How to Explain Why You've Chosen Not to Have Children

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Reader Comments (107)

It is an excellent comic, Scott. Funny and true. I will also say it is harder being childless when you'd rather not be, and it's much worse when you're a woman. People, including my mother, just assume that I'm going to have them anyway or that I'm either Medusa, Medea, or Mommie Dearest.

And, it is like rubbing your biological failing and your private pain in your face.

It kind of doubly sucks having to actively defend something that isn't really your choice and then be criticized for it.

I think that next time I'm going to go for: "Well, I have bipolar disorder and my husband's infertile from cancer treatments that he received two years ago, but thanks for bringing it up. Enjoy the party. It's been great seeing you."

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Reminds me of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement... Mmmm.... VHEMT. Delicious!

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMicah

I never wanted children. I didn't have to endure too much of the "when are you going to" talk because I didn't have much luck in the romance department and thus had to endure endless questions about finding someone and ultimately bad attempts to set me up. When I was 36 I made the ultimate mistake and got someone pregnant. She wanted kids and so we argued a lot at first. Eventually I accepted my fate and chose to be a part of her life. I can't speak for anyone else's situation, but it was the right choice for me. I'm happy being a father. I'm sure I could have been happy without children, but no such relationship worked out for me.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterclarus

After offering a reason or two, if still questioned, I ask, "Why is it important to you that I have children?"

The reason is that they want everyone to be part of the herd of sheeple. Some have said as much; most are too dim to understand that that is their reason.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSondra

My sister and I are in a Mexican standoff to pressure each other into having kids so we don't have to ourselves. My wife and I want to be the cool aunt and uncle, and my mother wants grandkids.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLummox JR

I am going to have three kids, one to inherit my worldly possessions, one to carry on my idiosyncratic philosophical beliefs, and one to avenge my assassination.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGregory Bogosian

This comic is glorious and the comments are almost as good. Crotch-fruit. Ha.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

This is the one that express almost all my ideas about (not haveing) children. Funny as well.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGianluca

I love my friends and relatives who don't want to have kids - it means there are more childless people in my life to spoil MY kids! ;)

Seriously, though - I sometimes ask friends if they're planning on having kids, but if they say "No" I do try to drop the subject. Kids are great, but they are TONS of work, and I'd rather people didn't take on the job who don't want it.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnitra

I'm only 24, and I already have accepted that some people will never be satisfied no matter what reasons you give them. I guess I'm preparing myself for the future when my supposed bio clock starts to go tick tock and family and acquaintances start to butt in.
I just hate it when I tell someone that I have no interest in bearing or raising children and they seem to take it as a personal attack. I didn't tell you to not have kids! Go forth and pop out as many of them as you want, I just don't want the same. Me not having kids has no effect on these people, I just don't get it.
Irritation aside, I love today's comic.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterValerie

I was at a wedding in England a few years ago and ended up in one of these discussions with a couple who have children. It was initiated in the usual way - I was asked if I have children and I replied no, i've made the decision to not have them. And as is usually the case, I was subjected to listen to a list of reasons as to why I should, how wonderful it is, and how I'll probably change my mind, to which I politely replied - I understand those are your feelings, but i'd like to point out at no instance in this conversation did I choose to lay out the reasons why I thought you had made a mistake in your decision to have children.

The conversation abruptly ended when they didn't have any further reply.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKraeg

I can totally see two dudes having this conversation, as I am the only woman in my department at work, and one of two child free people. I have heard the "you'll change your mind" comment from men women and people I still classify as children. Apparently there is a magic age at which your decision is taken seriously, if you are on the pro kid side that age is anytime after puberty, if you are in the against group, that age is somewhere around 50 (for a woman anyway). This one is going on my desk, and will be shown to the next person who says "you'll change your mind".

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRhiannon

I've opted with the "Who Knows" exit line when barraged with the questions of why I don't/won't have kids.
I try to give my reasons and if that doesn't work, then "Who knows?" Exit stage left.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJuanita

Not having kids isn't a big decision. HAVING kids is a big decision. A lot of the world's problems would be solved if more people realised this.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy

We chose not to have kids (24 years ago), and when people ask and time permits we explain the decision-making process, which involved sending letters (no email then) to a couple dozen friends and family asking for their advice as to what we should consider in our decision-making. Most just told us why we should have kids - which was a kind of answer to our question.

We then tell people that most of the reasons clearly hadn't been part of their decision-making process, but were benefits of having children that they dreamt up to try to convince us that we should join them in this endeavor - things like 'someone to look after us in our old age', 'they build character', 'it's our service to the world to raise good children'.

We concluded that people have children because they want children (or are just following custom); and we neither cared about custom, nor had either of us spent much energy on the idea of having children. So we concluded that it was purely about preference or convention, and since it was of little interest to us, we'd not have children, and 'serve the world' in other ways. We DID choose to 'build character' by having a house large enough to have renters/housemates, and have thoroughly enjoyed (mostly) sharing our lives in that character-building way.

That explanation tends to end the conversation - there's just so many things there to pick up on that they don't know where to start. If people do pick up on something, it tends to be the consultation with friends and family - which changes the topic.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid SP

Once people have gone beyond the normal curiosity of why you don't have kids, or they express their curiosity in obnoxious ways, you COULD say, 'I sense jealousy on your part', or 'if it's that important to you to have a couple more children in the world, why don't you have two more?', and, of course, because it is probably true 'didn't I just hear you complain about your kids?' This last suggestion might actually have the benefit of making them more appreciative of the life-form they brought into the world and are now responsible for.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid SP

Scott, great work!

But I just notice... this must be the comic with the longest comments ever!

Fell like people have much to say about it to other... or maybe to themselves!

It´s starting to look like a group therapy!

Note from Scott: If I may get real for just a moment, you'd be surprised how much crap those of us who have decided to not have kids get. Admittedly, it's the low end of the oppression spectrum, but it's not often the child-free find a safe harbor to discuss the one decision that has most shaped our adult lives.

Just sayin'.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmorim

Morally speaking, rearing children is the most selfless and significant thing most people ever do with their lives--and if you're alive, you're the beneficiary of someone else who did so. Personally speaking, it's one of the most fulfilling and happy experiences most people ever have. Put those two facts together, and it's a no-brainer that 90% of the human race is going to react with incomprehension and disapproval when they encounter someone who has decided _not_ to have children. Complain if you will, but you might as well be complaining about gravity.

Note from Scott: There's a fundamental difference between gravity and people being rude about my lifestyle choice. Gravity isn't deliberately inflicted upon me by someone who likes walking and thinks I'm selfish for wanting to fly.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric Phillips

While I'm on the team of "not wanting kids" I also see the prolem that those who don't want kids are often those who are intelligent and responsible enough to actually do a good job at parenting and bringing up children to be respectful, responsible members of society.
Perhaps we should see it as our duty to try to outnumber those who clearly shouldn't be reproducing!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMe

@ JessiEeee!


July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChaotk

I was also noticing that this is a long comment thread, but if you as a reader are somehow offended that Scott's audience uses his comics as an open forum or "group therapy", you DON'T HAVE TO READ the comments. Just as NOT HAVING KIDS is often a choice, so is READING DIFFERING OPINIONS.

I applaud Scott for turning this issue into a Basic Instruction - I'd already read Missy's thoughts on the matter on her blog, and while we may agree or disagree with the concept of "choosing" a childless lifestyle, we should all appreciate that these posts are FREE for us to consume. It costs even less to "choose" not to consume them!

To all the folks out there who've decided to raise their children well, kudos! To those who've decided to put their efforts into other ventures, kudos! To those whose decisions were made by other people or biology, I wish you luck in correcting your situation to the best possible end for all involved!

(and I look forward to the rest of the comments that will inevitably arrive before tomorrow's comic!)

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBI Fan

a vote AGAINST (bad) parenting, anyone?


July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBI Fan

Allow me to put my own twist on an Edmund Burke quote: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to not have kids.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

@ JessiEeee!

Yay for logic! You just made me feel more brave to admit that I'm an atheist too! And I actively discourage my two kids from getting tangled in relgiion, so hopefully the atheist population will increase by two when they reach adulthood (prior to then, as Michael Shermer accurately points out, they aren't anything but children).

Independent thought FTW indeed!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSolak

@Scott - if you think that telling people you are childless opens up an irritating / frustrating / insulting line of conversation, try telling them you don't believe in god. Any god. Not even the cool Greco-roman ones.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSolak

I have been haunting sites like these for awhile:

But I seriously mourn the lack of one, centralized, cohesive, well-designed social utility site where we can congregate.

... Anyway, thanks for the unsolicited validation. Commiserating might not cease the litany of stupid questions and conversations, but it is nice to know we're not alone.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I'm at that age now where people ask me, "So do you have any kids?" and I reply, "Oh, God, no." and they say, "Oh, I'm so sorry!"

You're sorry? For what? Don't feel sorry for me. I'm not the one with the floppy vagina and bags under my eyes.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLyndse

I can't like this comic enough.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterernest

When was the last time you saw truly happy parents trying to force others to have kids? They're too busy enjoying their own lives to pester other people about theirs.
That's why I believe those who try to push kids onto those of us with no desire for them are jealous of our freedom, and want us to be burdened and miserable like them.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEBS

My first comment apparently didn't make the cut, so I'll try again, more briefly. My husband and I are in our early sixties, happily married for more than three decades, and childless by choice. I would have predicted, decades ago, that the silly debate over whether voluntary childlessness is acceptable would have been well over by 2011, and that people would also have stopped being bizarrely nosy about other people's reproductive decisions. Obviously I was wrong. But I was right about four things -- we didn't change our minds, we don't regret our decision, we are happy, and by golly, this comic strip is WONDERFUL as well as very funny. I really enjoy BASIC INSTRUCTIONS. Thank you!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

OMFG I love you Scott. (No worries, Missy, I am a gay female in a very happy 15+-year relationship.) And the other commenters? I am taking notes. Even when I *was* a child I didn't like nor ever EVER want to have kids. Never. Not once in my entire life. Never played house, never played parent, none of that. By age 13 I was diagnosed with terrible [*monthly woman stuff* to protect the sensitive males...] including bleeding so badly as to become seriously anemic to the point of passing out often as well as debilitating cramps. I am 42 now and STILL can't find a Dr. who will let me get spayed to treat this despite the fact that I never, never, never have wanted to have children and therefore have never needed those damn parts that are apparently trying to kill me. How exactly is that okay? When is it my decision, exactly? They still insist I could change my mind. I tell them it is exactly as likely as my turning into a newt. Nope, instead I have been rx'ed BC pills to take continuously with no placebo break, with all the included health risks that are apparently better. Since I was 13.

And folks, Scott is spot on. I have actually had near-strangers yell at me that I can't possibly not want kids. That I am wrong. That I would be a great parent, blah blah blah. Can you imagine if I turned that around on people? "Oh you really shouldn't have kids. You'd be a terrible parent. Is there still time to get that aborted?"

I love the "Our sex life is way too weird for kids...." reply. As a lezbo, that sort of sentence from me would probably asplode their tiny minds.... Scott for Earth Tzar!! Defeat the moonmen FTW!

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClumber

I don't think it's at all a "PC" thing not to have kids -- my wife and I finally got our families to stop asking about it after years. Other than some of our gay friends, we're the last "friends couple" that doesn't have any, and we hardly see our childed compatriots any more. I just started telling people that there's only one good reason to have kids, i.e., that you really really want children because you'll love having them around and will always make them number one. Parents get to vote (usually) whether to have them, so parents have the responsibility to treasure those kids, even at the parents' own expense. My mom didn't do that, and I'm concerned that I wouldn't want to do it either. If you can't promise yourself that, you shouldn't have kids, because they will suffer if you're wrong.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfrank

My best response is such:
"so, when are you having kids?"
Me: "When minivans are sexy and child care if free".

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle

In response to: "Admittedly, it's the low end of the oppression spectrum, but it's not often the child-free find a safe harbor to discuss the one decision that has most shaped our adult lives."

AMEN brother. When people say "do you have children?" I just say, "we're child free by choice" and I do get respect for that about 95% of the time. It's polite way to express my/our preferences up front and usually closes the gap for discussion.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle

@Silent Scope: You are a moron on so many levels.

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiza

My brother actually uses "larvae" out loud, as in, "No, thank you, I don't want to hold your larvae"
I was surprised to find out that men, too, have this conversation.. Women don't even ignore my sensible and reasonable explainations - they go straight to "you have to have your babies! You have to have your baaaaabieeeees!" as though 'my babies' were already out on the porch, and I was neglecting them by leaving them out there.
I like the idea of "hmmm, if I had a baby, I'd be increasing the Atheist population"

July 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDee

A while ago, I told my girlfriend (for reasons I've since forgotten) that she'd make a great mom. Her immediate, and I mean before I'd even shut my mouth immediate, response was "I'd rather die".

I'm not so big on marriage either, but damned if that doesn't scream "future wife" right there. <3

July 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKevin L.

In response to: "Admittedly, it's the low end of the oppression spectrum, but it's not often the child-free find a safe harbor to discuss the one decision that has most shaped our adult lives."

While it isn't a serious form of oppression if you add up all the times people actually say the words "you'll change your mind" it starts to feel like chinese water tourture. Usually though the most outspoken memebers of the "but you should want to have kids" group are the ones who firmly believe their oppinion is the only correct oppinion about most things in general. At least in my own personal experience. I tell people my biological clock has a dead battery, it has never emitted a peep in 30 years I don't expect it to start.
I also love the fact insurance companies are all about saving themselves a dollar, but yet would rather shell out for prenatal care and 18 years of dependant coverage rather than pay for the couple thousand dollar operation it requires to finalize my decision.

July 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRhiannon

Many years ago I asked my friend why she was pressuring me to have kids, and she said, 'Why should I be the only one to suffer?'
And there, friends, is your answer.

July 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwhiterabbit11

Note to Scott.. and all:

I don't judge, and I sure do not try to make other peoples minds... Heck, I´m not thinking about having kids, because I have not yet decided if I´ll get marry! I know how many people look at a single 30 year old man with a nice job and wonder why not just get marry!

But I must thank you all (not all... there´s always a "Silent Scope" on the way), for giving me the opportunity to see things trough your eyes!

July 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmorim
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