The BBC magazine visits the issue of women who choose not to have children. Apparently, there is a problem with others making assumptions and asking impertinent questions about when they plan to procreate. This is a fairly common meme as I’ve noticed it before.

Once this was considered insane or unnatural. Even today, it is viewed with suspicion – women with no desire to procreate say they sometimes face awkward questions and disapproval.

“A woman at work was recently quite shocked by my saying I didn’t want children. She said: ‘You’re a woman, you were born with a womb, God gave a womb so we could procreate’,” Jenny, aged 25, told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Mrs L has never wanted children, which is just as well, I have never wanted them either. Occasionally we are asked in conversation if we have children, but on replying in the negative, the matter ends there. No one has made the kind of comments mentioned in the article. When we first married there were a couple of comments along the lines of when we could expect to see junior LRs, but we made it clear that there weren’t going to be any and that was that.

No one has told us – to our faces at least – that we are selfish. If they did, they would receive a sharp retort and told to mind their own business. So, is the BBC agonising over a non issue? Are other couples who decide not to have children suffering the opprobrium of the breeding majority? Or, like us, do they occasionally answer a casual question in the negative and no more is said?



  1. Travelling in the same boat here as you and yours, Mr LR and also largely untroubled by judgemental fools. Except for one group, those struggling to conceive a child. They are, in our experience, the ones who use words like ‘selfish’ and issue warnings about ‘regretting it later’. Obviously they see things only from their own perspective and feel they have a right or a duty to lash out, no doubt born of having to replace the assumption that we can’t with the reality that we wouldn’t.

    Have you ever been asked, as we have, by one or two relatives, about not providing our parents with grandchildren and how disappointed they must be?

  2. I’ve never heard of such a thing either – some people want children, some don’t, it’s quite simple isn’t it? I reckon the BBC just make this stuff up. It’s probably a prelude to advocating the recognition of some new form of ‘hate crime’.

    Anyway, I thought it was more likely to be the other way a
    round these days. Our third is about to be born any minute and I live in constant ‘fear’ of being told we’re destroying the planet.

    (Obviously when I say fear, I mean excited anticipation of the opportunity to launch a verbal assault on the kind of person who would say that kind of thing.)

  3. A very interesting blog. Me and Mrs Bucko have never wanted children, but unlike yourself and PT, we have been judged and dismissed by many a person. There have been conversations that I have walked away from to avoid punching someone in the face.
    Until a couple of years ago, we worked in pubs for about 8 years. I would imagine our misfortune is probably down to having discussed the issue with a much wider range of people in the pub environment.
    I have noticed a pattern to how the conversation goes. This mostly happens with women who already have kids. When I say I dont want kids, they wave their hand and say, “You will change your mind”. I then explain that I have thought long and hard on the issue and have come to a firm, unwavering decision that I never want kids. Now they become concerned that I am actually serious. They then start with all the reasons why I am wrong and I must have kids. I have been called selfish too. One of the more popular arguements is that I will be lonely when I (we) get old. I point out that, that is a selfish reason for having kids. I put down all the arguments one by one with my reasoning.

    Now they start to get a little upset and annoyed. Most people seem to think that having kids is a matter of course and everybody does it. When I explain why I dont want them, folk seem to realise, belatedly that there is an alternative and having kids may not be necessary after all. Its too late though, they’ve already got 3 or 4.

    Finally comes the denial and the last ditch attempt to change my mind and make sure I join in the throng of parenthood, therefore convincing themselves that they were right all along and we all do have kids as a matter of course. They finish this arguement the same way they started it – “You will change your mind”. Then they exit the conversation and walk off.

    I have had this conversation so many times I can’t count. Now, when the subject comes up and I get the first “you will change your mind”, I just say, “Maybe” and change the subject.

    It is very annoying that my desire not to have kids is so often completely dismissed as some kind of herasey; as me just talking bollocks.

  4. Have you ever been asked, as we have, by one or two relatives, about not providing our parents with grandchildren and how disappointed they must be?

    No. But my response would be along the lines of that being a very facile reason to have children.

    Bucko, wow! So it isn’t just the BBC, then… I guess that answers my question.

  5. I suppose my experiences may be down to the type of people I have had the conversation with. A lot of those who would be hanging around a northern pub on a weekday afternoon probably never gave any thought to having kids. They never made a consious decision to have children and when ect. They just did it.
    Those who thought long and hard and then decided they did want kids would probably not think badly about those who dont want them.
    I have sparked off a discussion in our office about this now. Our IT manager has no kids and he says he has never experience anything like I have just described. On the contrary, the only comments he remembers are like, “thats the way to go”.
    Funny old world.

  6. I’ve had the kind of response your IT manager describes, Bucko, from people with children who sometimes come over a little wistful at the thought of being childfree. I think you have it exactly right. Problems come from those who have never considered children a choice but a mandatory part of life.

    In the Worst Justification for Having Children Ever chart, No. 1 is occupied, memorably, by ‘But what if you need a bone marrow transplant?’. I’m still struggling to find a suitable response after a decade.

  7. In the Worst Justification for Having Children Ever chart, No. 1 is occupied, memorably, by ‘But what if you need a bone marrow transplant?’. I’m still struggling to find a suitable response after a decade.

    What about one’s parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins? They are as likely to be a match as progeny. Even then, some people have to rely on complete strangers because they cannot find a familial match. Anyone who has children for their spare parts is pretty sick, I’d have said.

  8. In the Worst Justification for Having Children Ever chart, No. 1 is occupied, memorably, by ‘But what if you need a bone marrow transplant?’.

    Hmm, where does “But the government give you a house and free money for doing it” come on that list then?

  9. LR,
    I’m 36, my wife is 31 and we don’t have children or any plans that way. Nobody has ever really taken me to task over it. The nearest I got was when we announced our engagement and my bro made some snidy remarks about whether it was “because we had to”. I think this is a non-event. But back to my bro. The simple fact is that for me marriage and kids are two totally separate issues. Nobody but nobody I know would think us having children and not being married was appalling. I mean that went out with maiden aunts reaching for the smelling salts.

    You wanna know what did cause agro? My wife has kept her name. Pretty much the only person who didn’t find this bizarre was her step-grandfather. You see he’d been self-employed too. I was perfectly happy. I’d kinda got used to her name. Suddenly calling her something different (though obviously we were on first name terms by that stage) would have been weird. I’m glad she kept her name. I mean it’s her right?

  10. My youngest sister kept her name. It’s an unusual one and she wanted to keep it. I think her in-laws weren’t best pleased, but no one else minded.

  11. I found your blog through my Google Alerts on “Childfree” – just thought you might like to know 🙂

    Sorry to say I have had comments that I could have lived without. Most are in realm of “you don’t know what you’re missing”, “You don’t know real love until you’ve had a child”, to the slightly more extreme “You’re too young to make any decision for yourself” (yeah, I’m so young that I’ve been married for years while other people I know have broken up mere months after a baby coming along).

    I’ve had the mother-in-law go around after I’d been married for less than a year saying that it was selfish of me to not already be pregnant. But the one that takes the prize is the man who said that as a woman I shouldn’t be taking on a career, I should be having babies at every opportunity and only having a part time admin job at most.

    That last guy…Darwin Award candidate, maybe?

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