of us want kids.
      This idea that the only love that matters is the one you have for/share with a child, is pure bullshit. The love I have for my husband, for my friends, for my family, and my cat is HUGE! Neither my life, nor my heart, is smaller because I chose not to bring another person into this world. And because I don’t have kids, I have the freedom to do things I couldn’t easily do with kids in tow. Of course, people with kids can do all of the things! But it’s easier to go back to school for that college degree you never got, and then that masters, without kiddos.
      Sure, sometimes I fantasize about being a mom. I think I’d be good at it. I know I’d love those kids. But I love my life, and my freedom, and I don’t feel like I really need anything more.

    • Brittany says...

      At 41, I have no regrets about my decision to not have kids. I was always up-front with everyone about not wanting children, but faced much of that “you’ll come around” attitude. I don’t have a good reason, except that I don’t WANT to. In fact, when my husband and I considered it, I had a violent stomach ache and the worst dread I’d ever experienced. My feelings haven’t changed.

      I don’t worry about having nobody to take care of me as I age, because I think that’s not a fair thing to expect of a child anyway. As the environmental news worsens by the day, I’m relieved I don’t have children’s futures to worry about. For love, I rely on my husband, family, dog, and a charming assortment of friends.

    • Molly says...

      I’m 40, and my husband and I have been married 8 years. Neither of us had a strong desire for kids, but there was a period in my mid-30s of many heart-wrenching conversations over the decision. I realized that the older I got, the more time that passed, the stronger the feeling grew that I didn’t want kids. These days I feel relief that we’ve finally decided what’s right for us. The future is no longer scary and uncertain. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities, all the adventures that lie ahead, how our lives will unfold from here.

      A game-changer for me was making friends with other women who don’t have and don’t plan to have kids. It was difficult to do at first, but making these connections and diversifying my circle of friends made the world feel bigger and made me realize I’m not alone. Just like moms need to connect with other moms, childfree women also need to find kindred spirits.

  134. Lindsay says...

    Thank you for this. We too are “child free by choice” and it’s refreshing to have stories out there like this to make me feel like I’m *just like everyone else*

  135. Anjali says...

    Great post!

    I’d be curious to know how women who have made this decision feel in their 50s and 60s.

    Thanks for all your great work!

    • Joaquina says...

      I was also hoping to “hear” the voices of women over 40. Seems this age group is often left out in narratives.
      Though women in their 50s or 60s may not have the societal pressure, it’d be interesting to hear their perspectives just the same.

  136. L.A. says...

    Tracey, I really appreciate your story and I’m glad it was included. “Child-free” is an odd term. There are lots of children in my life and the moments I share with them matter.

    • Kate says...

      L.A. I’ve heard this term used before and I appreciate it’s connotation. The alternative is to say one is “childless” meaning they are less without a child. In turn, child-free denotes that you have chosen to be free from children. At least, that’s how I understand it.

    • tracey says...

      *high five* for us, I bet your littles love you.

    • Kate says...

      Gluten-free, child-free, dairy-free (laugh-crying emoji) When people ask if we have kids and I don’t feel like getting into the conversation I just say “we have a dog and a cat, that’s enough!” and move on.

      There are so, so, so…..so so so many children in my life right now. In our friend group my husband and I are the only couple without kids so whenever we get together with our friends and their babies (for whom I would take a bullet!! I love them so so so much) the adults are absolutely outnumbered. We love being the friends who are able to travel to another house at the drop of a hat – we can be totally flexible around the babies naptimes and bedtimes and I think our friends are kind of happy about that :) It definitely makes it easier to maintain some of these friendships since we can go to them!

  137. Aud says...

    When I was in my mid-twenties, I had a male boss who clearly did not want to ever have children, and his wife was very much on board with the plan. They simply did not want kids and I could NOT understand why for the life of me. Fast forward a decade, I now have three kids, and I COMPLETELY get it. I absolutely love being a mom and I could not imagine my life without my kids, but I also have a much fuller appreciation for why it might not be for everyone. It’s a tremendous amount of work that impacts every other aspect of my life. I have very little time for myself or my spouse and there are a lot of freedoms that I don’t feel like I have anymore given the need to provide for my children (I can’t afford to travel as much, I pay a premium to live in an area with access to good schools, I will have to work to an older age to support the expenses of having children etc…). If I hadn’t known in my heart that this was 1000% the way I wanted my life to be, then I could see how these sacrifices could feel like a burden. I sort of cringe at my 25 year old self looking at my boss like he was insane to not want kids and certainly would not judge someone at this point in my life if they chose not to have them.

    • JM says...

      this is just how I feel, and felt before having kids as well. I am a little ashamed to say I didn’t understand why people wouldn’t want kids when I was younger. Immediately after having my first, I suddenly understood and respected the decision immensely. I love my children with my whole heart, but I also know that my husband and I would have had an equally fulfilling life without them. The decision should not be made lightly (although if it is, it can still turn out beautifully of course!).

    • Lindsay says...

      Yes, I feel the same. I have 3 kids that are my life and I never experienced love this strong before, it’s powerful. Creating life, sacrificing for them and feeling that tremendous amount of love returned is, I think, the most amazing thing about life. However, it’s extremely hard!!! So now, I understand why people might choose not to, whereas I couldn’t understand before, at all, since I’ve always wanted it. I don’t think anyone would ever regret having them though! As hard as it can be!

  138. Kristyn says...

    With tears in my eyes because I feel SO HEARD, thank you for this.
    And while there are only a few comments as of yet, they are all heartfelt gems, and I look forward to refreshing the page to read more.

  139. Ashley says...

    I grew up in a home with a teen mother with a mental illness, a father with substance abuse issues and a sister who was only 20 months younger than me but who I had to protect. I had to be an adult from a very early age and experienced things that no one should have to experience. Now at 32, and with a lot of therapy, I finally feel free of the responsibilities that weren’t mine to begin with. I often say I’m retired from raising a family so I plan on enjoying my retirement. That being said, I LOVE kids and I hope to impact my friends children in a special way as their aunty who is probably getting in trouble right along with them

  140. Sara says...

    Thank you, everyone, for sharing. This was a very meaningful post to read as I too have chosen not to have children, for many of the same reasons that were expressed here, and many of which I have a hard time articulating. I always thought that I’d feel this “pull” toward motherhood, I expected it, but I didn’t and I don’t, and I’ve come to accept and be comfortable with it. I love being an aunt and I love being a dog-mom, but I think that if you’re going to have kids, you should really, truly want them… it isn’t something to be ambivalent about. I would also love to read Wudan’s piece if a link is available. Thanks for pulling this together, Joanna, it really means a lot.

  141. Jessica says...

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve struggled with this reality and the older I get (I’m 32, single) the more I question if I really want parenthood. The reason it’s so difficult for me to grasp is that I’m *very* maternal, nurturing, and love children. I often find myself thinking, “Surely I want to be a mother, right? I mean, I love kids and they love me!”

    ENTER TRACEY!
    I really identified with Tracey’s thoughts around being the best Aunty and shifting your mindset towards seeing your calling as “alternate first” over “mother.” Wonderful distinction.

    Honorable mention goes to Lauren for verbalizing the biggest, secret guilt that I grapple with: not giving my parents grandchildren. Luckily, my younger sister will likely fulfill this dream for them, so I’m hoping that particular guilt lessens over the coming years!

    • Mindy says...

      Proud to call Tracey my ride or die BFF since the first day of high school! And I assure you that being an aunt is one of her best and most special talents. 😍😍😍

    • Danielle says...

      This community is so amazing – this comment really spoke to me, Jessica! It’s almost EXACTLY how I feel. I think I’m incredibly maternal – I LOVE taking care of people – my mother, boyfriend, my friends’ kids, etc. And yet. I just cannot imagine dedicating my life to a child, as I’m really not entirely sure, my boyfriend and I love to travel and be free, etc. My boyfriend is completely terrified around kids, but I think he’s open to it later on – however, I’m 31 and he doesn’t realize that women have somewhat of a clock :) We also haven’t 100% talked about it, but we’re not really there yet.

      Every time I try to picture my life with a child or the reason why I feel “bad” or “guilt” for even THINKING about going childless, I ONLY think of my parents. They would be the BEST grandparents and I have no clue if my brother will have kids. But I can’t justify having kids…for my parents. It’s a really tricky topic for a lot of people, so look forward to seeing more comments/posts.

    • Tracey says...

      Aww, you guyssss. I am getting so weepy.

      Mindy ILY

      Jessica, had my brother not had babies I would still feel guilty (though I shouldn’t) because my Mum was born to be a Nanna and denying her that felt like a massive weight on my shoulders. It was the biggest thing I had to process about not wanting kids and took a lot of working through between us. The thing is though, before my brother had his two, my mum had adapted without grandkids, she babysat and fostered grandmotherly relationships with her siblings’ grandkids. There are ways to feel fulfilment in these roles without being genetically linked so I hope your folks can find their way if it’s their path.

  142. Mallory says...

    Reading Lauren’s point of view, I felt like I was looking in a mirror! She explained how I’ve felt for so long, so well. It was an incredible relief to see my own reasoning in writing, I just didn’t know how to spell it out. Thank you!

    • Lauren says...

      You’re welcome! It’s so comforting to know that we’re not alone in how we feel :)

  143. tricia says...

    I really appreciate that although you have two amazing children yourself, you never discount the choice that some other people make not to have children. I love that you still make space for people to talk about that path – it makes me feel very welcome : ). And I think it really helps people see both sides on a topic that can be polarizing, as though choosing one meant shunning the other.

  144. Lindsey says...

    I would be SO curious to hear from someone much older on this topic. I’m 28, recently married, and the questions about children come rolling in. I love children, but I really swing wildly in both directions about having them or not. The words from these women, though really beautiful and interesting, are all from people still in the prime of their lives.
    When I think about the option to not have children, the part that scares me the most, is being 60, 70, or 80 years old having not ever had children.
    Once you don’t have much of a career to focus on, and things get quieter in your life, will you then regret not having children?
    I know that is a very selfish reason, but it is very scary to think about.

    Is anyone childless and over 70 in this community? I’d love to hear that perspective.

    • Azura says...

      Yes, i would also love to hear women in their late 40-50 opinions about this topic

    • Cait says...

      I think something to remember on that front is that having children is not a guarantee that they will be around or care for you in your older years (I hope that’s not too depressing an outlook.) Some children become absorbed in their own lives, or if you have a child with a disability they may never be able to take care of someone else/may pass before you. I definitely don’t mean this to be negative, just that if that is a fear for you, remember that, just like getting married doesn’t guarantee anything later on in life, having children isn’t a guarantee either.

    • maria says...

      The best thing my husband and I did is to enjoy our marriage for 8 long, peaceful, quiet years before we had a kid. Don’t rush!

    • Katie says...

      I was going to type something similar to Cait! Which was:

      I completely understand people wanting to know if they’ll regret not having children when they’re older. However the way I look at it is there is no guarantee that your children will like you and want to be around you or want to help you. Only have children if you truly want them and want to raise them. The friendships that form when they’re adults are icing on the cake.

      Also, can we please stop with the whole you can only have a family if there is a parent(s) and a child(ren) involved? Families come in all shapes and sizes. I know that wasn’t said here, but mentioned elsewhere.

    • Lindsey says...

      Thanks for the replies on this. Cait, I do see what you’re saying. I tend to run pretty anxious, and I literally sometimes think “If I don’t have kids, no one will be obligated to give me a funeral.” And you’re right that you just never really know what will happen even if you do have them. Life is scary!
      Thanks for the perspective!

  145. Hanh Vu says...

    Thank you for sharing these reasons. It’s one of those topic that can easily be fumbled in conversations. I have been on the fence about children before and ultimately opted to have them – the light of my life.

    However, I honestly am most curious about what women who’d made the child-free decision feel and think later in life. That was the one of the biggest questions I bounced around in my head when I weighing my decision. It wasn’t the decider, but such a bug mystery. Could you do a post on that?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! such a great question. we’d love to. xo

    • MS says...

      Would also love to see this post happen.

  146. Anne says...

    I love seeing this! It’s such a difficult topic…I’ll be honest that my stomach turns over at the thought of having kids. Part of it is the pain (and danger!) of pregnancy and childbirth, and part of it is the thought of losing my beautiful quiet Saturday mornings with just a book and a cup of tea. I have so many personal interests that I’m hesitant to sacrifice. Kids are okay but sometimes they can be annoying. The whole thing doesn’t sound like fun to me.

    But I also can’t imagine being my parents’ age and not having a family. And my husband is going to be a wonderful father, and I can’t wait to see him with his babies. So I think I will be having kids, when the time comes. But I mostly feel ambivalent about it, right now.

    • NSU says...

      No one WANTS the annoying/negative/difficult parts of parenting. Its just that the wonderful, fulfilling, self-actualizing parts outweigh them. Vastly. As does not being alone later in life when friends or a career are less of a presence.

      – from someone who could have gone either way but has 2 kids

    • Kate says...

      I can relate so much to this. I feel the exact same way on all of this. I’m 31 and my husband is 34 and he wants kids so badly. I can barely turn my mind off most nights thinking about this. I don’t feel completely ready but then I try and tell myself “who ever feels 1000% ready”? I’ve never been the kind of person to want to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I am still very on the fence but my husband wants kids, so I think we will have them. I would rather have kids than lose him. I just hate this feeling of being on the fence about it, and wish I was completely on board one way or the other. I feel sick about how much I think about it most days.

    • E says...

      Lol love the honesty here! I have a 2-year-old and you’re right — sometimes she is annoying. Pros far outweigh the cons for me, but I wish more people would admit this :)

    • Cait says...

      I’m totally in the space you are, Anne. It scares me to think of losing my evenings after work to relax and just read or watch TV (which probably sounds so superficial but it’s true.) I’m in my mid-30s and have had so much time to be independent and get used to it. But I also see the good aspects of kids, and my fiance really wants them and will be a great dad. You’re not alone though.

    • S says...

      Nsu, yes and yes. If you want to be a parent (obviously not all do), the pros far outweigh the hard/annoying/inconvenient aspects. I feel like nonparents hear/see their peers complain about the negative aspects but you can’t understand the life changing happiness that children provide until you experience it.

    • Natalie says...

      Hi Anne! I felt exactly the same as you and now have a toddler and a baby. I completely agree with the replies here from NSU and S. Oftentimes the most fulfilling and special things in life can also be hard and involve sacrifices. If you want to have children, don’t let fear keep you from it! Yes, you will be annoyed by your children sometimes, you will lose sleep and peaceful morning, but you will also experience a love that can’t be described in words. It’s the most amazing this and the worst thing at the same time! :)

  147. Carolina says...

    I know I’m going to sound super ridiculous right now because of my age (20) but I get this anxiety when I even think about kids. I have a big family and I’ve helped raised my niece since birth, so I’m familiar with the stress and responsibilities it comes with.
    But when I think about having my own, I just get this anxiety and fear and I don’t even know why. Sometimes I think it stems from not knowing if I’ll ever be good enough for or if I truly just don’t desire to be a mother.

  148. J. says...

    My situation is out of the norm. I was what social workers would now call a “parentified minor.” From the age of 10, I was tasked with caring for my younger siblings. My parents worked several jobs and left me alone with a brother who was frequently abusive towards me. As a result, I feel like I’ve already raised a child and don’t feel a need to enter into that type of commitment. My husband is an elementary school teacher and says that at the end of the day, he just wants to come home to a child-free house. I couldn’t agree more. (Also, I know, I know, when it’s your own kid/s it’s different. Still a hard pass for us.)

  149. k. says...

    we have pinball machines too!
    seriously though, it can be a lonely thing aside from having a supportive and on the same page partnership when the topic of kids come up. my partner and i are on the same page: maternal death rates in the US are too high, cost of living is too high, lack of social safety nets, lack of comprehensive and affordable healthcare, a fascist in the white-house that was about forty years of republican politics in the making (meaning: it won’t be as easy to undo as him being indicted or not reelected in 2020) and on and on. it seems almost a moral imperative to opt NOT to have kids, when considering all of the above (and the environment! and climate change!) and so on.

    in sum: if we lived in a western European nation that valued women/motherhood/children/civil society, would we consider having a kid? maybe, i think my partner would be a great dad and i would be a good mom–but the reality of now is: we live in the USA and we don’t feel morally like we can have a kid in these times/place.

    TDLR: i usually get raked across the coals for expressing the above–as one of the women mentioned, i try to show compassion and care for the people who are offended by our choice to not have a kid and the reasons behind our choice–i assume they faced pressures i don’t (no pressure from my mom for grandkids) and i just focus on that amy poehler gem of, “good for you, not for me.”

    • Jodi says...

      Yes to all of this, K! There are so many good reasons to choose not to bring children into the current world. It is interesting that these opinions are mostly unwelcome though, and I think that in addition to pressures people face, it might also be guilt. So many people assume from a young age that “of course” they’ll have kids someday, that I think those of us that stop and make a clear decision (based on all the real hard facts) not to, well, maybe it makes them feel bad they weren’t more thoughtful about it? Being a vegetarian often brings up a similar weirdly defensive response, and I’m always like, “What?! Eat bacon if you want to! I’m doing what feels right for me, you do what feels right for you!”