Tammy Talk

What not to say to a woman without children

Women are choosing not to have children more than ever before in history.

But rather than celebrating the fact that we are free to make such a choice – and supporting each other in doing so – women who opt out of the social norm of motherhood are often condemned or criticized for their choices.

My personal experience, as a younger woman when I stated I didn’t want children, was mostly received with the somewhat condescending, all-knowing reply, “maybe not now, but one day.” As I have gotten older, comments have been tinged with pity “aren’t you sorry you didn’t have children” or “do you regret your decision”?

The insinuation that my life would be somehow incomplete if I wasn’t a mother, became tiring. It would have been really nice if people would have simply accepted my decision and commended me for knowing what was best for me.

I have comprised a list of the things never to say to a woman who has no children.

1. Why?

This is such a personal matter.

If a woman has been unable to conceive, hasn’t been in the right relationship or chose not to for genetic reasons, this could be a very painful topic. A woman who is child free by circumstance should not have to explain her child free state.

If a woman has simply chosen not to have children, trust that she has made the right choice for her. Nobody should have to explain or defend their decision to not have children. Just as nobody should have to explain their choice to have them.

It’s not your business. Period.

2. You’ll change your mind.

I remember when my first serious boyfriend said he didn’t want kids, it was almost a deal breaker. Not because I wanted them, but because I wanted the chance to have them if I decided I wanted them. You know, if I happened to change my mind.

I get it. People change their minds all the time. I’ve changed my mind about lots of things ~ from the mundane; what color to dye my hair, or a travel destination, to the magnificent; existential kingdom of God and the institution of marriage.

People change their minds about kids too. I know this. I have witnessed it. But having told me that I will change my mind just makes you sound self-righteous. I’m pretty sure you didn’t know me better than I knew myself, unless of course, you were my mother, my sister, or my very best friend.

So just don’t say it.

3. What if you regret it later?

I’ll live with it. I promise. A child is not an “idea.” It’s not a thing or a toy.

It’s an actual person that needs love and attention and dedication. For a long time. Like, forever. Deciding to “have a baby” is a lifetime decision. Bringing a whole human being into the world on the off chance that I might later regret not doing so seems like a terrible idea to me.

4. It’s the most natural thing in the world.

Well, sure it’s natural.

But if it were up to nature, a woman’s life would be dedicated to reproduction. There would be no waiting until you’re “ready”. If it were up to nature there would be no birth control (or technological advances that have lead to lowering the maternal death rate, for that matter). If it were up to nature we’d all just be breeding machines.

But being a “mother” is so much more than birthing a child. And motherhood, I’m sorry to say, does not come naturally to all women. If it did there would be no infantcide or abandonment or neglect or abuse or cruelty towards children of any kind. I don’t doubt the presence of a profound feeling, I just don’t think it happens to everyone.

5. Having a baby is the most fulfilling thing you will do.

I’m pretty sure that if you decided to have children, being a parent is the most fulfilling thing in your life. That is outstanding and important. Because, it would be pretty sucky if you didn’t find parenting fulfilling and you were stuck with being a parent for, hmmm, let’s say, FOREVER!

I think that having babies needs to be the most fulfilling thing you will do. What other reason is there to have children except that it is an emotionally fulfilling experience? They cost an extraordinary amount to raise. And money isn’t the only thing it costs to raise happy, healthy children. People everywhere are pulling their hair out over the trials of being a parent for the simple fact that at the end of the day “it’s totally worth it.”

It’s difficult for me to argue with the rationale that having children is the most fulfilling thing you will ever do because I don’t have children and that ship sailed long ago. But the comprehension that having a baby is the most fulfilling thing you will ever do is supported by women everywhere! “Yes!”, they are saying. “I thought my life was fulfilling before, but now I know real fulfillment!”

I’m not denying that things change when you become a parent. I have heard it time and time again from women who wanted to be mothers. They have capacities they didn’t even know they had, fill up with a love they didn’t even know they could feel.

I get that you can learn selflessness and patience and compassion and sacrifice and loss and pure happiness and a host of other things through being a parent. I also believe you can learn all these things in other ways too! Adopt a dog!

And when your life is not filled up with children, you fill it with other things. I have lived and continue to live a big life. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Ever. I feel fulfilled. I truly dislike having the quality of my life judged by the single determiner of whether or not I’m a mother.

6. Isn’t that a bit selfish?

I don’t even know where this idea came from. Since when does not having a baby equate to selfishness?

Everyone contributes to society in different ways. I understand that one of your many contributions may have been children. And yes, these are the people that make music I like to listen to, or performers that inspire me. These are the people that take care of me when I am sick, cut my hair or fly me to beautiful destinations so I can see the world. Trust me, I value your children. I also value anyone that makes a contribution to society, just as I value people with no children.

I think in many ways not having a child makes me less selfish. Because I don’t have children, I have more time and more energy and more money to give to others. Especially, to people and animals who need it more than what the world needs .. another person.

7. You just haven’t met the right guy yet.

I’ve met heaps of the wrong guys. I’ve been with a few of them too. I know all about the wrong guys. The guys that lie to you, the guys that cheat, the guys that take money from you, the guys that make you feel like you’re nothing, the guys that control you, the guys that give you the silent treatment for days, the guys that manipulate you, the guys that tell you that you’re crazy, the guys that don’t come home, the guys that do come home and lash out at you…do I need to go on?

Those guys are not the right guys.

My guy is not that guy. He is a good guy. He doesn’t mind that I made a choice that was right for me. The fact that he respects my decision that I didn’t have children, makes him definitely the right guy for me. Some of the wrong guys, that already had children from prior relationships, decided that they did not want a pseudo mom. Instead, a woman that already had children, who understood children, might be a better match and partner. Well, alright then!

However, do you know how it feels to be the other woman in a self-made family? Do you know how weird it feels when you love your children more than your partner and you make that known? Of course you should love your kids and you have to put their needs first. Loving your kids is like going to school, you don’t really have a choice. Loving your partner is like going to college, it is up to you to show up and participate. And whether you realize it or not, children need role models that show a happy, loving relationship. I am blessed to not be at the bottom of the totem pole any longer.

9. Didn’t you want to leave a legacy?

Did I feel like I needed to leave a legacy? No, not really. In fact, the thought had never crossed my mind until you said it.

But now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I would like to say that I find it incredible that there are, in fact, no other ways to leave a legacy. What about through art or writing? What about acts of kindness? What about teaching or changing the world? Are you trying to tell me that the Dalai Lama won’t be remembered? That he hasn’t left a legacy? Or Mother Teresa? If leaving a legacy is important to someone there are many other (and dare I say better) ways to do it than having a baby.

10. You don’t know love until you have a baby.

This is my favorite. The one that condemns everyone who chooses not to (or is unable to) have a child to a loveless life.

I know what you mean, I do. The love a parent feels for a child is different. Of course it is. I believe you. And, what’s more, I know I will never know or understand this love unless I had become a mother myself. But I’m okay with that. I rescue animals and I know that my love and empathy runs just as deeply for my four-legged kids.

Some sons and daughters are born to you. Others occur to you. I’m so blessed to be a part of the lives of so many amazing (and some pretty terrorizing) little ones. I am an “aunt” and a “fairy god mother” to several friends children. I am honored. My friends are like an extended family, and while their blood doesn’t run in my veins, their heartbeats do and I feel fiercely blessed every single day for being so cherished and having so many people fill my heart with love. I have a wonderful family that I have so much love for, sometimes I feel like I will burst from it. My husband is incredible. If all I had for the rest of my days was him, I would feel complete and content. I share him with his children and my role is based on what is comfortable for them, for me, and us as a whole. I am a piece to their puzzle. We all fit together to make one stunning, complete image. And isn’t that beautiful?

I often come across parents who don’t think that my life is “enough.”

But it is enough for me.


15 Comments

  1. Ronald Eger

    Nice work Tammy . I am happy that you are happy with or without kids. Enjoy life and live it to its fullest.

    • tammyeger

      Thank you for your support, Dad, always and in all ways. I love you!

  2. Nadine

    Well thought-out article, Tammy! I’m fortunate that in my circle of friends there are a few of us without kids, (we have our fur kiddos though), and I don’t get any flack from my family. I do read a lot and hear from others about the pressure though. Like you said it’s no one else’s business but our own. Having kids is no guarantee they’ll turn out well and be there for you later. We create our circle ourselves. Thank you!! 😚

    • tammyeger

      Thank you for taking the time to read, Nadine. I know you are in the four-legged, furry kid club, like me! I love that! I think we were a rare breed at one time, however, I think it is becoming more common now with many women having high profile careers. All I know is that my life is complete and I just wanted to put it out there after all the years of judgement.

  3. Susan Blais

    Beautifully conveyed!!! I never had children and this was so right on! Thanks❤️

    • tammyeger

      Thank you so much, Susan. This was spoken from my heart and based on true-to-life situations and realizations. I am happy to call you “friend” and I am glad you are in my “four-legged, furry kid club”. xoxo

  4. Vivian Milton

    Tammy this was a great read don’t let people tell you different it your choice. There are a lot of people who shouldn’t have them. These days I would wonder if I would even want to bring a child in the world we live in. You have had children just fur baby’s that you love and have enjoyed.❤️

    • tammyeger

      Thank you for your kind words, Vivian. And you are so right when you state “there are a lot of people that shouldn’t have them”. I have witnessed that and the only one that suffers is the child. I give so much credit to the younger generation raising kids in today’s world. I certainly hope that retirement is treating you well and you are enjoying your grandchildren. It must be fun to spoil them and then hand them back to “Mom and Dad”. I appreciate you reading and commenting! xoxo

  5. Penny HG

    Well said, Tammy. I’ve heard many of those over the years, and the end result was that I felt ‘different’ and ‘not normal’. I would question myself and wonder how I could make myself ‘normal’. If any of those people had bothered to know me, know my heart, instead of giving me a flippant judgment, they would’ve known how painful my childhood was, how I had a vindictive mother who treated me like she hated me, and how much that impacted my decision. My best friend is passing traditions down to her children, traditions that bring back great memories for her. I don’t have that. I never had a mother I leaned on or could turn to. If I would’ve been a mother myself, I would’ve felt like a foreigner in a strange land who doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t know where to go. I realized the awesome responsibility it is, and feared it. I’m happy about the wife, aunt, daughter, sister, and friend I am. I always make time for my loved ones, and I recognize it for the gift it is. I have freedom to stop what I’m doing and answer their call, and to help them when they need help. I wish I’d had the kind of life where I would’ve felt confident to be a mom, to have a house full of laughter and chaos. When I’ve heard some of those flippant statements over the years, I don’t think those people understood the pain they stirred up. My decision was right for me, and God gave me a man who not only didn’t want children, but also couldn’t have them, but even though we made the decision we did, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any sadness attached to the decision. Thank you for your courage in writing about this <3

    • tammyeger

      Thank you, Penny, for sharing your story with me. I am so sorry to hear about your painful childhood. I certainly had no idea as you have risen above any adversity you were exposed to as a child. You are such a warm and lovely lady and I have always enjoyed your company when we have been at social gatherings. I had quite a different experience growing up. My mother was very kind and had such a loving and nurturing nature about her. She was a wonderful mother. My mother married young and she lacked autonomy. When my parents divorced, I stepped in to show her how to balance a checkbook, helped her establish credit on her own and taught her how to be independent. Mind you, I was in my early 20’s when my parents split and just learning how to be an adult. I realized that I never wanted to be in a position like that. I vowed to always be independent, make my own money, take care of myself and make my own decisions. I was not even interested in marriage until my mid to late 30’s. As all my friends were marrying and having children, I would hop on a flight from New York to California for a weekend trip. Or, jet off to Colorado for a ski vacation. I much preferred not having any constraints to hold me back. Children were never in my plan. And quite frankly, I thought I was abnormal because I did not get giddy around all the babies my friends were having. I think I would have been a great mother, as I would have set the same examples that my parents did for me. It just wasn’t what I wanted and that decision was a personal choice that has plagued me for a good portion of my adult life. What I do know is, like you, I am now comfortable in my own skin and able to talk about it. I am very happy with the life I have chosen for myself and I cannot wait to see what else is in store for me. And it makes me happy to know that you are content with your life as well. I love the love you share with your husband, Troy, and the adventures the two of you take. And the love you have for your fur babies. We are ENOUGH, Penny! xoxo

      • Penny HG

        Love this, Tammy <3 Thank you for your kind words, and sharing your story. I totally get it. I can see how that would shape your decisions. From what you've posted about your mother, I could see she was a great mother and special woman, who raised a lovely daughter. I'm so glad you are able to talk about it now, and feel peace. There's a gift in every life choice, and I believe we are gifts to all of our loved ones, just the way we are. You are SO right: we ARE enough! Thank you for writing about this and being open and authentic. You are a gift

        • tammyeger

          Thank you so much, Penny. Please know that the feeling is mutual. When the pandemic is over, us childless gals should grab a cocktail. I would love to talk more!

          • Penny HG

            Sounds good to me! Take care of you during these crazy times

  6. Anku

    I love it. So inspiring. You should make a Instagram page for this. A lot of people would love to see this beautiful messages and pics

    • tammyeger

      I am so pleased that you enjoy reading my blog, Anku. I wish I had more time to promote it on social media. Maybe one day in the near future, I will have more time to do so. Thank you for following me and being a loyal and genuine friend.

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