No really, I don't want to do that... ever...
October 16, 2013 6:10 AM   Subscribe

I am a 31 year old woman and newly married. I have a kick ass husband who also came with a kick ass stepson that I love to death and with whom I have a great relationship. I have no desire to have a bio-kid, especially now that I have a step son. I have had many comments from people about how I am going to change my mind about not wanting more kids, a lot of “Uh huh…” comments with ‘knowing’ smug smiles, sort of like when a 6 year old boy says that he will never ever kiss a girl, eww that is gross. Are they likely right, or are they being assholes? How do I deal with this?

I have a lot of medical, logistical, and personal reasons for not wanting to have a bio-kid (a LOT), and my husband and I are in agreement that the one we have (his son, my step son) is all we want. I have a great relationship with my step son, I love him to bits and don't think getting pregnant and having a baby of my own would add anything to my life that he doesn't already give me. I actually think getting pregnant and having a baby would actually detract a lot from my life. And historically, I have never wanted to have a baby. Pregnancy has always been a pretty horrible thing from my view.

Having a step son has been a wonderful gift and I guess part of me was hoping that having him, having my stepson in my life, getting to help raise him, etc. would have shut the "you need to have kids" arguments from others (my family/parents in particular). I was wrong.

How do I stop the "Oh, you'll change your mind..." comments and get people to understand that no seriously, my step son is my SON and he is my kid, regardless of whether or not I gave birth to him, I love him as my own, he fulfills all my maternal instincts and child-raising needs, and that we are very very sure we don't want any more? Just ignoring it doesn't work very well since my parents (my father in particular) has a long history of not believing me (for lack of a better word) when I make major decisions in my life that aren't exactly what he would have chosen. I am a very guilt-conscienced person in general, so between the societal pressures and comments and parental disappointment, I have a lot of guilt. I really just want a way to make the questions/comments STOP, or failing that, a way to stop feeling guilty for a choice that I know is right for me and my family.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Human Relations (64 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How do I deal with the fact that I am being a massive disappointment to my parents?

It is easy for them to get on you about having a kid because all it means to them is a few hours a week or month or year of fun times with the grandkid. It's your whole life. You've got a lot more skin in this game than them and they can suck it.
posted by ftm at 6:21 AM on October 16, 2013 [24 favorites]

Best answer: 1 -- Might happen. Might not happen. Let it happen or not happen. You won't be able to affect it either way.

2 -- "Mom, dad, you raised me to be a strong, independent, successful person who is capable of making her own way in the world. Let me do that."

3 -- Ignore them. Or say, "You may be right. Anyway, how about that [local sporting team and/or political scandal]?"

4 -- Yes. You're also likely to regret a hundred other things that you do or don't do in your life. Doesn't mean you should do or not do all of those things, either -- especially given that you are taking on a 20-year-plus commitment that will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5 -- It can be. Or not. Sounds like you're leaning more on the "or not" side.

6 -- If this is enough of a thing in your life that you are asking strangers on the Internet, then yes, you should probably talk to a therapist about it.

Remember through all this, though:
You don't ever have to justify your life choices to anyone you're not hurting. No one in the world is hurt in any tangible way by your not having a child, unless you've got some organ-donation thing going on, which doesn't seem to be the case. Are your parents slightly less happy because of your choices? Too bad. They're probably slightly less happy because you didn't become a doctor or moved away from your hometown or a hundred other things you've done or not done. That's the risk parents run, and they get to deal with that themselves.

On preview, just to get this out there as to whether you really do want bio-kids. I use the "What did you say last" trick for these sorts of things: When you explain it all out fully, what was the last thing you said? "still adamant and sure." That's what you really want to do, deep down inside. So do it, and be happy.
posted by Etrigan at 6:22 AM on October 16, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I didn't even read your rant, sorry. Here's why. It doesn't matter why you don't want kids. That decision is completely yours.

1) You can decide that you don't want kids whenever you want. You could also maybe change your mind. Unless you are getting your tubes tied or your hubby is getting a vasectomy, you don't have to make a permanent decision.

2) You're an adult. You don't have to do what your parents want anymore. You have a stepson and a husband. That is your family now.

3) DON'T TALK ABOUT YOUR KIDS PLANS WITH ANYONE! I had to learn that the hard way. I'm 23 and my husband and I KNOW we aren't going to have biological children. I just don't really ever talk about it because I get eye rolls and "You'll change your mind" or "you're too young to decide that." Very rarely do I talk about it. I only do when I know I will get an okay response (for instance my office-mate is pregnant and I just mentioned basically "congrats but it's not for me" and she said she was cool with whatever people want to do. Hooray!)

4) We don't know if you will regret not having your own child. My parents knew a really old couple that never had kids and they said they LOVED not having kids. It totally depends on the person.

Example: People ask me all the time if I will regret getting really tattooed. Maybe I will, maybe I won't but I don't plan on it. I am doing what I want to do and making the life I want.

5) I don't have step children or biological children, so I can't tell you, but your family is your family regardless of where they came from.

6) You're not a freak. Here's a great essay I was assigned to read in human sexuality in college. Here's also the google search of "essay on women not wanting children."
posted by Crystalinne at 6:22 AM on October 16, 2013 [14 favorites]

2) it's hard to feel like a disappointment to your parents, whether that disappointment is real or imagined. a lot of (most?) people go through this at one point, making choices or living lifestyles that their parents hadn't imagined for them. just because your parents had an idea for your future, it doesn't mean you need to do it. you don't actually have to convince them that you aren't having a baby, eventually that will become clear. but you might want to write them a heartfelt letter or something so that they stop with the comments. "i understand you guys would be super excited to have more grandchildren, but we're quite certain that we're not going down that road, so i wanted to tell you so that you can stop waiting for something that won't come. we have discussed this as a couple and it feels very certain. we love you so we wanted you to have this information." these are big feelings though, and it can really help to work through that disappointment piece with a therapist.

3) although it can feel maddening to hear from strangers that they know more about your reproductive urges than you do, you don't actually HAVE to convince them that you won't have kids. they can say "we'll see" and you can say "i guess only time will tell, you nosy ignoramus" *but just say the last half of that sentence in your head*.
posted by andreapandrea at 6:23 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Everything you have saidl boils down to this:
--I have a kick ass stepson that I love to death and with whom I have a great relationship
--I have no desire to have a bio-kid...I have lots of medical and logistical reasons why I never want to get pregnant

So, answers:
1. Your mind is reasonably, rationally and emotionally made up. Why worry about whether a switch is going to get thrown? For now the answer is: you've already passed that point. End of discussion with yourself.
2. Stop having that conversation with them. "We've had this discussion, you know what the answer is." Stop referring to you son as a stepson, stop using the term biokids. You have a son. You love him to death. And, one is enough. "Please do not bring this up again, you are not going to change my mind." End of discussion.
3. "Oh, we'll see" is not going to come up, from parents or friends, if you enforce your request under #2 not to bring it up again. (On preview, you should feel no obligation to disclose medical reasons for not wanting another kid. In fact, it will just generate more questions you don't want to deal with.)
4. You've answered that question yourself. The fact that I have a kid and still get to do all the parent stuff makes me think I won’t be that way. That's your answer, stick with it.
5. No. Just stop making the distinction.
6. Yes, talk to a therapist for some validation. You sound like you have your thinking together rationally, logically, but you could use a little emotional support around your thinking.
posted by beagle at 6:24 AM on October 16, 2013

Are they likely right, or are they being assholes?

The latter.

How do I deal with this?

Point by point --

At what point can I most safely/reasonably conclude that I will not want to have a bio-kid?

Whenever you want (up to a point). This is an issue about which some people can and do change their minds, but it is also an issue about which just as many people do NOT change their minds once they're made up. Because this is a very complex and personal issue for each of us. I was like you insofar as never wanting to have kids and never having that impulse; then I had a boyfriend about whom I found myself starting to think, "you know, with him....maybe." Then he broke up with me and I went right back to "nope." There is a point, of course, at which the decision will be made for you.

How do I deal with the fact that I am being a massive disappointment to my parents?

I would sit them down and have a long talk about how the things they are saying are hurting you and making you think that your adopted kid doesn't count, and you will not accept that any more. He may not have come from your uterus, but he is your kid, and moreover he is a kid you chose to have - via adoption. So tell them that you no longer want to hear anything more from them that is making you feel that your son is lesser in their eyes simply because of the fact that you didn't happen to be the one who pushed him out of your vagina. (If your dad's the kind of guy who gets icked out by talking about female stuff, you can even use those exact words.)

How do I deal with the smuggy smuggersons who do this whole “Oh, we’ll see…” smug-ass comments when I say that we are happy with the one kid we have and that I don’t want to have bio-kids?

Try giving them a hard stare and say "...Uh, no, because my doctor told me it was a bad idea." It may be fudging the truth a bit, but what the fuck do you care whether these people get the full truth? They're assholes.

Am I likely to regret not having a bio-kid?

I can't answer that for you - but I also can't say that any regret will be large. I do sometimes wish I had had the experience of pregnancy, just out of some strange primal fascination, but other times I'm just as likely to be relieved that thank god I never had to do that. It's a very personal thing; and is separate from the experience of parenting, which you are experiencing.

How do I keep from feeling like some sort of freak for not wanting to do this?

I think giving your parents a come-to-Jesus about this will help go a long way, because I suspect a lot of that guilt is coming from them. I always think talking to a therapist to help sort out complicated feelings is a good idea, so sure, give that a try.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on October 16, 2013

You seem very fearful that you will change your mind someday. Why would that be bad? A lot of us change our minds about a lot of things over the course of our lives. Remind yourself that you're allowed to do whatever you want whenever you want! If you don't want kids for 20 years and then you decide one day you do, that's OK! You are allowed to change your mind. Giving yourself that freedom doesn't mean you will, but you are allowed.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:26 AM on October 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

Whoa. As a data point, I am engaged to a divorced dad and the desire to settle in and have Our Own Kid hit me like a freight train about six months in. I have always loved kids but never wanted to have my own for a variety of reasons (I have commented here before about fear of pregnancy and childbirth.)

Some women change their minds, some women don't. I could say so much more about all that you wrote, but it mostly just sounds like you and your partner don't want any more children. Own your choice!

On preview: damn you people type fast!
posted by polly_dactyl at 6:26 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

So here's the real question. Why are you even telling people that you're happy with the one kid you have and don't want bio-kids? It does kind of sound like protesting too much, like it's not just a feeling you have but one you aggressively want other people to know about it. The answer to Smuggy McSmuggersons is never to say the thing in the first place.

Practice with me. "Sadly, that's just not possible for us."

Because at that point, anyone who asks you any more questions is being an ass. You don't have to say it's because of medical reasons or personal reasons or even selfish reasons. They are being an ass if they continue after that point, so they probably won't.
posted by corb at 6:28 AM on October 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't want kids either and I never have. I am 36 and still occasionally run into people who don't know me well and said, "oh, you'll change your mind," and I just say, "Well, I'm 36," and change the subject. I've been doing that age thing for years, just to point out that: hey, I'm an adult. I'm not stupid. I know what I want.

I think it's telling that you feel the need to write this whole novel to justify to internet strangers that you're really sure about this - there is definitely a lot of weird pressure on this subject from parents who think everyone should be a parent, especially as we get older and the childless become more and more in the minority. But the short answer to all of it is that you're an adult, you know yourself better than anyone else does, and this isn't anyone's business but your own. Stop trying to justify what you want or explain to other people why your choice is valid. You don't have to keep going over and over it in your mind. Trust your gut.
posted by something something at 6:30 AM on October 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Wow - that's a lot of words for not wanting to have kids. It's almost like you're trying to convince yourself, and not other people, so I can almost see why people think they can have a conversation with you about the pros and cons. If you don't want kids, don't have them. Stop giving people explanations when one isn't needed, because that gives them an in to continue the conversation. If anyone asks if you plan on having kids just say no, and move on.

As to the regretting not having kids, no one can say. But just because you have them doesn't mean they'll take care of you in old age.
posted by lyssabee at 6:32 AM on October 16, 2013

PuppetMcSockerson: "So after all that pre-amble, here are my questions:
You can safely assume you'll never want a bio-kid whenever you want to. Your parents can suck eggs; it's your life. Smuggies can be responded to with "GO to hell, it's my life." You might regret it, you might not. If you had a kid to shut other people up or please your parents, you'll almost for sure regret it, and now you've got another human being with that on his/her shoulders. My brother-in-law adopted my sister's daughter, and does not treat her any different than his bio kids.

The freaks are the ones who still, in this age of very low infant mortality, insist on every woman having kids and lots of 'em. Jesus, the hell with the baby-pushers.

posted by notsnot at 6:32 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. I am pretty much past the age where I could easily have a child. I, like you, have always viscerally not wanted a kid - as soon as I realized the girls did not have to have babies, I knew that was the route for me. Everyone I have known who has gone from definitely not wanting kids to really wanting them experienced this in their mid/late twenties.

Honestly, you sound like a very apologetic person - I am one too! The way to deal with all of this is to spend some time (using a journal, via focused reflection or with a therapist) really learning to feel that your decisions are your own.

It may be disappointing for your parents that they won't get grandchildren - but that's a philosophical problem, not your responsibility. Seriously, it is! Some folks have a worldview that they personally need to have children and that it is personally tragic if that doesn't happen. That's their worldview, just like veganism or anarchism. It's just one of many. Some people have a philosophy that says that because your parents went to the trouble of raising you, they have a claim not just on your love and attention but on your major bodily processes. Again, that's just one worldview among many - it has its merits and can create close bonds and social stability, but it's just one way of looking at the world. Your parents' worldview is not privileged. If they vote far right and you vote Democrat - well, their philosophy isn't privileged there either; if they are serious vegans and you are into charcuterie, the same.

For me, it helps to really get my head around being a hard core moral relativist. My parents have views that are strongly held but they are not my views and that's okay. I don't have to change their minds any more than I have to convert them to veganism, but I also don't have to go along with what they think.

I have found also that saying "In a hundred years we'll all be dead" and reminding myself of the myriad ways that humans have organized their societies helps me (wetnurses; matrilineal societies; sending your kids to boarding school at 5; vision quests; medieval European ideas about children's bodies and sexuality, etc). That sounds goofy, but it helps me to shake the idea that there is One Correct Way to feel about children and that my job is to Figure It Out And Do It, whatever it is.

You don't have to give a laundry list about why you don't want kids. In fact, giving a laundry list just gives people the impression that if Magic Kidney Cure was invented, you'd be off to have children and isn't it tragic that there is no Magic Kidney Cure?

For me, as far as old age goes - in cheerier moments, I reflect that kids are no guarantee of anything...they could run off and join a cult! In more pessimistic moments, I reflect that the real guarantor of a safe old age is wealth, and I'll never have that. The best thing you can do for your old age - and I know several single women who did it just fine - is have a pension, social security and a home that you've paid off.
posted by Frowner at 6:33 AM on October 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

There is nothing wrong with not wanting to have kids. There is NOTHING WRONG with not wanting kids. Some people do, some people don't. Both ways are fine. If someone gives you crap for it, they're an idiot. They're the freak who can't understand that different people want different things.

I knew when I was very young that I never wanted children. In fact, I made a bet when I was 16 with a friend of mine that I would never have them. Now, almost 20 years later, I am still 100% sure I don't want them. Sometimes you just know.

But like thepinksuperhero said, you may change your mind! Which is totally cool! It's your life. You're allowed to change your mind.
posted by silverstatue at 6:35 AM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are they likely right, or are they being assholes?

Assholes. Even if you do change your mind, it doesn't make them right.

How do I deal with this?

Ignore it.
posted by dumdidumdum at 6:37 AM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

You don't have to give a laundry list about why you don't want kids. In fact, giving a laundry list just gives people the impression that if Magic Kidney Cure was invented, you'd be off to have children and isn't it tragic that there is no Magic Kidney Cure?

I add that in this very thread your laundry list is giving people the impression that you secretly want kids.

I am a laundry-list justifier myself out of guilt and anxiety, and I completely recognize that laundry lists are not actually disavowal - they are just a bad strategy for convincing people to leave you alone.

It's just like if you don't want to go to a party - never say that there are fifty reasons why you can't attend, because people will just try to solve those reasons and then expect you to go to the party.
posted by Frowner at 6:37 AM on October 16, 2013 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: I think it's telling that you feel the need to write this whole novel to justify to internet strangers that you're really sure about this

I think my need to make internet strangers understand comes from my family's inability to understand. The answer of "I don't want to" or "We don't want to" isn't sufficent. I grew up in a family where every choice had to be justified and explained. This is a big choice from their persepctive, so I guess it feels to me like it needs a lot of justification and explanation. Plus, I am still very much treated as though I am not able to make rational decisions on my own, so I again approach things with excessive rationalization to counteract that.

I forget that not everyone exists that way, where PhD level supporting arguments for every choice is expected.

On preview: Frowner, you have hit the nail on the head with the laundry list thing. You get a cookie for explaining what I'm not explaining all that well.

You're right though. I just need to stop allowing the conversation to happen, stop engaging.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:38 AM on October 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

In regards to your update, in the end having kids always comes down to "I don't want to" or "I want to", logical reasons on one side or the other be damned. And both of those answers are perfectly acceptable!
posted by lyssabee at 6:40 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How do I deal with the smuggy smuggersons who do this whole “Oh, we’ll see…” smug-ass comments when I say that we are happy with the one kid we have and that I don’t want to have bio-kids?

One option is to focus on how positive your relationship with your stepson is. Perhaps something like, "I don't think I'll change my mind about wanting to get pregnant, but you're right: we'll see. Right now, I'm David's stepmom and I love him, and I love being his stepmom." Because, yeah, you might change your mind, but the really important thing is that you have this awesome kid in your life and you love being his stepmom, and anyone who thinks that's somehow less important than having a bio-kid has messed up priorities.

I feel weirdly guilty and awkward about it, but still adamant and sure

That's often how it feels to trust your gut, when your gut differs from societal expectations.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:45 AM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Just a comment on the 'NEED TO PREGNANT' switch flipping - I'm in my late 20s, childless, and babies for me are in the 'very possibly maybe, but definitely not in the next several years' column. I think the biological clock component can be real, but that doesn't mean it's destiny. On the assumption that the timing of these kinds of things run in families, I took note and filed it away when a female cousin a few years older than me reported that babies had suddenly started smelling very good to her. Sure enough, in the last six months or so I have developed the (false) impression that the pregnancy rate in my town has gone up drastically. Pregnant ladies, I see them everywhere.

My pregnancy-dar freaked me out for a few weeks, until I thought about it and realized that...I'm not sad to not be pregnant, and still actively don't want to be either pregnant or parenting in anything like the near future. (The cousin doesn't have kids at this time either.)

I'm of the firm belief that this kind of experience doesn't mean that I, my cousin, or you if it hits you (which it might or might not), does not reflect a secret and repressed desire to have babies. I contain multitudes, and part of my brain is urging me to procreate, but! that doesn't invalidate our very good reasons to not have kids right now. Honestly, it's sort of fun to watch my brain trying to play a trick on me - and since out of all my stresses, pregnant-or-not is not an open worry for me right now, it doesn't carry much emotional weight.

That said, I don't discuss my magic pregnancy-detecting powers with people, because it causes them to tell me that I must want to be pregnant *yesterday*. On preview - I think there's a contingent who will argue with you no matter what - if you give them your list of reasons they'll try to solve them or tell you you protest too much, if you beg out of the conversation they'll think they were right...but you still don't owe them your reasons.
posted by heyforfour at 6:47 AM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Totally fine to not want kids. I am sorry your folks are making this such a fraught decision for you and your family. Now is a great time to work on boundary-setting and also just getting to your own mindful place where your decision to not have kids is okay and other people's decision TO have kids is fine and you can just be mildly annoyed that other people don't have the smiling-buddha-detachment that you do about this (this is where I am, not everyone gets there, but it's worth some effort.

1. At what point can I most safely/reasonably conclude that I will not want to have a bio-kid?

Doesn't matter. Other people seem to be intent on sowing doubt with you and it's fine to just be okay with your decision for now. Heck I do not want kids, probably can't have bio kids and even I'm open to the unlikely possibility I might want to adopt later, but that's my damned business and not anyone else's. People who tell you that you don't know your own mind are being assholes, even if it's not on purpose.

2. How do I deal with the fact that I am being a massive disappointment to my parents?

It's inappropriate for people's own happiness plans to hinge on the serious life decisions of other people. You have a child who you love. End of story. Sorry your dad has an emotional problem. Good that you didn't inherit it. You seem to have concrete reasons for not wanting children and they are fine. My sister and I had to manage my parents' feelings and also some weird "It's the end of the family lineage with X generations of unbroken Wests!" and, well, too bad about that I guess? We mostly deal with it by really enjoying our lives so it doesn't look like we have a kid-sized hole in it.

3. How do I deal with the smuggy smuggersons who do this whole “Oh, we’ll see…”

Be sorry that they think this is an appropriate way to interact with other people. It's not. A quick "Sure, yeah, maybe whatever ANYWAY HOW ABOUT THOSE SOX...." reply basically deflects the discussion to something else and makes it clear this isn't a topic you feel is open for discussion.

4. Am I likely to regret not having a bio-kid?

I have no idea. I haven't had any of those "Wake up and be all 'oh shit I forgot to have kids' about this stuff, everyone is different. My guy got a vasectomy and it's made us pretty happy.

5. Is having a step-kid that different from having a bio-kid?

My partner has a grown son but I only entered his life when he was 12 so I can't speak to it entirely but the only big difference is that the child has a bio-mom who is not you so there's not quite the cozy "us and no one else" nuclear family thing but that's 1) okay 2) normal nowadays 3) has nothing to do with your relationship to him.

6. How do I keep from feeling like some sort of freak for not wanting to do this?

Hang out with people from different sorts of families. Single folks, older folks with out kids, children whose company you enjoy, etc.

I see a lot of your "stickiness" on this issue (that really is a lot of words about something that you don't need a lot of words about and talks about yourself and other people in some pretty negative lights) as the sort of negative self-talking that you can manage as one of the symptoms of managing depression generally. Your decisions for you and you and your husband's decisions for your family are fine, no one's business and totally well within the realm of normal. That is great. Other people's concerns about this are external to the good thing you've got going on and having better boundaries about how much you let other people colonize your mind is useful for more things than just managing this sort of thing. I am sorry this is difficult for you.
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 AM on October 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Mod note: Post reinstated, thanks so much OP for working with us on tightening up the text a bit.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 7:13 AM on October 16, 2013

Best answer: There's a rule in life: Never apologise, never explain!


- don't you want another kid?
"I love my family just exactly the way it is, thanks".
- but don't you want one of your own?
"no, I love my family just the way it is"
- but you know everyone changes their mind when their clock starts ticking?
"Yes, I might suddenly change my mind tomorrow, who knows. So about the local sports team...".
- but you might love them once they arrive!
"Who knows! So the weather...."

and finally if people are insisting on a reason

"It's unfair for people to have more kids unless they REALLY REALLY want them - and right now I don't."
posted by emilyw at 7:27 AM on October 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

Hey, neither my sister nor I wanted to have kids, want to talk about disappointed parents? Guess what, they adopted a grandkid from one of the neighbors. Seriously, they go to school as her grandparents, they celebrate holidays together, Gracie and her parents are members of our family!

If they want grandkids badly enough, your parents will make it work for them. Hell they've got a 6 year-old right there to spoil and lavish love on.

As for the nosy folks, I went through that too, well into my FORTIES! Folks would ask if we were planning on having kids, I'd say, "nope." They'd say, "well, you can change your mind." I'd say "I'm a bit old for that at this point." And they'd persist, "science is wonderful."

Now I just say, "It's not in the cards for us." You can elaborate, "I have a wonderful step-son!" Then let it go.

"It's not in the cards" is a nice ambiguous statement. It implies that there may be 'issues' and polite people will fucking drop it like a hot potato. If the folks persist, try to tear up and say, "I just can't." Then run away to the bathroom like you're going to sob. (I've never had it get this far.)

As for your parents, just don't talk about it with them. If they bring it up, say, "You know how I feel, let's change the subject." If they keep on, say, "I'm not debating this with you, I'm leaving. When you feel like treating me as the adult that I am, let me know." Then leave.

Really though, a quick, "no, we're not planning any more children, how 'bout them Dawgs?" Should change the subject.

Stop engaging with people about your private decisions. It's none of their business. If you make it clear that you won't talk about it, they'll find something else to discuss soon enough.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:29 AM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Eh. I was totally, 100% sure I wanted to be childfree through my late 20s, and totally grossed out by the idea of pregnancy, and tried to schedule my husband for a vasectomy, and then two years ago a switch flipped and I wanted a baby and now I'm pregnant and it's awesome. So I would maybe not make any permanent changes so that it won't happen within the next few years, because people can and do change their minds and that's okay. You also might never change your mind, and that's okay, too.

Still, I hated the disrespect I got from people on the topic, especially the creepy, desperate machinations of my mother-in-law, who would have relatives and neighbors accost me to tell me how wrong I was about my reproductive choices. "Why aren't you having a baaaaaby? Don't you know that babies are wonderful? It's the only thing you'll ever do that maaaatters! I want a grandchild!"

Maybe it's my grumpy pregnant lady brain, but how fucking obnoxious. In honesty, the pressure and the disrespect made me unable to sort the decisions that were best for me and my husband from my own defensiveness. I had to have the walls pretty high to feel at all respected, which meant even mentioning on our wedding invites that we never wanted children because I knew the nagging that would ensue soon after our nuptials.

The thing is, my mother in law is still obnoxious about this, even now that we're pregnant. From telling me that the used clothes I buy the fetus are "terrible" to telling me that I'll hate breastfeeding to telling me that I'll kill the baby because I'm having a home birth and that I'm a bad person for raising my kid three hours away from her. The woman has no boundaries, and it doesn't matter what choices I'm making, really. They're all, still, the wrong ones.

The problem is not with me. The problem is with her.

The problem is not with you. The problem is with the assholes that make you feel like shit for your choices.

Be stalwart. Be firm. Be awkwardly honest--that's always a fun tactic. When my mother-in-law starts in on the guilt, I usually say something like, "You're really upsetting me and making me really uncomfortable. Please stop saying these things."

And then I change the subject.

Now, your stepson is another issue entirely. Because no matter what you choose reproductively, it's really important that his grandparents--by blood or marriage--all treat him like he belongs in the family. So if they're not doing that, I think you have to have a conversation with them (while he's not around, of course) about making him feel welcome. Because you're right: he is your kid. Future kids won't change that, and the comments they're making are potentially hurtful to a great little guy. Stand up for him, k?

Best of luck to you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:30 AM on October 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

My guess is that this will never stop and there's nothing you can do. I try to look away so I miss the effing smug I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself looks.

Sometimes, I say things like, "Why do you think a person would state that they don't want children and then later change their mind? Were you once a child hater? Was your first child unwanted? " Or, "When I was a little girl playing house and having tea parties, I dreamed of raising a serial killer but in these days of forensics and electronic spying my child would surely be caught so I gave up." Not helpful. Not recommended. But, great Zoltan the space god, they just will not shut up.

File it as one of those things and try to be zen.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:49 AM on October 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ugh, I feel for ya. We're the same age, but luckily my parents gave up years ago trying to guilt me into marriage/babies. One response that's always worked for me to all the "why don't you want kids" crowd is, "Why would I?"
I've yet to meet a single person who can come up with a good answer on the spot. Back in the day, my mom tried to respond with how happy it would make her, but gave that up pretty quick when I said it wouldn't make ME happy.
Good luck, and nth'ing the advice to ignore it/change the subject best you can.
posted by csox at 7:55 AM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

My mum's pushy friend stopped asking me about when I was going to have children when I told her in a nice, clear, reading-aloud voice across a restaurant table that I'd rather shit in my hands and then clap. YMMV

I find the ones who really won't let go of this question (go out of their way to drop rude comments or pointed questions) are sad about their own circumstances. I'm not always sure about what to do with that, sometimes it is just 'Oh, you miss babies hey?' and let them tell you all about it. Most people don't really care what you do but they love telling you the Way Things Should Be.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:56 AM on October 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: The way to tackle this would be slightly different if you didn't already have a kid, but you do. You already have a son. People implying that he is any less valuable/meaningful to you as a parent because he doesn't share your DNA is insulting to so many groups on so many levels.

The best way to shut this down, in my opinion, is to call people on this BS, then refuse to engage.

"Mom & Dad, Son is my child, and your grandchild. I am disappointed that you think I would love him any less than you love me, or that you love him any less than you'd love a child I personally gave birth to. It is insulting to me, to my family, and to yourselves, not to mention adoptive parents and children everywhere. We are happy with the composition of our family. Any further discussion on this point will be seen as a direct attack on my child and will irreparably harm the relationship you have with my family."

To other people, just stick with "I have a son." or "We're happy as a family of three."

People love to get up in other people's family-planning bid-naz. Even if you did have a biological kid, it would be "when are you going to give little Suzie/Johnny a brother or sister?" So, you're not alone. Everyone with a vagina gets this shit. Nothing you do will ever make it truly stop (but with your parents you can threaten to never see them again, so you can at least make them stop saying it to your face).
posted by melissasaurus at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Conversational judo.

They: when are you having kids?
You: not part of the plan
Them: oh, you'll change your mind
You: interesting. Did you find that your feelings about having children changed at a certain point?

Don't bother trying to convince them that you really do not want and will never want bio kids. But you if you can do the above with genuine non-snarky interest the conversation should shift and get a lot more interesting. Or at least less frustrating.
posted by bunderful at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Now, your stepson is another issue entirely. Because no matter what you choose reproductively, it's really important that his grandparents--by blood or marriage--all treat him like he belongs in the family. So if they're not doing that, I think you have to have a conversation with them (while he's not around, of course) about making him feel welcome.

Zero issue with this. They have embraced him as "one of us" and as a grandkid 100%. They have pictures of him in their house, same as they do other family, and my dad is extremely proudly showing everyone he knows the photo of him and my step son that was taken at our wedding. They've even contributed a significant amount (4 figures) to his RESP, and that was before we were married or even engaged. So really. No issue with that. They consider him a grandson. Their argument for "it is different when it is yours" isn't about him. It has more to do with the new parent experiences that I have "miss out" on, like giving birth and breast feeding and teaching them to walk, etc. It is about me, not him. They are worried I have lost some important experiences because I came in to his life when he was 4, so I think they think I should have another/more kids so that I get to experience that too.

For what it is worth, my parents-in-laws I think would enjoy having another grandchild, but they are absolutely not pushy about it and never bring it up. They know I have some medical reasons which they are extremely sensitive to, and they know it just isn't something I want. They are happy that their grandson has a step mom that loves him so hard.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:12 AM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's a magic phrase that will stop the conversation probably 90% of the time: "Right now."

When your parents start in on you, say, "My family is complete right now." "We don't have any plans for that right now." "We're not thinking about that right now."

Issuing categorical statements makes people want to argue with you (especially your argumentative family, apparently!). Saying "right now" makes people go, "Oh, okay, that's what she's thinking right now, that's cool," and drop the conversation. I don't know why. I currently have people constantly asking me, "Are you going to have more kids?" and I say, "We're done for now." or "We're not thinking about that right now." People often respond, "FOR NOW?" and I repeat firmly and with a smile, "For now." (Or "not right now?" "Not right now.")

I think because by saying "right now" you're admitting minds can change on big life issues, people don't feel compelled to argue with you about it. It does leave your statement a little more "open," but that's okay; people do change their minds, and if you do that's okay, and if you don't, that's okay too.


As far as "people" go, random people who are not your family or close friends, keep in mind that this is just one of those dumb conversational gambits that people engage in with women in their 30s, especially recently-married, recently-child-acquired, etc. You sit there sleep-deprived with a newborn and people will constantly ask you, "So are you thinking about another one?" NO I'M THINKING ABOUT WHETHER I'M GOING TO DROWN IN THE BATHTUB BECAUSE I HAVEN'T SLEPT IN SIX WEEKS BUT THANKS FOR ASKING. People who aren't quite sure what to talk about often go for "the human condition" as a conversational topic, which includes marriage, divorce, children or lack thereof, dead relatives, and so on, which are actually TERRIBLE conversational topics because they're personal and highly emotional, but they're tempting when you don't know what to talk about because they're things we all share in common as human-type people. (This is how you find yourself in conversations with strangers telling an absolutely awful story about how your aunt was in a car accident and something super-gross happened and you're not quite sure how you got into this conversation and everyone is uncomfortable but now you can't get out.) Most people don't mean anything by it, they're just looking for something to talk about and have seized on a universal human condition question, Whether One Will Have Children. So try not to feel pressured by it, just smile and change the subject.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

My mother was terrible at this, even pointing out random sperm donors to me when I was a single 22 year old. I had said from an early age that I was never going to have kids, and at the age of 45 I still stand by my choice. If a child came into my life, like your stepson I would love it so hard, but I just have never wanted to have kids. The only way to handle pressure from parents is to just quietly and firmly stick to your guns.

When they do the whole you'll change your mind when you're x just smile at them and in a similarly teasing voice go "Boy are you going to be disappointed". Also you have a step son, which I don't, so when people comment about you having kids, smile and quietly and firmly say "I have one." or if they talk about wanting Grandkids point to Stepson and say "You have one".
posted by wwax at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

who cares? Just say you're not planning on it. If they say you will want to later, just shrug. Who knows, it could turn out to be true, life can be weird, but what difference does it make now? There's certainly no point in trying to predict the future.

Enjoy what you have, do what seems best along the way, deal with occasional feelings of regret about various choices you make, don't repress new feelings just because they're unfamiliar, and don't let your family's conjectures worry you. Just keep living your life with the current plan unless or until anything changes.
posted by mdn at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2013

You might change your mind. I mean, you really might -- I've seen it happen, women who have gone to bed happily childless and woken up sobbing because they aren't pregnant. I exaggerate for the sake of hyperbole, but . . . honestly not by that much.

But even if you might change your mind, who cares? The people whom I've seen hitting late-thirties early-forties and sad that they don't have kids are people who always thought they'd have them someday, not people who were set against it from the beginning. People who well and truly change their mind do it younger than that, in my experience. And if you do change your mind, it's nobody's business but yours.

I suggest that you quit fighting about it -- you can't have a tug of war unless both people are pulling, after all. Just be utterly bland on the issue. "But how can you deny us grandkids?!" "Mm." "But you might change your mind!!" "yep, I sure might." "What are you going to do if. . ." "Cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess. You know what, I saw that Target is selling bath towels for three dollars. Three dollars! You couldn't buy the cotton on the open market for that much!" By fighting, you sort of invite people to have an opinion that they really have no right to express.
posted by KathrynT at 8:27 AM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, dear. You really only need to write/repeat this one sentence, because it is a perfectly acceptable explanation: I frankly just do not want to be pregnant or give birth.

What sort of explanation do you think women who do have children need to give, anyway? Trick question! They don't need to give one because opting into biological motherhood is seen as inherently virtuous. By that token, is any decision that would result in a child being born a decision with which your parents would agree wholeheartedly, simply by virtue of the fact that it would result in a child being born? You could ask them that. "Why is it so important to you? You already have a grandson."

While it's considered perfectly normal to ask why someone does not want children, if they do want children, there's no need to question -- no matter the reasoning behind it, that decision is just automatically acceptable, its underpinnings unquestionable, its logic airtight. And no matter what reasons people would be wont to provide, they all ultimately come down to the fact that they frankly just do want to be pregnant/give birth, period, end of story. Many people believe that having children is what is expected of them and they are just tying up loose ends by following through "because that's what you do." And really, that wraps it up! So what's good enough for them is certainly good enough for you, whether your parents agree with "because I do/don't want to" or not.

Besides, do they really think you should have an unwanted child? You could ask them that, too. People who interrogate you about this stuff are usually doing so because they want to feel more secure in the notion that having children was the unequivocally right choice for them, so much so that they want you to do it even if you don't want to because seeing the other side of the coin (what if I had never had children?) makes them desperately uncomfortable.

Something like 80-90% of women have children, so statistically speaking, we are overwhelmingly outnumbered. Just as in many other arenas, belonging to a minority population is often seen as freakish, frightening, or even threatening to the majority. A combination of humans' biological imperative to reproduce, the absence of which is truly unimaginable to many and perhaps most people, and an underlying discomfort with stark difference mean that you are very likely to be judged harshly and constantly for opting out no matter what you say or do. As several folks have mentioned above, being on the receiving end of that sort of judgment just comes with the (vagina) territory. Also, since the overwhelming majority of women do have children, it's just a convenient conversational gambit. At least that's what I'd like to believe.

Regardless of the fact that I am very comfortable and secure in my decision to be childfree, it still raises my hackles when my life's work/worth is implied to be contingent upon the fact that I will never be a mother. So when someone starts down that path, I enjoy retorts that make them extremely uncomfortable, too:
  "Don't get me wrong, I love children, I just don't think I could finish a whole one!"
  "I'd be happy to give it a try, but the return policy is such a mess!"
  "Well, we already know that we wouldn't love our child if it wound up being a Republican, so we're just waiting for science to advance to a point at which we can be sure that won't happen."
  "I know, right? Everyone should have children, even if they don't want them. My mom didn't want me, and look how well I turned out!"
  "Why don't I want children? Funny story! Turns out that I am viscerally horrified by the idea of willfully allowing a parasite to grow inside of my goddamn abdominal cavity, leeching nutrients from my guts and bones all the while. How about that local sporting team?"
  "When am I going to have children? Never. When are you going to start working to undo the massive ecological impact your children have on our irreplaceable earth? Oops, I thought we were asking each other totally inappropriate questions!"

Finall, here is a previous AskMe that you might find helpful, and one that is directly relevant to your situation: "Your desire to be grandparents does not trump my desire to not be a mother!"

Hang in there!
posted by divined by radio at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I think, while of course the confrontational approach is one way to go, your happiness might be improved by assuming good faith and good intentions. Often people who ask other women when they're having children aren't doing it spitefully or cruelly. They just kind of...think of themselves as in on a big awesome secret that they can't wait to share with you. People who love you want your happiness - so the same way that they may encourage you to, say, try new foods or experiences when they're pretty sure you'll like them, they may encourage you to have kids.

Another really valid conversational gambit when the kids situation comes up is just to take it like that - act as though your friend just recommended her favorite restaurant, the one she's a regular at, to you. "Hah, thanks - I really appreciate how happy you are and how much you can't wait to share it with me! I think I'm not really into Thai food baby, though."
posted by corb at 8:58 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hear you on the apologizing/explaining thing. I can be bad about it myself.

What I have done is accept that my subjective feelings of being guilty, upset, bad, whatever are totally not accurate. Instead, when interacting with boundary pushers I try to be about 20% more blunt and rude than I think I should be. If I feel a bit like a jerk then I'm probably doing well.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:09 AM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, look: your parents will run over you regardless. No matter what you do, they're going to be them and make you feel shitty. That is how they are. That's about them. There is nothing you can do to stop them doing this awful thing where they discount your preferences and treat you like a failure, because it's not about you and it's not your fault. It's not your responsibility to do things to make them happy and it's not your responsibility to keep them from being like this. It's up to them, and I'm sad that they can't see what a wonderful daughter they have and treat you like the blessing that you are.

I'm sorry. Good luck with this.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:15 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think that if you have Reasons for not ever wanting a bio-kid, and especially if those reasons are medical, no, you probably won't change your mind.

Most people I know who changed their minds about wanting kids a la the six year old boy example were more just not really thinking about having kids, or didn't want kids for nebulous/immature reasons. Also, most of them seemed to experience it as a gradual transition over many years. So at 25 they were like "eewwww, diapers and sleep deprivation? no way!", but at 32 they had settled down and stabilized and could think more seriously about it.

Also, if you change your mind about this, who cares? You don't mention having your tubes tied or anything irreversible in your post. I imagine a change like that would be a mutual decision with your husband. So, worst case scenario, some people smile and say "I told you so!" BFD. Let people talk.

Re family -- I'm actually open to eventually having kids and yet am also getting the third degree from my mom about when I'm going to have kids, and don't I want kids, and what am I doing to move more quickly down the path to having kids. I think some people are just dicks about this stuff, and there's nothing you can do about it.

I think the main action you should take about all this is to work on letting go of the guilt and of worrying about what others think of this decision.
posted by Sara C. at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2013

People change.

I was one of those people who never wanted to have kids, but at 41 I met the love of my life and she changed my mind. I have two children now 5 and 7. Last year we went to Turkey on an all-inclusive family holiday - which when I was 31 would have seemed like a horrible nightmare - but it was one of the best times I ever had. I wanted to hate it - the old me would have - but the new me is the new me.

You cannot understand what it feels like to be a parent until you have a child. It is like some dormant subroutine in the brain starts running and this makes you a different person.

The old cliché parents say to their kids is "I brought you into this world" but for me it was the other way around. My children brought me into the world. YMMV.

The people encouraging you to have children have probably undergone this transformation and they know that it can happen to you too. Don't be so hard on them - they want something wonderful for you that you just can't see.
posted by three blind mice at 9:48 AM on October 16, 2013

"Lots of people are happier not having kids. Maybe I'm one of them."

"The world needs adults without kids. We help everybody."
posted by amtho at 9:55 AM on October 16, 2013

I am in my 40s, female, and never wanted kids, and as I get older I find I am actually more repulsed by the idea every year. When I was younger it was more about not passing on our family's mental illnesses (a thought that I was kind enough to NOT share with my parents, thank god) and now I am so So SO glad I didn't cave in to any pressure to have kids.

I handled it by treating it as though they'd suggested I'd someday want to own a raccoon farm. It was so beyond the pale that I'd raise an eyebrow and change the subject. Fortunately my brother made a couple people (I like that phrase) so I was let off the hook.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:55 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

They might be right, they might not be right. Either way they are being assholes.

I would deal with it by responding, "I have a kid." and then look at them like they are crazy for not realizing you have a child. Put it on them, this is your child and they should treat him as such.

Hell, I've got my mom referring to my dog as her grandson so it is possible for people to adjust to non-traditional children but it may take some time. The important thing it to just act as normal, "this is my kid, you are crazy for not realizing it."

Some day you might change your mind and have more kids. Or you might not. No one knows. They don't know. You don't know. This is their problem though, you have your decision so just don't internalize their problems with it.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:55 AM on October 16, 2013

If it were me I would just say " That is private" and change the subject.

Or heck, if appropriate, " My doctor does not recommend I get pregnant."
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2013

I am at a similar age and am also dealing with this pressure. I am speaking from a bit of a different place though, because I do not want to be pregnant/give birth or parent.

One thing that helped me is to understand that some people's identities are shaped so much by the fact that they are (biological) parents, it's a slap in the face to them when I implicitly or explicitly reject that identity for myself. Particularly in the case of parents/grandparents, without whose decision to have children, I would not exist.

Also, the larger issue of your parents questioning your choices is something therapy helped me to come to terms with. Previously there was an anger simmering under the surface that manifested itself in a lot of ways, this being one of them, and now this sort of thing rolls off my back a lot easier. It may be worthwhile to talk to someone about this.
posted by karbonokapi at 10:04 AM on October 16, 2013

A little story about my cousin.

When she was single, she constantly agonized over not having a steady boyfriend. She felt like an outsider in the world of couples and thought herself a loser because all the other girls seemed to be perfectly capable of getting a guy to commit. Then one day, she got herself a committed, socially prestigious boyfriend (a doctor). She thought she was finally "on the inside" only to discover that everyone started pestering her, "when is he going to Propose?", so she felt like a loser again. Then they got engaged and she thought she was all set, again. But no, everyone started questioning their wedding plans and why did they have to be set so far into the future, is he really serious about this, and so on. Then they got married and she thought, finally, I am done with these social obligations! Well, don't you know it, she started getting pressured to have a kid. After a couple years of intense pressure (not just her parents, total strangers!) she finally had a healthy beautiful baby girl. When this happened, she thought for sure she was forever immune from people's judgement. Then one day, she took her daughter to a playground where a mom she's never met before asked if she were planning on having more children. She said she didn't know, probably not though, and was told that her little one will grow up to be a sociopath because that's what happens in single-child families.

And that was when the light bulb went off for her.
posted by rada at 10:05 AM on October 16, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Am I likely to regret not having a bio-kid?

I can't answer that for you - but I also can't say that any regret will be large. I do sometimes wish I had had the experience of pregnancy, just out of some strange primal fascination, but other times I'm just as likely to be relieved that thank god I never had to do that. It's a very personal thing; and is separate from the experience of parenting, which you are experiencing.

I have a very similar reaction. Married almost 10 years, THREE stepkids, never particularly wanted bio-kids for medical, financial and personality reasons. Husband told me when we got married that he'd consider having a baby with me if I wanted it, but if I didn't, he was done. Said fine with me and he got a vasectomy the first year we were married, and I've never had a moment of regret.

I DO understand the weird primal fascination with pregnancy, but any thoughts I've had never went beyond the pregnancy; the thought of dealing with an actual infant brought me to a screeching halt. (My line on the stepkids has always been that I got them at exactly the right time: when the youngest was old enough to talk and use the toilet, because that's when I start liking children.) I'm very lucky in that my parents never expressed any desire for me to reproduce and have been happy to be long-distance grandparents to my stepkids.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:07 AM on October 16, 2013

Best answer: I totally understand how frustrating this is. People are just nosy and inappropriate about this issue. When I was struggling to conceive my daughter, and my husband and I were trying to keep quiet about it (because it's a private issue after all).... we would get comments from extended family, and even strangers(!), all the time about why we didn't already have kids. It was awful, especially because all I wanted was to be a mother.

What helped me through that period was framing people's nosiness as them actually caring about me and wanting me to have what they have. Some people just don't realize that other people's circumstances aren't quite the same as their own.

You sound like you are very happy with your current situation, and have no reason to want to change it. That's great! Just smile and tell them that you're happy with your family the way it is.
posted by barnoley at 10:13 AM on October 16, 2013

Oh, I understand where you're coming from! As the only daughter in my family, I get/got a LOT of guilt trips about choosing to not have children. My in-laws are getting no grandchildren due in part to my decision. I am sorry for them, but not so sorry I am willing to have children. The fact is that having children offers no guarantees for anyone - if you do your job right, they grow up to become independent people who make their own decisions in life, which may or may not align with your own.

The way I explained it to my parents was this: I do not want children. The reasons are irrelevant. The important thing is that I do not want children, and no child deserves to be born to parents who do not want them. This has mostly satisfied my mom, who says her main concern is that I will some day regret not having children. I've told her I would rather regret NOT having children than regret giving birth to one. It's not like you can send them back!

The way I deal with other people: Mostly ignore them. I avoid declaring "I'm not having kids!" unless asked directly. When asked directly, my answer is matter of fact - "I don't want children." No explanations, excuses or reasons. When they give me the smug smile, the "you'll change your mind", etc. I just let it go. Who cares what they think? This isn't about who's right and who's wrong. You don't need to prove anything to anyone. I know what I want (and I reserve the right to change my mind). Their opinion has no bearing on my decision. It's much easier to change your own reactions & feelings than it is to change other people's behavior. No one has pressed further than that, but if they did, I would have no problems telling them to mind their own business in whatever rude, snappy or sarcastic tone I desired. Unless they will be accompanying you in the bedroom and helping you raise the child, it's none of their business what your plans for reproducing are.
posted by geeky at 10:30 AM on October 16, 2013

People are freaking nosy. You don't need to tell them a thing. And, as with almost anything that is your business and not the world's, you actually don't need to explain your decision and the more conversations you have, the more conversations you'll have. If you engage, people will keep engaging you and for some people the very fact that you're willing to engage means that you aren't really, truly sure this is the right choice. So just don't engage. Change the subject and don't feel bad about it -- it isn't their business.

Them: "So, when are you going to have your own kids?"
You: choose from ...
"Doubt we will, but how are your kids doing?"
"One is plenty. What are you bringing to the potluck next week?"
"We have a pretty charming kid now, so we're good. Did you finish binge watching Breaking Bad? Should I bother?"

Redirect and don't be afraid to do it blatantly. If you want to say "that's really not your business" you can. Because it isn't. I bet there are a ton of threads here from adoptive and foster parents who constantly navigate very similar "don't you want real children" nonsense.

If there are people in your life who you can't redirect (your mother, perhaps) you can try actually sitting them down and saying "Look, we keep having this conversation and it is starting to get frustrating. I'd really like to let it rest." and if that doesn't work (I can hear my friend with the nutty mom spewing coffee on the screen now.) just keep changing the subject.

And remember that some people don't change. If you can't change your relationship with them (I'm thinking parents again) you can just stick to your guns. This isn't open for discussion and you can help set the tone but not letting that discussion get started.

And whatever. If you do change your mind, you change your mind. If you wait until you're 50, there are countless teens in foster care who would love a parent.
posted by amandabee at 10:50 AM on October 16, 2013

Them: "We'll see."

You: "Oh, yes, you will."

Them: "Oh, you'll change you're mind."

You: (acting extremely suprised) "What a rude thing to say!"

Really, these people are straight-up rude, no question about it. Treat them as such.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:34 AM on October 16, 2013

Response by poster: A lot of fantastic advice here. Thanks so much to everyone. I marked some of the answers as best answers, but those were just the ones that resonated the most with me. Pretty much all of your answers were helpful and have given me a much healthier, non-guilt-ladden way to think about this.

After reading all this and reading about other people's experiences, I am still very sure that giving birth is not what my body will do, and I actually am feeling a lot better about it now. I have a kid, he kicks ass, I got to skip all the horrid stuff, so hurray for me! And it isn't like my presence isn't having an influence. We are increasingly seeing him adopt some of my behaviours and traits, which is fun. Hearing my six year old say angrily "Geeze Louise!!" when he can't get his lego to fit together... well, that is awesome and 100% me. So genetically or not, he is taking on parts of me too that will probably be passed on. I may not have nature, but I am nurturing the CRAP out of this kid. :)

Regarding what to do when people push the point, my current plan is to reply with something along the lines of "It isn't something I have any interest in doing, my husband and I agree on this. I have a kid and I love him to death. We are happy with our family of three. That is what we have decided is best for our family."

And then if they keep pressing the point I will be saying something along the lines of "Are you actually suggesting for someone to have an unwanted child?"
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:40 AM on October 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

How do I stop the "Oh, you'll change your mind..." comments and get people to understand that no seriously, my step son is my SON and he is my kid, regardless of whether or not I gave birth to him, I love him as my own, he fulfills all my maternal instincts and child-raising needs, and that we are very very sure we don't want any more?

You can't change other people. You can have some effect on their behavior. When people try to manage your life for you and/or pressure you to do something you don't want to do, you have no responsibility to explain yourself to them. You have explained yourself to your parents because you want them to understand, and they choose to still pressure you. It's not actually okay.

I often ask people if they plan to have kids, or about their kids, as a conversation starter. If it's from a random person, a short I have a son and he's terrific. It's nobody's business how he became your lovely son. When family pressure you, you can turn the tables You know, I've explained why I don't plan to have more children; why are you pressuring me? or complain Aww, geez, not this again. Boooring. Or you can say It's getting hard for me to hang out with y'all because of the baby pressure. And you can leave the conversation, the room, the house. Not responding to a behavior to get rid of it is called extinguishing. It works, over time. Literally, have lots of other conversation starters, and just randomly and immediately change the topic. Mom, tell me about Grammy Smiff Dad, what was high school really like for you? If you can adopt a certain Reagan-esque Here we go again and then but I'm just really over this subject and introduce a new topic, you may be able to teach your family that you will not participate. Good luck.

As a divorced Mom, my son's step-mom blew the chance to be a wonderful part of his life. Your stepson is very lucky, and it sounds like you are, too.

I recommend: It's a personal decision
posted by theora55 at 2:42 PM on October 16, 2013

Nthing Eyebrows McGee's "right now" approach. I don't feel the need to explain myself to people, so I'm more comfortable being ambiguous and they can take what they want from it. I've fielded questions like this by taking the "not right now" route, "oh maybe one day", "we've got to do X before we can even start thinking about that." etc etc.

I think sometimes it's tempting to kind of double down on this stuff - cause it's important to you, and you want people to understand. But these people will never understand; you could beam your thoughts directly into their heads and they still wouldn't understand, so don't worry about it. Just keep putting em off, they'll get the message eventually and it's a great way of redirecting the conversation - and the interrogation is really more annoying than them thinking wrong thoughts.
posted by smoke at 3:13 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

And then if they keep pressing the point I will be saying something along the lines of "Are you actually suggesting for someone to have an unwanted child?"

Sure, if you want to take stupid comments seriously and escalate a situation unnecessarily.

I think the best way to deal with people making inappropriate comments is to not give a shit about people's inappropriate comments.

You're not the only newly wed getting pestered about having kids. I bet at this very moment, millions of women are getting shit from their relatives about not having kids. You deal with this the way you deal with other annoying things. You brush it off, and you change the subject. Don't dig in your heels or try to explain yourself. People who don't get it won't get it.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:45 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The very insistent-on-knowing usually end up being nosy strangers whose opinions don't matter to me. Therefore, they're more likely to get my intense snake-like hypnotizing EAGLE GLARE OF DOOM while I say calmly, "I'm pretty sure I'd end up accidentally killing any possible kids because I don't have the patience for that kind of bullshit. Since I don't want to go to jail for homicide, I won't have children."

Then I'll get an awkward laugh which dies when I don't smile back.

A little over the top? Probably. However, it isn't anyone's business what my future plans are. (But for serious, I almost halfway raised my hand to slap a kid at a daycare center because she bit me; I recognize this behavior in myself and understand I can never have kids, or take care of kids, until I deal with that urge or may have to decide to never have kids at my intense declaration has a mote of truth in it. Seriously, it's nobody's business why you don't want to have kids whether medical, emotional, behavioral, have your reasons and they're good reasons because they're -yours-.)
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:52 PM on October 16, 2013

I bet at this very moment, millions of women are getting shit from their relatives about not having kids.

Perhaps, but that doesn't make it any less atrocious and rude, and it should be treated as such. It's pretty bizarre behavior, to me: I'm an American woman, nearly 40, and I've never once had anyone say or do anything remotely like this to me, and I would be offended beyond belief if they did. People who think it's ok to ask personal questions like this are WAY out of line and your reaction should let them know that.
posted by Violet Hour at 6:11 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love the array of answers here - I feel like I learned a lot reading this thread.

I do have one suggestion for dealing with questions from random people....because I'm not sure that "It isn't something I have any interest in doing, my husband and I agree on this. I have a kid and I love him to death. We are happy with our family of three. That is what we have decided is best for our family....are you actually suggesting for someone to have an unwanted child?" is quite the tone you want.

People who say things like "Oh, you'll change your mind..." are basically acting condescending and superior. If your response sounds defensive, then you sound like you're not in control of the conversation, and they win. I'm going to suggest a tactic to deal with them and maintain control of the conversation. Basically, I would suggest that you try to out-condescend them.

Here's how it might go:

Dick: Hey, so when are you doing to have kids of your own?
You: I actually already have a kid, his name is X
Dick: Well yeah, but he's your stepson. When are you going to have your own kid?
You [maintain eye contact, smile, keep your tone completely neutral]: I do have my own kid - I love X to death
Dick: Oh, you'll change your mind, I bet you'll have a kid within just a couple of years
You [maintain the neutral tone, but raise your eyebrows and smirk ever-so-slightly]: I have a kid already and I'm incredibly happy being his mom.

The implication of all this in the back of your mind needs to be this: Anyone who thinks that stepmoms can't have incredible parenting relationships with their kids is dumb. Anyone who thinks they know what you want to do with your body better than you do is dumb. Anyone who pressures you about this is dumb and a dick. Don't try to reason with these people (remember, they're dumb!) but do be polite, above-it-all, and absolutely in control of these conversations. That way you'll feel better coming out of them.
posted by leitmotif at 6:18 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My stepmom chose to have me and my sister as her only children (no biokids). She's been in my life as long as I can remember (I was four) and as far as I can tell, has no regrets with us or her grandkids from us. The only point that was at all odd, was that I couldn't ask for personal advice about pregnancy or babies based on her experience with me. Luckily she still had plenty of advice, having coached a lot of friends through labor. (And I also had my mom for some of that.) It was a particular delight when my daughter reached the age I met my stepmom at.

So will you change your mind? I don't see why. You've already got a kid, after all.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:25 PM on October 16, 2013

Best answer: We don't have kids and I don't see us changing our minds. My husband got a vasectomy as his gift to me on my 30th birthday.

I used to try and explain it to people, but gave up when I realized that it was just opening up a discussion I didn't want to have. For acquaintances and coworkers, the conversation usually goes like this:

"So, do you have kids?"
"No, my husband and I chose to not have them."

If I know the other person has kids, I'll follow up with, "How are your kids doing?". If they don't, I'll ask if they have kids. 99% of the time when someone asks me if I have kids, it's so they can tell me they have kids, and talk about their kids. It's basically like they feel they have to get through the ritual of pretending to be polite so they can tell me about their children. And I'm ok with that; I don't mind hearing about their kids. So I just let them do their thing.

Here's the thing though about the delivery - I deliver it matter of fact, like I'm reciting the weather. "Looks like it's partly cloudy today". "No, my husband and I chose to not have them". Because when I would try to explain, people picked up on the apologetic tone, the "I-know-I'm-a-bit-odd" portion of my tone of voice. Now, when I say it straight - when I own my choice, unapologetically - I really don't hear anything from anyone.

You might want to consider shortening your standard phrase, since it's still kind of long. Really, a simple, "Not right now, we're happy as we are" will do - and the less you say, the less openings you give. Less openings = less discussion.

As for family: this is a tough one for me. My MIL got to the point, earlier on, where she was so adamant and (frankly) obnoxious, that I would cry before we'd see her, because I didn't want to deal with it. We weren't even married at the time! After the third or fourth "I don't want to deal with this" cry, my husband called his mom and explained that we were not planning to have children, at least not right now, and that it was really upsetting us that she wouldn't let it go, and that the next time she brought it up we would leave, or ask her to leave. She didn't believe him, and the next time we saw her was at Thanksgiving. She started in on us in the middle of dinner, and it was a real doozy of a badgering. She said a lot of really mean things, to be honest, like how grandchildren were her reward for dealing with her pain in the ass child. So my husband said, "Let's go", stood up, and... we left. In the middle of dinner. The middle of Thanksgiving dinner. I was mortified, but at the same time, so relieved. So relieved to just put an end to it. And although she didn't completely stop - she still hasn't let go of the idea - my husband will just raise an eyebrow and say, "We can go anytime", and she'll stop. So instead of hours-long badgerings, it's about 5 minutes and done.

Obviously I hope that it never comes to that for you, but if it does - I give you internet permission to leave. Just walk away.
posted by RogueTech at 10:32 PM on October 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

And then if they keep pressing the point I will be saying something along the lines of "Are you actually suggesting for someone to have an unwanted child?"

I love this, and the earlier suggestion (that I have also seen in other threads) that you should only have kids if you really, really want them.

I'm sorry you're getting pressured this way. I'm 36, eldest of 3 girls, and none of us has a kid yet. I wish your family was as laid back about it as mine is. (This was a helpful thread for me, too, so thanks!)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:47 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm 34, in a relationship for the past eight years with a wonderful man. I have never wanted children, not even for a fleeting moment. Friends and siblings having kids has only reinforced that. I do not see my attitude on this ever changing, so occasionally I have to explain it to the people who remind me I am running out of time, etc.

My go-to phrase is "I don't want them." I look them right in the eye when I say this. I do not elaborate since I don't owe anybody an explanation. Further questions are met with "Can we please talk about something else?"

If they persist, walk away. I love the method used by RogueTech and her husband in the comment a few above mine. Lucky for me, my folks are totally understanding of our decision to not have kids, so I never hear it from them.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:41 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think my need to make internet strangers understand comes from my family's inability to understand.

No, it comes from your earnest but futile desire to make them understand. You say they can't understand, but you need to accept that they'll never understand. Only then will you give up banging your head against the wall trying to make them understand.
posted by headnsouth at 1:21 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

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