“I’m Never Having Children”

Choosing to not have children certainly can complicate — and enhance — intimate relationships. Here’s a closer look at how being child-free by choice has affected these real-life couples.

By Brittany Shoot

ictoria D. was just 23 when her then-boyfriend began pushing her about the kid question. “I knew from the get-go that he was looking for someone who wanted to have kids,” recalls the 35-year-old family and marriage therapist. But despite her boyfriend’s conviction, in those early years, Victoria could never decide if having children was right for her. Eventually, the couple split up. Victoria has since
Parenthood has moved from an assumption to a decision in the last 20 years.
married Chris, the man she calls her soul mate, and they’ve agreed to remain child-free. When pressed by others about having children someday, “I still feel like a freak,” she says.

They may feel like misfits compared to their peers, but couples like Victoria and Chris are part of a growing trend in the U.S. In fact, a 2010 Pew Research study found that nearly one in five American women will never have a child, and an earlier study conducted in 2007 similarly showed that couples’ attitudes about remaining childless are changing. Fewer than 50% of the adults surveyed said that having children was “very important” for a successful marriage.

Putting your (child-free) cards on the table
Laura Scott, a reproductive decision-making coach and director of the Childless By Choice Project, says that remaining child-free is slowly becoming more acceptable and normalized in today’s society. “Women who choose to remain childless are not the majority,” she explains, “but they’re not the rare birds that we used to think existed.” Though societal trends are shifting, Scott cautions that Victoria’s story is a great example of why it’s still crucial to address these issues early on in a relationship. “Parenthood has moved from an assumption to a decision in the last 20 years,” Scott says. “I really want to encourage people to have the ‘kid conversation’ early — when you’re getting serious, or even before that.”

Los Angeles native Elizabeth, 35, is inclined to agree. She and her first husband married young, and though the two were happy and compatible in every other regard, he ended up filing for divorce because she realized that she never wanted to have children. Elizabeth felt doubly pressured as a Hispanic woman from a big family, where having lots of children is just something that’s expected after marriage. While she’s confident that not being a parent is right for her personally, she says the added social pressure and judgment from her relatives and their culture has made explaining her decision to others especially difficult. “I feel extremely guilty,” says
Men more often take their cues from the women they’re dating.
Elizabeth. Often, she admits, “I have to lie.”

Her resistance to having kids is what initially attracted her second husband, Jerry. When they met in a Los Angeles grocery store checkout line, he mused, “You’re Hispanic like me. Shouldn’t you have six kids by now?” She blurted out, “I’m never having kids. What’s it to you?” Jerry smiled and replied, “Because I want to ask for your phone number.” The couple has since become inseparable, traveling around the world together and sharing their passion for kayaking.

Find common ground before trying to change someone’s mind
Some couples end up deciding to never have children because one partner is adamant. Lidia and Mathieu L., a thirty-something couple living in Toronto, Ontario, had the “kid talk” early in their relationship. Lidia had always been forthright about her feelings regarding children with the men she dated; Mathieu, on the other hand, had always assumed he would have children someday. When he met Lidia, however, he realized that he wasn’t so hung up on the issue that it would become a deal-breaker. “Mat thought kids were part of the deal, but he changed his mind when I explained why I didn’t want to have them,” explains Lidia, a marketing manager.

Laura Carroll, author of Families of Two, says that childfree women are often the ones to first broach the subject — like Lidia did. “Women want to announce these things,” she asserts. “Men more often take their cues from the women they’re dating.”

Scott believes that social norms are slowly shifting for both sexes, and that men like Mathieu may be encouraged over time to reconsider the options they have — and ultimately benefit from these evolving cultural attitudes. “I think as many men as women want to remain child-free, but may not take the steps to prevent it,” Scott says. “If they knew they had a choice, they might look at it differently.”

Brittany Shoot is a journalist based in San Francisco. Read more of her work at
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