Almost half of women under 44 have never had children. Yet, we still live in a society that equates womanhood with motherhood. Mature men are supposed to be fathers.
Tell someone you have decided to remain childless? Well, then you can practically guarantee a condescending or even disrespectful reaction. It may be unintentionally disrespectful, but that’s almost the problem.
A childfree lifestyle has been so stigmatized that it feels natural to judge it harshly. It is long overdue that such personal probing is exposed for the insensitive and unacceptable response that it is.
Just a Few of the More Common Responses
- “You’ll regret it.”
- “You just haven’t met the right man.”
- “My life didn’t have meaning until I had children.”
- “That’s selfish.”
- “You would make a great mom.”
- “You’re missing out.”
The variations are endless and so is the frustration for many women and couples. It can feel as if social conventions don’t matter when procreating is the topic. This puts the onus on you to find ways to navigate such interactions.
How to Respond to Questions About Why you Remain Childless
Set a Firm Boundary
Let others know that a) it’s none of their business and b) you are not required to justify any of your lifestyle choices. While you are being this straightforward, remind others that asking such personal questions can be invasive and harmful. Some people are not childless by choice. Why should they be forced to address it over and over?
Set the Record Straight
Childfree people often put far more thought into their decision than those who do start a family. Just because your decision is not common does not mean you haven’t given it the attention it requires or planned your path forward. In some cases, it may be an ongoing series of decisions with an option to change your mind. Again, you are never required to share the mechanics of your process.
Some women and their partners have closely scrutinized parenting and parenthood. After this time of observation, they’ve said “no, thank you.” If a person feels comfortable asking you about your choice, why not say, “It’s just not for us”? If they push, ask them to respect that it’s not something you wish to discuss. Or you can flip the question: “Why do my choices regarding children matter to you?”
This type of response is respectful but can still highlight how inappropriate some questions can be. It also relieves you from having to play defense.
Remind Them That Happiness Comes in Many Forms
Your goal is not to “convince” anyone of anything. But it helps to demonstrate that you find happiness in many ways. Live happily. Let the people you interact with know that you have many passions and interests. Your life is rich and meaningful. Combine that with the “flip the question” approach. Ask the parents who persistently grill you about their hobbies and accomplishments. You may get a defensive reply about “not having time.” This is an ideal opening to remind them that we each get to choose our paths and how we make the most of our time. No choice is superior; each choice is personal and meaningful.
If the Judgment Becomes Too Much
Being “different” can often become quite a challenge. Additionally, if you are not childless by choice, the questions and comments can overwhelm you emotionally. This is when it really helps to talk with a professional. Your sessions can be your personal, judgment-free safe space. You can share, explore your thoughts, and problem solve. Since this kind of situation can exacerbate one’s anxiety, I invite you to read more about anxiety treatment and reach out today to set up a confidential consultation.