Diapers are Optional
I am childless.
While I know that people who say “it” could still happen for my husband and me are just trying to be nice, the truth is that it won’t. There are several reasons why parenthood is out of the cards for us. Here are a few of them:
- My husband will be 49 in a few months and has no interest in paying for college tuition when he should be retiring.
- As a diabetic, I know pregnancy would be a life-endangering folly for me.
- My husband already has a child – me.
There are other reasons, but this post isn’t about that. It’s about what people shouldn’t (and should) say to non-parents.
- Please don’t assume that just because a couple is childless they spend their days pining for children. I almost never think about having babies; when I do, I remember that I would make a terrible mother, because I am a writer. Writers are, by nature, neglectful of human relationships. The fact that Dan stays with me is a miracle – one that I thank God for every day.
- Please don’t suggest fertility doctors unless you know the couple is looking for a good one. Fertility treatments are costly and, more often than not, unsuccessful. While you may value your natural-born son or daughter above all worldly wealth, it’s hard for many non-parents to imagine risking their future security on the possibility of a child.
- Please don’t say, “You’re young. It could still happen.” First of all, people are ridiculously bad judges of age. I had an eighty-year-old man mistake me for a twenty-something this week – I’m forty. The woman you are speaking to could be in menopause, for all you know. Or she could have had some kind of catastrophic reproductive-system failure that has rendered her unable to bear children. You just don’t know. I get this comment on a regular basis. Nine times out of ten, my response is “God, I hope not.” The tenth time, I’m probably going to burst into tears. You don’t want to see that – I’m an ugly crier.
- Don’t be offended if the childless women in your life don’t want to come to your or your daughter’s baby shower. Not all of us are happy about our lack of children, and we can’t help but be a little jealous of pregnant women. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about you or that we won’t coo over your newborn. But baby showers can be hard for us – especially since so many of the other attendees are likely to say, “You’re young. It could still happen.”
- We know you love your children and want to brag about them endlessly. And we’re sure the little darlings are amazing – all children are, really. However, those of us without children would love to talk about something – anything – else, at least half of the time. Especially if most of your stories about your child center on the gas-versus-smiling issue or your baby’s bowel movements. Please, wait until he or she is actually doing something amazing or adorable before bragging. Here’s a tip: I don’t start talking about my dogs (my surrogate children) until I’ve exhausted all of my other topics. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk about your kids until you were similarly at a loss for conversation.
- Don’t try to pressure us into adopting a child. Yes, we know that there are children waiting for parents. Yes, we know that adoption is a wonderful, generous, amazing experience. Asking a childless couple if they have considered adoption is a little like asking a vegetarian if they have considered meat – of course they have. There are three possible answers here:
* The couple doesn’t want children.
* The couple doesn’t want children enough to go through the adoption process.
* They are on a waiting list.
Unless you know the couple in question really well, none of these answers are any of your business.
If you are a parent, thank you for reading all the way to the end. I hope you won’t be offended by my frank words. I know I do my best not to be offended by the often probing questions I am asked about my childless status.
My husband and I are happy, thank you for asking. We have traveled extensively – something we would not have been able to do if we had children. I am currently working on my tenth novel – motherhood would have either slowed or stopped my writing. When we are old, we will lavish love on our niece and nephew’s children or the grandchildren of our friends. And we will still be happy together, because he is my best friend and I am his.