Pressure on Couples Who Choose Not to Have Children

By Robin White Ellis

I was barely married a full year before I was peppered with the same question from multiple directions. ”When are you going to have a baby?” There is an assumed natural progression from being a married couple to starting a family. This question didn’t bother me too much, despite its invasiveness, as I did want a child eventually. However, what about the couples that have made the conscious decision to abstain from parenthood? The social pressure put on them is constant and unrelenting…and blatantly unfair.

Why is it acceptable for family members and friends to use coercion on a person when it comes to such a life altering subject? Some dear family members of mine have made that decision, and they have heard it all! Once the question is posed and the answer given, the usual rejoinder is something along the lines of “You are young and will change your mind.” At that point, everyone waits for the wife to turn 30 as if that is the magical age that will remind her that her egg basket is running low, and she must hop on the proverbial parent train as quickly as possible! Not everyone hears the ticking of biological clocks!

I was eating lunch with some coworkers, and the question was posed to the newlywed in our group. She calmly and politely stated that she did not want children. I nearly choked when another coworker asked her shrewdly, “And what does your husband think of this, dear? Do you believe he will stay with you if you deny him children?” The insensitivity of it was shocking and uncomfortable. It is outrageous, yet many people refuse to accept such a decision, at times going so far as to refer to the couple as “selfish” or the female as “unwomanly.” Sadly, it can even put a wall in friendships, as the parents in the group discuss what cannot be understood amongst themselves.

There are many valid reasons to skip motherhood. Women may be working their way up in their careers and find fulfillment there. Perhaps a couple chooses to travel and see the world, knowing that neither the time nor the money would be available to fulfill their dreams if they had children. There could be health or financial concerns of which we are unaware…and honestly, it isn’t our business. While I have found extreme happiness in my child, I have friends who simply do not enjoy children and, frankly, they do not have to give anyone a reason for opting out of the aforementioned parent train. There are many ways to have a meaningful life, and children are not mandatory to have one. Instead of insulting and pushing couples, perhaps we should applaud those who make the deliberate decision to eschew parenthood instead of bringing an unwanted child into the world.

Having children is an irreversible decision that should never be taken lightly. Instead of trying to analyze our neighbors and assume there is a critical flaw in their DNA for renouncing parenthood, perhaps we should congratulate them for knowing themselves and the paths that are best for them. While an empty nest is frightening to some, to others it simply means a roomier nest with greater peace.