My wife and I are both over 30 years old and we hear this question a lot. We can hear it from some close friends, but most often we hear it from our parents’ acquaintances, whom we have not even met, as a common form of small talk or a general question. It does not annoy me much, but my wife gets upset whenever she hears of this topic. I kinda guess why that is the case. Women are all expected to be mothers because they can bear a child. Unfortunately, not all women want to or are able to. I looked up what the current trend is where people say they are not likely to have kids and the number is growing1. My wife falls into this category, that is she does not want to have kids. And she thinks that it is unfair, that in most conversations when asked why we have not had any kids, she usually becomes the center of the issue. I’m perfectly clear that I’m half of the issue because it is both our decision. But as a male, I automatically get a free pass to get out of this issue in general. I think this stems from the fact that these older Asian generations grew up in a patriarchal society where the male has absolute authority over the family. I’m not that kind of male in the family, however, but it’s hard not to take for granted the privilege that I’m gifted upon. I’m also guilty for saying that it’s not a big issue and that she should let it go instead of dwelling on being upset for so long. It’s easier said than done because after hearing this question so many times, annoyance can warp into other darker feelings. But let’s not digress from the topic of why we haven’t had kids. I want to examine a few arguments people usually mention when they tell us to have kids:
Have a kid to preserve the lineage
I feel this reason would be more valid in the past than now. My parent’s generation and the generations before went through the Vietnam war, so it is a big deal for them to have offspring. I can imagine that in a war, where the uncertainty of tomorrow is high, it is important and valid to do so. My maternal grandmother has 9 children. I think my wife’s maternal grandmother has 7 children. This was somewhat normal in their generation and I don’t blame them. Now, with more and more countries having imposed policies on limiting childbirths, this reason seems absurd. I don’t want to contribute to overpopulation and I don’t want the next generations to suffer. Besides, there are other ways to continue one’s legacy. Having children is just one of them.
You’re getting old
Right, there are biological and psychological reasons to have kids before a certain age2. My wife and I are aware that fertility declines with age, but choosing and being able to become a parent is so much more nuanced than that. State of mind is also important. Being not ready to have kids is a valid reason. Subjecting one to bear a child simply due to their approaching a certain age is somewhat cruel. I care about my wife’s being more than the fact she may become too old to bear a child.
Your kid can take care of you later
That is a selfish way of thinking. If I were to have kids, I would not want to pressure them to take care of me or my wife. I would want them to live their fullest lives, experience failures, and pursue their passions, and love. I understand this is viewed as an assurance for having a kid, and no considerate parents would ever want to create burdens for their children, but I would like to stop hearing this reason. To me, this is like telling me to keep buying lottery tickets so that I can win the jackpot someday. It may happen, but most of the time it does not.
Your parents want grandchildren
Ah, I’m a sucker for this reason. I love my parents and I want them to be happy. I’m sure they have thought of this reason too although they have not mentioned this directly yet. I don’t have a good argument against this so I just want to say I am sorry if I disappoint them. But I am sure they want me to be happy, so they should respect my decision regardless of what it is. Besides, we have a dog and she can keep them just as busy as a grandchild.
It’s okay for people to be curious about us having kids. Most people our age do have kids so it’s natural for them to enjoy conversations about kids. My wife and I don’t mind talking about kids either. I’m interested in hearing how you raise your kids. But sometimes I do wish people would be more mindful after we tell them we don’t plan to have kids yet. Instead why don’t you ask our secrets to happiness or how we deal with arguments? There are many other ways to get to know the real us. This post is hard for me to write. I don’t know how long the stuff I mention here holds. Heck, I don’t even know if the targeted audience will ever read this post but I just need to vent a bit.
- Growing share of childless adults in the U.S. don’t expect to ever have children
- Having a Baby After Age 35: How Aging Affects Fertility and Pregnancy