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What! You Don't Want to Have Children?

Are you on the defensive about not wanting kids?

The letter that came in the mail to me last week:

"I'm constantly defending myself and offering explanations to people who think something is wrong with me because my husband and I have chosen to be a family of two. Am I really missing out? How can I convince my critics and myself that it's OK to be childless?"

Here's my advice. Stop trying to convince your critics.

The more you offer arguments on your own behalf, the more defensive you will sound. Just let folks know--lightly or humorously--that it's your choice. Their reactions are their own problem.

Many women have been raised with the message that we should want to have children. But (to state the obvious) women differ from one another. To assume that women should all be mothers is like assuming that all men should be accountants if they have the brain for math. And child-free is a better term than childless when a woman makes a choice to not reproduce. (Now that I think of it, let's delete the word "childless" from our vocabularies. Like "spinster" and "old maid," the word carries too much negative power to define who we are. Certain words need to go by the wayside).

A large percent of women who are coupled up do not have or want children. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of American women without children has risen to an all-time high of 1 in 5. This is a big jump from the 70s when 1 in 10 women ended their childbearing years without having a baby.

If you don't have children are you missing out? Of course. But women who do have children are also missing out. Every significant life choice is a mixed bag that precludes other experiences and choices.

Most importantly, fire the critics who have set up outposts in your head. Remember that other people can't make you feel misguided or inadequate. They can only try.

More from Harriet Lerner Ph.D.
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