Thursday 21st September 2017
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Did you never have kids?

Me and my favorite baby, Gino

As most of you know, I didn’t, and will be writing about that in the book, because the fact that it I’m not a mom has shaped who I’ve become as an adult in some important ways. To those of you who also didn’t get around to parenthood: was it by choice, circumstance, or—like me—some complicated combination of the two?

Posted on May 11th, 2017 133 Comments

133 Responses

  1. Ann says:

    I never did either. It was mostly by choice, although perhaps the right guy could have talked me into it, if it really felt right at the time, I suppose that’s conceivable (haha). But I never had a strong maternal instinct, to be honest. I look forward to reading your book and seeing what you say about it!

    • Adrien says:

      This pretty much describes me! I got divorced at 40 and by then had decided that it wasn’t going to happen, which I’m okay with. I never had much of a maternal instinct either.

  2. LisaC says:

    I didn’t either and it was definitely by choice. I remember being about 13 years old and knowing that I didn’t want kids. I wavered for about six months at age 35, but it passed.

    • TereLiz says:

      Same here. My husband and I talked about it and I realized I didn’t *want* to have kids so much as felt the pressure to have kids. After that, he got a vasectomy. It’s been great.

    • Kate GS says:

      yep! Exactly what Lisa says. I knew deep down that I quite simply didn’t have the patience.

  3. Teri says:

    I have no memory of wanting to be a mother – growing up I didn’t like babies the way my friends did and then when I met my now husband and he shared similar feelings about parenthood, I knew I wasn’t some sort of misfit. I get a lot of questions about if I regret not having kids and I often wonder how many of the people asking me that question regret that they did.

    • lesa says:

      Love that last sentence 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Thank you, Teri. You could have been talking about me too. Perfectly stated.

      • GS says:

        Teri, I have felt that same thing that you describe in the last sentence so many times…

    • Femme50 says:

      Ditto. To the letter!

    • Marcia says:

      What Teri says! Perfectly put and describes my own experience right down to the last sentence.

    • S. says:

      Clare in the most recent season of House of Cards delivers this question in the most perfectly withering way in response to a woman she barely knows asking her if she regrets not having them. I made a mental copy of the scene so that I could have it on hand for the next time someone asks me this!

    • Jenny says:

      It might be that no one is interested in what I have to say as I decided to have a kid after thinking I didn’t want them. I was never interested in having children, but when I met my second husband, we eventually decided to try. My daughter is the love of my life and my husband’s. it certainly has been hard on our marriage, but we would not do anything differently. It ended up being particularly important to me, because I have a very poor relationship with my mother, and so being a good mother to my daughter has been hugely healing for me. I sometimes do ask people about whether they have kids and why, because I’m a curious person, but it’s not because I wish I hadn’t had my daughter. It’s just interesting to think about the paths not taken.

  4. Maggie says:

    I never had kids, by choice, although it was a difficult one that I was worried I’d regret. Now that I have a lot of friends with children of all ages, I’m confident that I made the right decision and haven’t regretted it so far.

    Honestly, kids today from teens-20’s seem super boring to me. I’m disappointed by how uninteresting and uncool youth culture is becoming.

    The way parents today raise their kids, following them to all their activities and focusing so much on their kids’ stuff instead of getting their kids involved in their interests does not appeal to me. My parents had tons of hobbies and we tagged along with them. My mom hated most cartoons, so we watched musicals and classic films instead. My dad was a biker, so our weekends were spent camping with his biker friends and their kids. My dad introduced us to a lot of our interests. Now my friends’ lives seem to be all about their kids and what their kids want to do. I don’t think I’d enjoy most of it.

  5. Erin says:

    In my case, it isn’t by choice but circumstance. It’s been something I’ve struggled with a lot over the past few years, as not having children was never my plan. I do still have some options, but sometimes they feel overwhelming considering I am on my own and not geographically close to family. Yes, I know others have found a way to make it work. But I’m still unsure about how to make it happen in my life, although I am trying to figure this out with the help of a counselor.

    What I think is funny are the number of people who simply assume that I never wanted children, or don’t still want them. I think this may be partially because it’s a difficult issue for me to speak about without crying, so I don’t talk about this with very many people. But I also think there’s a societal assumption that comes along with being a single woman with a successful career that you also probably never wanted children. And that’s what I find the most puzzling. Why do we typically start with assumptions about what people want or don’t want based on who they are in other parts of their lives?

    • Heather says:

      Exactly – also the assumption that not having children means you don’t LIKE children.

    • Rachel says:

      Erin – I can’t put words into how much I relate. I literally can not discuss since every time I do i inevitably break out into tears. I’ve never not wanted to have kids and my maternal instinct runs so deep. But between bad choices in relationship, and then trying on my own for years, and eventually miscarrying. It’s a pain that doesn’t dull. Yet I do try with everything I have to enjoy life and concentrate on getting past the feelings to appreciate the time I have.

  6. Mrs. Z says:

    After my mom left my dad in 1973 when I was 8 and my brother was 6, the maternal instinct laid dormant until an ex said something to me years after we’d broken up. We lived together in our mid-20s and it was 10 years later. He implied that I’d have been a great mom if only I had not wasted time with him. Another man should have been in my life at that time. At this time, I had just met the man who is now my husband, and who also never wanted children. I definitely spun out. I was 38. There were a few moments of rethinking my earlier choices and some embarrassing, weepy melodrama. It passed. I am now 52; I’ve always loved and appreciated the freedom and openness my life has. I’m glad to share this feeling with my husband who is 10 years younger than me and who also always knew he did not want kids. Though my thoughts on having children were directly influenced by my family’s dysfunction and mothering-by-proxy from a few different stepmoms, it’s mostly the the responsibility that comes with being a parent that I felt ill-equipped to take on. I have no qualms admitting this. Sure, there was also a fear that I’d turn out like my biological mother and abandon my kids so why try those odds? There was a time that I thought I’d like a clone of myself so I could raise me right. I wonder how that would turn out? A childhood free of trauma and mistakes? I’m rambling here but, I’m pretty content with my life without kids and comfortable with the choices I’ve made that led me to right now.

    • Mooncat7 says:

      Perhaps you rambled a bit, but your words in many ways mirror my own. My early dysfunctional home life – my mother had seven husbands before I was out of high school – shaped me in ways both good and bad. I have dealt with the emotional fallout my entire life. I never had the energy to take on the responsibilities involved with being a mother. I was too afraid that I would damage my child as I had been damaged. I also am comfortable with where I am now. I do not think I could had done it with a child. Regret? Some, but not very much.

  7. RebeccaNYC says:

    no kids. sort of a combination of not being in the right place at the right time and choice. The right partner would have changed all that, but I have no regrets.

  8. KHD says:

    Always assumed I would have them but never felt the urge to finally pull the trigger, despite being in a wonderful marriage. If my husband really wanted them I would have been on board, but he didn’t feel strongly about it either. The time has passed and I have no regrets, and lots of disposable income…

    • Shannon says:

      Your comment describes my experience, as well. My husband and I have many nieces and nephews on which we dote and a large supportive family that understands that we’ve chosen differently. Our friends with children appreciate that we are available for grown-up nights out and child-free vacations. I, too, have no regrets.

  9. Coe says:

    I’m 54 and have always been at least ambivalent about having children. Now I’m very, very glad I didn’t. I’ve always thought that being pregnant and giving birth seemed like a nightmare, and being responsible for the safety and education of a kid for 20 years was an exhausting, thankless task. Our society treats mothers and motherhood with condescension and hypocrisy, and I’ve never understood why so many women sign up for it anyway. I wonder if most aren’t just succumbing to social pressure.

  10. Jennifer says:

    No kids by choice. My husband and I both had pretty awful childhoods, and it put us off having kids ourselves. We were lucky that we agreed on it from the very beginning, and neither of us regret it at all. We have nieces and nephews we love very much, and we equally love the free time and extra money that come with not having children of our own.

  11. Jen says:

    I wasn’t sure I wanted kids, but ended up having two little ones after the age of 30. Motherhood isn’t for everyone. Being a parent is tough and difficult and there have certainly been phases where I’ve wondered to myself what the heck I got myself into (potty training sucked). But now that my girls are more independent, they’re really fun to be around. I marvel at the two little confident and quirky individuals I share my life with. It’s funny because when parents get together we like to complain/vent about our kids and it makes us sound miserable. For me, being a parent has pushed me way out of my comfort zone and I’ve had to learn and re-learn things about myself (like why I react to anger/embarrassment/frustration the way I do, how I accept and demonstrate love, etc.). Parenthood is like having someone hold a mirror up to your life with spotlights on and no break or intermission. Ever.

    • Lisa says:

      Yes! Parenthood is is such painful beauty.
      I feel lucky to have one child. I would like to have another but I’m in my late 30s and don’t have a solid relationship to support having another.

    • Susan Davis says:

      I really like your comment, Jen. When I was single I wasn’t sure if I wanted kids. I could barely deal with the guys I was dating. Fast forward two decades: I am 48 years old and 15-years-married to a really good, solid man and have two sons (one with ASD). Would I do It again? You bet. It is soul-crushing and soul-expanding. I would not have done it without my husband.
      However, I joke that “having kids is like getting a tattoo on your face. You better be damn sure it’s what you want because it is for a lifetime, and everyone can see it even if you can’t.”

  12. lesa says:

    What a great discussion topic — thanks so much for posting this, and I look forward to reading more replies.
    I never did either…mostly by choice, but different life circumstances could have led to a different outcome. My first husband was just not dad material, and my career choice (Navy officer) made motherhood a difficult (but, admittedly not impossible) option. I sometimes regret it, but I have two lovely stepdaughters, and as a mother I would not have had the life that I had.

  13. Pia says:

    I do have kids (2). But I never thought about kids growing up and never really liked being around kids. But damn it biology! I hate to be so textbook, but around 32 something clicked and I HAD to have kids.

    And I still don’t “love” other people’s kids. Actually, it’s usually the parents I don’t love…the ones that let their kids run wild, treat them like they are gods, etc.

    It pains me to see women who want kids but can’t have them.

    It delights me to see women w/o kids who made that choice and are living full lives. And I’m might be a teeny bit jealous!

    • S. says:

      I didn’t quite know I didn’t want kids until my 30s, when I saw that click happen to all my friends. It was intense, it was real, it was palpable: suddenly, they felt the need to have babies on something like a cellular level. I realized I never had that drive. It never even really crossed my mind. Eureka.

  14. Didi says:

    No kids. I wanted them but I had Endometriosis. After 12 years of trying and 3 D & C’s and 3 laparoscopies, I had to have a hysterectomy. So, I have dogs. They are my kids.

  15. Debra says:

    No kids by choice. Didn’t want to be the kind of mother my mother was. No regrets at all. Although in my early 40’s I did feel a faint urge for a couple of days. Then — poof!– it was gone. Recalling it now, I believe it disappeared that night I was eating alone in restaurant and a couple of parents were letting their children run wild: literally *running* around the tables, yelling, knocking over baskets of chips, etc. Left the restaurant with indigestion but with the clear sense of having made the right choice.

  16. Heather says:

    I love these stories. I also don’t have children and it’s a combination of choice and circumstance. The people I saw having kids in their 20s/early 30s had family support that I entirely lacked (parents who would babysit, etc). I was in grad school at the time, and was certain that having a kid would completely derail my career.

    The person I was with in my early-to-mid 30s was/still is an unstable sociopath. He claimed to want kids, but there was no way in hell I was going to mix my gene pool with his, so no regrets there.

    Finally, the man I was with in my late 30s/early 40s was kind and stable, though we were mismatched as a couple. I did get pregnant and miscarried. (When I told him I was pregnant I was greeted with absolute silence – not even an ‘oh shit’.) I’m sure we’d have split in any case, so I’d now be a single parent.

    So overall: I do feel sadness at not having children. At the same time, I have friends with children who are very troubled and cause them a lot of pain. So, who knows.

    I will say: people, to your child-free friends, PLEASE do not give unsolicited advice, such as “you could still adopt!” or “I know someone who got pregnant at 48!” Just… don’t.

  17. Robin says:

    I’m almost 50, never had kids, by choice, and don’t second guess my decision at all. It wasn’t that I wanted a huge career, because I didn’t and don’t. Also, I’m pretty domestic. I just enjoy my private time with my husband and dog. We have nieces and nephews in various stages of growing up and spending time with them is getting more fun as they get older. I’m even a great-aunt now; the damn kids are lapping me!

  18. Kristie Dahlia says:

    No kids here! I was the biggest sister, a babysitter from age 11ish, a camp counselor for the Fresh Air Fund college summers, nannied my way through undergrad, and then a preschool teacher. I am the first one to grab anyone else’s baby when it needs a hand, make faces at babies in public, and get on the floor to play with everyone’s kids everywhere. But I did not need to be a parent, and neither did my husband. For a long while we thought we would “later”. At a certain point, when it began to seem that later wasn’t getting any closer, I suggested we try on the idea that we weren’t going to to make sure that was okay, so didn’t just drift into it. For about a year we discussed it nearly every day, and as we felt into it, it just seemed better and better.

    We lived for 13 years with friends in a multi-unit building we co-owned in San Francisco. The couple upstairs had two daughters; we listened to them born through the floor and lived together until divorce and death of a parent in the other couple, when the girls were 9 and 12. We still call each other house family. That intimate comingling really helped us to be at peace with our choice.

    There were a few years when my girlfriends were all going deep into their new motherhood together where I felt a bit askew, but I never doubted we were making the right choice for us. And in time I just settled into the fact that I adore children and do not wish to raise any in the modern world. I now call myself “fairy godmother” and just lvoe up everyone else’s children.

    My husband and I are celebrating 20 years together in a couple of months, and just about then we’ll be moving onto the sailboat we bought after selling that house in SF. We have no plan for what follows; the plan is not to have a plan. We’re happy, we have savings, we have time, we have freedom. We elder the children around us, and we love the life we have.

    The world has no shortage of human beings. Making more of them is not the only way to live a satisfying life or to make a good contribution to the life of humanity. We should save making more people for those who truly adore it, and all chip in to support them in doing this.

    • Sarah K says:

      Well said! Thanks for the elegant explanation. I agree so very much, especially with your final paragraph. Enjoy your no plans plan!

    • vishy says:

      This last paragraph, I love.

    • Mrs. Z says:

      Eloquently said. Just perfect.

    • Francine says:

      Wow to that last paragraph, Kristie. So well said. Should be stitched on a pillow.

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for this, Kristie. I’m in my mid-thirties and don’t have children (partly choice, but probably most circumstances). I’ve been single for a long time and while I know that I can possibly still have children, I also know it’s a possibility that I might not get that chance. I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately, especially feeling like my life might lack meaning without them. But your last paragraph is so true, and a real comfort to me. Thank you.

    • Shannon says:

      Well said. Thank you.

  19. Susan G says:

    41 and no children by choice. I’ve never wavered at all. I’m sure there are so many obvious reasons: lost my mom at 15 and my dad at 26, addiction and health issues run in the family, bad relationship choices until I was in my late 30’s, not enough financial security, etc. But the truth is, I have never heard that bio clock tick. I don’t think I have one!

    I was lucky enough to marry (my third time) into a “real” family a few years ago. I have a SIL who is my age with three kiddos. I am now the cool aunt who rides scooters with the kids on our yearly visit. As much as I love those kids, my husband and I high five each other on the way to airport to get home to our quiet life.

  20. Tammy Madsen says:

    No kids. Got married, moved to a new state and started new job in one month at age 34. We talked about having kids but came to enjoy the freedom to travel internationally and decided we were a bit too old.

    I will say the hardest thing about having no kids is the social lives our friends with children have, since they get to know families and people through school. We don’t have that, and honestly, don’t have as many friends because of having no kids.

  21. I’m 56 and never had them. Never wanted them, not even when I was a kid. Nor did I ever want to be married. EVER….I got married last year after 15 years with the same man.

    I love the kids around me and I’m a great aunt but once they’re out of my hands… they’re truly out of my hands, and I love that.

    My friend’s 3 year old is in a high-pitch scream phase where she lets it out when she’s not getting her way. I can’t take it. I would be a terrible mother with that stuff.

  22. Mae says:

    I’ve been happily married for 38 years to a sweet man who would have made a wonderful father, but I’ve never wanted to be a mother bad enough to change our lifestyle. (And frankly? Children annoy me.)

    My husband may have some regrets about this, but if so, he’s handling it like a gentleman.

  23. Kirstjen says:

    I never had children, by choice. When I was 10 years old, I remember telling my family that I didn’t want to be a mother & I didn’t want dolls any longer, either. I just was not interested. I’ve never changed my mind, and I’m 51 now. Nobody has ever made parenting look like fun to me…

    I am an aunt to 3 nieces & 3 nephews & I love that. I’ve taught them all how to swear, and I got to have pretty good conversations about sex – not just contraception lectures, but actual conversations about sexual pleasure. I know they never had those conversations with their mom because she was embarrassed when she heard one of them. I’ve discovered that I really love young adults, my nieces & nephews know I’m their ally, and I only had to change one diaper.

  24. Zoe Arcidiacono says:

    I desperately wanted children and tried and failed really hard for a few years..instead had 4 miscarriages, 6 rounds of iui, 6 rounds of ivf and a divorce. Which sounds awful and was awful in the midst of it, but now I’m feeling more like Robin. I have a lovely niece and I like (some) of my friends children. But, I like my time and sense of openness and adventure right now. I’m embracing that I don’t have complete control in my life of what’s going to happen and that’s ok.

  25. Noelle says:

    My friend, Therese Shechter, is doing a documentary about this topic. She’s in NYC, you might want to connect. Here’s her website: https://therese-shechter.squarespace.com/

    • Zoe Arcidiacono says:

      This is great-more people should talk about it and be aware in general. Is she only interested in women who never wanted to have children?

  26. vishy says:

    I wanted kids SO BADLY, but my husband did not. I probably could have orchestrated it, but I felt that if I tricked him, it was a manipulation of him and his trust, so I didn’t.

    Now we are almost in our 50’s and he is somehow magically ready. He has floated the idea of adoption a couple times and I am just gobsmacked that he even has the nerve to mention this to me. I am SO over the idea of a family at this point. I have come to enjoy the fact that I can be selfish and not be bound to look after and worry about a child all my days. The freedom is something I love now.

  27. Donna says:

    I did not want children. My husband tricked me into having one by saying he was sterile. I got pregnant within a month of stopping birth control – which was his aim. I had a beautiful daughter who then died at the age of ten. I miss her to this day and yet I have had a wonderful life since then. That has been especially so since my divorce. I am 74 and I guess you could say I’ve had the best of both worlds as well as the worst.If I could have her back, I’d take her – minus him!

  28. Cedar says:

    No children, by choice. I didn’t really rule it out until my late 30s, and like a number of others here the right guy could have talked me into it.

    But I had a couple of role models growing up – older women in my family who had interesting jobs and healthy relationships and independent lives and didn’t have kids. They were mildly bored with their nephews/nieces/cousin’s kids until we hit our late teens, but once we were old enough to appreciate ethnic restaurants and art museums and talk about world events they were incredibly generous and fun. I realized pretty early on that their model could be a good option for me.

    I have a huge extended family, all of whom have kids, plus I teach at the college level, and I think I’m called to be a mentor rather than a mother. I’m damn good at it.

  29. Tara says:

    My husband and I went back and forth over whether we wanted kids. Our first was conceived not so much by choice, but by being lax with birth control during one of our “I think we should” phases. We now have two and I love them both incredibly, but I would by lying if I said I never thought about what life would be like with the freedom of no children. I certainly don’t judge a woman’s choice either way.

  30. SDK says:

    No kids, by choice. I’ve ended long term relationships because my partner wouldn’t give up on the “oh, you’ll change your mind for me.” I was willing to compromise on marriage (not really interested in that either), but not kids. People assume I must not like kids, but I shower love on my niece and spend as much time with her as possible. I am the silly auntie to a bunch of friends’ kids, and that is enough for me. I had a wonderful childhood and have great parents, but that did not give me the drive to get married or have kids. I recognize that I am too (what some may call) “selfish” in that I want to travel, go out, read a book uninterrupted,etc., and if you have kids, I think you should be willing to give that up to put them first. I’m not. I was open to the possibility that that might change over time, but I’m 41 and feel the same way.Thankfully I have a family who never pressured me, and friends who live in all kinds of configurations. Now I work in an office of 8 people, with three other women my age or older who also made the choice (some married, some not) to not have kids. It’s very inspiring to be among a group of smart, interesting, caring women to whom that choice is not viewed as strange.

  31. Francine says:

    Kim, can I have a chapter in your book?

    I was turning 39 when a good friend about the same age had a baby. I’d been married 12-13 years by then and both of us had little interest or desire to have children. But – and I remember this clearly – my friend sent a Christmas card that year and signed it Cathy, Mark and Francesca. And it really got to me. A month later, hubs and I decided to give it a shot. We said we’d try 1-2 months and then move on. We felt really strongly that we would be just as happy alone and we would with kids.

    Of course, I got pregnant the very first try. I was 40 when our son was born. He was such a great baby. But I won’t lie. It was HARD. A few months into it, I wanted another. The sibling factor!

    Fast forward FOUR years later of fertility treatments, hormones, 10 artificial insemination and FOUR IVF treatments and TWIN BOYS at the ripe age of 44.

    Multiples are hard. I think the divorce rate is sky high for parents of multiples (that’s another story, friends). Being a mom of three is hard. It doesn’t come naturally like it does for others. I see lots of parents with kids who just look at ease…comfortable in the chaos. That is not me.

    Looking back, in many ways, I know we would have lived quite happily (and much more financially flush) childless. While I love my boys, I do think one would have been just fine. I hate saying it, but the sibling factor! They have each other.

  32. Emily TL says:

    What a rich discussion and I feel very fortunate that it showed up today. I am a combo of circumstance and choice. I am 41 and two days ago my husband and I officially removed ourselves from the adoption process, thus closing the door forever on parenthood. (Circumstance exposition: A failed pregnancy, life threatening health issues that keep me from being able to carry a child, and then the long process of getting approved to adopt.)

    I never questioned that I might not be a Mom and my husband and I always thought we were open to adoption, but the reality of it is more than we anticipated. We were matched with two infants. My husband is the one who turned down both, the most recent right before Christmas as we were headed to pick up the baby we had already named. It didn’t feel right for him. It nearly broke us, but instead it made us appreciate how dearly we don’t want to lose each other. And it gave me the opportunity to think about what I really wanted and what life could be like.

    After months of devastating self-reflection and soul-searching we said no to pursuing parenthood any further. We are starting our new life with a vacation in St. John tomorrow. I feel like I am de-programming from a lifetime intending to be a Mother. I now savor the freedom and the possibilities it has opened up in my vision of the world and my future, though it is not without fleeting pangs.

    This general happiness/acceptance seems to be somehow invalidating to those with families, including my closest friends and I feel a bit lost looking for my tribe. I am frustrated that the rules seem to be set for families, though I am somewhat exhilarated by the feeling that I am breaking the rules.

    I appreciate this discussion, because it is respectful, curious and in a safe community. But often, I can feel further alienated not only by parents, but also by non-parents who categorize each other further into choice vs circumstance. I also don’t want to feel bad for making small talk uncomfortable when people ask if or assume I have kids. I just don’t want to care about their feelings anymore. I have spent so much time worrying about children it turns out I will never have. I am just glad to be me in this moment.

  33. Dana D says:

    I love all of these honest and intimate stories and that this will be in your book and that others are taking this topic to a wider circle.

    I love that we can continue to push the boundaries of what woman-ness is. I love that my own 23 year old daughter declares that she doesn’t want to birth children (the choice will forever be hers to consider).

    I love that we, as women, can define ourselves apart from “motherhood.” (In truth, the top-three list of words that I use to describe myself does not include the word “mother.)

  34. KTB says:

    I love this discussion, because it’s so apropos to my life these days. I’m about to turn 38, and my husband and I have been married for 8 years. We’re childfree by choice at this point, but we’ve certainly talked about having kids. We both came into the marriage ambivalent, and have largely stayed that way. I went through about a six month period a year or so ago where I was really struggling with the decision to have kids or not, but I’ve pretty much pulled through that with confidence on the childfree side. At this point, I’ve made it clear that we can have kids if he feels strongly, but that hasn’t happened yet (and I suspect that it won’t).

    I’m very much enjoying my role as an auntie to my friends’ kids, and to my beautiful nephew. I will also say that I have found my tribe, and have a great group of friends that are about half parents and half couples like us. It’s much easier to be childfree with friends in the same boat. I love my friends’ kids, but I also love giving them back at the end of the visit.

    Now if I could just get my mother to drop the subject, we’d be golden.

  35. Windy City says:

    This is such a big topic, and part of this topic maybe doesn’t even have to do with being a parent?

    I didn’t have kids. My then-husband and I tried for a period of time but were having a hard time conceiving. It turned out he was sterile AND he was also having an affair at the same time. When we divorced, I found some consolation in the fact that we didn’t end up with children.

    I work with kids with developmental challenges, and I love kids. I’m really good with kids. I am now in a long-time romantic and life partnership with someone who admits that he would have struggled to be a parent. I am very happy with him, our life together, and who I am with him.

    I don’t have the most robust relationship with my parents, and I think the way my life turned out has been confusing to them. I think about not having a child/ren now only when I think about getting (even!) older, and wondering if I will need help from someone. Within my extended family, adult children have not been great carers for their aging parents, reminding me that even having kids is not a guarantee that someone will take care of you in your old age.

    I know that having kids reinforces that you don’t have complete control over everything; I have also found that not having kids continues to teach me the same lesson.

  36. Bex says:

    Never had kids, partly by circumstance and partly by choice. When I was young, I just assumed I would marry and have kids like everyone else (part of that was from growing up in a conservative church), but I always thought that it would have to be with the right guy. I wasn’t interested in marrying for the sake of having kids, like some people I knew. As I got older and the right guy never came along, I did consider the idea of adopting or using a sperm donor, but the idea of being a single mom was completely overwhelming to me. Also, as I got older, I had to admit to myself that I was ambivalent about the idea of motherhood anyway. I love kids but was never sure I wanted to take on that huge responsibility, with or without a husband. My nephew was born when I was 38, and that was pretty much it for me. I have a child I can spoil and shower with affection and that’s enough for me. I’m also now a fairy godmother to several friends’ kids, and I love it. Being the crazy aunt who flies into town with a credit card and a sense of adventure suits me just fine.

    • Beth C. says:

      Yeah, we’re similar in our circumstances. I’ll be honest this is a tricky topic for me. I didn’t grow up in a conservative household or anything, I just always thought that, yeah, I’d meet a guy, fall in love, get married or whatever, and have kids. I was looking forward to all of it. Not obsessing or needing it, but it sounded pretty good.

      Fast forward to age 40 and I have never been in a long term relationship. Never even one that maybe felt serious enough to consider it. I have very mixed feelings about this. Part of me know it’s just how it goes sometimes, and it’s better and I’m WAY happier on my own that if I settled for someone just because they would have me. Another part really doesn’t get why I don’t get to have that thing most other people do find, even if it isn’t forever, ya know?

      Kids fall into the same boat. Now I’m 40 and have endometriosis, so it’s pretty much a done decision for me at this point.

      I never wanted to be a single mom by design, so that wasn’t an option. Pregnancy absolutely terrifies me, so I wasn’t exactly looking forward to how the kids came to be, doing it alone sounds even worse. Also, I am OK not having kids, I really am. I’m happy with my life. I just sorta wish I got to make the choice rather than having it be the answer by default.

  37. lisa says:

    Never had children, 100% by choice. I remember being just five and telling adult relatives I was not going to have babies. I was going to have animals. I haver never felt the urge to have a child but felt an active desire to never parent. My life, though, would not be complete without my animals.

    My husband is the youngest of six and it is still a deal to his family, many years later, that we did not have children. His mother, to the end, blamed me for that but I would not have continued a relationship with a man who wanted kids.

    Being a happily childless adult, I was surprised to learn I love working with young adults and volunteer with low income high school students to teach them tech/support them as entrepreneurs. They’re smart, good people and open-minded. And, I can go home after we’ve had a productive hour or two.

  38. KimFrance says:

    Thanks for your incredibly heartfelt and candid responses today, everyone. They are amazing.

  39. christine says:

    The choice to have or not to have, or even the circumstance leading to a life without kids is completely personal and should be respected, but I do question some of the rear-view mirror comments about seeing kids misbehaving or observing teens who seem rudderless etc.
    Being a parent contains a rich internal world that has nothing to do with these casual observations. The joy and reward is usually far beneath the surface and private.

    • lisa says:

      I’m glad you’ve found what is right for you. I agree with you on the comments about “rudderless teens”. I’m not one to stereotype by generation. It’s reductive and unfair to all of us. We all go through similar developmental stages. I’m sure GenX me appeared rudderless and a horror to Boomers. And, as I get older, the last thing I want is to be lumped into “all old people do ____”.

      Your last comment is one that works well for both sides, I think. The joy I feel at not parenting is not found in the stereotypes, me at a restaurant or reveling in disposable income. Rather, it’s more private and not what can really be seen.

  40. Wendela says:

    I was certain I didn’t want kids or marriage until suddenly, when I was 30, I realized I did want kids some day. I would have been happy to wait another 20 years (I was pretty happy without them), but of course one can’t postpone forever (biological clock is real), and I think I would have regretted not having them. Having been raised by a single mother I was sure I didn’t want to be one, so I began looking for someone to marry and raise kids with. I love the kids I have and am grateful for the chance to do this in my life. However, it’s really clear how much I have had to give up in order to do this with my life, and I can think of all kinds of wonderful things a person could do with a life if kids aren’t in the picture. I completely understand the choice not to have them! I am glad society is a bit more accepting of various life choices and hope that we can be allies to one another despite taking different paths in life, and that we can all find peace in whatever path we choose.

  41. Robin says:

    It never happened naturally. I never wanted it enough to “make” it happen. I saw women who did and that’s not how I wanted to live. I wanted to live a life; I didn’t want to live to be a Mom.

  42. Esther says:

    I wanted them, he didn’t, we both had a full plate with complicated eldercare and demanding careers – my friends said I could convince him or trick him or something, but it seemed cruel to me to force a baby into the world with only one parent really wanting it. I’m 41 now and am basically okay with the decision. We have cats, we have each other, and to be honest, don’t really want to go into the flaming hoops of IVF required of a pregnancy at this age. Like others say, we have more time and more dispensable income than many of our peers.

    But I definitely find myself in a strange boat – if I say that I did originally want kids, I sense people feel sorry for me or think that I regret my decision. I don’t like that! I put a lot of thought into this. If I bend the truth and say that we’re childfree by choice (without going into details), I’m often subject to comments like “Oh, I never wanted kids either” (which I don’t agree with), or “you never will know love like the love of a mother/child” which trigger my own sense having gotten the short end of the bargain stick (which I feel like I’ve pretty much worked through).

  43. Jenny says:

    Reading this thread makes me imagine what a lovelier world it would be if there was wide recognition and value of the many rich non-family relationships between adults and kids. Didn’t someone once say that it takes a village? I also wonder how the kids/no kids conversations and expectations would change if people were 100% confident of being beautifully cared for as they aged. Having kids doesn’t guarantee good care, of course, but imagine if no one thought it would. What kinds of rich relationships (or safety nets) would we build for old-age care?

    • Beth C. says:

      This was a huge thing for me. When I realized my window was closing a small, panicked part of me wondered if I should suck it up and have a kid just so there would be someone to look out for me when I get too old to take care of myself. This was especially on my mind seeing how much help my Grandma needed from my dad at the time. I had to give myself a mental “Snap out of it!” slap in the face Cher-style and remind myself that having a kid JUST to have a caretaker is a horrible idea.

      • Audrey says:

        I do not have any children – NOT by choice. I am one of those women who was more independent, never felt the urge to rush into marriage (wasn’t interested in raising a child on my own.) But always assumed the marriage & kids would happen – didn’t even think twice.

        I’m now 56, still single, and frankly very sad about it not having a child. Fortunately I have a relationship with some of my close friend’s children. But when I think what I did for my parents when they were older, I get close to panicky.

        I have managed to lead a relatively interesting life with great travels, great culture, & some wonderful men – but would have loved to.

  44. Dee says:

    I always wanted to have kids, but like many of you, the circumstances did not align with that desire. I was lucky in that friends who had children made sure to include me in their lives. I’m the godmother of a wonderfully quirky, smart 11 year old. In my mid-thirties i had a very strong urge for children, but had come to accept that motherhood may not be something I would ever experience. I remember one moment in particular when I was at a bus stop and I saw a little boy, about four, reach up so trustingly to hold his mum’s hand and an intense longing shot through me. I explored adoption but wasn’t confident I could manage raising a kid by myself. I made sure to be part of my friend’s kids lives as much as i could, and also filled my life with creative pursuits, travel and lots and LOTS of fun and adventure with friends and family. I even planned a year off for my fortieth birthday. Unexpectedly, around that time I met and fell in love with someone who was very open and interested in adoption (and was also coincidentally planning a sabbatical for the same year). We ended up getting married, traveling for a whole year, and after a lengthy process, adopting our beautiful daughter a few years ago. Unexpectedly, we were able to adopt her biological sibling recently. I never expected to have one child, let alone two. Life takes very unexpected turns.

  45. Sara says:

    I thought I always wanted to have kids.

    When I first met my now husband, I didn’t acknowledge that I was an alcoholic, so relatively early into my marriage as I started thinking about becoming sober (for myself and for my marriage — I was sick and tired of being sick and tired) pregnancy seemed a farther away priority, like after I got 90 days; after I hit a year (sober)

    But, my body had other plans: stopping drinking/detoxing from my daily Vodka/wine/”whatever was available” habit threw me into early menopause.

    So now, I work to be the best aunt ever. I show up for all 4 kids (ages 14-20) who are our siblings children. We babysit/house sit/party-prevent regularly for both families. I text, talk to all a few times a week.

    And it’s ok. It’s good. I’m happy with how my life is. Today.

  46. josiebella says:

    As I near 50 the choice not to have children is the one choice that I have never regretted. My partner of 14 years has two adult children so I have been a step parent but I have never felt the desire to be a parent myself. Irony of ironies however is that now I am a step grandparent which I totally and utterly love! I sometimes I feel that I am so lucky to have skipped the messy parenting stuff and gone straight to the great grandkiddy stuff!

  47. Eleanor says:

    I don’t have kids mostly by choice. For a while in my late teens and early twenties I assumed I would—why not? Then as I started working and figuring out what I wanted for my life, I realized kids weren’t a part of that. I’m a doting aunt and truly enjoy my friends’ kids, but having to deal with them 24/7/365 is my nightmare.

    What I hated as I got older (I’m now in my mid-50s) was the condescension I got from people when I said I didn’t want kids. “You’ll change your mind/you just need to meet the right person/your biological clock will kick in.” No, no, and no. If I’d really wanted kids, I’d have found a way to have them.

    Kids; no kids. Women should support one another regardless of their choice. Neither way to live has the edge.

  48. Kris says:

    No kids, by choice. My husband and I have been married for 13 years, and neither of us felt very strongly that we should have them. I think if one of us had wanted them the other would’ve gone with it, but we were both pretty much ambivalent. We have 7 nieces and nephews and lots of friends with kids, but we like our life and never felt like anything was missing. As we closed in on 40, we decided to make the decision once and for all. I was tired of hormonal BC, so he got The Snip. No regrets.

  49. Molly says:

    This thread is a balm.

    I am 41 and childless by a combination of circumstance and choice: married at 27, tried to get pregnant from 29-31, no luck, marriage ended (for good reasons, amicably and brought to light by the fertility struggle) and I decided at that point I would never sacrifice the “Connection” for the “Looks good on paper” relationship (which had been the problem in my first marriage.)

    And in a careful-what-you-wish for twist, I met someone soon after my first marriage ended and he and I had (and still have) a truly great intellectual connection and chemistry. He, however, was ambivalent about kids and right around the time my biological clock started ticking, he lost his job and we spent a few years deep in financial stress, emerging on the other end with me in my late 30s and him afraid of having kids, knowing what the stress of unemployment feels like.

    I should mention that through all of this, we were not using birth control, so it was obvious there was also a fertility challenge, and our decision was around whether or not to “Try” with medical intervention. We chose not to “Try” with a capital T and instead went the, “Whatever happens, happens” route. A baby never happened.

    I have struggled with this for the past few years, and honestly am not sure if I ever *won’t* struggle with it. I feel deeply sad that my body and my timing didn’t allow parenthood to be an option for me, and also sometimes reckon with my decision to maintain a [deeply fulfilling] relationship with someone who was less interested in being a parent than I was. But, can’t go backwards, right?

    What I struggle with now is how limiting the dialogue is for us non-mothers. I’m hypersensitive to this, I admit, but it feels sometimes that women who just…don’t have kids have no voice or representation, and that motherhood is the ultimate validation of worth. I look forward to reading your book, Kim, because I have faith that you will speak to how worthy women can be, regardless of whether we have become mothers.

    • lisa says:

      Molly, I’m sorry that you’ve had to struggle so. I very much relate to the idea that women who do not have children have a perceived lesser worth, especially as we get older. Once we enter “a certain age” society really expects us to bask in the glow of our offspring, happy they are getting attention and content to just live vicariously. Society places very little value on an older woman who is not a doting grandmother, parent.

      p.s. I realize I’ve been super chatty on this thread. I can’t help it as I don’t have a lot of places where I can discuss this

      • Molly says:

        Thank you Lisa and I agree – there are FAR too few places to discuss this openly and warmly.

      • vishy says:

        I myself keep reading through these, days later, as I feel a connection with similarly storied women, in a judgement-free zone. It’s something I can’t speak about in real life as it’s just too intimate a subject. I’m grateful for how candid everyone has been here.

    • Val says:

      Your last paragraph really resonates with me. It seems like when you reach a certain age you’re “supposed” to be a mom, and if you’re not, you’re on the fringes. For example, even TV commercials: look at ads for cleaning products– they’re always marketed to moms, as if childless people don’t do laundry or clean the house!

      Or at work, how often it is assumed that I can/should work late because I don’t have kids to go home to. It’s hard to truly feel okay about not having kids when society tries to make you feel like you’re so odd for it.

      • S. says:

        All of this resonates with me, too, especially your post, Val. All I can say is YES, ditto. So often the subtext is the other person (or the culture) wondering what the hell kind of a woman doesn’t have children?

        I have to admit an abiding empathy with and respect for dear Jennifer Aniston, by the way. For years the tabloids obsessed about her prospects for motherhood, and she fended them off with wit and grace. Finally, a couple of years ago she wrote an essay explaining what an insult it is to imply that a woman’s life is incomplete without children and pointing out that most of us are (as the comments here show!) mothering in one way or another: animals, nieces and nephews, students, kids of all kinds. They seem to have dropped the subject after that.

  50. Tricia says:

    I wasn’t sure how I would feel about having a kid right up to me being wheeled into surgery for a c-section lol. I made jokes to my husband of now 20 years that with me in surgery and him waiting outside it was a perfect time for him to bail if he’d ever felt the need. I was 38 and had several miscarriages before we had our daughter, naturally if you can believe. Wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get pregnant but kind of ok with it, since I’ve never been a kid person. Didn’t really want to head down the path of in vitro. It just seemed like so much money and struggle for something I wasn’t certain about.

    People just thing that it is ok to harass women if they don’t have kids by a certain point and I just don’t get it. My daughter is the greatest (in my humble opinion) kid. She’s 5, loves David Bowie, Darth Vader and hates the movie Frozen. We still travel and do most of the things we did before. And if I didn’t have her, my life would have been full and my husband and I would have been fine. None of my closest friends have kids and I completely understand why. It’s so much work and how society treats you when you are a woman and a mother is frankly, depressing in a lot of cases. My kid gets lots of super cool Aunties and Uncles and that is just the best.

    • S. says:

      And then there’s also the way society treats you if you’re a woman and you *don’t* have kids. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t if you’re a woman in this world, it seems.

  51. Anne says:

    No kids, mostly by choice. Growing up I never wanted to have them, but when I married my second husband, we decided we try see what might happen. The resulting miscarriage saddened us both, but in the grieving process we realized that we had been going down the path that everyone expected us to go down, not the one we wanted to go down. After realizing that, we hopped back on the birth control wagon and went on our merry way. I don’t doubt that we would have been good parents, but in the end, it wasn’t right. There are moments that I wonder what might have been, but I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences I’ve had with him.

  52. Karen says:

    No children, by choice. Do I regret it? No, not really. I was bored by other children when **I** was a child. I confess, though, that it limited the pool of available men. I lost a number of boyfriends when they would finally accept that I meant it: “NO. REALLY. NO KIDS.” And now here I am — alone at 55 and very much feeling on the fringes of life. Yes, I have friends and family (including nieces and nephews and godchildred) in my life. I have a busy career. But as a single woman who isn’t a parent, I don’t fit in anywhere. It’s made me wonder, “If I’d been willing to have just ONE child, would I have ended up with ______ and be happily married now? Or divorced and struggling to enforce a child support order?”

    • Tricia says:

      I hate to break it to you but I have a kid and I’m not sure I fit in anywhere either. Most parents drive me batty.

  53. Jill says:

    No kids by deliberate choice. It’s been the single greatest decision I’ve ever made. For a while I thought I wanted to be a mother, but after years of thinking on it I realized it was because I didn’t think I had a choice. Everyone I knew who wasn’t a mom was unhappy with the reason and I thought I’d be too.

    I met my husband who was very upfront about not wanting kids and it made me realize I didn’t either. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

  54. Dusa says:

    I remember the moment vividly: I was in 6th grade and talking with a good friend about things we were never going to do. She said she was never getting married and I said I was never having kids. 42 years later she’s still living with her high school sweetheart and I’m kid free. And zero regrets.

  55. Jules says:

    I’ve been married for 24 years and we never wanted kids. We separated for four years when I was 37 and around the same time I found out I couldn’t have kids for medical reasons. As soon as I found that out, I felt horrible that my option had been taken away. We ended up getting back together at 41 years old and decided to adopt. We took a long time trying to decide if we should go through with it, and ended up getting a baby at 45. We are baby crazy, but honestly, it’s a hard change at this age. My knees and back are not as awesome as they used to be. On the flip side, I have so much more patience now than I would have earlier in life. The harder decision now is do I quit or stay in the work force. I want to stay home with my new baby, but I also know that once I leave my job, I will have a hard time getting back into it in the future.

  56. Trixie says:

    My choice? To live fully in what is my circumstance.

    I survive, and respect, the days when I miss having children so much I ache.
    I revel in the joy that is the wonderful life I have with my husband that would not have been possible if we had the family we planned.

    I’ve always felt it was a little of both that that got me to 48 with no children. A medical crisis that resulted in early menopause and a decision not to pursue adoption or surrogacy. For me it’s too complicated to limit it (if pressed) to one or the other.

  57. Ali says:

    I love reading this so much – thank you all for sharing.

  58. a says:

    I spent too many years with someone who was vehemently opposed to having kids. Now that window is closing fast, but I’m mostly okay with it. (Sometimes I do feel ashamed that I’m single and childless.)

  59. Lucia says:

    I don’t have children and think it is unlikely I will have them. I was in a relationship with a male partner for just under 7 years in my late 20’s/early 30’s and felt a lot of societal pressure about getting married and having children. A couple of years after we broke up, I met my female partner, and we are getting married later this year.

    I was really surprised at the relief I felt when things started to get serious with my female partner and I realised that I didn’t need to necessarily be a birth mother and sole primary carer for a child. Of course, many fathers do take this role on and/or provide excellent caring for their children – but for me, the realisation that I would find it a heavy burden made me realise that I actually did not really want to be a birth mother.

    I love my nephews much and get to be a supportive aunt – we’ll see what happens as my partner hasn’t made her mind up yet. If it’s important for her to have a child I will be with her all the way, but if not, that’s ok too.

  60. Mimi says:

    I had a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy in my late 20s, when marriage #2 was new. When the pregnancy ended I remember a great sense of relief, partially because I was afraid of being a mother, scared that I would see qualities in my child that I didn’t like in myself. Fertility science wasn’t quite as advanced then as it later became. I did start fertility treatments but quickly decided I didn’t want my life to be about doctors, medical procedures and that kind of success or failure metric. I felt I had other things to do and seldom looked back, especially from the heights of a great and fulfilling career. After the ectopic I did feel somewhat guilty because my then husband wanted more kids. (He had a daughter from his first marriage.) I found stepmothering challenging, although she was mostly a good kid. But I’d sometimes think, “My child would never do or say (fill in the blank.)” So I knew I didn’t want to adopt. Later, when I dated between marriages I met men who were eager to breed, for whom I was obviously not a desirable mate. I don’t regret not having kids, but I have sometimes felt like damaged goods for not being able to reproduce. Note that that isn’t the same as truly wanting children. My current husband and I met in our 50s, so children weren’t an option. I’d never longed for motherhood in the abstract, but when you’re in love with someone and contemplate sharing that experience, the prospect has more appeal. And yet when we disagree about dog rearing I think how many conflicts raising a child could engender! (Are you reading large loads of ambivalence between the lines here?) This might offend some mothers, but I do feel that some of my needs to love and nurture are satisfied by our dog. He has opened my heart, enriched my soul, taught me selflessness and generosity.

  61. Mimi says:

    And one more thing: I recommend “Difference Maker,” an essay on being childless by choice by Meghan Daum in her collection “Unspeakable.” It was first published in The New Yorker 9/29/2014 so it can be found in their archive. She also edited a book of essays on the topic, “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids.” I haven’t read it.
    The flood of responses to topics like this are amazing. Aren’t women wonderful?

  62. Lara says:

    Childfree by choice at 38. I have never wanted kids, not sure exactly why. I had a somewhat rough childhood, tons of hereditary family issues like addiction, no biological clock to speak of. At a certain point, I think it came down to my sincere belief that children, if had, should be wanted with a whole heart. Kids know if they are resented.

    Like an earlier commenter, I agree that mothers are treated hypocritically in our society. So are childless women. I figured if I would be judged and stereotyped regardless, I might as well choose the path I preferred, married with a pet or two. My husband and I adore and spoil the heck out of our prickly feral rescue cat and overeager, loving rescue hound dog.

    I live in the South, so I’ve had to be pretty defensive about this decision. Lots of people—strangers, family members, medical professionals—have insisted I will change my mind, that I will never experience love, my husband will/should leave me, or worse. I even made it a non-negotiable condition of all my romantic relationships while I was dating in my 20s and early 30s.

    In 2015 I was diagnosed with hormone positive breast cancer. I’m doing fine & am disease free now, but pregnancy is now 100% off the table due to the massive hormone surge that might cause a recurrence.

    Now that it’s medically unwise for me to have kids, I find myself able to appreciate and enjoy my friends’ children more and that has been such a wonderful surprise.

    My husband, thankfully, has always been on the same page as me. We are now working to start a business together.

    • DeDe says:

      One of the reasons I never had kids was because I had thyroid cancer as a teen, so hormone surges would be an issue for me, too (along with a much higher risk of preeclampsia). Glad to hear your are disease-free!

      • Lara says:

        Thanks & I hope you’re doing well these days too! Going through that in your teens must have been so difficult and isolating.

    • Dea says:

      Just wanted to say that I love this: ” I figured if I would be judged and stereotyped regardless, I might as well choose the path I preferred.”

      Wise words, and good for so many situations.

      Glad that you are healthy. Good luck with your business!

  63. Tara says:

    No children by a combination of choice, ambivalence & circumstance. It was never high on my list but I thought if I had a partner who felt strongly about it I’d make the decision then. That never happened and the older I got and saw single friends have children on their own or rush marriage or stay in a bad relationship to have children (because it will fix things) the more I knew that would never be my path. Also having severe depression issues thru most of my 20’s and early 30’s gave me lots of doubts about being a good caretaker.

  64. Carrie says:

    I am 48 and child-free by choice. And I am okay with this 95% of the time. When I was 25 my sister had my beloved nephew/godson and within a few months I knew I didn’t want to have a child for many reasons but mostly because I believed I would be an overbearing mother who would probably mess my kid up. My husband didn’t have a great childhood so when we met nearly 20 years ago it was a blessing that we were on the same page. But the thing I wanted to share is this: I reconnected with one of my H.S. BFF’s several years ago. She has three kids and when she asked me why I didn’t have any, and upon hearing my explanation, she dropped her fork and said: “I never even thought of not having kids… I just thought that is what I had to do”. She was so genuine and to this day I wonder how many women would admit such a thing (assuming they felt it of course!). Thanks Kim for another great topic!

  65. Rachel says:

    My epiphany at about 14 was that I would never marry or have children. I experienced a vivid clarity, as if I could see the future. I was okay about it.

    Now I am a month away from turning 50 and I’ve been married to a woman for almost 20 years (we ritually wed our lives long before it was “legal”) and we have teenage twin sons. These two realities still live in me. At 14 I knew the life that the larger culture expected of me as a girl was not one I could live, and I couldn’t envision the one I–we–have created. Maybe that is why I rail against any expectations of what women are supposed to do biologically. Amidst all the damn much that we are resisting, I will keep resisting the idea that biology is destiny, that motherhood is inherently sacred or that there is one way to life a rich, rewarding, growing life.

  66. Dea says:

    I am 47 and I have never felt a (sustained) desire for a child/children, although there were occasional fleeting pangs during my late 20s/ early 30s–usually just minutes long, and the feeling would dissipate with any contact with a real-life child or even the sound of a children’s TV program. I used to spend a lot of time examining my absence of the mothering-chip and worrying that I would regret it some day (all good so far). I think my decision boils down to needing a lot of alone-time. I find other people (of all ages) just really draining, even if I like them a lot. I also worked as a nanny for 3 summers during college, and although I really loved the kids and the families, I just felt so bored. So bored. Nearly comatose with boredom. People have said that it is different when they are your own, but I wasn’t willing to take that chance. What finally helped me feel comfortable with my decision was that I contrasted how I felt about having children with how I felt about other things that I really wanted. I really wanted to get into grad school, I really wanted to get my Ph.D., I really wanted to get a job in academia, I really wanted a nice sofa, I really wanted a dog. So I knew what it meant to want things and to put in the effort to get them, and I didn’t feel anything like that about raising a child. I luckily met and married someone who felt the same way (during rocky spells early in our relationship, I think our mutual desire not to have kids was our glue. We didn’t think we could find anyone else that felt that way). Thanks for bringing this up. I am finding the responses really interesting, and I love your blog.

  67. EN says:

    I have always known even as a kid i never wanted kids, and i remember telling my family and friends at a young age. my brother was a problem child and there was so much constant conflict in our home that i felt on a visceral level. i recall observing what my parents were going through with him and thinking i would never ever want to deal with that and spend my life like that. couldn’t wait to get away from that situation. i have also never felt the biological urge over the years even though i was/am open to changing my mind, as i know life brings unexpected things.

    in my mid 20s i fell in love with an incredible man who has a child so i have had to be a step mom. it was ironic, as i was the one person i knew of who did not want kids and i felt very conflicted in the beginning stages of our relationship [instability of the child’s mother did not help]. i stayed with him though and raising his son part time has been ok though not something i had intended for my life. he is a good kid. my family hates and resents that i don’t want kids and the stepson is not “enough” for them. my choice not to have my own kids has affected the inheritance they claim they would have left me, since apparently a life without biological children is less valuable.

    i’m in my late 30s now and i have endometriosis which could affect my fertility. oh well, i still want nothing to do with pregnancy or having a kid. i can’t wait to live out my life with my man, whose son is almost grown, and have freedom. and pets.

    i have never, ever questioned my own gut feeling on not wanting kids, regardless of what anyone has said, and i am proud of that.

    • Mimi says:

      There’s a special place in heaven for stepmothers.
      It is a hard, thankless job. Experiences and feelings about being a stepmother could make an interesting topic for this group.

  68. Gables girl says:

    No kids by choice. My husband and I had pretty awful parents. We married young and decided in our mid-30s we didn’t want to do it. Of course our parents were horrified The last time I saw my dad alive in the hospital he was lamenting to the doctor that he would never have grandchildren and what a disappointment I was. We have never regretted our choice.

  69. Val says:

    I am 42 and don’t have kids, not by choice. I always assumed I’d have kids– I never really imagined that there was a possibility it just wouldn’t happen. I got married at 30, we started trying when I was 32, and I just couldn’t get pregnant. I went through all kinds tests–some incredibly painful– and there was nothing wrong with me or my eggs or whatever. My husband checked out fine, too. “Unexplained infertility.”

    The tests and treatments and charting and constant doctor appointments were leaving me a basket case– it was taking over my life– so I decided to stop. No IUI, no IVF, I just didn’t think I could handle it emotionally. And I’m not sure adoption is for us.

    So here we are. I’m okay with it mostly, and we enjoy our lifestyle. But there are regrets and occasionally some sad moments, especially when I see my friends with their kids.

  70. M says:

    I’m 38 years old. No kids -100% choice. I can’t tell you how many times I’d been told my nearly complete strangers that I’d change my mind. Will I also change my mind about my dislike for licorice? I have a husband and two large dogs -it’s the life I always craved. We have time to travel, explore and hike as we wish. We both work full-time, and to be honest I don’t consider myself a driven career woman. I work to enjoy my life. I’ve never had the maternal desire that I always saw in friends and co-workers. My dogs are my children, and they love me unconditionally. No regrets whatsoever.

  71. April says:

    Everyone’s stories are so interesting and so well said.

    I’m 38 and have never wanted kids. I have wonderful parents. Sometimes I wonder if it was their sheer wonderfulness and dedication to being my parents that made me understand that such a massive undertaking wasn’t for me. I also teach little kids for a living. I love my work and the kids are my teachers, too. They bring so much joy, but I think that experiencing this slice of life with children helps me to know for sure where my boundaries are when it comes to having kids of my own.

    Growing up, whenever girlfriends spun stories about future motherhood, I always felt dread and suffocation. I loved playing with dolls because I wanted to sew them clothes! I never imagined they were my babies. A few years ago, I learned that if I’d wanted to try for kids, I’d have a hard time conceiving. Sometimes I think we are more driven by biology than we know. Like others have said, I’ve never heard my biological clock tick and I don’t think I have one. I’m so glad, though, that other people who want to be parents but whose biology doesn’t cooperate have options.

    I’ve been grateful that for the most part, my desires have overlapped nicely with my life circumstances. It’s possible the right man could have swayed me, but I’m not sure I would have been happy as a mother, and it’s a wash because the right man hasn’t come around! I have some close friends who have wanted to be moms but haven’t had the opportunity, so mostly I just feel grateful not to have had to wrestle too hard with it either way.

  72. Laurie says:

    I married in my mid thirties and spent until 40 caring for elderly relatives. At 40, I realized that when I looked ahead to the next 20 years of my life, I couldn’t imagine taking care of someone else, like a child. My husband did not feel the need to be a father although he said he knew he would love our child and would consider it if it was important to me. I had always assumed I would have children and have surprised myself somewhat by not doing so. I am now 45, married and at peace with my choice.

  73. Angelina says:

    It was a combo. By choice until I was 38 and then by the time I was 43 and figured out, I would have to do ivf and somersaults and have my sweet hubby do the same, decided it was a sign of not meant to be. It hurt for a long time but not anymore. At half a century, I have had the pleasure of being very close to my nieces and God children which has been fulfilling in so many ways.

  74. Hick from Styx says:

    I did have a child. I set out to focus on my education, career and travel. My nieces and nephews brought me joy.

    Then I changed my mind about becoming a mother. Not much has changed in some workplaces since the 1950s when it comes to pregnant employees. My boss was a knuckle-dragging throwback who voiced his disapproval of my “self-induced” condition in public; I ended up with a bad case of hyperemesis and it went from there to pregnancy-induced hypertension. The job won’t love you back, I learned.

    I became one of those modern parents who spent lots of time driving to my child’s activities. That is where they socialize now, not on a playground. This is also the generation that may never know steady, life-long employment, so having side interests in the way of their own hobbies and skills is critical. It’s the era of underemployment, and those interests maybe lifesavers (or even job opportunities).

    I’ve learned to accept that my life isn’t all about me, which was a learning curve after so many years focused on my goals. I’ve learned that the best-laid plans will go awry.

    This journey is the most difficult and frightening thing I’ve done. I won’t glorify it.

    Mother’s Day is not something I enjoy. My Mother’s Day is my child’s birthday. My love for my now-adult child is boundless. I will always love him, no matter what.

    The official Mother’s Day is something I dread because it reminds me of loss. My own mother is in the final stages of dementia, which is intensely sad. I hesitate to wish any mother a Happy Mother’s Day, because it reminds me of my sister’s loss. Her daughter died a few years ago from an aggressive astrocytoma, diagnosed after an emergency airlift to the hospital where she died. My niece was a mother to a preschooler. My sister’s loss is ongoing, as she helps raise her beautiful little granddaughter for whom memories of mommy are fading.

    All we really have of value in life is love. That’s what motherhood has taught me. I don’t want cards or flowers or gifts or brunches. This knowledge is the only gift I will ever need as a Mother’s Day present.

  75. AmyM says:

    I’m 49. When I was younger, I just sort of always assumed I’d have kids eventually. Then eventually came and went and I never did, and I’m fine with it. I do occasionally wonder what it would have been like, but that’s happening less and less with each passing year. At this stage, I’d love to find someone with well-adjusted adult children who are having kids and take on the role of cool step-grandma.

  76. Ellen says:

    So many of these posts are from those childless by choice. As the mother of 22 and 25 year old sons, I can definitely say that motherhood is not for everyone. There is nothing worse than a parent who does not truly want to be one. And when you have children, at least for me, that is what I did with my life – at least 21 years of it. And I was a lawyer, so it is not as if I didn’t have career options. There is something amazing about taking a baby who would die if you left it alone, and raising it into a fully functioning adult. But boy, that comes at a price. My husband and I divorced after 30 years of marriage – after our last son left, I realised that there was no way I was sublimating what I wanted to do to another person – and an adult,no less. So I’m on my own (and enjoying it,most of the time), but am so happy to have my boys. I guess my point is, there are sacrifices no matter what decision you make, and motherhood is not for everyone. I admire those who feel it is not for them and have to put up with all the judgments and assumption that society foists on couples. Parenting is HARD, the worrying and anxiety can be crippling, and it can also be unbelievably rewarding. No easy answers…

  77. Jessa says:

    I’ve always had a relationship with children. I started babysitting at age 10–when I was still a child! Went through American Red Cross babysitter’s certification at age 12; and continue to work in elementary education, with supplemental nannying over the summers (because let’s face it: working with children does not pay). But children are my people. Their imaginations, their personalities so strong from the first.
    Yet the idea of having one *stresses me out*. I’m not sure if it’s overexposure, or innate anxiety. My husband is also anxiety prone. I can’t imagine who would deal with a 3 a.m. emergency. And how would I sleep? Additionally, we each had parents with serious health problems when we were “of the age” to start having babies. As the childless one, a lot of the responsibility fell on me. My husband is an only child of divorce. The day-to-day reality of seriously ill parents did not put us in a place to seriously want kids. Not that I’m blaming my dad or mother-in-law for this (may they rest in peace).
    Yet I love my work with children. Every day, we have the strangest, most interesting conversations. They are generally happy, and communicative, and interested in stories and the world. I can’t imagine doing anything else (despite the salary issues).
    What surprises me is that I have almost no relationship with my SIX nieces and nephews. I love them, and visit (from far out of state) whenever I can arrange it. But I’ve never had them come visit me, though two are of an age where they could come solo and get spoiled…
    Instead, I have close relationships with my friends’ kids. When Mommy or Daddy need a break, they come over for crafts and baking, or a walk to the library, or just some time walking the dog around the neighborhood.
    So I guess I feel guilty that I’m such a terrible aunt. (Especially as I used the fecundity of my brothers as a cop-out with my folks, who LOVE their grandbabies). But my yellow lab is all the baby love I need in my home life.

  78. Danielle says:

    O.k., I so wanted to post on this earlier but it’s the end of the semester, and I’m up to my ears with grading, writing, etc. We have been trying to conceive for three years. We have done it all. Surgery, check. IUIs, check. IVF, check. Husband’s stuff up to snuff, check. This past Friday I found out I was pregnant and then over the weekend, Mother’s Day, knew it was slowly leaving–they call them chemical pregnancies. Really grateful to have even gotten pregnant at this point, I’m 40, but it was painful. Infertility is painful. However, it is a self-identified status. As many on this forum have so beautifully written about, one can want kids or not wants kids but not identify as infertile (rude term anyway). I honestly don’t know what our future will look like. We’ve made a choice to live in this emotional and physical hell for the past few years, but it hasn’t been all bad. I do think this has brought us closer together and pushed us to communicate in more effective ways. If I’m honest, it’s really difficult to separate out what is cultural appropriation from genuine desire, perhaps it’s impossible. We live in a pronatalist society, one that values and rewards families, motherhood, children… I wonder if I want a child simply because it’s normative. Couples without children have to sulk in the shadows because something is “wrong” with them. We certainly have felt that way. Though, of course, that’s ridiculous. It was refreshing and touching to read so many insightful and honest responses here. It gives me courage as we move forward; there is another way to frame this, another way to live fully should we decide to close this chapter. This was all over the place, and I think this post is kind of old now. I just wanted to share as a woman for whom this matter is not settled.

    • Jenny says:

      Just wanted to say that I read this, appreciated it, and felt it in my heart. I have one child, and ran into the soul-eating buzz saw of infertility when trying (and failing) to have a second, complicated by massive ambivalence on my spouse’s part. It’s deeply admirable that you have found some relationship deepening in your experience. Infertility is a terrible mindf*ck, and you seem to be dealing with it with exceptional grace. You have all the courage you need, no matter what happens.

      • Danielle says:

        Thank you Jenny. You’re too kind. Soul-easting buzz saw, yes! That’s excellent.

  79. ALG says:

    Childless by choice, but more of a combo of the two choice/circumstance. I really want/wanted to be a mom, but more than a mom. A parent. but I’m a child development specialist who spent my 20’s working with young children and families, which, along with my own upbringing, framed my decision not to choose to be a single parent. I say choose bec. life is unpredictable and there are many reasons and ways one becomes a single parent, and if push came to shove, I know I could do it alone, but I didn’t want to choose that from the get go, bec. single parenting can be lonely and isolating and scary in ways that having a partner would ease (if that said person of course was present and involved but that’s another thread for another time). So, here I am late 40s no partner no kids. And yes there is a little ache I have that is buried and sometimes surfaces, but I stand by my choice and who knows what the next years will bring and what options will present themselves. I sometimes wonder though as I’ve watched my friends with children and spouses/partners where would I be and who would I be at this point with the benefit of unconditional love and support that can exist within a family unit and married unit. What does that feel like to know that in this small universe you are loved and desired and connected? It exists to an extent in my friendships and in some work and social circles and with my family but it’s not that soul deep connection. So that’s my musing on this that I don’t often admit to but am grateful to be able to type some of that here.

  80. Barbara says:

    I don’t have kids, by choice. I told my now husband that was my stance WAY too early in our relationship (b/c he was considering moving to my town and it felt like the right thing to do). He thought about it, and then thanked me for making a conscious choice about parenthood. I went through lots of stages of “reasons” until I finally got clear on “it’s not something I want to do or feel driven to do.” I’m now 53, married for 22 years, happy with my life and choices. I’ve had every kind of reaction – people literally walking away from me at a party when I said none of the kids there were mine, people telling me I’d change my mind (i used to reply “What if I don’t? Can I bring him/her to your house to live?), ppl being shocked that I’d play with their kids or build weirdo rituals with my nieces, hiding it because it made me feel like a freak in my 30s. B/c my husband and I travel tons, most people assume we picked seeing the world over having kids, but it wasn’t that way. We made a decision not to be parents. We made a decision to see lots of the world. Two separate things. What’s the most fun is that I’ve become the de facto person people come to talk to when they’re thinking about starting a family or not. It’s nice to present an alternative POV, but it’s such a personal choice. Thanks for this topic, Kim. Presume you’ve read “Shallow Selfish and Self-Absorbed” the Meghan Daum-curated collections of essays on childless women?

  81. Reese says:

    I didn’t by choice but not a choice I made for myself. I made the choice for my unborn child. My first marriage was to a man who I believed would not be a good father and I felt it was selfish of me to have a child with this man for my own personal gain. So, I guess you could say that I loved my unborn/never conceived child too much for that guy to be his/her father.

    Fast forward 17 years, I’m remarried to a wonderful man but have perhaps missed the boat on the opportunity to have children at this point.

    I don’t have regrets and I love my current life but I do have the occasional wonder of what motherhood might feel like.

  82. Kate says:

    I’ve never wanted children. When I see my friends who have children, I wonder what it’s like while at the same time knowing that motherhood is not something I want, think I would enjoy or would be good at. It’s really that simple.

    My partner never actively wanted children. I suspect he would have gone for it had I wanted it, or had he ended up with someone who wanted children, but it wasn’t really on his radar.

    Last year I found myself pregnant at the age of 41 and had an abortion. I can’t even say I considered having the baby at all, and my overwhelming reaction to the procedure being over was relief.

  83. Amy says:

    I fall into weird territory…

    I have always have put my career first, I needed to survive. I lived and moved to various big cities and away from a support system. Being a single mom was never an option by choice, I saw how all the single moms struggled and didn’t want to go it alone. And the right guy just never came along that I would want to have babies with.

    At age 30, I thought it might never happen for me, so I donated my eggs. I don’t really think of myself as a mother, but I suppose I will if someone knocks on my door one day and says I am. Only a couple friends know, as I was afraid my family would be devastated if they found out.

  84. janine says:

    I almost didn’t have kids. I feel like I could have been happy either way and fine with either outcome. I have a son, and I had him somewhat later in life (I’m “one and done” – he’s it for me!) I love him SO MUCH, more than anything or anyone, so I am glad I had him. He’s a really special kid – so much fun and so smart and wonderful. I do NOT judge people who don’t have kids. I’m 100% pro choice in all reproductive matters, and that means I support people have zero kids or 5 kids, if that’s their choice.

  85. Lisa says:

    I have not had kids by choice and I have never regretted it. Just as strongly as some people KNOW they are meant to be mothers, I know that I am not. It has certainly affected nearly all romantic relationships I’ve been in (they wanted kids, I did not), so “single and childless” has gone hand-in-hand for me. I, too, often wonder when people question me about my choice if they are second guessing their own.

  86. Ellen says:

    I never felt the pull for motherhood when I was young (baby dolls were sort of a hassle compared to books and games), but the first time I babysat for a neighbor as a teen I was positive it was not for me. I aced the after-school first aid/babysitting course, but real life was not such a success. That poor toddler cried and cried when her mom left for work, and I tried to soothe her by singing songs and playing catch with cookies. No luck. Three hours later I called my mom in defeat, and sat on the floor to cry along with the child until she came over to help. The second my mom walked into the house, the child stopped crying, ran to her, and fell asleep in her lap. I got a paper route the next day and never looked back. 🙂

  87. Jocelyn says:

    I so appreciated reading all this, just to know I’m not alone. I very much want children and my husband does not, but I love him so much and don’t want to end a beautiful thing. It’s so hard. I work with children with developmental disabilities and just adore the kids so much, see the love and pride and joy in their mothers eyes. Mother’s Day was really difficult. I’m 32 now and I just keep praying somehow this will resolve, I’ll find a way to have both my marriage and a child. But I don’t know if it will happen— so much pain and longing. And yes logically I know there are pro/cons, I will gain so much in a childfree life, and motherhood is stressful and challenging but none of that matters when my heart and body are screaming at me to have a baby, now. Such deep intense feelings.
    Going