I often hear couples complain about being asked about or pressured to have kids. This happens right after they get married, if they are of a certain age or if they are together for what others consider to be an “acceptable” amount of time.
There is a societal script that places having children as a necessary step to having a “successful” life. Kids are the final destination. We treat people as if they should want and have kids. But this is not always what people want or can do.
So, before asking someone when they will have kids consider the following:
- They have probably thought about whether or not they wanted kids, as well as the timing. If they choose not to share their thought process or decision with you –respect that.
- This question may add stress to the relationship. If a couple hasn’t made the decision yet or are not on the same page, asking them about kids can be a triggering or stressful conversation for them to have with others.
- Their timeline should not be influenced by people outside the relationship. (So why pressure them?)
- They may be struggling to conceive.
- Just because they are married or have been in a relationship for a while it doesn’t mean their relationship is ready for a child. (They might be miserable and fighting all the time.)
- Are you projecting your desires or beliefs onto them?
- Maybe they are happy without kids!
Having a child is a big, lifelong commitment that needs to be approached with real consideration and seriousness. Let’s allow people the space to actually do that. Let’s allow people to have preferences and make decisions.
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Having or not having a child impacts every relationship – for better or for worse. This is why it has to be a decision that aligns with everyone involved.
Is a child-free relationship right for you?
Talk about it. This is an important conversation to have with your current or potential partner. It’s a decision that when made unilaterally can be difficult (or unfair) for the other person. If a childfree relationship is what you want, your partner should know about it. We don’t need to justify our decision, but we do need to be honest. We can also talk about the fact that we don’t know what decision to make or that we have changed our mind. An important part of a childfree relationship is having both individuals on the same page.
Reflect on it. Regardless which way you’re leaning, what is your motivation? Is it grounded in fear, expectations, fear of missing out or anticipatory regret? Are you thinking of having or not having a kid because of your partner or because you are preparing for old age? I am not suggesting that these are not legitimate considerations, but remember that this decision will alter your entire life. Take a moment to explore what beliefs or assumptions you hold about family, kids and child-free relationships.
Lastly, whatever you decide, ask yourself: Does it align with who I understand myself to be?
Understanding that this is an individual decision (that it may be subject to change) is important. No one can make this decision for you. And, sometimes our desire and our reality don’t align. Maybe we want to have a child with our partner but due to health concerns, finances or personal trauma, we may decide not to. In this instance, both our desire and choice needs to be acknowledged and honored.
What you should know about childfree relationships
Voluntary childlessness is often considered selfish or irresponsible, but many childfree couples are far from selfish and very happy – even as they age!
And many prefer the term childfree as it has a more positive connotation than childless.
Child-free relationships are often equally fulfilling. And, let’s not forget the benefit of having more time to pursue passions, less financial responsibilities and the overall decreased sense of responsibility for someone else’s life. That being said, these couples often do need to be more proactive about their retirement plans and about building community, resources and meaning in their life.
A child gives an ongoing goal for the couple, while a couple without children may have to be more intentional about finding a mutual goal or a way to bond as time goes on.
Regardless if you choose a childfree relationship or to have a child, each dynamic comes with its benefits and costs. Consider what works for you, and let’s honor what works for others.
Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at [email protected]
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