Why, Oh Why, Didn’t I Have Kids?

Why don’t I have kids?  Because I never really wanted ’em.  They’re not for everybody, something I tried to explain to a woman I met recently.  She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language that she didn’t understand.  And I guess I kind of was, because she has four kids and couldn’t seem to shut up about them.  And, actually, she was more than just “a woman”, she was a new client so I felt it important that I be clear but oh so polite in my explanation because  I would like her to hire me again…even though she probably thinks of me as “that strange woman with no kids.” 

So on my walk home from the meeting, I started to think about what difference it makes in my life that I have given birth to no one.  A few things occurred to me but first, I need to caution that most of my friends have children and I love their children.  I have to say this because people with kids are so dang touchy about anything you say that sounds like “your kids aren’t fabulous all of the time.” 

Anyway, here’s what not having kids has meant to my life:

  • I’ve had to learn to hold a conversation that isn’t dominated by what my kids are or aren’t doing, seeing, wearing or thinking.  Many people use “my kids” as a default topic because it’s so easy, but I want them to stop taking the easy route and figure out something else to talk about.

  • I’ve learned to smile and act interested when they go on for much too long about their kids.  I’m pretty good at it.  Most people have no idea that I’m rolling my eyes in my mind. 

  • Here’s something no one has been able to explain to me satisfactorily.  I have to tread especially lightly on this one because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  And I’m not trying to; I’m not being sarcastic or flippant, I really don’t understand this one:  every year at Christmas, I receive lots of cards with photos of someone’s kids.  Not the whole family, just the kids.  Where are the parents?  Why aren’t they in the photograph?  What is the thinking that I would want pictures of the kids without the parents…when it’s the parents who are my friends?  And the following year,  I pull the cards from a drawer and find myself wondering “whose kids are these?”  This thing of let’s-send-out-cards-of-only-some-of-the-people-in-our-family is a little bizarre to me.

  • People sometimes ask me “who will take care of you when you’re old?”  I don’t know the answer to that…but I do know that nursing homes are filled with mothers and fathers who aren’t being visited by their kids.  Having children is no guarantee of anything.

  • Smart-mouthed teenagers.  Do I really have to go into this one…except to say I’m really glad there aren’t any living in my house.

The cutest baby in the world lives down the hall from me.  She is a real delight and I love watching her smile, laugh, learn new things, grow up…and then I give her back to her parents.  Just as it should be.

NOTE: My new book —The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree— has been published and is available hereand on Amazon.

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24 Responses to Why, Oh Why, Didn’t I Have Kids?

  1. Traci says:

    that *is* one cute baby…

  2. MilanoGirl says:

    I completely agree about the Christmas card photos of the kids only. I don't like it. I want a picture of my friend & her family, not just the kids. I think it's weird–I don't hang up those cards.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love your blog, and love the fact that there's someone else out there who feels about marriage and children the way I do – it's just not for me, and I've never had any doubts.
    The “who will take care of you when you're old?” question is one I always get too, and I think it's so ignorant! I mean, what guarantee is there that if I did have a kid that they will take care of me?! For example, one can look at our over-crowded prison system in the US. Those inmates are all someone's kid. Hope their parents didn't have them so they'd have someone to take care of them when they're old!
    There are no guarantees in life – getting married and having kids doesn't change that.

  4. Sandy says:

    Yes, yes – there you go again, reading my mind! I find the question itself insulting and far too intimate (would they ask about our sex life?). My niece told me she thought I would have made a wonderful mother – and I told her that I knew my limitations and what I was willing to sacrifice and made an informed decision that I have never regretted. Sometimes people take more time to consider a car purchase than they do in having a family. I think when you make the decision (for or against) and are content with it, that should be enough.

  5. Molly says:

    I also find the holiday cards with pictures of the kids but no parents to be strange.

    As you say Eleanore, I'm friends with the parents and want to see their picture.

    BTW, I bought you book, and even as a happily married woman, I loving it! Congrats, it's a winner….like you are!

  6. eleanore says:

    @April: Thanks so much for weighing in! You're the second parent who explained the “kids, no parents” photos and her answer was similar to yours. But c'mon, we want to see the whole family!

  7. April says:

    I'll speak up for the single parents when it comes to the holiday pics with just the kids. We don't have lots of opportunities where we can actually BE in the picture! And then, of course, there's our vanity. We don't like pics of ourselves, but we do like pics of our kids!
    But I do understand not wanting to have children. I have two, and I don't regret it, but like marriage, it's simply not for everyone.

  8. Laura says:

    I love reading your pieces. As a younger single woman still trying to figure my life out, I gather strength and inspiration from your posts to live my life on my terms. I do not think I want children. I have plenty of nieces and nephews that I adore. Countless times, though, I've been told that I will change my mind (because apparently my “mom” gene is suddenly going to kick in one day). I've even been told that I need to find a man because my eggs are getting old. I'm only 28! I've found that my life can be interesting and fulfilling without being married or having a kid so far. The comments used to really bother me, but they are getting easier to deal with. And I think you can be spinsterlicious whether you're are in your 20s or 90s and everywhere in between!!

  9. Annabelle says:

    I've wondered about the Christmas card thing too. I mean, the parents are my friends! Why would they not think I'd want to seem *them*?

  10. I feel the same way about Christmas cards. I want to see my friends as well as their kids. A few years ago, I had Christmas cards made with just a photo of me and my Holiday sentiments. It felt weird, almost a little arrogant, but then I thought, 'Why is a marriage or children a requirement for sending a photo card?'

    Presumably, I'm sending cards to people who care about me and who want to know what I'm up to, so they should be fine in getting a card that shows me enjoying the Irish countryside.

    It was oddly liberating to send that card. I haven't done one since, mainly because I've not found a photo I really like.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  11. jodie says:


    My great aunt Betty will be tickled to know that you're using her favorite phrase. I added 'and that's why we have 31 flavors' to the end of Betta's statement.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Oh so true. I've come to see that living for someone else, or through someone else, is easier than facing life solo. We who have never/never, can't blame anyone for our unhappiness or life choices. It's not selfish but demands deep self-reflection and personal responsibility. How many people would rush into a burning building to save the life of a stranger, but can't make personal changes that would greatly improve their own life?

  13. Onely says:

    I was in the post office and saw the back of a woman with three kids trying to corral them all, and she was snapping at one of the boys with such frustration that I recoiled inside.

    In an admittedly very judgemental way I thought, “I am so glad that is not my life,” and then she turned around and I saw she was a friend of mine from highschool over a decade ago. She did not recognize me and I didnot approach her because her vibe was so off.

  14. eleanore says:

    My new answer to why I don't have kids: “Not everyone likes vanilla ice cream”. Thanks, Anonymous…whoever you are!

  15. Anonymous says:

    One of my great aunts (who is near 90 and still fabulous) and who has no kids used to say (and still has to on occasion) that 'not everyone likes vanilla ice cream' in response to the 'why don't you have kids?' question. I've always thought that that was an awesome answer and I've given it for everything from 'why do you have tattoos' to 'why do you like to live alone'. It shuts 90% of people down as they have no idea how to respond.

    I find questions about why no kids extremely rude and inappropriate. It's reproduction and it's a private matter what I decide to do with my body and life in that regard. I can no longer have kids (hysterectomy) and the best thing ever was telling someone who stated I looked young enough to still have kids that 'I physically can't have them' and then letting that statement hang there uncomfortably. They couldn't tell if I was OK with this or not, and I didn't let them figure it out from my behavior. Served them right for walking into such a potentially ugly quagmire of something that isn't their business in the first place.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I have 3 kids, 6 grand kids, and I understand not wanting kids. Completely.

  17. Janine says:

    You guys still get Christmas cards in the digital age?

    Yes, gotta love those judgements. I find the worst offenders are new mommies or daddies – the ones still infatuated with (aside from their newly acquired hero status) their littlies who are also sucking up so much of their time there's no room in their brain for much else. I often consider giving my new-parent friends a very wide berth for 13 years or so – because once their cute widdle babies are teenagers, the infatuation that was boiling over has now been reduced to a simmer. Ha ha!

    All these cocky parents are emboldened, of course, by the messages swirling around us, the platitudes and constant reinforcement of family values coming at us from all angles, all day every day – from celebrities' mouths, from the media, from politicians, from marketing brochures… And those messages are then parrotted by parents in wider society. Cliches like, “Having a child was by far my greatest achievement. Everything else I've ever done is insignificant. It gave my life purpose, blah blah blah.” We all know by now how the words to that tune go, and they irk me, because of the obvious implication that my life is futile and I've achieved nothing. I honestly don't see that their life has any more significance than mine. I was at the zoo yesterday, and frankly, I don't see any difference between what the gorillas had been up to and my new-parent friends. Only difference is, the gorillas didn't seem to be crowing about their astounding feat every five minutes.

    But of course there is a difference between gorillas and us. Evolution has given us the capacity to think about the big decisions in life. You could argue that modern medicine is “unnatural” and that we all should have perished from natural causes by 40, but nobody would argue in favour of that. Yet suddenly when we use our enlightened brains make intelligent, thoughtful decisions as to whether or not to breed, we're unnatural, and that's bad. You might want to use arguments along those lines next time you're accused of being less than natural. Then ask them to remove their clothing, because clothes – they're unnatural too. So, so many “unnatural” things to find deplorable – how do those right-wing traditionalist types cope with modern life?

  18. Anonymous says:

    On the couple of occasions when I've been told that I'm selfish for not wanting/having children, I've simply explained that the world will get along quite fine without the 'gift' of my DNA. It shifts their perspective just a nudge.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I LOVE your perfect turn of phrase on the children being the only members of the family in Christmas cards.

    I never understood the children-only display pix either. Maybe one reason I didn't have children — I won't disappear from pictures! I never understood that about my maternal grandmother's mantel either — instead of pictures of her children at their best age/best look (the ones which were on the mantel of her old house used for storage), the new house had ONLY us — the grandchildren — in our snaggled-toothed worst-age-look.

    Basically I have grown to understand that MOSTLY the only people you need to be around are going to discuss interesting topics, not JUST their children. (Obviously your clients have to be exceptions.)

    Last night I was thinking about a guy I used to work with (one of our student workers) who didn't understand why I didn't want children though we discussed and discussed it. He was the one who had the worst time dealing with the difficulties of having a baby in the house of anyone I have ever known. Very sad that he didn't realize that in advance.

  20. Rhona says:

    Totally get you. Some people get so offended when I say I don't want kids but I don't care anymore. I am just really careful around my friends because my family members know how I feel so I don't have to pretend around them.
    I absolutely HATE, HATE, HAAAATTEE the Christmas cards pictures. I don't understand the need to send pics of kids. Why? I don't care and really, never will.
    All I know is that I see first hand loads of seniors sitting in nursing homes who have kids that never see them so that should never be a reason for people to have children. I have already come to the conclusion that I will be sitting in a nursing home alone just like everyone else and I am fine with it.

  21. Unknown says:

    Your post almost made me cry! I felt like someone ACTUALLY understood me (completely)! It took my breath away, lady! I really don't want to give birth (and if I ever wanted childrem, I've always said I want to adopt). I'm just awkward around kids (expect my nephew, I love that little booger). I'm married, but my husband and I talk about wanting a dog, and to travel.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I loved reading this. Though I am someone who felt marriage was not for me but children were (through adoption), I completely relate to how stymied people tend to be when faced with someone who is unconventional. And I laughed when I read about how women take the easy way out in conversations by talking about their kids. I've always noticed that women tend to do that from the time they are married. First, they are able to discuss nothing but couple-related subjects and then they can discuss nothing but child-related subjects. It's one of the reasons I prefer to hang out with single people. They discuss topics outside of themselves.

    Thanks so much for writing this! More people need to think about the conventions that they push on others and try to open their minds a bit to other ways of living!

  23. Anonymous says:

    I loved your piece. It is very true. I was actually called “sellfish” for opting out of motherhood. Funny thing, the same person who called me sellfish quickly recanted 6 monhts after his first son was born; believe me when I tell you I drew blood biting my tongue on that one : ) The thing is, more people should be asking themselves if they are ready for the sacrafice of having children not to mention the cost. People have kids and then raise them on the whole “I did the best I could with what I had” motto. I love my parents, they did a fine job, however, there are many children out there I see who are in need of more parenting, more time, more resources dedicated to them. Instead of getting the stink eye for opting-out of parenthood we should be getting the “well, aren't you an incredibly thoughful person attaboy.” A girl can dream!

  24. I so get what you're saying! I decided early on that I probably wouldn't be having kids – not because I dislike them. In fact, I ADORE children. But I think some women get the “Mommy” gene and some done. I'm one who didn't. And I'm okay with it.

    The weird thing is when other women aren't okay with it. I sat next to a woman on an airplane once who actually told me that my decision was unnatural, as if it were personally offensive to her.

    The thing about Christmas cards with just photos of the kids – hilarious! And so true! 🙂

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