Happy Mother’s Day! Now stop saying these 10 things to people who don’t want kids.
Hey, happy parents!
I’m psyched for you. You’re pleased with your life choice to grow one or more humans.
Truly, I’m happy for anyone who’s happy, except for maybe Gwyneth Paltrow, which is another conversation.
And I get it — you want to share that happiness and let everyone know how great this thing called “parenting” is.
As a marketer, I’m all for spreading the word about things you love: that adorable restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; the novel you couldn’t put down; the anti-aging face cream that’s transformed your collagen production and restored your neck to its baby-smooth glory. (In fact, feel free to reach out with recommendations.)
If you tell me you never watched “Breaking Bad,” prepare for a look of pity and an earful. I’m just trying to help.
But when a woman says she doesn’t want kids, doesn’t have kids, or isn’t planning to have kids, it’s a different story. Unless she asked your opinion, it’s neither helpful nor your place to try to talk her into it.
See, deciding not to have kids isn’t easy. At least, it wasn’t for me.
As I’ve written about in my book, Tough Titties (Hachette, 6/13, 2023), I had a long “on the fence” period where I didn’t want kids, but I so badly wanted to want them.
Actually, what I really wanted was for people to say, “You’ll be happy either way.”
I wanted examples of older, child-free people who were loving life.
I wanted baby-happy Us Magazine — and all the other mags that are the main incentive to go get a pedicure — to stop running their drooling, panting “Bump Watch” features and cover stories about “Heartbreak for Jen” (because poor Jennifer Aniston still hasn’t procreated) and, instead, run covers crowing, “Guess Which Joyful Celeb Isn’t Pregnant!” or “Star Couple Not Having Kids — And They’re Over The Moon!”
Most of all, I wanted people to stop saying these 10 things:
“You can always change your mind!”
First of all, you don’t know that. Not everyone can get pregnant, and not everyone can adopt.
But either way, what you’re implying is that you think I should change my mind.
What if you said, “I’m going to wear this dress I just bought to the party,” and I responded, “I like it! Plus, you can always change your mind”? Not exactly a hearty thumbs up.
“But you’d be such a great mom!”
Well, thank you. But I’m a pretty kickass non-mom.
Along those lines, are you sure you don’t want to be a professional wrestler? Really? That’s a shame, you’d be such a great wrestler!
“You don’t know TRUE love until you’ve had a baby”
Hold my earrings — the ones I can wear because I don’t have a baby. (Babies grab earrings and will rip them right out of your lobes like a mugger on a 1970s New York subway.)
Alas, I guess I’ll have to settle for off-brand, faux love — the only kind I’ll ever know. Sigh.
“Being a mom is the most important job in the world!”
What you’re saying is, your job as a parent is more important than my job-job.
I know you have to say that, because how else do you make sense of working around the clock — sometimes literally — for someone who doesn’t pay or even thank you? Maybe I’ll let you have this one.
(I’ll leave you to duke it out with the heart surgeons, world leaders, and firefighters.)
“You can always adopt!”
You’re assuming so many things. A, that I haven’t made a firm decision; B, that I’d be interested in adopting; and C, that adoption is a guaranteed option. I know people who’ve been turned down for adoption. Not so easy.
“You get to be the cool aunt!”
I know who you’re thinking of: the freewheeling, eccentric sitcom aunt who travels far and wide, brings the kids exotic souvenirs (like shrunken heads and hand-carved walking sticks), and regales them with inappropriate tales of her spicy international love affairs. “Oh, that sounds like something Omar Sharif said to me when I turned down his third marriage proposal.”
(…But beneath all the mystery and adventure, there is sadness.)
What you’re saying is, I have to have some sort of relationship to children to make me whole.
Hey, I love my niece and nephew. But I’m good!
“Do you not like kids?”
What if I don’t? Over and over, I hear women who don’t have kids rush to add, “But I love children.” Because, of course, you’re a monster (or, at the very least, less of a woman) if you don’t. Would it be OK if my answer were, “Eh”? Because it might be.
“Who’ll take care of you when you’re old?”
Don’t think this didn’t cross my mind when I was deciding. But I’ll turn the question back around. Who’ll take care of you? Do you honestly want your flesh and blood changing your adult diaper? And if the answer is yes, better have your kids sign an ironclad contract right now. You might raise the kind of dutiful humans who are up to that task, but you might not.
“Aren’t you worried you’ll regret it?”
This one used to throw me off. Yes, that was exactly what worried me. But I was way more worried I’d regret having them.
Almost everyone said, “I wasn’t sure about kids either, but I’ve never regretted it!” One bravely honest friend said, “I regret having kids. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have them.” What I really wanted was to hear from older couples, “We didn’t have kids and we never regretted it.” But you don’t hear those voices.
If anyone’s looking for that kind of status update, here you go: So far, so good! No regrets to report.
“But It’s the greatest joy in life!”
Nope. That would be vacationing at an adults-only resort. Or watching “Breaking Bad” for the first time. You’ve seen it, right?
I’ve heard all 10 of these responses.
(I’ve even heard one that I’d include as Number 11, but it feels too specific:
“Wait till you’re a Mommy. Your writing will go to a whole new level.”)
I will say that I’ve heard them less frequently since two things happened:
- In answer to “Do you have kids?” I now give a happy, definitive “Nope!” My “No” used to trail off wistfully, because I felt like it should. It was an invitation for input.
- I passed the age where I look like I’m in my “still deciding” years. Especially in broad daylight.
You might be wondering what you should say when a woman says she’s not having kids.
My advice? Do the same thing you’d do if she says she doesn’t eat hot dogs: Nod noncommittally and move on to the next topic.