Let’s just get this out of the way: I’ve been married for 13-plus years and don’t have kids. My husband and I don’t want them, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Before you judge us, or say, “There’s still time to change your minds,” there are a few things I want you to know about my child-free marriage.
1. I never know how to answer your question.
When people ask me why I don’t have children, I never know how to answer that question without offending someone. I wind up saying things like, “Oh, you never know,” or smile and shrug and say “We’ll see” — all just to appease people. I really should say, “Mind your own business, please.” No matter what comes out of my mouth, there’s always a reaction that feels like I’m upsetting someone.
The thing is, we’re happy and we’ve not wanted for more in our life. Unfortunately, society feels differently and while it’s enough for us — it’s not for some people.
2. We don’t hate kids.
In fact, we both really like kids. I feel myself constantly defending the decision by overcompensating my adoration for children (way more than my husband). There have been a few — mostly older — women who think that because we’ve chosen not to have kids, it means we don’t like them. Sure, I don’t love a screaming baby in a restaurant, but I think little ones are adorable, fascinatingly smart, silly, funny and just overall great human beings.
3. We’ve thought about having children.
As two very analytical people, we’ve certainly had the “kid” conversation. After all, we’ve been married for over 13 years and have felt an overwhelming amount of love for our niece and nephew.
Like any subject in marriage, we check in to make sure we’re still on the same page with each other, but are very content as a duo.
4. I just can’t have it all.
As much as I’d love to pretend that I could easily do the mom, work, wife, travel and friend thing — I don’t think it’s possible for me. The list of big life things that I do have and am trying to balance makes me very happy — and for that I’m incredibly grateful. As women, we’re expected to take on so much, and I know that something we love would have to give if we became parents.
5. We are a family.
I was having a perfectly fun time at a friend’s wedding when a woman said, “Don’t you want a family?” This really hurt my feelings, but I was too dumbstruck to reply. I have a family with my mother and brothers and grandmother and aunts and cousins. My friends are like family, but most importantly, the life I’ve built with my husband and the happy marriage (along with our sweet animals) feels like a family to us.
6. I don’t understand why people question us so frequently.
I am constantly amazed at how often people ask if we’re having children — or have made comments about infertility. Frankly, I’m curious why people care.
We’ve not had to deal with the overwhelming struggle of infertility, but so many of our friends have, and when you ask someone about their family planning, it can be heartbreaking. Whether you’re asking a single person, married couple or family with one child — it’s likely best to wait for personal information to be offered instead of prying.
7. I have so much respect for parents.
Child rearing seems so hard. Your job is so much harder than what I do. I was 8 when my youngest brother was born and I helped to raise him. I’ve babysat my own siblings and taken care of my parents. I was also a nanny. WHEW. Your job is so tough, and while I’m sure you get highs that I’ll never know, I respect how much work it takes to be a parent.
8. You won’t be able to talk us into it, so please stop trying.
I have parent friends and family who understand our choice not to have children, but we’ve also had just as many try to talk us into it. From telling us, “You’d be such good parents!” to “You’ll never love anyone like your own child.”
I know people mean well, but I’d never try to talk someone into not having children. I think there’s room for us to each be happy in our own decisions. Plus, you’ll always have someone to babysit.
9. It’s not us against you.
I’m frustrated by the parent vs. non-parent dialogue that’s created by society, and many of us continue to foster. I’m not going to pretend that parenting doesn’t set you apart from a non-parent — you’ve birthed a child and I’ve not. But there’s plenty we can offer each other — from career advice to grief support to lifelong friendships — that celebrates our differences and lifts each other up.
10. Our lives aren’t perfect.
Yes, we travel and go to a lot of movies and do whatever it is people who don’t have children do. Our Paris photos are your child’s first-day-of-school pics — and I think that should be OK. But in everyday life, there are fewer Instagrammable moments for all of us, right? My freelance writing career resembles something closer to a hot mess of PJs and unshaven legs than Carrie Bradshaw, and we’ve been through plenty of life lows. I won’t pretend that being child-free is the ideal life — it’s just ideal for us.
11. We’re happy.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, my husband and I are h-a-p-p-y. Our child-free marriage does not feel as if it’s lacking — we are full of love, excitement, challenges and we look forward to the future — even if babies aren’t a part of it.