To Have or Not to Have: Making Choices About Children

Reviewed Jun 30, 2017

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Summary

  • Discuss it with your partner.
  • Utilize resources.
  • Consider counseling.
  • Prepare for a negative reaction.

When you imagine your future, does it include children? Millions of people are choosing a “child-free” lifestyle that’s filled with satisfying relationships and fulfilling activities.

“Having a child can be a terrific job,” says Madelyn Cain, author of The Childless Revolution: What It Means to Be Childless Today. But it’s not a job you have to take.” With time to focus on spouses, friends, careers, hobbies, and community service projects, people without kids often enjoy happy marriages and interesting jobs. Many childless adults consider themselves “child free” because their lives aren’t “less” of anything.

Still, making this decision can be difficult—and telling loved ones that you’ve opted for a child-free lifestyle can be even harder. Here are some suggestions for thinking through your choice and sharing the news with your family.

Making the decision

Some people have always known that they didn’t want kids, while others come to the decision after lots of thought. If you’re married or thinking about a lifelong commitment, this is an important issue to discuss with your partner.

“Today, people are waiting longer to have [children], and in so doing, a good number of couples realize their desire is just not that strong,” says Laura Carroll, author of Families of Two: Interviews with Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice. Marriage doesn’t have to lead to children, and many “families of two” are highly content.

Single or married, what should you do if you’re thinking about a kid-free future?

  • Tap available resources. You can reach an online community of child-free couples at www.childfree.net. Talking to others who have struggled with this decision may prove extremely helpful.
  • Consider counseling. Family and friends may dismiss your doubts about becoming a parent. You and your spouse may even feel differently. A professional counselor provides an objective ear and may be able to help you work through this decision. Your physician or the local branch of Planned Parenthood should be able to recommend a therapist who specializes in counseling adults on reproductive issues.
  • Ask the tough questions. Why do you want children? What are your concerns? Are you prepared to make the lifestyle changes necessary? Are you willing to make the financial commitment? Cain suggests thinking about your lifestyle preferences. What kind of life would you like to be leading 10 years from now? Thirty years from now?

Sharing the news

If you’ve decided not to have children, you’ll want to share your choice with family and friends. Be prepared for a negative reaction.

“People may say you’ll change your mind or regret it,” says Cain, “but every study proves that’s not the case.” Acknowledge their disappointment, explain your reasons and try to clear up some common misconceptions about child-free adults.

If your family is having difficulty accepting your choice, set some boundaries. “Decide when you don’t want to talk about it anymore,” recommends Carroll, “and be clear about why you do not want children. This will help others understand you and your decision.”

Just because you don’t want to be a parent doesn’t mean you don’t like children or aren’t interested in family. You can still be a wonderful aunt, uncle, youth adviser, teacher, or Big Brother or Big Sister.

Loved ones may need time to accept your decision, but no one should be pressured into parenthood. Although the decision may be difficult, the choice is yours. 
 
Resource

Childfree.net, an online community of child-free couples
www.childfree.net

By Lauren Greenwood de Beer
Source: Families of Two: Interviews With Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice by Laura Carroll. Xlibris Corporation, 2000; The Childless Revolution: What It Means to Be Childless Today by Madelyn Cain. Da Capo Press, 2009; The Parenthood Decision by Beverly Engel. Crown Publishing Group, 1998.

Summary

  • Discuss it with your partner.
  • Utilize resources.
  • Consider counseling.
  • Prepare for a negative reaction.

When you imagine your future, does it include children? Millions of people are choosing a “child-free” lifestyle that’s filled with satisfying relationships and fulfilling activities.

“Having a child can be a terrific job,” says Madelyn Cain, author of The Childless Revolution: What It Means to Be Childless Today. But it’s not a job you have to take.” With time to focus on spouses, friends, careers, hobbies, and community service projects, people without kids often enjoy happy marriages and interesting jobs. Many childless adults consider themselves “child free” because their lives aren’t “less” of anything.

Still, making this decision can be difficult—and telling loved ones that you’ve opted for a child-free lifestyle can be even harder. Here are some suggestions for thinking through your choice and sharing the news with your family.

Making the decision

Some people have always known that they didn’t want kids, while others come to the decision after lots of thought. If you’re married or thinking about a lifelong commitment, this is an important issue to discuss with your partner.

“Today, people are waiting longer to have [children], and in so doing, a good number of couples realize their desire is just not that strong,” says Laura Carroll, author of Families of Two: Interviews with Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice. Marriage doesn’t have to lead to children, and many “families of two” are highly content.

Single or married, what should you do if you’re thinking about a kid-free future?

  • Tap available resources. You can reach an online community of child-free couples at www.childfree.net. Talking to others who have struggled with this decision may prove extremely helpful.
  • Consider counseling. Family and friends may dismiss your doubts about becoming a parent. You and your spouse may even feel differently. A professional counselor provides an objective ear and may be able to help you work through this decision. Your physician or the local branch of Planned Parenthood should be able to recommend a therapist who specializes in counseling adults on reproductive issues.
  • Ask the tough questions. Why do you want children? What are your concerns? Are you prepared to make the lifestyle changes necessary? Are you willing to make the financial commitment? Cain suggests thinking about your lifestyle preferences. What kind of life would you like to be leading 10 years from now? Thirty years from now?

Sharing the news

If you’ve decided not to have children, you’ll want to share your choice with family and friends. Be prepared for a negative reaction.

“People may say you’ll change your mind or regret it,” says Cain, “but every study proves that’s not the case.” Acknowledge their disappointment, explain your reasons and try to clear up some common misconceptions about child-free adults.

If your family is having difficulty accepting your choice, set some boundaries. “Decide when you don’t want to talk about it anymore,” recommends Carroll, “and be clear about why you do not want children. This will help others understand you and your decision.”

Just because you don’t want to be a parent doesn’t mean you don’t like children or aren’t interested in family. You can still be a wonderful aunt, uncle, youth adviser, teacher, or Big Brother or Big Sister.

Loved ones may need time to accept your decision, but no one should be pressured into parenthood. Although the decision may be difficult, the choice is yours. 
 
Resource

Childfree.net, an online community of child-free couples
www.childfree.net

By Lauren Greenwood de Beer
Source: Families of Two: Interviews With Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice by Laura Carroll. Xlibris Corporation, 2000; The Childless Revolution: What It Means to Be Childless Today by Madelyn Cain. Da Capo Press, 2009; The Parenthood Decision by Beverly Engel. Crown Publishing Group, 1998.

Summary

  • Discuss it with your partner.
  • Utilize resources.
  • Consider counseling.
  • Prepare for a negative reaction.

When you imagine your future, does it include children? Millions of people are choosing a “child-free” lifestyle that’s filled with satisfying relationships and fulfilling activities.

“Having a child can be a terrific job,” says Madelyn Cain, author of The Childless Revolution: What It Means to Be Childless Today. But it’s not a job you have to take.” With time to focus on spouses, friends, careers, hobbies, and community service projects, people without kids often enjoy happy marriages and interesting jobs. Many childless adults consider themselves “child free” because their lives aren’t “less” of anything.

Still, making this decision can be difficult—and telling loved ones that you’ve opted for a child-free lifestyle can be even harder. Here are some suggestions for thinking through your choice and sharing the news with your family.

Making the decision

Some people have always known that they didn’t want kids, while others come to the decision after lots of thought. If you’re married or thinking about a lifelong commitment, this is an important issue to discuss with your partner.

“Today, people are waiting longer to have [children], and in so doing, a good number of couples realize their desire is just not that strong,” says Laura Carroll, author of Families of Two: Interviews with Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice. Marriage doesn’t have to lead to children, and many “families of two” are highly content.

Single or married, what should you do if you’re thinking about a kid-free future?

  • Tap available resources. You can reach an online community of child-free couples at www.childfree.net. Talking to others who have struggled with this decision may prove extremely helpful.
  • Consider counseling. Family and friends may dismiss your doubts about becoming a parent. You and your spouse may even feel differently. A professional counselor provides an objective ear and may be able to help you work through this decision. Your physician or the local branch of Planned Parenthood should be able to recommend a therapist who specializes in counseling adults on reproductive issues.
  • Ask the tough questions. Why do you want children? What are your concerns? Are you prepared to make the lifestyle changes necessary? Are you willing to make the financial commitment? Cain suggests thinking about your lifestyle preferences. What kind of life would you like to be leading 10 years from now? Thirty years from now?

Sharing the news

If you’ve decided not to have children, you’ll want to share your choice with family and friends. Be prepared for a negative reaction.

“People may say you’ll change your mind or regret it,” says Cain, “but every study proves that’s not the case.” Acknowledge their disappointment, explain your reasons and try to clear up some common misconceptions about child-free adults.

If your family is having difficulty accepting your choice, set some boundaries. “Decide when you don’t want to talk about it anymore,” recommends Carroll, “and be clear about why you do not want children. This will help others understand you and your decision.”

Just because you don’t want to be a parent doesn’t mean you don’t like children or aren’t interested in family. You can still be a wonderful aunt, uncle, youth adviser, teacher, or Big Brother or Big Sister.

Loved ones may need time to accept your decision, but no one should be pressured into parenthood. Although the decision may be difficult, the choice is yours. 
 
Resource

Childfree.net, an online community of child-free couples
www.childfree.net

By Lauren Greenwood de Beer
Source: Families of Two: Interviews With Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice by Laura Carroll. Xlibris Corporation, 2000; The Childless Revolution: What It Means to Be Childless Today by Madelyn Cain. Da Capo Press, 2009; The Parenthood Decision by Beverly Engel. Crown Publishing Group, 1998.

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