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The Pressure Women Feel To Have Kids 

For the second edition of the women’s issues blog series, we will be focusing on the pressure that women feel to have children of their own. It may seem like everyone has an (often unsolicited) opinion about the number of people in your family and what is going on with your uterus. While some comments are meant to be playful or share in the excitement of the potential of starting a family, these comments can create a lot of stress, tension, and pressure for women. Yuck. This blog will detail the pressure women often feel to have kids, ways to manage that pressure, and why having a childless existence (or only 1 child) is A-Okay!

Underlying Messages

Even well-meaning people in your life may ask about your decision to have kids and the timeline surrounding that. Maybe they even make the assumption that you want to have kids when you don’t. When people bring up sensitive topics like having kids, it can feel so intrusive, and you may feel too uncomfortable to be honest. Comments like “So when is so and so going to have a brother or a sister?” or “Time is ticking” create unnecessary tension and stress for women.

The underlying messages of comments like “So when are you having kids?” seem to be:

  • you should want to have kids,  
  • there is something wrong with you if you don’t want kids,and
  • it’s other people’s business to know about those private thoughts and decisions.

Women hear quite often that they will regret it if they don’t have kids or that they will be lonely when they get older. People who say these types of things aren’t fortune tellers and they don’t know what’s right for you! The underlying message there is that it will be a mistake if you don’t have kidsand even alluding to this core fear many people have about dying alone. This is really heavy stuff. Again, there is this idea that other people know what will make you happy and feel fulfilled, if you would only listen.

Sure, some people may regret not having kids, but not everyone does. People have kids for very different reasons. And yes, sometimes they are unplanned. However, having kids because you think that you should want to, or other people say you should want to, has the potential to leave you feeling hollow. Making decisions intentionally for your own reasons nearly always feels better because it is authentic.

Coping & Response Strategies 

First of allYOU don’t need to explain yourself and your life decisions to anyone. It’s not anyone’s business unless you want it to be. However, it can be hard sometimes to separate the messages you’re receiving from what you really want. Peer pressure is no joke, even as an adult, it takes a toll on you physically & emotionally 

One tip is to try to spend time pondering/meditating on what it is that you value in life and what you’re ok living with. Could you live with making a major life decision that is mostly based on the opinions of someone else? Work to get to know yourself and what matters to you. You have to live your life, no one else does, so your opinion about how to run things should come first. It may also be helpful to have some responses handy in case you find yourself in an uncomfortable conversation.  

Handy responses to other people pressuring you to have kids
  • I’m not interested in discussing this.
  • I’m happy with my decisions.
  • That’s not the way I see it.
  • Thanks for being excited, but I’m really in no hurry.
  • My idea of a fulfilled life isn’t the same as yours.
  • I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but I’ll let you know when I do, I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t bring this up again.
  • This is a sensitive topic for me and it hurts when its brought up so often, please respect my privacy.
  • Or for humor “Ew, they are messy and smelly, I don’t want to bring one of those home.”
  • I am more of an animal person then a kid one. 

Meaning In Life Without Children 

Women don’t have children for so many different reasons. Life can be completely fulfilling and satisfying for some people without children. Remember, you don’t have to justify your reasoning to anyone, but here are some common ones.

Reasons why women don’t have kids
  • Financial reasons
  • Not having a steady partner
  • Being in an unhealthy relationship or with a partner that wouldn’t make a good co-parent
  • Physical conditions that make it difficult or impossible to have kids
  • They may be involved with other children that aren’t theirs biologically but they love just as much
  • They want to remain independent
  • They want to focus on their career
  • They want to travel, enjoy their youth, and have plans that don’t involve a family
  • They simply aren’t interested

This is by no means an exhaustive list. And no one reason is any more valid than another. It can be super invalidating to women when they hear “Well, then you’ll never know what this type of love is like.” That may be true to some extent. You may not have the experience of birthing a child, but people can mother in many other ways. Recognizing that you can experience deep love for others without being a mother is super important. Not all people who give birth are great at giving and receiving love anyway.

some of the ways meaning in life can develop that don’t revolve around kids:
  • Meaningful work
  • Other intimate relationships
  • Building a family unit without children
  • Creative endeavors 
  • Spirituality/connection with nature
  • Taking care of your mental/physical health
  • Setting learning or life goals:
    • Hobbies/art outlets
    • Learning languages
    • Starting a new career/business
    • TRAVEL 

Ongoing Support 

If you are struggling with the decision not to have kids and/or struggling with the opinions of those around you, counseling can certainly help. Maybe you’re struggling with the fact that your body may have made that decision for you. Working through difficult emotions underlying this major life decision can be painful but ultimately freeing. One goal of yours might be to give less time and energy to what other people might or might not be thinking about you and your life decisions and spending more energy cultivating and creating what you really want in your life (meaning). Make an appointment with Angelus today to start working toward building that meaning in your life (with or without children).

Side note: If you are in the position where you happily are parenting your children and enjoy the fulfillment that comes with this, FANTASTIC. That is truly wonderful, and it is very understandable why you would want people you care about to experience that as well. However, not everyone is the same and your excitement to share may be more harmful than you realize. It’s ok to ask someone where they are at with the whole kids realm but do so respectfully and compassionately, and above all be cognizant if they don’t want to discuss it and allow them that privacy. 

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services