47

Every time there's a baby involved in any sort of conversation (new parent, talking about kids, etc.), if I'm involved the question inevitably turns to me and my girlfriend, and when we plan to have children. We're not married yet and have talked with each other, and we don't plan to have children. We figure there are many other children we can spoil without the work that comes with raising a child of our own.

When I tell people

"I don't want to have children"

there are always questions such as

"why not?"

or

"You'll change your mind when you're older".

If I say I don't like children (one of the reasons I don't want children, and my girlfriend has other reasons), I get the

"Wait until you have kids of your own"

and the whole cycle repeats itself. This always ends up with the parent thinking less of me or frustrated because I don't conform to how they think I as a young man should be.

How can I tell people that my girlfriend and I don't want, and never will want children of our own without being rude?

This is on the west coast of the United States.

Note: Even if we do end up changing our minds later down the line, we've decided to adopt, figuring that enough children are without good homes that we can help solve that particular issue.

  • When you say "the parent" do you mean your parents, your girlfriend's parents or other acquaintances who happen to be parents? – Pharap Aug 20 '17 at 12:30
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    For all those curious, my girlfriend was adopted along with the rest of her family, not to mention an aunt and an uncle I have. For those curious, were I to adopt, I would prefer adopting a child past the age of 4. – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Sep 7 '17 at 20:11
  • @Anoplexian from what you said in another post, I imagine part of this invasive question comes from an age difference between you and your partner? It seems to be a 'go to' reason people question women being older than men in a relationship, as biological limitations could mean the relationship gets in the way of child rearing. Could be an important detail. Of course, something getting in the way of child rearing need not be an issue, if you don't want to have kids in the first place! – cr0 Dec 4 '17 at 16:30

20 Answers 20

45

There's no real need to go into it in any detail (it's your business after all).

Just state:

We're not planning for children right now

And then steer the conversation onto whatever plans you do have with your girlfriend, implying that having a child wouldn't be appropriate just yet. It might help if those future plans involve building careers and/or stability - that's a decision that's more likely to be respected over "We just wanna have fun" (regardless of what the real reason is).

You don't have to give people the "never" spiel, just the fact that it's not in your immediate future.

  • 1
    I agree with this answer. This way you don't have to reveal that you generally don't want children and trigger further questions. You just don't plan for children right now. That's it! – papakias Aug 18 '17 at 15:06
  • 16
    This leads to the constant pestering of "did you change your mind yet? (Was I right?)". I don't want kids personally because I don't like most children, and enjoy my free time and sleep. My girlfriend is apathetic, and could take or leave having children. If I change my mind however, we've both agreed that the way to go is adoption, so adding "never" is necessary to avoid future pestering. – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Aug 18 '17 at 16:11
  • 1
    @Anoplexian: This leads to the constant pestering of "did you change your mind yet? (Was I right?)" Where you simply answer "no." And if there comes the counter-question why you should simply point out that also the reasons haven't changed. – dhein Aug 21 '17 at 9:44
34

How can I tell people that my girlfriend and I don't want, and never will want children of our own without being rude?

Why do you need to? A large part of interpersonal skills is compromise. Others don't understand your viewpoint that you don't want to have children; you don't understand their viewpoint that you probably will want your own children when you're older.

You are completely justified in having your own opinion and wanting what you want (or, in this case, don't want). They are completely justified in expecting your views to change, because most people's views do change, to some extent, as they get older.

So, a solution that is a compromise between your opinion and theirs, which avoids having to be rude is responding with:

We've discussed it and neither of us are interested in having children. Who knows if that'll change as we get older, but none of our plans involve children.

10

As you've already discovered, a straight-forward response just doesn't work.

To them, the idea of having children could just be such a core part of being human that someone never wanting to have children is just unfathomable - trying to explain it to them will just be a frustrating experience.


You can try responding with a relevant question.

This will ideally do one of two things:

  • You'll get to find flaws in their argument instead of the other way around.
  • It might be really hard for them to actually explain their reasoning, because they might just assume everyone wants children and haven't really thought about justifying it. But, even if they have thought about it a lot, excessive questioning can still make replies difficult (see also anyone talking to a 5-year-old ever).

Either of these could lead to them changing the subject due to being slightly uncomfortable.

"I don't want to have children"
"Why not?"
"What do I need children for?"
"It's a really rewarding experience."
"What do you mean by that?"

"You'll change your mind when you're older."
"What makes you think that?"


Another approach that could work is just changing the subject - they might just be trying to keep the conversation going as opposed to being particularly curious about when you want to have children or why you don't want to. If this is the case, or even if it isn't, simply changing the subject could very well solve your problem, at least until the conversation circles back to having children.

It might be best to end with a question to lead them into a response as opposed to letting them pick which part of your response they find most interesting.

We don't want to have children right now. Work's a bit hectic. How your job going these days?

Alternatively, or additionally, you can go on a really long tangent so they forget where the conversation started.


You could also try not taking the question too seriously and making a joke:

Yeah, we're planning to have a little one in about 5 to 10 ... thousand years.

You can also opt for a wildly inappropriate joke ("have children" is ambiguous...), or you can come up with a somewhat absurd reason for not wanting children (chronic fear of small hands?).


What might also work is to try to explaining it with a metaphor, although coming up with a good metaphor might be really hard.

  • 5
    I say "we already have 2 dogs and can barely pay attention or take care of them let alone a child!" gets laughs from all the family except mom lol – nodws Aug 18 '17 at 15:31
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    The joke type can also help stop people asking with answers like "no thanks, I've already eaten". If people are persistent (and you don't care for their friendships etc) then something like "So if we were at a funeral would it be appropriate for me to ask when you're going to die? You've already been told our answer." Obvious the more flippant and confrontational responses are to be saved for your retirement when they're still asking the same questions... ;-) – Rycochet Aug 18 '17 at 15:57
  • I upvoted mainly for the suggestion of turning the questioning back on the other person or the changing the subject route. I'm not so convinced about the first suggestion of making a "serious joke" – Pharap Aug 20 '17 at 12:40
9

I'm in the exactly same situation. We are constantly bombarded with the "when?" question and we say

we are not interested but If we decide to have children will adopt.

Most of the time is answer is enough to make it known this is not a subject you are confortable with, but can rub people the wrong way (specially in Latin culture) and will launch them in an amateur armchair psychology session trying to get to the root of "your" problem.

So it's rather hard avoiding to further the conversation with your parents since ANY answer you give they will have a counter argument or any excuse will be met with a "solution" (Even offering to rise the children for you).

You need to be assertive in your statements and have it made clear that if you change your mind you will make sure to let them know.

Sincerely we don't see any children in our future, regardless if we will be good or bad parents we are not in that place yet, and forcing it will just result in issues in our relationship and our offspring so we would appreciate if you respect our decision, so please don't bring out the subject we don't want to be rude, and if we happen to change our mind you will be the first to know

This can be done as a couple or you talking privately 1 to 1 with said parent so it doesn't feel like a scolding.

Hope this helps at least little, good luck

8

Deciding not to have children is a perfectly valid choice, and a choice that I really wish more people who didn't want them would make.

I've found myself on both sides of this conversation. First not wanting kids, then raising step-children and thinking that everyone should have that experience, then opting not to have kids in future relationships.

It's a tough decision to make and you shouldn't be pressured either way.

If it's a settled matter in your relationship, and in your own head, there's nothing wrong with being honest with your close friends and family about that. I say close friends and family, because people who aren't close really shouldn't feel entitled to have this conversation at all.

If you find that people press, it may be worth reminding them how rude that really is.

Some people can't have children, some people choose not to because there's a high risk of genetic disease, some people have tried and faced a series of devastating miscarriages, some people are deeply offended at the implication that their life would be a waste if they don't procreate... And the list goes on and on.

That's not saying that you're claiming any of these reasons as your reason. It's explaining why pressuring people to "have kids someday" is an incredibly rude thing to do, and it will stop most people in their tracks.

When it comes to things that are this personal, people should know better than to push. Simply remind them of that.

  • 6
    @Agent_L I think that's the flawed logic that leads to that question, unlike almost every other living being, humans are sapient, rather than solely sentient. Having a level of autonomy in choice is the human condition, and having other people respect your autonomy is key to interpersonal relations. I'm sorry, but your advice is in my opinion horrendous. – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Aug 18 '17 at 17:54
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    @Agent_L Your argument that the purpose of existence is reproduction is flawed, it's dismissive of an awful lot of human experience and history and effectively tells people who don't or can't reproduce that their lives are meaningless. – apaul Aug 18 '17 at 18:45
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    @Agent_L I think your comment is an overgeneralisation. It's true that there are some people who are so desperate to have children that it practically is their 'reason for existance', but there are also a lot of people who would like children but would be perfectly capable of accepting being told that they couldn't. Furthermore the OP is not preaching their values, they are the one being asked "when are you going to have children?" to which the response is "we are not". That's the same as being asked "are you an Athiest" and replying with "no I'm a Christian" - it's not preaching. – Pharap Aug 20 '17 at 12:59
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    @Agent_L I have indeed met people who have children. I was born and I went to school like most humans. There's no doubt it's life changing, and if they didn't change their life to revolve around the child they'd probably be doing a bad job of being parents (i.e. they'd be neglecting the child). It depends where you come from, here in Britain divorced parents and single parents are just as common as parents who are still together. – Pharap Aug 20 '17 at 13:22
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    @Agent_L That does not make it preaching, that makes it futile. Futility is a valid argument, accusations of preaching are not. Furthermore, the purpose is not to convince the parents that not having children is a 'better' argument, it's to convince them that not wanting children is also a valid stance. One does not have to be convinced other people's life choices are 'better' to respect them or consider them equally valid. Having children and not having children are both valid options and nobody should be pressured into choosing either - this is the point that apaul is making. – Pharap Aug 20 '17 at 13:24
6

Set clear boundaries, and stick to them

What you need is the Bean Dip Response. This is a boundary-setting technique described by a therapist named Joanne Ketch. Somewhat ironically, it was initially developed as a response to unwanted questions and advice about parenting and is now somewhat famous in some online parenting circles. However, it can easily be adapted for intrusive behavior about any life choices.

Essentially, this is a technique for setting personal boundaries when you don't want to engage with others about a personal decision that you have made, like whether or not to have children. Some highlights from the article (bolding mine; anything not in quotation formatting is my interpretation):

The best thing is to assert your boundary and not try to defend your choice.

So how does that work?

Deflect, deflect, deflect

Just state your decision and move on: When people ask "when are you going to have kids?" you say "That's not in our plans right now. Have you tried the bean dip?" (Of course, you can substitute "How about them Dodgers" or "Isn't this weather crazy?" or any other innocuous redirection.)

If they ask you why you don't want children, you say "it doesn't fit in with my/our life plans. Let me get you some bean dip."

When they say "You'll change your mind when you get older" you respond "This is working for us right now. You know, the bean dip is especially great with these artisanal crackers I found."

"Are you sure you don't want to keep your options open?" Answer: "Yes, thanks! Have some bean dip!"

"Don't you like kids?" "More bean dip?"

And so forth.

Be firm, be kind, be consistent

Now, with some people . . . [t]he offer of bean dip will not be sufficient to redirect them. They are either not intuitive to gentle redirection or they have emotion tied to the issue and a desire to “go there” more deeply. . . . You may be able to anticipate persons for whom this is true: If it's a pattern of intrusion, for example, seen in other circumstances. In these cases, the redirect will need to be backed up with action (like hanging up, leaving the room or even the event, unfriending them). Remember, boundaries are not about forcing another person to comply. You cannot “do” that. Boundaries are about what YOU will do/not do.

Exactly what this response looks like will vary, depending on your relationship with the person. If it's mainly a social media friend, simply ignoring or blocking them may be the best option.

For your parents or hers, you will need to take a different approach (remember, the urge to grandparent can be as strong as the urge to procreate, but with less control over the outcome). This really needs to be handled by the respective children of the buttinskis (in other words, you talk to your parents, she to hers).

You may need to get really real with family members who won't let this go. Talk to them in person, if possible. Look them in the eye, and say something like "I know you love me, and want the best for me. I want us to have a good relationship. This is a decision I feel good about. When you keep bringing this up and criticizing my life choices, it makes me not want to spend time with you. I'm not going to discuss it with you anymore, so let's focus on the good things that are already in our lives."

After that, you will need to be really strong about actually disengaging if they do bring it up again: "Mom, we've talked about this; you know how I feel. I've gotta go now. Love you, bye." Do it kindly and consistently and eventually the message will sink in.

Don't explain if you don't want to engage

A key element of this technique:

[D]on't confuse setting boundaries with trying to convince someone of the rightness of your choices. . . . Don't defend your choices beyond generalities, and then only once or twice.

Finally, an important corollary to the “Bean Dip Response” is reciprocity. . . . [I]f you post [your opinions about the subject] on Facebook (or communicate them in other ways), you invite (and therefore solicit) feedback and advice. You need to give the “other side” the appropriate respect in the same manner you’d like the respect.

Which is to say, don't ever tell parents that you "don't like kids" or "dislike most kids"! They will likely feel this as a personal attack on their choice to have children or, worse, on their kids. People with grown children, those who hope to have children in the future or who wanted to have them and couldn't, and even those who are very attached to other people's children might have a similar defensive reaction.

Additionally, if you try to explain your decision on a rational basis your interlocutor may take that as encouragement that they can change your mind if only they come up with a good enough argument. If you present the decision as a personal choice, full stop, you don't give them anything to hang their argument on.

If you must explain, aim for vague, neutral language (and immediately follow up with some redirection, so they can't try further to nail you down): something like "It's just not a priority for me. Bean dip?"


Please note that this is much harder than it sounds. I have employed this technique in various situations, and there is always a temptation to defend your choice or try a humorous/sarcastic comeback. It takes practice to be able to stay consistent with simply stating your decision, sans justifications, and then changing the subject. It's a good idea to practice some neutral responses and plan some ideas for what you're going to put in place of the bean dip, especially when you know you're going to be in a situation where the subject might come up.

  • 1
    If nothing else, this will convince people you're really obsessed with bean dip. *adds to bucket list: try bean dip* – Pharap Aug 20 '17 at 13:04
5

These people are plainly rude. With an arrogance that only conforming to tradition can give you, they try to reshape you to the way they believe you should lead your life. They may not see it that way, though, and you should explain it to them.

Society and tradition often put some people under the impression that they are allowed to push certain behaviours on others. That's true about making children, about their religion, about their political opinions, anything.

Make it clear, whoever they are, that whatever you will do in the future, you don't like being spoke to arrogantly as if they knew everything - spoiler, they don't - or being told what to do even though you didn't ask for guidance.

The reason why people often try to push their opinions/behaviours to others is that a lot of people identify to their opinions and behaviours and by seeing that you don't share them, they feel threatened. They take you not complying to their way of thinking as a disagreement not with their opinions or behaviour but with them having done what they did, that's why they move the conflict on your soil. They felt attacked first.

If you want to handle the matter more smoothly, you can try something along these lines :

I know that you chose to have children, that they are very important to you and that you don't regret that decision, and I respect that. It's your life and I wouldn't dare question your doings when it isn't my business. The same way, me and [girlfriend] don't want and may never want to have children and therefore have decided to not make children. If you are actually our friend, we expect you to respect our decision and to not demean it as if were not knowing what we do.

Is there still some cake ?

  • 2
    I agree that the people he's speaking to are being rude. But with good interpersonal skills you can head this off with your first response. The more you fight someone, the more rude one of you (or both) will get. – AndyT Aug 18 '17 at 14:58
  • @AndyT Entirely true. That's why I didn't make that rudeness appear in the proposed response, in the quoteblock. – ksjohn Aug 18 '17 at 15:08
  • I'd drop the line where you question the person's friendship/loyalty because it sounds a bit too confrontational. I think asserting that you respect their decisions and then stating what your decisions are should be enough for most people to infer that they should respect your decision in return and drop the matter. It's a good approach to take though, because if they start asking more questions you can then retort with "are you saying you don't respect our decision?" or "do you think we are incapable of making our own decisions?". – Pharap Aug 20 '17 at 13:10
3

When I tell people

"I don't want to have children"

There's your problem. Don't tell them that, problem solved. Why volunteer that?

I suppose you might have said that in response to something they specifically asked you. In that case, answer it a different way that doesn't involve your explaining anything at all.

Here's another possibility: Let them think whatever they want and don't waste any mental stress on it.

3

My wife and I have a similar problem. We have decided to become foster parents instead of biological parents for heath reasons and we have decided to become foster parents instead of adopt for personal reasons. However we are still always asked when we plan to have "our own kids".

Aside from the giant insult to our children sitting 6 feet from us, it's annoying to have to explain our internal thoughts every time. It's also potentially damaging to have to do so in front of our children.

So here are some things to consider...

First, let's get some nasty details out of the way. Depending on age this may be a legitimate concern. "You may want them later" is a real problem. After the age of 35, pregnancies get much harder on the baby and the mother. That's not to say it's not possible, but risks are higher, the pregnancy is more demanding, etc. Once women reach a certain age giving birth is no longer an option. So you need to decide if the person asking you might actually trying to get you to understand this fact, or if it's something else.

If the person asking is genuinely concerned about your desire to have children, and is trying to get you to understand there is a time limit of sorts then your best bet is to have a frank discussion about it. Something along the lines of

We don't want children right now, but we keep talking about it. We understand it gets harder as you get older, but it's just not something we want right now.

usually, works.

If the person asking is concerned with something else then read on.

Nasty issue number two, depending on religion or social norms you're not only supposed to want to have children but it's considered your responsibility to do so. If the comments and questions tend to go down that path, then you can state responsible reasons why you don't wish to have children. For example:

It's not a good time for us to have children. We're not in a place where we think we would be good parents.

Next up on the nasty issue list is the fact that most people want kids and struggle to understand why you might not. This is partly because the desire for children is driven by biology. It can be even more confusing for them if you're in a committed and stable relationship. There is no good way to approach this one other to reassure the asker that you do not want children and that you do not wish to continue discussing it.

Lastly, and this is important. Our society has a tendency to put emphasis on instant gratification and de-emphasise long term commitments. We tend to "find a rut" and stick with it. Why is your girl friend only a girl friend, why isn't she a wife? Why aren't you planning for the next 10 years. And so on. People (friends and family especially) tend to ask questions like "So when are you going to have kids?" as a nudge to make sure that you're always thinking of the future and not just sticking in your rut. You can make a lot of the "Are you going to have kids soon?" questions go away by showing that you are planning for the future and that it just doesn't include kids for you.

Bonus nasty issue. They're kinda right. I know that's not what you want to hear, but when you don't have kids, the prospect of having kids sounds like this large time and money suck (it is) where you get ugly drawings and every get sick more frequently. You don't get as much free time and your constantly tired. It's a huge strain on a relationship and a disaster in the waiting. Once you have kids though, it's a very different feeling. You're not broke because of the kids, you spent your money on things you wanted. Even though, somehow those things went from the latest movie tickets to your son's favorite toy. That parent relationship can be hugely rewarding, and there really is no way to explain it. So when they stuff like "wait till you have your own kids" they're correct. It's a feeling that you can't explain. It's like how your SO's desires and yours all of the sudden one day just became one set of desires, and you found your self at the store buying drink coasters. It's just not possible to explain.

Honestly, these questions are normally good questions. They're not meant to be annoying or intrusive. What generally happens is the couple being asked give non-sense or BS answers and the askers decide to try again later. You're essentially answering a life-altering and sometimes "rite of passage" question the same way you answered "did you do your homework?" back in high school. Be prepared to give a good solid answer, that shows that you have given it serious thought, made a decision, are planning for the future, and are willing and planning to keep revisiting the question, and most people won't bring it up a second time.

Total Side note. If you're not re-thinking the no children thing, then that could also be part of the issue. If every time you re-think it the answer is no, that's fine. But children are a life long decision that you really only have a few years to "produce". Your peek reproduction cycle and your peek life (think money, house, stability) cycle will likely only overlap for a few short years. The people that care about you only want to make sure your not "wasting" those years playing call of duty only to find out later that you want children but can't or shouldn't have them. If your re-assure them that is not the case, people will stop.

You can't stop random strangers though. And to be honest it's a fair question. "So, where are you in your relationship?" is a good, fair, question. It's pretty complicated today with different views on marriage, relationships and family, so people ask in different ways. Try not to be too offended.

2

I would say something like!

"Thanks for taking an interest but that's never going to happen and sadly the reasons are quite personal to (partner's name) and I, so I won't speak more on the subject. (Pause to let that sink in) Thanks for understanding. (Pause to let that sink in) Putting that to one side. Now! What's going on with you?"

2

I'm being asked this question frequently, and after having tried many variations, this is my current typical response:

I know a lot of bad parents and I see their children suffer. We know ourselves and we know that we would be bad parents. Our children would suffer, so we choose to not have any.

This will make most people uncomfortable (which is what I want, because they asked me an unpleasant question). However, some other people will reply that it is not true that you would be bad parents, or that it doesn't matter and you should have children anyway.

So my next response is:

The actual reason is that we tried with no success. We've seen doctors, and it turned out that we are both basically sterile.

This response makes almost everybody uncomfortable. Unfortunately, some people are unstoppable and they will suggest adopting children. It happened only once to me, I replied:

Certainly not: we would never love an adopted children like a real one.

Yes, you will appear as a bad person, but this will stop the person to make any other question.

2

I am in the same situation, and I think there is a different way to approach the problem, first if you have a particular reasoning as to why you do not want children, then explain it to them. People are more inclined to accept your choice if you offer a "solid" reason for that choice (while you actually shouldn't have to explain your life choices to anyone).

If there is no particular reason behind it, apart from the fact that you don't want to be a parent (which should be reason enough), you could go with an argument like :

I don't want to selfishly bring a child into a world like ours.

It's pretty hard to argue against that, and most people will likely leave it at that.

I want to be able to focus on my career.

Depending on your job, this might be a perfect argument, most people know that some jobs are not really compatible with having a family.

I don't feel ready to be a parent just yet.

This will most likely work for most people because it's not a definitive statement, there's still the possibility of having a child one day.

If a person is really annoying about this, I usually tell them that my life choices are mine alone and that they should leave it at that.

But you need to be aware that, in western society having a child of your own is "the norm" (the inability to conceive was one of the arguments provided against gay marriage). When you don't want children of your own people will find it weird, no matter what.

2

My spouse and I didn't have birth children of our own for 14 years, so, believe me, I am familiar with this question.

I simply would say

"I don't know"

or

"we aren't sure"

and found that the most useful. It gives very little for anyone to debate. As we got older, people might say

"Well you better figure it out, you are running out of time"

, I'd say something back like

"Well I am not exactly one foot in the grave, yet, but thanks for making me sound ancient" and laugh it off."

And then allow parents to gush. That is mostly what they are doing. Parents really love their kids, generally. If a parent really loves being a parent, rather than allowing that to feel like pressure, reframe it to acknowledge & appreciate that the children in the discussion are well loved, which is a great thing and the world could use more of it.

You can also likely stop the focus being on your reproduction by simply then turning the conversation to the other person, who is nearly always a parent, and simply tell them what a great parent you think they are (if you think they are a good parent) or by how evident it is to you how much they love their kids. This almost always will then move the convo away from your semen & onto how much they do love their own. I don't think most people mean to make this awkward, but they do for sure. I personally think ANY asking of someone you aren't incredibly close with about reproduction is terribly inappropriate.

People are unlikely to stop asking such questions, even if they really are none of their business. I wish I could tell you something that stops the asking, but I don't know that such a reply exists. I also know that currently, people feel free to share opinions. It's not just about not having any kids. If you have one, people ask if you are having more. If you have 2 they often still ask. If you have 3 they start asking if you are done. I am not sure why people are so invested in your parental status & child count, but they seem to be, or maybe many find it simply to be a topic of conversation.

It's not just this either. People ask all sorts of invasive questions acting like it's not invasive. We bedshared with our kids, by choice. People would ask if our child was still in our bed, pretty regularly and then feel free to say things like,

"Well that must be a real mood killer"

. I like verbal tit for tat so I'd reply with,

"Really? You think so? Are you two only having sex in bed these days? How long has the rut been going on?"

and a wink.

1

I've faced this many times, and like other commentors pointed out already, there really isn't any good way that will work always, with everyone.

However, instead of all the dodging, you can simply stand your ground. Most people asking the question are not close enough that you'd tell them private, intimate details, so you can brush them off with a nicer version of "none of your business". Something along the lines of "We decided so after looking at the question from every angle. It would take too long to go into details."

Most people are just curious. While being childless is not the social stigma that it used to be, it is still not the norm. Anything out of the norm prompts curiosity. Keeping your reasons to yourself is perfectly valid, you just need to tell people in the proper balance between being friendly and being firm. And if they inquire more than your social relation to them justifies, to draw the line and tell them that they are intruding on your personal space.

1

I have a cousin in the Western U.S. with this exact issue. They have a lot of reasons for the decision. Ultimately, it is simply hard for people to understand why what is generally considered a biological imperative is being rejected. Our culture insists that it is normal to have kids, normal to want kids, and normal to change your mind if you don't want them at a younger age.

My advice to you is basically that you are responding appropriately to your feelings and desires. If it changes over time, so be it, but you have even allowed yourself a solution for that in adopting a child that truly needs a home.

Your solution for changing your mind is actually a very mature thought process, and one that most people don't even recognize as such. Ensure that you simply make your opinion on having children/possibly adopting in the future known. That's all you can do.

1

I know someone who got drilled about this question constantly for several years by people who tended to utterly and rudely ignore logical answers, and while the answer she eventually found most effective was specific to her, I have tried to generalize it here into something that could work for anyone. Here is what you do:

Look very seriously at the person, nodding your head and saying "mm hmm, mm hmm," to show that you are taking them seriously. Then, with the straightest face possible, shake your head, sigh and say:

My partner and I talked a lot about this, and in the end, we decided it wasn't worth the risk because of my genetics -- you see I ... {{big pause}} ... I don't actually have a 24th pair of chromosomes, and I don't want to have a baby who will have to inherit my condition. I'm very lucky to be living the high quality of life I have, all things considered.

Most people will very seriously shake their heads, cluck to themselves and say something like "Oh, that's really something. I totally understand. Maybe you can adopt someday." And then they will change the subject for you. (Added benefit: An overly enthusiastic response to this can give a bit of a clue about which of your acquaintances have strong eugenicist leanings -- the better to avoid them.)


Addendum: It's worth noting that humans generally only have 23 pairs of chromosomes.

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How can I tell people that my girlfriend and I don't want, and never will want children of our own without being rude?

To me, the answer depends on what you want out of the conversation.

If you are interested in a debate, you can explain your views and your reasons and prepare yourself for every one of the follow up, know-it-all questions you listed.

If your goal, instead, is to end the questions and the follow ups as quickly as possible, here's how I used to handle this particular line of intrusive questions.

Q: So, you're not getting any younger! When are you planning a family? A child is the greatest experience for a couple ... etc. etc.

A: We'll be sure to let you know!

Q: Well, you can't wait too long, right? I mean, are you EVEN TRYING?!

A: We'll be sure to let you know!

Q: I don't understand! Don't you like children?! Don't you know how much it means to a spouse to have a child?! etc. etc.

A: We'll be sure to let you know!

Then, since the person may or may not be getting the point, you excuse yourself -- you suddenly hear your name being called, need to check on spouse/the game/your work/the food.

Good luck and remember that you don't OWE anyone any explanation of anything you don't wish to share. If you want to explain, that's your prerogative. If you don't, that's your choice, too. But for well-meaning people, I prefer to avoid a debate.

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Tell them you don't want children. They will persist, they will try to convince you. As others have pointed out, children are so central to the existence of many people, they can't wrap their head around your decision, and I think that's core to the constant badgering anyone receives from their family about "when are you having kids? when are you having another kid? do you want more kids? you should want more kids."

Your best bet is to supply whatever information you're willing to supply, and firmly shut down further questioning. Then when it comes up again, shut it down again, and keep doing that until your friends and family get that goading you and your girlfriend about children is off the table as a conversation topic, forever. If your friends/family persist, be rude about it.

I say this because you will have to provide something strong enough to jar them out of their engrained belief that children are central to the human experience, but you won't be able to do that with anyone who has children and has any love for them.

That's kind of an ugly answer but honestly, deflecting the issue, reasoning with, and coming to peace with "family is being rude" isn't going to get it done. This conversation about having kids is more polarized than modern US politics; as you've probably seen at this point, you will never change anyone's mind about how much they love their own children. Set boundaries, then dig a trench in front, then roll out some barbed wire, then bury some landmines.

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Refer to science. Start here:

https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-22/edition-4/think-having-children-will-make-you-happy

A chronicle outlining why having kids makes you unhappy.

And here are some research on the subject if people don't believe this article (note that it is written by a professor in psychology and published in The British Psychological Society's magazine)

http://www.pnas.org/content/107/38/16489.full.pdf

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13524-015-0413-2

http://users.wfu.edu/simonr/pdfs/Simon%20Contexts%202008.pdf

http://personal.lse.ac.uk/mackerro/happy_natural_envs.pdf

Basically, what all these papers say is that having friends, a partner, interesting work, pets, good friends, stable economy and housing, hobbies, being in the countryside, city centre (but not suburbs = where you move when you have kids), mountains, near the ocean or a lake and so on - everything is very intuitive - makes people happy. But spending times with your kids has the opposite effect and therefore, a lot of people planning to have two kids stop after the first.

If science reports are too impenetrable for the people arguing with you, here are some other articles in regular news outlets and similar containing the same information

https://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/why-does-anyone-have-children/

http://www.vice.com/en_se/read/science-says-having-a-kid-is-one-of-the-crappiest-things-that-can-happen-to-you-384

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21585093-reasons-preserving-biodiversity-are-becoming-more-widely-understood-whats-use

http://www.psmag.com/health/do-children-make-us-happy-60392

http://www.economist.com/news/international/21725553-more-adults-are-not-having-children-much-less-worrying-it-appears-rise

Food for thought: most western societies heavily subsidise having kids. In northern Europe just one year of school probably is around €15 000/year (or more). Add healthcare, sport and social activities to that. And still, in most countries the native population is decreasing. My conclusion from this is that people, when they have a choice, don't want to have kids. Imagine if car ownership was subsidised by €15 000/year - everyone would have one or more car(s). And imagine if children weren't subsidised but instead parents were obliged to pay for schooling etc from their own wallets and really could feel how expensive it was: "Hmm, should I spend €15 000 on education or should I take a two months luxury vacation in the West Indies and still have money left. That is a difficult one to answer…".

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When I tell people "I don't want to have children".

I should mention that, of all those "questions" following that statement, only "why not?" is an actual question regarding follow-up. The other could easily be shut down with a simply "Possibly. On a (related/different) note, how about (some other topic)?".

In any case, don't actually tell people that. It's just begging for a questioning response since you have quite obviously transmitted the information that there's an actual reason why you don't want kids, but without giving the reason.

The number of people who should know about the views on children held by you and your girlfriend are exactly two.

How can I tell people that my girlfriend and I don't want, and never will want children of our own without being rude?

Again, don't, for similar reasons. In any case, there's a massive flaw in your statement: while you may currently not want kids, you may well change your mind in future (note I said "may", not "will" as many of your friends apparently do). I myself didn't want kids when I was younger but, guess what? People change. You may or may not, but it's silly to totally discount the possibility.

They are plenty of ways in which you can reduce the prospect of a follow-up question regarding discussion on children, such as (humour is often a good way to disarm responses):

  • We haven't planned anything yet but we'll make sure you're the first to know. Well, third, anyway.
  • Having our own kids will reduce our capacity to spend money on yours. Is that really what you want?
  • We're planning right now ... we're planning to try a dog first and, if that survives, we'll consider going to the next level.

Again, these can all be followed by "changing the subject" sentences that shut down that line of discussion.

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