There are many people in this world who don’t want to be parents, myself included. I have always known that about myself, and I have never wavered in that. Growing up I never played with baby dolls or pretended that my Barbie and Ken dolls were getting married and having a baby. Instead, Barbie was single and working as a scientist and Ken was just hanging around with GI Joe at Barbie’s dream house playing pranks on her. It was a very annoying but strictly platonic relationship.
My point is, I grew up knowing this about myself in the same way I knew I liked boys. This may be the same for others. It’s just as much of a natural instinct as wanting to have children. The stigma around wanting to remain childless makes it hard for people to admit it to their friends and loved ones.
So when your friend, child or relative tells you this, here are some things not to say:
- Oh, you’ll grow out of it. (We never grew into it)
- But, you’ll die alone! Who will take care of you where you’re old?
- Don’t you want to leave behind a legacy?
- Your cats will eat your dead body.
- Why do you hate kids? You’re selfish.
- What if your partner wants children? Why would you deprive them of that? (We’re not, and that aspect has probably been discussed by both if the relationship is serious.)
Here are some suggestions:
- Wow, that’s amazing! You are so brave to have told me this, thank you.
- I understand, and I respect you.
- Your dog is so cute.
It’s ok to ask questions about it, but don’t ask leading ones that will end in a fight. Not understanding is perfectly ok, but there is no need to be mean or patronizing about it. Give them the time to explain without interruption. Be respectful, and make sure to listen because they may have already explained this a dozen times to others.
It may seem baffling that someone would not want to give birth to a little bundle of joy and raise it to be a mini version of themselves. But, it’s not. The instinct is not there for everyone. This doesn’t mean that they hate children and won’t babysit for you. I have a nephew who is a pretty cool kid, and a niece who is just the smartest 3-year-old I have ever met. I have changed diapers, watched horrible children’s movies with them, and enjoyed it when they laughed and learned. But, that does not mean that somewhere deep down I want to be a parent. It just means I still care how children are raised and treated, they are our future. Not everyone has to participate. Parents are incredible people, who always deserve respect. You are brave for wanting/having children and being able to accomplish everything you want at the same time. It’s not about being selfish, and thinking children hold people back. They don’t! If you’re a capable adult you can have everything you want! Now that I have acknowledged that fact it’s time to move on.
Don’t take it personally
When you’re having a conversation with someone, understand that you both have feelings and they are not always ill-intentioned. When someone says they don’t want children it can come across to some people as “I hate children, and I hate yours and your decision to have them is stupid.” Unless those words actually came out of their mouth, they didn’t mean that.
Here’s a little exercise to help prepare you:
Imagine someone close to you is sitting in front of you and says,
“I don’t want to have children.”
Think for a moment about what that statement means. Always think before you speak. Remember, they trust you and respect you. Extend the same courtesy.
Ask if they would like to talk about it. And if they do, please refer to my suggestions of what to say to help ease you into the conversation.
And just like that, you’ve helped someone have a conversation that could have been hard and upsetting feel at ease. They may have been feeling fearful about opening up about this topic, and you can be there to let them know it’s ok.