Pressured To Have Children?

Direct and Subtle Pressure to Have Children—How Can a Childfree Wannabe Cope?
Exploring all facets of childfree living.

By Ellen Walker, Ph.D.

The whole topic of childfree living is controversial, and becoming more so all the time. Just this week a woman submitted a comment on my book, Complete Without Kids, saying she thinks it’s ridiculous that a book had to be written on the subject. She is herself childfree and knows others who are as well, and no one she knows has had unpleasant experiences or mixed feelings about their choice.

I’m happy to learn that there are many who have not been made to feel badly about not having had kids, but the reality is that this is not the case for so many others.

Pressure from Family and Friends

I recently heard from a young woman who told me she’d mentioned to her mother and her grandmother that she didn’t plan to have children.  The response from the older generation was, “You will have children. You must have children.” She asked for my advice on dealing with this pressure from her family. I suggested that she avoid the topic of kids with her mom and grandmother and also make sure that she has people in her life who are themselves childfree or who are supportive of her choices.  Of course, she might also tell her relatives that she appreciates their opinion, but that she does not wish to discuss the matter further.

There’s also pressure from friends. I’ve been told by many young women that they feel left out, as one by one their friends get pregnant and shift into the roles of mommy and daddy. These young childfree women get together with groups of others their age and find themselves alone in the crowd, as the talk moves from diapers to daycare options. They feel that their choice is to either join the group by having a child of their own or find a new group of friends.

As a childfree woman in a city filled with families, I’ve surrounded myself with older women. Their children are grown and they’re focused once again on their careers and hobbies. But this can have its drawbacks as well, because now these same women are beginning to have grandchildren, and this becomes a primary interest and focus on conversation.

Media Messages

Have you been to the movies lately? It seems that every tale of romance goes the traditional route. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Susie pushing a baby carriage. And oh, how happy these young couples are, with their lovely homes, instant return to fabulous bodies after childbirth, lack of financial stress, and perfect children. The reality of parenting is not portrayed, and the message is that this is what everyone does-fall in love, get married, and start a family.

Then there’s the tabloid scene, with headlines proclaiming that this starlet is pregnant, or that so-and-so is barren and heartbroken at seeing her ex having a child with another woman. The messages are so strong and one-sided that even I find myself falling prey, feeling whimsical about the childrearing experience I missed out on.

Coping with Pressure

Perhaps the best way to cope with pressure is to know yourself and to have a solid understanding of why you have chosen your particular life pathway. If you’ve considered options and decided to not have children, have a full awareness of your reasons for this. Take time to write these reasons down. Your list may include the things you’d have had to sacrifice if you had become a parent as well as your overall life goals and passions, and what you instead have devoted your time and energy to.  If you’re childfree by happenstance, or even due to circumstances beyond your control, focus on the positives of this situation.

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel pressured or judged due to not having kids, handle it as you please. If you don’t wish to talk about your personal life, simple say so. If you choose to speak out about your life choice, do so in an assertive manner. Remember, being assertive does not mean criticizing, intimidating, or controlling another person. It does mean honestly stating your own feelings, what you wish to have happen, and what you will and won’t do.

Keep firmly in mind the fact that we cannot do it all in life. We must make choices, and with each path taken there is another that is left behind. We are fortunate to live in a society that truly allows us to choose, whether this is to parent or not, to marry or not, what career to go into, where to live, and how to worship.  The more awareness we have of why we are choosing a particular lifestyle, the less we will experience uncertainty in the face of pressure.

Dr. Walker is a licensed clinical psychologist born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Recognizing that there is no one type of childfree adult, Walker guides clients through the positive and negative aspects of childfree living, taking into consideration the different issues faced by men or women, couples or singles, whether gay or straight. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Seattle Pacific University and has a clinical practice in Bellingham, Washington. She and her psychologist husband, Chris, enjoy an adventure-filled life with their two terriers, Bella and Scuppers.

Find out more about Dr. Walker and her book on her website, Complete Without Kids.

Related Links:
Too Many Children?


William C
William Cabout a year ago


W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you for the article.

Joe R.
Joe R7 years ago

Interesting comments!

Ellie Damann
.7 years ago


Liz W.
Liz W.7 years ago

My husband and I don't have children by choice. My side of the family doesn't bug us at all about children, but my in laws do. I had the best childhood a kid could ask for - my friends actually wanted to hang out with my parents because they'd play board games, etc.
I don't hate kids at all. I just never remembered having that 'I want to be a mommy' feeling, at all really. After getting pressured, I thought maybe we should, because we may be missing out somehow since everyone keeps telling you you're going to. But then I saw how hard it was and said, um, no.
And having kids so that they'll take care of you is the most selfish thing I've ever heard. If I did want kids - I'd want them to live the life *they* want, not how I want - that's not giving them freedom imho.
And, the world is overpopulated as it is!! Are people really that naive to believe that the world, it's resources are infinite?! Come on! We've reached 7 billion! There are people dying of starvation, people rioting over jobs. Why oh why, then, do people pressure others to have kids if they don't want to?!
I have a theory - it's been my experience, generally, that people that try to talk you into their lifestyle generally are not happy with their choices and want you to be as miserable as they are. Otherwise, why all the pressure?! Just my 2 cents;)

jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

Children are wonderful but only if they are wanted and loved.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener7 years ago

Do not let anyone pressure you on such profound issues! It is your life and your decision, to hell what others think you should or should not do!!!

DobieMax WoBib
DobieMax WoBib8 years ago


Robin G.
robin g8 years ago

If you love someone who doesn't want the things that are so important to you, you're not a good match! If you know you don't want children and your significant other does, what sort of future is that ? One of you will be unhappy, and guess will the children if you have them!

Robin G.
robin g8 years ago

Why do other people care so much? Having children is a personal decision. And if your mother or grandmother so want to have babies in their lives, let them take a foster child or volunteer for an agency that works with children!