Are you seeing anyone? When are you two getting married? How many children are you going to have? The never-ending joy of relationship and personal questions -- especially during the holidays. A humorous quip to answer the first two questions can usually throw off the line of questioning, however, the "kid" question tends to be a doozy to answer.
In 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, 47.6 percent of women between age 15 and 44 had never had children; the highest percentage since the Census has begun measuring in 1976. Not having children has even garnered a movement where like-minded women come together for The Not Mom Summit each year. 'Not Mom' brings together women who regardless of why they are not having children, all have a common bond.
The reactions that come with, "We have decided to not have children" range from horrified as if you kick puppies on the regular to side eyes as they judge it as a selfish decision. For some reason, most seem to have a really difficult time wrapping their minds around the fact that some women simply do not want to or physically cannot procreate. Why is it that not having children suddenly makes you seem incomplete, beneath those that are mothers or weird for not becoming a parent?
If you have made a conscious decision to not have children or are unable to conceive, how do you answer the probing inquiry without coming off rude or taking the conversation in an awkward direction?
Don't Justify It
"I am so busy. I'm focused on my career. We are just not ready." Common and reasonable justifications for why you are not having children, but rather than skirt the question which will most likely lead to follow-up questions, don't justify your decision. It does not have to be a right of passage or what you must do to be happy. As long as your answer is one you are comfortable with, the buck stops there. "Having children is not for us." Plain and simple, no ifs, ands or buts as to why or why not.
"But, you would be so great as a Mom!"
How many times have you heard that as a follow-up? Probably more than you can count. As loving, nurturing and fabulous as you are, being a great mother and being great to the people around you could be mutually exclusive. You may desire to be an incredible mentor in your career, the go-to friend during a difficult time and the most amazing and supportive wife. Embracing a complete and full life on your own terms and following your own desired path is a visceral decision just as deciding to bring a child into this world is.
Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed
Spouses without children encounter the perception that their decision to not have children are all of the above. It is perceived that you and your partner's own personal ambition is at the forefront and how selfish that is. In reality, studies have shown that childless couples are actually selfless and giving as they volunteer more for their community. In addition, there is a self-less choice in not raising a child you cannot afford. According to a study by USDA, children born in 2013 will cost approximately $245,340 to raise by the time they are 18. This amount does not include costs with being pregnant or college for the child which would include considerably more. While a woman or couple may want to have a child, knowing you cannot afford to bring a child into this world is a selfless and responsible decision.
For some, otherhood is a decision that has been made for them; they are unable to procreate and whether or not they want to have children, cannot. What is referred to as "otherhood," by renowned author and speaker, Melanie Notkin of Savvy Auntie, you are a mother in a different sense of the traditional definition: to a pet, an aunt, or godmother. In Notkin's best-selling book, "Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness," she discusses that while there is an increase in women not having children, it is not always by choice. Infertility is a stressful and difficult journey for women and can be made worse when probed with "why not?" questions. You are not alone, Womanistas; there are nearly 6.1 million women in the U.S. that are unable to conceive or cannot maintain pregnancy. When dealt with the childless questions, it is okay to let people know that this is something you rather not discuss. Your fertility is your story and if you are comfortable with sharing that, it is commended and will help those that face a similar struggle.