I don't want kids. How can I get my biological clock to shut up?
April 24, 2015 2:23 PM   Subscribe

I don't want kids. I've know this for a long time, and my brain is 100% sure of this fact. However, as I get older (I'll be turning 37 shortly), my biological clock will just not shut up. I really would like to it to.

There are so many things I want out of life, but kids are not one of them. I could go on a whole long speech detailing my reasons and rationale and all sorts of feelings and opinions on the matter, but they're really just unnecessary details. I'm just not a person who wants kids. Please trust me on this!

Up until my earlier mid-30s (I'm female, in case it wasn't clear) I was convinced I didn't even have a biological clock -- the idea of the possibility of having kids was just completely foreign to me. But recently (within the last year or so, maybe since turning 35-36), I've become painfully aware my window of opportunity is rapidly shrinking, and despite being so sure of what I want, I can't shake this crippling feeling of loss, and of missed opportunity. It started out as a passing thought once in a blue moon, but as time marches on, it's become a daily, if not several times a day thing, and it makes me sad and depressed and angry. I'm finding myself having to avoid situations where having kids or pregnancy is talked about, because of the sadness wave that comes over me. The posts & likes on my facebook wall from my friends with kids ("whatever every mom needs to know" type things) send me into a frantic "don't show posts like this" fury. The mothers day ads that have started to pop up already make me turn off the radio and TV. It makes no sense, because I really do not want kids. Heck, even If i'm wrong on this, I'n single and on my own, so it's not even an realistic possibility without significant emotional and financial cost. But it's really not what I want. What I do want, however, is for these feelings to go away and to stop having such a negative effect on my life and mental well-being!

Maybe it's hormones, maybe I'm mourning the loss of my chance to even have a child as I age, maybe it's something else, but whatever it is, I really need it to stop. What can I do? How can I get my biological clock to just shut up already?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
You may be experiencing a form of FOMO rather than a biological alarm clock.

Perhaps viewing it in that way will make it more of a manageable cognitive problem than an existential crisis? Since you seem very sure of your position (awesome!) that might be a way to treat these feelings as the nuisances that they are.

Also at your age, you are in the belly of beast in terms of what the rest of your generational cohort is up to. Give it a few more years and all the baby/kid news will settle down a bit.
posted by pantarei70 at 2:30 PM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I know quite a few people (men and women) who've dealt with it by getting a puppy or kitten (or in one case, an elaborate fish tank). YMMV.
posted by erst at 2:34 PM on April 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'd look for a fast and practical, clinical solution. Freeze some eggs and then live your life and forget about it. You could do therapy or just put some eggs in the deep freeze then you're not under any "biological clock's" tyranny and then you can either process it with a counsellor slowly or just forget about it. (And one day when you're ready maybe donate the eggs to someone who has none. Bonus points for reproductive philanthropy!)

If it reassures you at all, after my last child I was so done with children it wasn't funny...to the point of almost hating all pregnancy and baby news... But I felt sad and grieved a bit when I had a procedure that meant I could never ever ever be pregnant again. I still don't want more kids (not quite so antagonistically though) and I'm approaching menopause but it's better now. I had no desire to ever have another pregnancy or baby but it still felt like a loss. I understand the complex, conflicting and confusing emotions. Not sure I'm offering much wisdom, on preview, but I get it. You're not alone.
posted by taff at 2:40 PM on April 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think it's really about framing, since "biological clock" is a construct and not a thing that actually exists or can make any sort of noise. We hate having choices taken away, even choices we aren't interested in, and so it can be hard to let go. I think Fear of Missing Out is probably a much better way to conceptualize it.

You might come up with a ritual - something big, if possible, like a trip to somewhere meaningful to you, or a commitment to something that's going to be a part of your for-sure-no-kids future - as a way of acknowledging the closing down of Path A and a full turning toward Path B. It's fine to grieve lost opportunities, even when they are lost by choice.

For me, it was kind of an accident (most of my feelings had been pretty resolved years earlier when he had a vasectomy) but we moved halfway across the country away from family and support systems to pursue a new life and career stuff that wouldn't have been feasible with kids. It put all that to bed pretty tidily.

I'm really lucky to have lots of friends who are mothers who enjoy mothering, and I include the needs of mothers and parents in my feminism and activism, so the idea of "mother" is still a very positive thing in my life. It was an easy choice for me to make (to be positive about it rather than negative), but it was still a choice.

Every once in a while I have a pang - who'll take care of me when I'm old??? But I can't take care of my parents, and there's no guarantee that our generation's kids will have the means or inclination either.

If it's affecting your life in a functional way, therapy would be a great way to give yourself a place to speak (and to listen to yourself) without risking all the general social baggage of the dialogues around children and having or not. Journaling might do the same, as well.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:48 PM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm younger than you but have gone through a few cycles of this. I assume it's some horrible hormonal thing because it manifests itself in making me cry at baby food commercials. I hate babies. They are terrifying noise and poop machines.

Two things that have shut this up almost completely:

1) I got a dog. My dog is my best little friend and has quieted whatever biological need I seem to have to cuddle a cute thing.

2) I got a Girl Scout troop. It's not that I hate kids, it's just that I absolutely do not want do not do not want any of them to belong to me for more than a couple hours at a time. It's amazing. The more time I spend with my scouts the more I love how awesome they are, but at the same time, the more and more certain I am that kids are a thing I do not want. The scouts provide me a way to feel that valuable impact on a younger generation without any of the responsibility or body horror that comes with making your own.

Everybody is different, but this has worked for me and I am SO MUCH HAPPIER now that I know exactly how to shut up my stupid babymaker innards.
posted by phunniemee at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2015 [35 favorites]

What I do want, however, is for these feelings to go away and to stop having such a negative effect on my life and mental well-being!

Acknowledge those feelings. Sit and meditate on them. They very well may be genuine sorrow or grief of what might-have-been. Once you've given yourself the time to feel these feelings, acknowledge their value, then maybe you can move on easier.
posted by jillithd at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Adopting a dog (and when my first dog passed, adopting another dog) has effectively satisfied my motherhood urges, even after my brain had decided years earlier that I didn't want kids. Seriously, I spoil my dog and she gives me a ton of pure joy every day. Many people are happier when they are taking care of someone smaller/weaker/more vulnerable than themselves, and this really does fulfill that for me. So yay for adopting a pet!

Also effective: Candy aisles at grocery stores on Saturdays. The playland at McDonalds. Chuck E. Cheese. Generic children's television programming.

Also effective: Vociferously preferring The Baroness over Fraulein Maria. Seriously, The Baroness is fabulous.
posted by mochapickle at 2:55 PM on April 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

1) I got a dog. My dog is my best little friend and has quieted whatever biological need I seem to have to cuddle a cute thing.

This is me.... but with cats!
posted by JenThePro at 2:57 PM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Also effective: Developing a love of old people and working with the elderly, because they are amazing people.
posted by mochapickle at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I recommend exposure. Go to places frequented by parents and their children, and experience the noise and the chaos associated with it - keep doing it for quite some time.

My biological clock was going nuts - I was convinced (after never really being interested in having kids) that I was going to have a whole bunch and that it was going to be awesome. I would look at the kids of my friends and family, and start tearing up, thinking a whole bunch of "what ifs" and "if onlys".

Well, my neighbours have two very young children who I get to listen to every day now from 6:30am to 9:00pm - who wake me up every day and who interrupt my work daily - I have also visited a cafe a few times that is frequented by families and after being woken up by the sound of my neighbours' children running around and banging things and yelling, listening to it all again in public washes away completely any kind of romantic notion that children are in any way easy or something that will fit into my life.

So, making it "real" rather than looking at it as an abstract concept of motherhood (remember that those ads are just designed to sell stuff) can help enormously.
posted by heyjude at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

This may or may not be relevant. But when I was your exact age, I went through a few years of waffling about children, for the first time in my life. (Like you, I has always known at a pretty deep level that I didn't want kids.)

Looking back on that period now, I think it was more 'mini-midlife crisis,' rather than being actually reproduction related. Part of the reason I'd never wanted to have children was because I wanted to do other things that felt more meaningful to me. And when I look back on that period, I think what I was really grappling with was a sense of my own impact on the world. Was it enough. Was I personally fulfilled. More than really being about children.

I quit my job, moved to a different country, started a new career. I'm not suggesting you necessarily need to be quite that radical (although I am soooo glad I did it: it was right for me). But maybe experiment with thinking about your childless future. Are you satisfied with your life as it is, what more do you want and how can you do it.
posted by Susan PG at 3:22 PM on April 24, 2015 [10 favorites]

Nthing the pet solution. Like you, never wanted kids. I've been lucky enough that my hormones, psychology, whatever bizarre combination thereof have never subjected me to what you're going through, though I've worried I might. Anyhow, last year my cat died, my best friend had a baby, and I went overseas (bear with me). When I got back, I found myself enkittened with a kitty some friends had rescued. He is exactly the best thing that's happened to me in a long time and when my best friend and I talk, she talks about her baby's discoveries, developments, etc and I say, hey that's just like my kitten, he just [...] We talk about other things too, but my point is that even though I never wanted a baby or pseudo-baby, my kitten is totally my baby. It's kind of gross. :)
posted by Athanassiel at 3:36 PM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Freeze the eggs, get the pets. Basically, you want to trick your biological clock into thinking a) you're not missing out on the choices, and b) you have something that's basically like a kid anyway!
posted by corb at 3:45 PM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's ok to be not 100% ok about this. It's ok to grieve for a path not taken, even while still choosing not to take it.
One of the fibs we tell ourselves as feminists choosing a path different from the expectations of mainstream society is that if there are any cracks in the dam at all we will be overwhelmed by the full weight of societal expectations. The dam will fail, and we will wake up one day as a either a Stepford Wife or a miserable old hag. (Because there are no other choices, right? Of course not.) So we paper over every little crack and secretly question the validity of our own decisions.
Mourning the path not taken doesn't mean changing a darn thing bout the path you're on.
posted by susiswimmer at 3:50 PM on April 24, 2015 [36 favorites]

Yup, a dog. I turned out to be a bit of a crazy dog lady--apparently I do have a maternal instinct after all--but not only did it give me an outlet for my urge to dote on someone, it also solidified my desire not to have kids, because they would totally interfere with my relationship with my dogs. For real.
posted by HotToddy at 4:25 PM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I pretty much got rid of this by acknowledging it. In therapy we were talking about how much I love my nephews, and she asked if I hadn't ever wanted kids of my own. I went through the 8 million great reasons I don't, then she probed some more, and I found that, yeah - there were a few times did want kids, even knowing I didn't. I spent a little while feeling the sadness, mourning that I'd never do that.

And then I went back to - even more trouble free - enjoying my perfectly child-free life.
posted by ldthomps at 4:38 PM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

"I've become painfully aware my window of opportunity is rapidly shrinking..."

I'm a woman around your age, and for whatever it's worth, I so totally feel you on this! I also am clear that I absolutely do not want to have babies in the future, but I, too, am dealing with feelings of "loss" and "missed opportunity" as you so aptly put it. susiswimmer has a fantastic answer here: it's ok to grieve the path not taken. Amen! These feelings do not mean your choice to remain childfree is the wrong one. I think the way to overcome being crippled by these feelings is to acknowledge them, own them, and actively work through them. Therapy has been helpful for me on this issue. Hugs to you!
posted by hush at 4:54 PM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm 43, female, and would love to have had kids, but given my age I probably never will. So I have a dog I dote on like my child. And I pay a lot of attention to the kids I'm terribly grateful I don't have. Like the ones throwing epic tantrums, the ones that require far more patience than I possess, the ones running around in restaurants like feral screaming cats, the kids who grow into middle schoolers/high schoolers that do terrible things to other kids, the ones who become adults who murder their parents, the ones who never see their loving elderly parents. And I realize that parenting can be a crap shoot and you never know if you'll get great kids or not so great kids or if you'd even be a decent parent. In those moments, I don't feel like my life is missing anything.
posted by cecic at 5:21 PM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

I have had two kids, ten years apart and I can tell you that this feeling is common. I got it in my late 30's. I also got it in my late 20's before I had my 2nd child. And then I was told I could not have anymore kids, due to both me and my husband being infertile, and then all of a sudden I got pregnant.

I am going to tell you that you are worth something as a woman, despite never having had kids. It's okay to feel like you do, and still continue on and have a life for yourself. So much of my life has revolved around husbands and kids, and even later in life, around my grown kids and my granddaughter. And then again around my husband. So that feeling, it is a valid feeling, believe me, I've felt it before, you need to acknowledge it. And then go on to do something else.

Because now all I have is nothing. I have no kids here. I have a cat. Yay. My life is not wasted, per se, but I have to figure out what I am going to do without all of these kids taking up all of my time. Raising kids, they go away, eventually, and then you are just left with yourself again. Except older and more wrinkled. And the kids want nothing to do with you because they have their own lives.

Not to say I am woebegone. I am writing a screenplay, I am into my hobbies, etc. I have a life, beyond children. But having children does suck it out of you, because you love them so much, and you give so much, how can you not give your soul to them? So it's understandable, how you are feeling, you are questioning whether or not you should give up a piece of your soul.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:47 PM on April 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

I agree with the people who say to spend lots of time with kids. I'm 40 and nothing makes me happier that I don't have children than spending a full day with my niece and nephew (who I love to bits, but am profoundly glad not to have to care for 24/7), or reading Facebook updates from my friends about how they've cleaned up toddler barf three times before 8am.
posted by MsMolly at 6:00 PM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Be an aunt to other people's kids - to remind you why you're relieved to be able to leave whenever you want, to enjoy them for the time you're there, and also, to help the people who took on the chance you are tempted by now. It's great, but it's hard, and it takes a village, so it doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can be involved without going all-in.

I do know that it's not automatic to find people to be involved with - part of the "biological clock" thing is wanting to see your own kids, so seeing someone else's can feel a little melancholy. But I also think it's partly a question of finding the right people to be involved with, and doing it the right way - if you can be a serious "pen-pal" or once-a-month/season date or otherwise find a way to feel like you have a real influence, then you provide respite for a friend, and get to see a cool human grow up.

Also, if you think about doing that, and it doesn't sound the least bit appealing, maybe that'll help ease your stress over whether you'll have your own kid.
posted by mdn at 6:04 PM on April 24, 2015

I am 43. I have never wanted to have children. But now that I am at an age where I probably can't have children. I feel sad. I would not call this feeling regret, because my choices were and are right for me. But I'm now at an age where I can't make another choice. The finality of my choice -- the fact that I will never have kids -- is real now.

I feel this in a lot of areas in my life. I probably can't change careers. I probably can't change partners. I probably can't have kids. I probably can't be an artist. I probably can't be an athlete. It's the can't in all these sentences that really, really hurts. It's the can't that wakes me up in the night, sweating and afraid.

So I focus on the can, and the do and the now. I have an awesome job. I have an awesome husband. I have an awesome dog. I'm having an awesome time learning to draw. I am an awesome walker. I have a lot of can and do and now.

I could have made other choices. But I didn't. And that's ok.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:15 PM on April 24, 2015 [14 favorites]

If you could afford to have a kid on your own and have the energy for it and that attitude that handles plot twists in life pretty well, do it. That's a great kind of mom to have!

But if you don't have the money to go it alone, or you're the kind of person who cautiously weighs reality against your own heart's hopes and makes decisions based on the likelihood of what is the most realistic out one, then I think you just have to observe married people with kids. It's rough. Some guys are the dads/co parent fantasy you hope to partner up one day if you're so lucky.

But then there are the dads who half ass it and the mom looks like she's so alone and stuck parenting her husband and the kids because dad is not interested to participate in the actual management of the kids or shopping for groceries, and that sadness in her eyes---she loves them and has to remind herself every day.. Also, her husband is often openly hostile or disrespectful to her when he looks up from his phone where he's busy doing whatever else but helping shop for groceries.

So, yeah, spend some time at your local Giant or Kroger or whatever supermarket. Saturday afternoons. You'll probably also have the dads who like to flirt with you even though their kid is right there a little later on. It's all very awkward.

So yeah, get yourself to a grocery store tmrw at around 11 am for the family scenes but like around 7pm for the weird married guy with kid awkwardly attempting to flirt with you show. It's weird and gross, and very sad, but ultimately an inexpensive education that reveals that parenthood/co parenting may have some good things (kids are crazy adorable), but it's a lot of emotional work and expensive and it's hard to tell the guys who'll be decent parents from the ones who suddenly aren't into it.

Also, aside from the cute kids, it just seems so hard. Also, who would you have a kid with anyway? What if that guy turns out to be a psycho or a horrible father?
posted by discopolo at 8:22 PM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I realize that the world has been "going to hell in a hand basket" since the beginning of time, but I am frightened for the future of my child and all the other children out there. With insane overpopulation, I ache at the thought of what the world's children are facing as well as their current situation in most of the world. I had my daughter "accidentally" when I was 42--had not planned to have children--but here she is and I love her more than anything but boy, I never expected the heartbreak of wondering what will happen to her. I realize this is my own experience and others may not feel this way about an imagined future (and very real situation for most children in the world) but when I talk to other parents the fear is very real for them too. I'm in therapy FWIW.
posted by waving at 6:19 AM on April 25, 2015

Been there, done that.

Ok well- It's not biology at work here at all, it's actually just your mind. You know that your time is closing and for most of us, having the OPTION open is always better than not having the option open. Human beings want freedom and when you can't do something you don't have the freedom to do that thing anymore. The fear is simply the fact that once your opportunity closes you no longer have the option (aka freedom) so a part of you is freaking out wondering if you should just go ahead and take advantage of your freedom to choose while you still have it.

The important thing to remember that it is only fear talking. It is not hormones making you want babies or anything like that. What worked for me is going to a neighborhood FULL of parents taking care of their babies and toddlers. I sat at one of the coffee shops doing work for hours at a time and all day long these moms and dads with their kids would come along and the thought of having to deal with being a parent just put shivers up my spine. The fear went away.

I don't know if that will be enough for you. Maybe you could also use therapy. But losing freedom is a part of life for everyone. As we get older we lose a lot of options. Being able to accept that and be ok with it, is the goal. After all, having a child out due to fear is never a good idea.
posted by manderin at 4:15 PM on April 25, 2015

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