When you’re in a happy, monogamous relationship, the assumption is that you’ll have children at some point in the future. A study conducted by YouGov showed that for one in eight Brits between the ages of 18 and 24, this just isn’t the case, and this number only increases as people get older (51% of Brits aged 35-44 who don’t yet have children say they don’t ever want them).
If you are a woman, you may feel like you have to justify your reasons for not wanting kids. You might find yourself constantly fielding personal questions or comments, such as “when are you having children?” and “you’ll be next”. Should you admit you don’t want children, you may be met with further comments like “You’ll change your mind when you meet the right person/get to a certain age.”
Telling your family members that you don’t want kids may seem daunting and nerve wracking. Below, we’ve provided some tips and advice that could make that conversation a little easier.
Have the conversation in person
Your decision to not have children may come as a surprise to your close family members, and so it might be a conversation best had in person. While you may not want to formally sit everyone down and tell them you have something to discuss (this may make them think the opposite is the case and that you’re pregnant), having a casual chat in person is likely the best way to divulge your intention.
You could choose a time when your close family (parents and siblings) are all together, or you could tell them separately if you think that would be easier or take some of the pressure off. You may wish to casually drop the comment into conversation, such as:
- We’re not sure we want to have children.
- Having children is something we’ve discussed and we actually don’t think we want them.
Don’t feel like you have to give a reason
If your opinion on having children is met with questions from your family, you shouldn’t feel like you have to answer their queries or give them a reason for your decision.
In fact, it’s unlikely that you’ll just have one reason for not wanting children and there could be multiple factors that dictated your final decision. Whatever these reasons are, you’re not obligated to share them with anyone.
Your family should be able to accept that you’ve considered the pros and cons of having children and that you do have a valid reason, without having to understand precisely what that reason is. If they do start to ask why, you can simply explain that it’s a decision you’ve both come to carefully and over a period of time, and you have your reasons but you don’t want to go into them.
Don’t feel that you have to defend your decision
As well as not having to give your family a reason, you shouldn’t feel like you have to defend your decision or convince them that it’s the right one. It’s not a negotiation or an opportunity for them to get you to change your mind, neither is it an opportunity to try and get them ‘on your side’. Instead, it’s simply a chance for you to share your truth with the relevant people.
It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that your family doesn’t agree with your decision, but you still don’t need to defend it. Your family members will likely come round in the future, so give them a bit of time to absorb and process the news.
Trust in your opinion
It’s imperative that, no matter the reaction of your family, you trust in the decision you and your partner have made and that you don’t begin to second-guess yourself.
Second-guessing is easy to do when your parents or other family members react in a disappointed or sad manner. It can make you question why you came to such a decision, or even why they’re so sad about it when you aren’t. It’s natural to want to make your parents happy, but having a baby to please other people isn’t a reasonable solution.
When you do have this conversation with them, try to trust in your decision and know that it’s the right one for you and your partner. It’s likely not a decision that you came to lightly, and you may have spent a long time (months or years) reaching it or coming to terms with it. While you may not have met your parents’ expectations or hopes, you have to live for yourself and not for other people’s happiness.
Comments such as “you’ll change your mind when you’re older” or “never say never” may feel as though they’re undermining your decision, even if they come from those who mean well. If this is something you experience, try not to react with anger or defensiveness. Explain to your loved ones that your decision is based on the life you’re living now, not a hypothetical future.
It’s important to remember that you can’t know what will happen later in your life. Have compassion for yourself in this situation. If you and your partner do decide to have children in the future, you can make that decision too. It doesn’t mean that your original decision was wrong, just that it no longer fits your circumstances. Whatever you decide, now or in the future, is okay.
Avoid an argument
Should your family members be upset by the news, an argument could start. The most important thing is to not rise to their comments or querying and instead to deal with their questions in a calm manner. This may help to defuse the situation and prevent an argument.
If you’re not sure how to deal with their particular comments or questions, we’ve shared some general advice below.
- “You might regret it”
This is a fairly typical comment that you might receive from your family members. While this can come across as quite rude, what they could mean is that you may miss out on the whole experience of having a family that they loved so much.
Should this comment arise, it’s best to avoid getting defensive and instead explain that while having children may fill other people with joy, that isn’t how you personally feel. Remember, you don’t have to explain or provide your reasons; simply stating that children won’t bring you the happiness it brought them might be enough to get them to understand.
- “We won’t get any grandchildren”
Parents usually get excited by the thought of becoming grandparents, so they may be dismayed that this won’t happen for them, particularly if you’re an only child.
Instead of feeling annoyed by this comment, you should instead explain that you don’t want to have children just to make them grandparents. You understand that they’re upset but that this is a decision you’ve thought hard about and it’s the right one for you and your partner. This should end the conversation without an argument breaking out.