Being 30, childless, and single. Where do I go from there?
May 30, 2016 10:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm turning 31 this upcoming November. I recently had a mutual break-up with my ex-girlfriend mid-April of this year. It was the first real relationship for me personally, and I can say that I went through verbal-abuse at times during the two year relationship. Eventually, the relationship became very toxic and my ex recognized the fact that we’re two completely different people. She was also apologetic about certain things that she had said and realizes that I wasn’t going to reach my full potential as someone who felt that he was walking around eggshells all the time. The breakup was civil, and it was better for the two of us in the long run.

Fast forward to today, I am much happier to have time to do whatever I want and whenever I want. At the same token, I also started thinking about the future. The majority of my friends are married and have started families. I have 3 siblings, and I’m not really close with two of them for various reasons. The only one that I see myself having a long-term bond with is the youngest and going to college that is six hours away from home. He will eventually start his own life at the tender age of 19. Friends come and go, and me along with my immediate family are not close to a large majority of family members (second cousins & etc) here in the states. It makes me sad a bit to know that family members are more like acquaintances. But it is what it is.

Straight to the point, are you or do you know of anyone who has lived a fulfilling life being childless and unmarried? Can multiple activities (traveling, hiking, working on your car, painting, etc) outside of your work-life make up for the absence of a significant other + children? I’m not really fond of the idea of having children. I actually find animals especially small dogs much more entertaining and cuter to have around. I’m not even in the mental and financial state to raise a kid. I don’t even envision possibly getting married in the nearby future. I am thinking of the possibility about going childless and single for a very long time. I won’t be first one since I have an uncle and older first cousin who are childless and unmarried. My parents aren’t going to be around forever, and my dad mentioned about having a long-term companion to do things with even if we don’t have children. Any feedback from prior or current experience would be more than appreciated!
posted by tnar23 to Human Relations (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are you or do you know of anyone who has lived a fulfilling life being childless and unmarried?

Yes, I am. But I chose this life and love this life. You sound like you're kinda scared of it (even if you say "not fond of having children" etc). By the way, it is entirely possible to have a fulfilling relationship with lots of small dogs, too!

You only broke up 6 weeks ago. Take some time to heal and explore this new reality and see what happens. Is there a reason you are trying to make Big Decisions about your life right now?

(But to get back to the question you actually asked, yes, being single and childless is great and perfect! For me at least. Some things - buying a house, caring for elderly parents - are a bit scary, but it's toooootally not worth the trade off. For me. YMMV because we're all different and you need to figure out what YOU want.)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:28 PM on May 30, 2016 [13 favorites]

Hi, a lot of what you're asking about is exactly how my life is unfolding, so I can let you know how I see things and I hope it will help.

I'm older than 30, but I have never really desired children, not having them now I, in no way, see it as a "loss". I really, truly enjoy my life and the things that are connected to it. I travel, for work and leisure, to many places around the world. I go out to social events with or without friends. This includes restaurants, movies, opera, etc. - places that most would think "I should go with someone".

Right now I have a great SO, and neither of us have any desire for children and yet we're planning a trip to Disney World! With or without a companion it's important to be comfortable with yourself. I have had great moments when I have been single.

As ClarissaWAM above, I have chosen this life and I think the important part for me was to always remember "Just because you're alone, does not mean you are lonely".
posted by alchemist at 11:34 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, I know many, both male and female. I'm 37, divorced, and childless. I don't want kids. I do date people, though. There is a lot of grey area between unmarried and single forever. I get to travel whenever I want, I spend a lot of time with friends, I spend lots of time on solo and group hobbies. My friends with kids don't have anywhere near this kind of freedom and spare time. I love my life.

Look, you are only 31. In all likelihood, unless you totally shut yourself off from the world, you are going to meet someone else you like at some point. I know it's scary to be single after a long time of being coupled, and it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "That was it. I will never meet anyone again forever and I will die alone surrounded by cats." But that is (usually) not true.

Give yourself some time to heal. Decide what *you* want for your life. If you want a partner, start dating again. If you decide being single is awesome, well, don't. If you change your mind later about any of it, that is also fine :) That's the beauty of life, we get to choose how we live it every day, more or less.
posted by ananci at 11:38 PM on May 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

Hell yeah! I spent my 30s single and childfree (I'm splitting hairs here, but I never wanted kids, so I describe myself as "childfree". "Childless" implies the desire to have kids but not having them yet)

I had many friends who I saw regularly, went to gigs and theatre shows and dinner with, always had people to meet up with for a drink after work if I wanted to, or to go on vacation with. I bought an apartment - small but enough for me. Most - but not all - of my close friends got married and had kids, and I was treated as a part of their families, so was included in family events, which was great. Kids get that Auntie Perdita doesn't have children, so she's an adult, but not like mom or dad, so she's always up for dressing up in fancy dress, judging a backyard trampoline competition or reading an extra story at bedtime. I was heavily involved in volunteering, which I loved. I traveled any chance I had - and I traveled to some pretty cool places. I felt that my life had meaning, and I was happy.

I have several friends in their late 30s / early 40s who are single. Those that never wanted kids are happy and content, those that want kids are really struggling to make sense of a life that may mean that that isn't going to happen for them. I also have married friends who are miserable and want out (or who have already divorced). Happiness doesn't depend on your marital status. But if you want kids and don't have them, that may well stick with you for longer, and may be far more of a determinant of future happiness.

I was happy. And was completely comfortable with the idea that this would be my life until I died. I dated. I had flings with younger men (why not?). I had a couple of relationships, but nothing serious.

I'm still childfree, but I got married at 40 (to "the one that got away" from my early 20s) and moved countries. I'm still in the process of building my new life, and there are days where I wonder whether it was all a huge mistake and I should go back to the life I had. Because it was pretty great. But mostly I'm still happy.

What I'm saying is that if you want kids, you can't unwant kids. Not having kids would be a loss, a gap, a longing. But if you genuinely don't want kids, then you don't need a relationship in order to be happy...
posted by finding.perdita at 12:08 AM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am unmarried and childless, and my life is pretty okay. It gets lonely now and then, but I feel more financially disadvantaged than I do emotionally so - I have friends, I find things to do, an while the dating isn't as frequent as I'd like, it does happen.

But let me also add - you are only thirty. Honestly, you are at the age when most guys are beginning to start thinking about settling down, and the vast and overwhelming majority of guys end up falling in love with their "forever person" in their early to mid 30's. Which means, you have a lot of time before you need to start assuming that "welp, guess I will just live my whole life as a bachelor" anyway.

But even if you do live your whole life unmarried, that is still just fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:32 AM on May 31, 2016

I'm near 50 now. Never had kids, didn't want to. I am completely content with my choice, in fact it gives me great satisfaction that I successfully navigated all the pressure to have kids. It just wasn't right for me. I am married so can't speak to that part of your question. I do enjoy having a family to take care of, but my family consists of my husband, myself and a bunch of animals. I have my ups and downs and challenges to get through like everyone else, but I really love my life.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:50 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Listen, here's the thing:

If part of you wants kids at all, don't indefinitely delay having kids.

You need to decide if you're really just not ready, or if you actually 100% don't want kids, ever. These are two VERY DIFFERENT things.

If you're not ready, you need to actively work towards being ready. If you 100% don't want kids ever, you can basically do whatever you want and never have to be in an "ideal fatherhood" state of life.

This will also make a very big difference in who you date and how honest you are about this will hugely, hugely affect whether or not you go through another breakup.

It's okay if your honest answer when dating is "I'm not sure," but you need to give her a timeline. If you're thinking kids at 40, don't date women who are already 35 and can't wait that long to have kids. Date a bit younger women.

Honestly, based on what I have seen, men who even maybe want kids should not wait until they are quite old to have kids. I know there are happy exceptions to every rule, and I'm glad for that! But generally, I think past about 45 it really does become too late for a lot of men to have kids, because of the dating market, and because of health issues. My uncle is one of these men and he openly admits he regrets not hitting the "sweet spot" window of about 40-45 for older fathers. You have a bit more time than women do, but I wouldn't recommend planning on becoming a 60 year old first time dad for multiple reasons. Something to consider, anyway.
posted by quincunx at 7:12 AM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Quite honestly, given the state of the world today and the looming impact of global warming and a host of other issues, I kind of question why anyone would want to have children these days. It seems like an act of optimism that isn't supported by the current (and likely future) state of affairs.

That being said, I'm in a relationship with someone right now that wants to have kids, and I've really warmed up (ha!) to the idea over the past couple of years, so I can understand how strong the pull can be, even as I recognize how bad of an idea I could come to regard as given enough time.

If having children is truly something that you want, for your sake, and for the sake of many others, don't rush into it with someone that you're not sure you are going to be completely happy with. If you do, and (when) things go south, you'll be unhappy, your partner will be unhappy, and your kid(s) will be unhappy.

As others have said, if you don't have kids, it is quite possible to have a happy and fulfilling life. You'll have so much more time and money to do things than you would otherwise. There might be times when you look at a cherubic little tyke and wish you were the one pushing the stroller, but there will also be times when you're walking on a beach or reading a book that you'll feel lucky that you're able to do so.

It's probably an over-simplification to say that you win either way, since it seems inevitable that if you do down one path you'll regret not having taken the other, but that's life. You just have to make the best decision for yourself and carry it out in the best way that you can. Good luck.
posted by Fister Roboto at 8:06 AM on May 31, 2016

I am the happiest, childless woman you know. Don't regret that decision. At. All.

Met and married husbunny when I was 39 years old. We are both very happy with our little life.

If you're a dude you can reverse your decision (although based on my experience, as you get older, you just realize more and more that you dodged a bullet in the kid department.) Even if you're a chick, you can adopt or foster if you suddenly decide you MUST have children (again, I don't know anyone like this.)

You can decide at any time that you'd like to date again, or you might meet someone for whom you're willing to give up your single life. I did.

Up until that time, I owned my own home, had a great career, and traveled. Don't put your life on hold waiting for something you're not even sure you want!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:43 AM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think you will probably be able to meet someone and have kids with her if that's what you want, but it's good that you want to know that you will be OK even if you don't have kids - it can save you from trying to force things to work when they aren't working.

I wanted kids when I was 30, and now I'm 38 and I don't. I was single when I was 30, and now I have a great partner who I intend to spend the rest of my life with, and I have no particular qualms about having kids with this guy in particular, and I love other people's kids, and I know that if I want to have my own biological kids I don't have a lot of time to make that happen (I'm a cis-woman); I just don't want kids anymore.

I could get into the reasons, but the main thing I want to say is: it is possible to change your mind from definitely wanting kids to definitely not wanting kids. If I had had a partner when I was 30, I would probably have kids now, and that would be OK. But I didn't, and in the meantime I changed my mind, and that is OK too.

So, for me personally, indefinitely delaying having kids has worked out well so far - of course it's always possible that I'll regret it, but FWIW this weekend I was at a baby shower with multiple pregnant ladies and babies and kids of various vintages, and someone close to me told me she was unexpectedly pregnant and my primary reaction was mild terror followed by loading my gynecologist's number into my phone so that I could get the next possible appointment for an IUD.

I know plenty of childless people my age and older, and they don't seem to be any less happy on average than the people with kids.
posted by mskyle at 9:06 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify: indefinitely delaying kids is okay like mskyle suggests, if you are pretty much more no than yes, as it sounds like she is. Indefinitely delaying = no, eventually, is really the point I'm trying to make. I really can't tell from your OP so forgive me if I'm misreading, but I got a definite tone of "oh no, I wanted kids but now I have no partner and on top of that not enough finances, what if I never have kids?" That, IMO, is not the attitude of most happily childfree people I have known. You sound pretty conflicted and like you might indeed regret not having kids, but just don't think it's possible or something. It's possible. I think you need to do some thinking about what you really want. You have a good 10 years easily, though, so no need to freak out immediately.
posted by quincunx at 9:56 AM on May 31, 2016

At the risk of getting into too much of a discussion with other posters: when I was 30 I *absolutely* wanted to have kids but I couldn't because of my single status and insufficient funds to support a family on my own. If I had had more money and/or a more flexible job I would have had a kid, even without a partner (I mean, I might have planned to wait until 35 or so, just in case I met the love of my life, but by 35 I *had* met the love of my life and I wasn't sure I wanted kids anymore). I fantasized about alternative family setups and coparenting with gay friends and all that stuff. At 30 I accepted that I might not have kids but it made me really sad.

Not even ten years later I am actively choosing not to have kids and I don't feel sad about it at all. Obviously I have no idea how common my experience is, I might be the only one who would ever have felt this way, but it seems unlikely.

Even now I would never describe myself like the OP, who says that s/he's "not really fond of the idea of having children." I still think raising children seems like a blast in a lot of ways, and I don't think my life would be worse if I had had kids in my 20s or early 30s, just different.

Back to the OP: if you're not that fond of the idea of having kids, there's really no reason to hurry into *anything.* If you find that you're lonely in your middle age or old age, well, you can go ahead and fall in love with someone then, or have an amazing roommate relationship, or join a commune, or start a home daycare, or whatever. There are all kinds of happy families. The ones we're most familiar with involve biological children and long-term romantic partnerships, but those aren't the only ways to be happy.

And also, again, going from "this one relationship broke up" to "I guess I'll spend my life alone" is a big (distorted) step. Chances are very much in favor of you finding another, better relationship if that's what you are looking for.
posted by mskyle at 1:42 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

My feedback as a permasingle: generally speaking, life is pretty good as a single person. Nobody's complaining about you and you can do whatever you like regarding life plans, living arrangements, etc. You don't HAVE to have children and you can avoid that issue as long as you're single. If you're not panting for kids, great! Family drains the crap out of me, and after a rough day at work I am so glad to come home to an empty apartment where nobody's bitching me out about making dinner or wiping their bum. Hobbies are a lot more fun.

What does suck: most people will get married and have kids and you will be like, fourth priority (if that) with your friends. And possibly even your siblings/parents can come out like that--sounds like yours are already distant as is. I find it pretty unnerving that I don't really have "backup" if anything bad happens to me (other than my mom, but that's complicated drama), and frankly, trying to find such has been difficult. My single friends live elsewhere and my married friends, well, I have lowered expectations as to what they're up to doing given the priority list. If you can find any other permasingle sorts, that might be for the best, but we're hard to find and more and more people will eventually pair off with someone.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:45 PM on May 31, 2016

I want to say something that nobody else has mentioned: just because you don't have a specific desire to have children, or just because you haven't developed a strong relationship with a child while you've been childless, that does not mean at all that you would be happier without kids. So when someone says that they never really wanted kids, and so they are glad they didn't have them, I call bullshit. That's not a logical inference. It's kind of like (excuse the comparison) the guys I saw on TV the other night who were wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years and then got out and now say they're actually glad they were there that whole time because of all the things they learned. They don't necessarily know what life would have been like had they taken the other path.

And just because you come across people out there who want to be in a relationship so that they can have children, know that that is far from universal (actually, not only is it not the case with me, but I haven't come across a man for whom that is true, although I've come across a few women for whom it is).

Take me, for instance. Before my wife unexpectedly got pregnant, I would have told you that I liked kids, but I would have just meant that I'd had some fun with my nieces and nephews. Nothing earth-shattering enough to make me want to have a kid of my own, since I knew conceptually that life with kids can be difficult. Now that we have a daughter, I can say wholeheartedly that I'm happier than I could have honestly imagined being. From my experience, I believe this is common.

Anyway, my advice to you is the following, which I think is really reasonable: Don't marry so you can have children (even subconsciously), but don't count a kid out. Remember, it is not all-or-nothing; many of the actions that prepare you for to be a good father (or mother) also prepare you pretty well for single life: an education, a good career, savings, a crime-free life, interesting experiences, physical fitness, doing good for others ... you get the idea. If kids are in your future, don't make it be because you just have to have them, but do consider the possibility in your plans.
posted by thorough at 3:34 AM on June 1, 2016

Based on some studies linked in the comments on the last FPP about fertility, men have on average about 10 more years of fertility than women. You are still young, and if you want to have a family you still have plenty of time. 40 is a long way away.
posted by domo at 8:27 AM on June 1, 2016

« Older Let's stream this baby...   |   Which has better aerodynamics--a TIE Fighter or an... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.