Not Every ‘Child-Free’ Woman Is Going to Change Her Mind

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Ever since I “came out of the closet” as a Woman Who Didn’t Want Children a few years ago, I’ve brought up the subject very early in my relationships. Though it may seem like a buzzkill to start talking about your womb with a guy you’ve been on three dates with, now that I’m dating in my 30s I think it’s better to be honest and upfront about non-negotiables.

There are a lot of misconceptions you have to deal with when you’re childfree by choice, but No. 1 is the notion that you’re going to change your mind. When I was 15 and said I didn’t want kids, people told me I’d change my mind by 18. When I was 18, they said 21. When I was 21, they said 25. I’m 30 now, and my mind’s still pretty damn made up. It’s fine for teenage girls to have babies on national television and be praised for making a ‘responsible’ choice (hey there, almost every episode of 16 and Pregnant), but a woman who realizes in her teens that motherhood isn’t for her will always be told to wait a couple of years and wait until she meets the right guy and her biological clock goes off.

The problem with the post “What Do Men Think When Women Say They Don’t Want Kids” is that both the women in the story did just that – they changed their minds. I believe strongly that every woman should make the reproductive choices that are right for her, but highlighting only women who eventually chose to have kids does a disservice to all the ones who have spent their whole lives not changing their minds. It also makes it sound like couples should put off serious conversations about goals and desires, which is not the best way to build a strong foundation.

The important thing is that, whether you’re male or female, childfree or child-wanting, you can communicate with your partner and be honest with him or her.

Both the women in Dodge’s post were simply waiting for something else to happen before deciding – becoming more financially secure, getting older, or meeting the right guy. But not every woman who says that she doesn’t want kids is going to change her mind on the subject, and advising men to wait around and stick with these women until they change their minds sets a lot of people up for unhappy relationships where there’s no compromise. Yes, some people change their minds. And some people don’t. There are plenty of things couples can compromise on – where to live, whether to get a cat or a dog, what to do when one of you wants to quit your job and go back to school – but kids isn’t one of them. If one partner wants kids and the other one doesn’t, it often spells breakup. There’s no half-kid. There’s no refund policy if you change your mind after giving birth or it gets too hard later on. It’s one thing to hurt another adult who went into a relationship willingly, but it’s not okay to put an innocent third party in a position to get hurt by being unwanted or unloved. I thought about that a lot when I saw this bittersweet-yet-surprisingly-catchy song by a musical couple who were breaking up because they didn’t agree about children.

So, what do men think when women say they don’t want to have kids? I asked the one sitting next to me for his take on the topic. “Ben” knew before even going on a date with me that I was childfree, thanks to a Today Show segment that comes up when you Google me. Instead of questioning my motives, Ben questioned his. “I always thought I’d have children,” he said, but he had to think more about whether it was because he wanted kids or because he thought society expected them.

Ultimately, some people want to have children, and some people don’t. The decision is up to the two people in the relationship. The important thing is that, whether you’re male or female, childfree or child-wanting, you can communicate with your partner and be honest with him or her. My last relationship ended in part because we disagreed about kids, and even though it was sad to split up we both knew that we had made the right decision regarding our futures. A strong relationship isn’t just based on wanting the same things – it relies on both parties being mature enough to talk about those things, even when they don’t necessarily agree. And acceptance that the other person may disagree on a dealbreaking issue — and that the only way to resolve that issue may be to go your separate ways.

Next: Even If You Want Kids, Will You Ever Get Around to Having Them?