The question: I don’t want children, but this upsets my family and in particular my parents who are looking forward to having grandchildren. How do I get them to understand once and for all that my husband and I are content in our lives and don’t want kids?
The answer: Statistics from Canada, the United States and Britain all demonstrate converging trends: that conservatively, at least 20 per cent of women (and by extension couples) are no longer having children. By choice.
The Gen Xers started the trend, and the Gen Yers are continuing it. Only time will tell what the next generation will do, but if the trends are any indication, they will probably follow in the footsteps of their prior generations.
“That’s so selfish!”
“But why not?!”
“Who’s going to take care of you when you are old?!” scream the worried-and-equally confused friends and relatives of such couples.
You and your husband are like many modern-day couples – choosing not to have children, and being comfortable with your decision. Likely, your decision was made as a result of a combination of factors: You may want to focus on your respective careers; you may want to have time and money to engage in other activities that may not be impossible, but certainly can be more difficult with children (e.g., extensive travel, living in an urban setting); and being content in your relationship of two, without feeling the need to expand. Or you may be concerned about your ecological footprint, about the world children are being brought into (environmentally, and otherwise) as well.
Despite your decision being one that many couples are increasingly choosing, relatives (usually those from older generations) and friends or family who have kids – and could not imagine there life without them – may be utterly and genuinely confused by your decision.
First of all, give up the hope that your family will truly understand your decision, as they may never. You can, however, try to convey your reasoning.
The approach you take needs to be a delicate balance between honesty and none-of-your-business. What you share is going to depend on who you are speaking to. For example, your parents may warrant a more detailed explanation than acquaintances you see a couple of times a year.
Validate the concerns your parents have voiced: “I understand that you are really worried about us regretting this decision when we are older.” Then reassure them via a united front, “but we have both been very thoughtful about our decision, which was not made overnight, and we are confident we are doing the best thing for ourselves, our relationship, and our future.” And, if appropriate, explain why “both of us love the idea of having freedom and money to travel the world.”
Once you have stated your case, wrap up the conversation and gently yet assertively curb repeat attempts others may make to probe more, while understanding that they are probably coming from a place of genuine care and concern.
As a woman who has no children by choice (at least at this point in my life), my favourite retort to the “but that’s so selfish” comment is usually a genuinely perplexed expression inviting the person to please describe who I am being selfish toward, and how. Usually that stops the conversation quickly.
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational & media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s Million Dollar Neighbourhood and is the psychological consultant to CITY-TV’s The Bachelor Canada. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra .
Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Follow us on Twitter: