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There are many reasons a woman may not have children.

·     She doesn’t want children.

·     She isn’t ready to have children yet.

·     She doesn’t know if she wants children.

·     She hasn’t met the right person with whom to have children.

·     She wants children but is struggling to conceive.

·     She can’t have children.

And that’s not even a complete list.

Yet, the idea that a woman is supposed to have children is so pervasive in our culture and society. It is seen as the “normal” thing to do. And, as we’ve pointed out here before, there’s no such thing as “normal”.

But the expectation still exists.  And that expectation somehow makes people believe it gives them free rein to make comments and ask questions when a woman does not have children.

Well, I am here to tell you it most definitely does not. And even when you think you are being helpful or supportive, you often aren’t. It’s always important to empathize with the woman you are talking to. It isn’t about how you think she should be handling the situation, instead it’s about her, the choices she gets to make in her own life, and how she feels about them.

So, in that spirit, here are just some of the things you should absolutely NOT say to a woman who doesn’t have children:

1.  Why don’t you have children?

First of all, this is no one’s business but the woman and her partner’s (if she has one). It immediately puts women on the defensive and forces them to explain their decisions. This question implies that having children is the norm, so not having them requires a “why”.

Perhaps the childless woman has been unable to conceive or maybe she’s had several miscarriages. If that’s the case, this question could be extremely painful for her to hear. It may seem harmless to you, but for her it could bring up some very difficult feelings and emotions.

We also don’t go around asking women with children why they have children. So, why should it be any different if they do not?


2.  When are you going to have children?

This question implies that everyone is going to have children or wants to have children at some point. It’s just a matter of timing.  It also assumes that having a child is what she should want to do. That’s a very unfair and inaccurate assertion. 

It seems like a very simple question, but it does not take into account what the childless woman is potentially going through. She may not be able to have children but desperately wants them. Like the previous question, this question then becomes very painful.

We never truly know what someone else is going through. Questions like this assume everyone wants and is capable of getting what the asker thinks is “normal’.  Which, in this case, is having children.

3.  Oh, just wait, you’ll change your mind!

This statement is condescending and flat out rude. If a woman tells you she does not want to have children, consider this her final answer. You may have once thought you wouldn’t want kids and now you have six, but that’s your life—not hers.

Saying something like this tells a woman that the decisions she’s made in her life aren’t valid and will change because they don’t fit into your societal norm. Basically, you are telling her this choice is wrong. Something that is very much none of your business.

This statement does not honor or respect the woman’s decisions or her own understanding of what she needs and wants. It’s just inappropriate.


4.  You wouldn’t understand because you don’t have children. 

This is cruel and belittling to the childless woman. It also invalidates her lifestyle simply because she hasn’t had kids. You are telling this woman that her decisions and choices in life make her opinion inferior to yours simply because you have a child.

Of course, having children gives a person a new perspective on many things, but that doesn’t mean a non-parent can’t sympathize or relate. Perhaps the childless woman has been around kids her entire life or helped raise her siblings. And even if she hasn’t, she still has thoughts and feelings.

You don’t have to ask your childless friends for advice on parenting, but don’t go out of your way to tell them their opinion doesn’t matter.


5.  Who will take care of you when you’re older?

Once again, this is none of your business! And to imply that having a child is necessary in order to safely and gracefully age, then you need to reconsider what parenthood means.

There’s also a chance the childless woman has thought about this. And it could be a scary possibility for her. No one wants to be alone at any point in their life, especially when they are older and more vulnerable. So, this question could cause pain.

Also ask yourself, what do you expect the person to say to this question? We have no idea what the future holds, so it’s impossible to know what will happen to any of us as we age. Why ask this at all?


6.  You won’t know the true meaning of love until you’ve had children.

This one just makes me mad. And I’ve heard it used a few ways, including in an effort to explain away a new mom being an absent friend. It goes something like this: my baby is teaching me how to truly love so that I will be an even better friend to you when I’m ready to start socializing again!

I am rolling my eyes so hard right now.

Okay, this statement, and any variation of it, is condescending and completely rude. By saying this you are implying that without children a woman will never know what it means to love someone else. You are placing yourself and your experiences above hers, and that’s not fair.

Yes, having children may have completely changed your life and the way you look at everything about it. But that doesn’t make you more capable of giving and receiving love than anyone else. Or of measuring anyone else’s ability to care about others.


7.  Your life must be so relaxing!

Women without children have been hearing this a lot during the pandemic. And listen, there is no doubt that having children is exhausting and taxing. You are keeping other human beings alive. That’s a lot.

But just because a woman doesn’t have kids does not mean she has an easy life. She has stresses at work and in her personal life. You simply have no idea what she is going through, so making an assumption like this is unfair and rude.

The childless woman may desperately want to be sleeping less and stressing more if it means having a child. Because trust me, dealing with infertility is stressful enough in and of itself.

Not having children doesn’t make someone’s life easier than anyone else’s. We are all going through something.


8.  Why don’t you just adopt?

This is often said to childless women who are struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss. It is an attempt to fix the situation by focusing on “the bright side”. The problem is that you can’t fix the situation, and when a woman is experiencing infertility there is no “bright side” in that moment.

Yes, adoption is a beautiful option for many people, but it is not for all people. And adopting a child does not minimize the pain of not being able to carry your own biological baby, if that is what you want to do.

Even if a woman eventually chooses to adopt, she still must be allowed to grieve the loss of having her own child. It isn’t something she just gets over because you think she should adopt. It is also a deeply personal choice between a woman and her partner (if she has one) and is not up for casual conversation.

If a woman is experiencing infertility the best thing you can do is simply listen and offer support. Not advice.


Of course, the list of things not to say to a woman without children goes on and on. And we aren’t going to be able to stop everyone from saying them. So, how do we handle these awkward and sometimes painful moments?

We put together a FREE guide to help you do just that! It’s called How to Handle Uncomfortable Questions & Comments and you can download it here.

And if you have anything you’d like to add to the list, share it in the comments below! And remember, if you are struggling with questions like this, know you aren’t alone. Your parental status, or lack thereof does not define you. No matter what anyone else may say.

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