Dear Heather

Dear Heather,
My husband and I are in our early 30s and have been very happily married for almost five years. We have no children, and are getting very tired of people (family, friends, strangers) asking us when we’re going to have a baby. Usually, we try to ignore these questions, because the truth is, neither of us wants to have children. We like our life the way it is and don’t have a strong parental drive. If we tell people that, I know they won’t understand. I think it’s none of their business. How can we politely get people to just stop asking us?

Sara S., Regina

Dear Sara:

First off, congratulations on knowing your own mind and finding a compatible mate. In a society where having kids still seems to be the default choice, you have made a decision that many people will find hard to understand. Try to remember that it is a responsible and perfectly valid choice, regardless of what other people may think. You have no obligation to justify your decision to others, or even to answer their questions. This is a very personal issue, and you’re right – it’s nobody else’s business.

Unfortunately, as you have discovered, if you avoid the question people will just keep asking. That would be fine if it didn’t bother you, but it sounds like it does. If you really want to make these intrusive questions stop, you may find that you have to answer them somehow. There are a lot of ways to do this, of which the simplest is to tell the person, as politely as possible, that you prefer not to answer such a personal question. Unfortunately, no matter how gently you word it, some people will be offended by that response. They may not feel it is at all a personal question (a childless friend of mine used to make people reconsider their manners by adopting a look of sadness and pain, and replying, “Oh, we’re infertile.”).

If you choose to simply tell the person that you and your spouse have decided to remain childless, you will have joined the ranks of many voluntarily childless people who are trying to make their choice more socially acceptable by talking about it. Be prepared, however: this is not the easiest approach, and if personal questions make you uncomfortable, it may not be for you. The insensitive people who ask why you haven’t had a baby yet are the same ones who will have no qualms about challenging your choice. Here are just a few of the responses you might get:

How could anyone not want kids? (Sure to make you feel cold and heartless.)
But having children changed my life! (Exactly. You like your life how it is.)
Oh, you’ll change your mind. (As if you’re just not mature enough to decide yet. As if absolutely every normal human wants kids, once they “?grow up’. No exceptions.)

Some people consider the voluntarily childless (especially childless women) to be selfish, irresponsible or uncaring, and you may also be faced with those stereotypes. If this perception bothers you, you can reassure yourself by making an extra effort to be generous and caring in other ways: by being a loving friend and family member, adopting some furry “?children’ from the animal shelter, volunteering in the community, or (if you do like children) even by caring for other people’s kids. This way, you’re meeting an important need that already exists (rather than creating a new one to fulfill).

There are people who will never understand your choice, and many of them will feel compelled to try to change your mind. This is frustrating, but remember that those people don’t need to live with your decisions, or even accept them – only you and you husband do. If you are happy with your childless life, then you have made the right decision for you.

Thanks for writing,
Heather

E-mail your questions to Heather at advice.voice@ausu.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. Heather is an AU student offering objective advice to her peers; she is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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