Pressure to have kids

There was an English teacher at my last school who tried to frame most literature discussions in light of what she called “the master narrative” (I’m sure she didn’t coin the term, though). The master narrative is basically growing up healthy, getting good grades in high school, attending the “right” university, getting a good job, getting married, having kids, buying a house, and retiring.

Growing up in suburbia, I faced pressure—perhaps not as much as my peers, though—to fit into this master narrative. In many ways, I have fit into this narrative, but not in quite the ways my parents had hoped.

Yes, I did get good grades, but I didn’t get great grades, mainly because I chose to enjoy my youth and not ruin it by spending all day and night studying for exams. Yes, I attended a relatively prestigious university, but my dad was disappointed that I attended that one in lieu of an Ivy League school I’d been accepted to. Yes, I did get married, but for the longest time I had not planned to get married; I believe this is in line with Biblical principles laid out by both Paul and Jesus in the New Testament. And, yes, I did end up getting a “good job” in my parents’ eyes (teaching) but then ending up quitting to go into admissions (which, for some reason, they don’t view as being “good”).

And, of course, we’re not having kids.

If you’re married and choosing not to have kids, you feel the pressure from all sides—sometimes heavy and direct, sometimes passing and indirect; sometimes from people who are closest to you, other times from strangers who have no business messing with your personal decisions.

My wife and I have experienced just about everything from bribery (“Here’s a gift of $100. Where’s my great-grandchild?”) to flattery (“You’d be such a great parent, though.”), and we’re a little sick of it. We know great childfree (or “childless,” if that’s what you want to call it) couples who have few regrets about their decision. They enjoy life. They go on vacations. They can babysit for other people’s kids. They look young even when middle aged. They’re happy.

Wait! This whole the approach is all wrong. We shouldn’t, as a couple deciding not to have kids, have to defend our decision not to have kids. It should be the other way around. People deciding to have kids should have to justify it to society. They should have to prove that they’re having kids for the right reason (not just to relive their own lives vicariously through mini versions of themselves—”I didn’t get into Harvard, but maybe my kid can…”). They should have to justify bringing another person into an overpopulated world.

But, no. Every time you see a pregnant married person, you’re supposed to say “Congratulations!” right away with nary a thought. When we announce we’re not having kids, do we get a congratulations? No, we get questions. Why? How can you be sure? You’ll regret it later when you’re older. But you’d make such great parents. Wouldn’t you love to have a little version of you running around? It’s so fulfilling. You won’t have grandchildren later. You won’t have children to take care of you when you’re older.

This obsession with having kids has got to stop. If people choose to have kids, they should have that right. But if people choose not to have kids, they should also have that right. If my wife and I later change our minds, it will be our own choice. It won’t be because people pressured us into it.

Mommy, why did you decide to have kids?
Oh, sweetie, we didn’t want to have kids. People pressured us into having you.
That’s so nice, Mommy.


  1. It’s your choice man. =] Just try to get past what others say(really difficult pending on the person) and be proud of you and your wife’s decision. I’m way too young myself to be having kids in my opinion and I can assure you me and my girlfriend won’t be having them until we both decide we’re good and ready to, regardless of pressure from outside our relationship. Just keep on keepin’ on. =]

  2. Right on, man. I’m with you there, I have no desire to have kids, either. I’ve been with my girlfriend for a long time now, so I’m getting the pressure to get married, and I’m sure the kid pressure wouldn’t be too far after that. People are so damn interested in making you conform to the same standards they have, like it reinforces what they’ve done or something. I really don’t understand peoples’ obsessions with how other people live their lives.

    And if I ever do change my mind and decide I want a kid, I’ll adopt. I can’t justify creating a new child when there are so many children without parents out there. But that’s a whole ‘nother thing to take crap over. A friend of my girlfriend decided to adopt after having several miscarriages, and she literally had people second-guessing her and telling her she was making the wrong decision because she was “giving up”, and so-and-so finally had a baby after having 9 miscarriages, so she’s basically a quitter. I cannot even imagine saying such a horrible thing to someone.

    Feh. People have kids like it’s just the next thing to do on some life checklist. College? Check. Married? Got it. What’s next? Ah, kids. Ok, guess it’s time to have a baby.

  3. Selfish, I’m afraid. The purpose in living is to leave something of oneself behind (and your academic work, or old books, won’t cut it). Living without children is like masturbation, it may feel good but is good for nothing beyond narcissism. Sorry, friend.

    On Children
    Kahlil Gibran

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

  4. Yeah, my wife and I have thought the same thing. If we ever do “have kids,” we would probably go the adoption route.

    Sound “selfish” enough? I hope so. Not contributing to overpopulation might also be deemed “selfish,” I suppose.

    Good to know there are some out there resisting the pressure or at least allowing people to live their lives without it.

  5. Ubuntucat, it’s great to meet a married childfree man! There are a lot of you out there but few are as vocal online as the childfree ladies (like me). Given what our friends tell us about having children, the dialogue at the end of your post should go:

    Mommy, why did you decide to have kids?
    Oh, sweetie, we didn’t want to have kids. But our friends told us that we would have no one to look after us when we’re old if we didn’t have you. Now help me reattach my colostomy bag.
    That’s so nice, Mommy.

    And Steven, if living without children is like masturbation, then for us it will be Palm Sunday forever! Unlike us, you will have lots of fun changing nappies, contemplating F report cards, picking little Tommy up from juvvie and forking out tens of thousands for little Krissy’s tuition, wedding and rehab. You will have even more fun with the stellar sex life that comes with having children. Enjoy!

  6. I always think it’s funny when women see a baby and say, “Oh I want one.” I find myself thinking, “You just saw a happy, squirming baby for five minutes… and you want one?” A child isn’t a pair of new shoes, or a new TV. It’s a lifelong commitment. I believe that if someone is unwilling to make that commitment, then they shouldn’t have children, because it’s likely that the child will end up contributing to the ills of society rather than to its strengths. Most kids who end up in jail or involved in crime and self-destructive behaviors do so due to a lack of commitment from their parents.

    As for myself, my wife and I have no kids and I am incredibly anxious about it… but I work with many old men who have no children and I do not like what I see in them. After all, family is all we have. When my grandmother died, she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren. In a sense, I could see her in all of us, and I learned a great deal about life and death on that day.

    So, in the end, I think it’s a personal choice and I do not judge those who choose one way or the other. I don’t yet know what I’ll choose, but I know that when my youth is gone and age is creeping up on me (assuming I’ll live that long), then I hope to have my children and grandchildren at my side.

  7. I think the first part of your comment is an important point, Josh. I don’t want to have kids, but I certainly don’t begrudge other people their desire to have them. However, it should not be something to be entered into lightly. You shouldn’t do it just because it’s the thing to do. My girlfriend is a teacher, and she sees so many kids who have parents that just don’t give a crap about their children, who just basically consider them a burden. They really resent any implication that they should have to spend any time doing homework with them, or disciplining them. They just basically had the kid as, like, an accessory, and then they’re pissed when they find out how much work they are, and how much that destroys your social life. It’s really distressing.

  8. Good to find other outspoken childfree men. We know you’re out there, just, as one reader has said, not as obviously vocal… or maybe it’s just that everyone is busy pressuring the women and prefer to ignore the men :-). Whatever, it’s good to know you’re all out there – and you know what it’s like.

    Your voices are very important. You might like to check out my blog… you’ll find lots of “amunition” for the bingoes, plus several childfree men and women who, as well as sharing their experiences all have plenty to say about the pressure to reproduce. :). Cheers!

    As for the commentator who says the purpose of living is to leave children behind (thus be pressured into breeding even if you don’t want to or are not prepared to be a parent), I’m sorry that you believe that old myth. Because that’s what it is and thankfully men and women are beginning to challenge such myths. Narcissism is the need to reproduce little replicas of yourself, in search of some idea of immortality.

    For the parents whose kids have turned into sources of grief and hurt others as well as themselves, because their parents bought into the myth that children are necessary accessorries if one is to be a member of planet earth – they can be sure that world would probably be better off without their criminal offspring.

  9. Ubuntucat – Just posting this as I realise you have my old web address in the comment website details… feel free to delete this comment. My blog is Not meaning to over-plug, but I really feel that as a childfree guy you might like some of what you find there.

  10. I feel u and ur wife’s stupidity reaches its maximum.u wont believe in Christ do u?and Materialism takes the whole of u :x
    First of All Children are God’s gift and all married needs to have children.if ur following the western lifestyle I pity on u.also remember that those Islamists,Chinese and Indians got Children like sand.
    I think ur civilization is out of root and soon ending.
    no wonder Bible says have children to save ur culture.
    I am again pitying on ur western idea of giving freedom for gays and lesbians(gay marriage?hrmm..).An increase on this type of arshole people in ur west means again ur civilization is gonna finish very soon.
    Get urself Children.they are God’s Gift.
    Also REMOVE the materialistic mentality of enjoy ur life till death to the maximum.u’ll see why our Indian marriage’s last long.there are fewer divorces.also Women are not feministic(separative too) as in ur culture.I am saying wake up West before it is too late.BE RELIGIOUS,be a catholic and be on the straight root of sharing ur pain and joy with others rather than spending the whole life in pursuit of sex,money and other ways for happiness.this mentality sucks.I hope u understand.
    Prakash J K
    A Debian/Ubuntu user and a Kerala Syrian Catholic.

  11. Catholicism is not the only religion out there. I’m glad it’s working out for you, though.

    My wife and I are protestant and happily married (and feminist). Sorry you don’t approve of our lifestyle. Fortunately, for us, we don’t need your approval.

    By the way, having children isn’t the be-all and end-all of living or being a Christian… unless you think Mother Teresa and Jesus were heathen slackers.

  12. God, at last someone who has responded to the question of actually thinking about CHOICE when it comes to procreation. As a single woman of a ‘certain age’ I acknowledge all too clearly the pressure you are under.
    A colleague even said in front of me to another colleague the other day ” And Claire still got time to have one or two”. The lack of sensitivity frequentely demonstrated to me from those with kids to those of us without is sometimes overwhelming. I am always sensitive and accomodating around those with children, not criticising their decisions or choices.
    Its about time society changed to consider the feelings and choices of the childfree and childless!


    So, riddle me this, Prakash J K: if we Westerners are so evil and materialistic, what do you say about that?

    Oh, and just to make sure you remember that we Catholics aren’t blameless too…

    As a Catholic Christian, I’m ashamed of people like Pradesh J K and others like him who cast shame on my religious beliefs with their hateful and bigoted slander. If there’s anyone who shouldn’t have the honor and privlidge to reproduce, it’s him.

  14. Hey man, It’s your choice. Those people around you who have kids that say “You should have kids”, they’re doing it out of spite. Take from my brother whose a psychiatrist, M.D. William Vandever, Marriage and Religion (I didn’t say God) are matters that can make people very happy. Turns out unless your living under a roadway, Money won’t make you very happy, only make you stressed. But kids, they are one of the most stressful events a couple can have. Couples say children are one of the happiest events that can happen to them, but what they forget is that their children 97% of the time are a pain in the a**, and the barbaric mind only recalls happy times for preservation of the bloodline.
    But yeah, its your choice man, you choose your future, nobody else.

  15. UbuntuCat,
    1. This is very personal.
    2. If you posted such personal thing, get ready for various comments. Even people who will judge you. This way or the other.
    3. If you are sick of people pressuring, why would you post this? I don’t understand. A lot of people have children, most of them will disagree. May be they just don’t leave comments here.
    4. And I think you are just being selfish, ignorant and afraid of taking responsibility.

    Since the comments are open, I decided to leave my point of view.


  16. See here’s what I don’t get, and Arstan illustrated it nicely there. Why is it selfish to not want kids? Aren’t the more selfish people the ones says, “Well I had kids because I want someone to take care of me when I’m old”?

    I don’t get why having kids is the default, and you have to justify not wanting to have them. It should be the other way around. Having kids is a big, super-life-changing deal. It is not something you should do just because you’re “supposed to”, and it should never be taken lightly. It is not something you should do because other people want you to do it. It will change your life, you will have to radically alter your priorities, it is expensive (not that that’s a reason not to have kids, but it is something to take into account. If you can barely afford to feed yourself, it’s not really fair to bring along a kid who will then be depending on you for food, shelter, and clothing for the next 18 years or so), and it is something you should really think deeply about, make sure you’re ready, and then have a kid because you’re actually trying to, not because you were just being unsafe and kind of “oops” had a kid. Believe me, the child will be much happier and have a much better life if you actually wanted him and had him on purpose.

  17. As a kid myself, I thought my opinion might add another perspective. On the whole, I think having kids is a Good Thing (TM), because if nobody had kids, we’d all die. ;-) However, having too many kids causes overpopulation, which taxes our planet’s resources. Obviously, a balance is needed, and on one hand, I’m greatful that you are willing to forgoe having children in order to preserve that balance.

    On the other hand, I think it is important to help others and leave the world a better place than you found it. Having children is one way to do that, because you have so much influence on your children – more influence than you will have on anyone else. If you’ve ever thought, “Gee, I wish there were more good people in the world,” it is a way you can actually make that happen. It is hard, and a lot of parents do not dedicate enough time to their kids, and let other influences (TV, friends, etc) shape their character. It can also be extremely rewarding; my father will surely attest that I’ve made him prouder than anything else in his life has.

    However, you say you’ve worked in education and admissions. You spent countless hours on the Ubuntu forums. (I know, because I continually encounter your helpful posts.) Therefore, I think it is safe to say that you are making a positive difference in people’s lives, which IMHO, is what life is about. My only advice is to use some of that extra time and money you’ll have by not having kids to continue making a positive difference in people’s lives.

    (I don’t know how much that advice is worth, but since I’ve written all this, I might as well post it. :-)

  18. Good post. But I don’t agree with the previous comment which states that since you’re child-free you should use that extra time and money you would otherwise have spent on kids to help humanity. It all depends on your beliefs or lack thereof. As an atheist, a childfree, a very questioning and a rebellious person I do not think it is necessary to do anything for the community or help out humanity to make this a better world. People like me are being frowned upon but then if you think that life has no meaning other than what you give it you can do anything you want to do and not what is considered to be the ‘right thing to do’. With that being said your options are limitless and you can combine them in different ways; you can choose to help your community regularly, rarely, or not at all. You can choose to help only certain people like your friends, parents or your spouse (again: rarely, sometimes, never) or even choose to only live for yourself (fully, partially, not at all.) These options are all OK. Ultimately the choices you make will not matter after you die. Unless you become famous (and most of us will not because we’re average and not outstanding in any way.)
    On another note, there is so much pressure to have kids it’s unbelievable! But most of it stems from ignorance and emotions. The more you think logically and question society’s standards, the less likely you are to conform and to have kids. Usually most (not all) women are too emotional and think ‘oh, so cute!’ when they see a baby. They are designed that way to reproduce. But people should override their emotions and just reason with logic whether having kids is really for them instead of just following their basic mating instincts. On the other hand, as long as we’ll have some ignorant and overly emotional people we will have babies and our species will survive. Therefore if you decide you want to be child-free leave the burden of having kids to those people who likely have nothing else better to do with their lives and enjoy your own life the way you want to with no regrets.

  19. It is overpopulation that is to blame for the problems we have in the world today. Overpopulation is the root cause. 7-8 billion human beings are way too many for our planet to support sufficiently. Food shortage, water shortage, global warming, war, etc. All these things have their filthy roots anchored in overpopulation. Just like a plague of rats, we will excessively increase until everything is destroyed, including ourselves. We are on a path that will only lead to destruction, unless we open our minds to reason and comprehend the true cause.

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