How do I tell people I don't want kids?


Starshine Roshell
Starshine Roshell Photo: Jackie Sallow Photography


Dear Starshine,
My husband and I don't have children. We don't want any. Yet I find it awkward when people ask whether we have kids. When I say "no," they might think I want them but am unable to have them (people tend to look sympathetic) or people assume that I'll change my mind, and tell me so. (Despite my age, I still look like I'm in prime child-bearing years. Yay, me?) Some people flat-out ask why we don't have kids, and I've tried different answers. (I'll say, "Don't want them" only to be asked why, even though "don't want them" is reason enough; "I'd be a horrible mom," I say with a smile, only to hear, "But you're good with your cats!") What I want to say to these strangers and acquaintances is that I am so sure my mind won't change that I had my tubes tied in my early 30s and that it was one of the best decisions I ever made, because I would not be a good pregnant lady and would be an even worse mother. How do I kindly tell people to worry about their own families and get the hell out of my uterus?
There's only one way to permanently silence these awkward exchanges: HAVE SOME DAMN BABIES.
Of course, I jest. I don't know why people are always pushing parenting on anyone who looks healthy enough to haul a pallet of Huggies home from the discount store. Raising kids is The World's Hugest Hassle, even when you desperately want it. Must we foist it on the uninclined?
For what it's worth, when I ask a woman if she has kids, it's because I adore her and am hoping there are, or will be, more of her in the world, or because I'm seeking common conversational ground. ("Hey, do you happen to know how to get Triple Berry Shock Fruit Gusher™ stains out of a karate uniform?")
"Do you have kids?" is a reasonable question. "Why not?" is abominably rude, and you're well within your right to sling answers that make the askers reconsider their poor manners and ignorant assumptions. In fact, I like this one: "Don't you want kids?" "No, thank you, I just ate."
Then again, that kind of response will make you seem defensive, which belies your perfectly rational position. Good for you for knowing what you want and staying true to your values. (Tell me, though: What exactly is a "good pregnant lady"?) Going against the grain naturally invites curiosity, even incredulity. But keeping your explanations honest and unguarded ("Parenting doesn't appeal to me") will probably leave you feeling better about the conversation — and you might even educate somebody along the way.
The next time someone asks why you don't want kids, ask them why they do. Let them answer, then smile and reply, "See? That is exactly the way I don't feel."
Dear Starshine,
I've decided to seriously date someone. The only kicker is he's moving nine hours away for a job. I've never done a long-distance relationship, but with my track record of losing myself in relationships and hating the beginning stages and wanting to just skip to the part where we are best friends and comfortable with each other, I feel like the distance would be a good thing until we decide if we want to actually be in the same city. What advice do you have on long distance relationships? Also, I am making 2013 nothing but living in the moment and just enjoying what's in front of me... Suggestions on how to implement that into this brand new relationship?
Just by asking this question, you've blown your resolution. But don't feel bad; mine was to be less critical of others and you can see how that's working out.
If this guy is so great that you're willing to enter into the loathsome, lose-yourself stage of dating — and he just happens to be moving away — then this could be couplehood kismet: the right guy doing just the thing you need at just the moment when you need it. You'll tell your grandkids how it was meant to be.
But make sure you aren't deciding to date him because he's moving away. That's not serendipity; that's stupidity. You'll never get to the comfy-best-buds stage if his absence is your favorite thing about him.
I don't know how people "date" from a nine-hour distance, much less how they "seriously date," but if you decide to go for it, set up some expectations for the relationship and check in occasionally to make sure it's proceeding as you hoped it would: Are you seeing each other enough for your taste? Are you communicating often — and in a meaningful way? Are your feelings for each other growing stronger?
Also, keep in mind that some people love that first, nervous stage of a relationship. If that's your fella's favorite part, then no amount of "enjoying what's in front of you" is going to keep him from resenting what's not in front of him.