Making a decision as a couple to have – or not have – a child requires enormous consideration. In reality, despite societal assumptions that all couples will eventually become parents by default, having kids is something that may not be for everyone. To be a supportive friend, sister, co-worker or simply – a thoughtful woman – it’s important that we learn how to be sensitive and understand the deliberation process that goes into such a choice.
My husband and I* have chosen the less popular path of not having kids for a number of reasons, including age and lifestyle choice. However, the most important factor was that our life has been exceedingly fulfilling already – yes, without kids. Although we could be good parents, neither one of us feels the need to become one. It was a decision not to be taken lightly, and one we gave much thought to and agreed upon together. The result is that we are both equally comfortable with the path we have chosen.
Let’s look at several questions that are commonly posed to child-free couples (I’ve actually been asked each of these more than once). Maybe by answering a few we can better understand how a child-free couple can still be seen as a valuable dynamic duo in today’s world.
“Why don’t you want to have a family? We just think you’d make great parents.”
A couple doesn’t need to have children in order to be a family. And qualifying to be a good parent doesn’t mean it’s the only option out there. It’s wise to consider each partner’s health, age, emotional maturity, as well as life’s current circumstances. A couple may have a focus that drives them in a different direction than parenting would.
“Don’t you like kids?”
Assuming they do like children, a couple can explore endless opportunities to continue including them in their lives. Become a big brother or a big sister to a single-parented child. Spend time with a friend’s kids, rock babies to sleep when the parents are too burnt out, or be the best uncle and auntie to nieces and nephews. Couples have a lot to offer a younger generation even though they may choose to remain child-free.
“What do you do with all your free time?”
A couple who finds themselves unrestricted by child-rearing will possibly have more time on their hands. This need not be superfluous time, but rather time to focus on careers or invest in causes that they are passionate about. Pursuing hobbies, interests and endeavors with less time constraint is one perk of being child-free; and one can more effortlessly reserve occasions for a bit of solitude, too.
“It must be nice to have two incomes and no kids!”
When both people are working and they have no kids, it’s true that there’s going to be more money left at the end of the day. Travel and adventure tend to be less affordable for couples with kids, and it’s harder to get away. Being child-free might enable you and your partner to take vacations that you otherwise might not be able to. Additionally, many couples without children can also look for occasion to invest in other people. In the same way that providing for children brings joy, there’s great reward in sharing what extra time and resources one has as a couple with others.
In the same way that providing for children brings joy, there’s great reward in sharing what extra time and resources one has as a couple with others.
“Don’t you want to leave something of yourself in this world?”
Every human being has the ability to create a legacy of their own and contribute to society in a unique way. Children, yes, are one way to do this, but there are also others. This may be in the form of establishing a scholarship fund, or by accomplishing something spectacular in a lifetime.
“But who will look after you when you get old?”
All couples need to save for retirement, however, a couple who is truly concerned about having relational ties as they age should consider engaging in the lives of other young people. In the meantime, pay it forward by befriending an elderly couple who have no children of their own and cultivate a relationship with someone in the aged population. Even by simply checking-in on parents or grandparents, we can take the pressure off a sibling who is busy bringing up children.
“What if you have regrets?”
It’s pretty normal for anyone to be curious about paths not taken, or the things that could have been. But, as with anything else, we need to make a point of not getting stuck in those daydreams. No matter what decision is made about having children, couples who make the decision together (with wisdom) can equally remain content in their decision.
Couples without children have an important role to play in society, and we can affirm them as a family of two. When we interact with a child-free couple, consider the possibility that they may possess an awareness and maturity that allows them to make decisions in life that are right for them. Parenting is best entered into freely, and not as a result of coercion, expectation, ambivalence, or impulse.
For the child-free population out there, it’s okay to be forthright about your decision and not feel pressured to offer an explanation. The best way around all the external curiosity surrounding a decision is to be at peace with it yourself. A couple stressed by a perceived societal norm or pressured by peers or parents needs to remember that family and friends are not going to raise our children. We will. Our decision will impact many, and half-hearted parenting can have lasting consequences for the vulnerable little ones we bring into this world.
My husband and I don’t mind these standard questions, and we take no offense at people who are inquisitive about our decision to go against the grain. We’ve learned that none of us are required to justify our character, womanhood, or status as a family simply because we don’t have kids. Some people can’t have children, and others make a decision not to have them, yet, the world needs both mothers and non-mothers. Let’s do our best to secure other women in understanding that the world is full of opportunity to experience happiness, nurturing and love – baby or no baby.
What do you think? Should couples have to justify a decision not to have children?
*Note From The Author: This piece is written with special recognition to the wonderful ladies in my life – many who are busy raising beautiful children. I dearly love and delight in your kids. They have all enriched my life and brought me much joy.
Image via Bethany Small