Ask Wendy

I Don’t Think I Want Children Anymore – How Do I Tell My Boyfriend?

Friday, May 8, 2020
happy couple
Hey Wendy,

My boyfriend and I have been living together for the past three years. We’re planning on marrying next summer, and we’ve always assumed we’d have kids. During Covid-19, for good reasons, we took in his sister’s kiddo. She’s a pre-teen. She’s thoughtless. She complains all the time. She’s not appreciative. She's constantly talking and acts like she knows and is right about everything.

I’ve learned something about me – I don’t have the patience for it. I woke up yesterday to the sound of her complaining, and when I shot my boyfriend a look, he said, “that’s just how kids are” to which I responded, “if that’s true, we are never having kids”. I didn’t realize at the time what that comment would start, it’s not pretty.

Seriously, after this experience, I really don’t think I’m mom material. And I’m not quite sure how to tell him I’ve changed my mind about having kids. What do you think?

Julie K.

Hey Julie!


I think you may have already gotten the ball rolling on this conversation. Trust me, it’s better to learn this about yourself and address it right now instead of when your own child is three. Please take the time to think this through and have an honest heart-to-heart with your boyfriend on whether you two can get on the same page about this. Kids are not an area to compromise on or acquiesce to for your partner. I’ve seen it happen in real life and the outcome is not pretty.


Before I give you my “no kids” advice, there’s something to consider: A global pandemic is not exactly the best time to judge anyone’s baseline character—yours, your partner’s, or his sister’s kiddo. Everyone’s pent up, fed up, and up to their eyeballs in stress, depression and anxiety right now, so I’d advise you to keep in mind that this girl is probably not always like this, and in that vein, not all kids are like this, either.


Another very important aspect to take into account: Your current experience with this pre-teen is not at all the same as the experience you’d likely have with your own (adopted or biological) child. Would your kid still be a complaining little pain in the ass sometimes? Absolutely. But you’d have a different tolerance level for it.


Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., sites in her book, Stepmonster, that only 30% of marriages survive the first three years when the new wife is childless and the husband has children from a previous relationship. That’s the lowest rate of success in the family-dynamic relationship combos out there. Here’s why: As a woman, your hormonal mother instincts to sacrifice, put their needs first, keep an ear out for and attend to their desires, feelings, and needs is hardwired in you—even when you don’t want to, even when they aren’t yours, and even when you’re actively trying to tune them out. And when these demanding, irritating, complaining humans weren’t raised by you, you don’t have the oxytocin bond many mothers have for their children. Plus, your rational mind is whispering, “Isn’t this kid someone else’s problem? Why me?”


So, you’re right. Your little houseguest is annoying, intolerable, and kind of an asshole, but if she were your daughter, she’d be your asshole. And on most days, you’d probably think she was 105% worth it.


In 2020, having children needs to be an active choice—and choosing to have zero kids is a valid choice.


If you decide “no kids,” will people judge you? Yes, definitely, some will. Humans are judgey creatures. Some will silently judge. Some will ask you outright. Some will think you’re being selfish (which, to this day, I don’t understand). Others will look at you with pity, assuming that you can’t conceive. After a certain age (about 45), they stop asking altogether.


This happens because in our society, having children is just what you do by default. But the super cool thing about choice is you and your boyfriend get to design your life together however you want. Those judgey people won’t be living in your house with you—and they certainly won’t be giving birth or going through the trials and tribulations of navigating the adoption process.


So, in the designing of your childless future, I’d like you to think through a few questions:

  • What do you want your married life to look like?
  • What are you going to do with your time/money/creativity if you aren’t raising kids?
  • How and where will you spend your grow-it/raise-it/build-it/nurture-it energy and instincts? (Gardening, pets, building a business, etc.)

You don’t have to figure your whole life out right now, and life has a way of using you for its own plans anyway, but knowing the answers to these pieces will help you shape your future and give you a couple of hobbies and some solid resolve in your choice.


At 27, I decided I wouldn’t be having children. In the back of my mind, I worried about two things: Being judged by our society (I was), and that I’d regret my choice when I was older. Well, older is here, and I have no regrets.


Now it’s time for you to choose. Good luck!

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