You’re not alone if you don’t want children. New data from the Center For Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has revealed that birth rates are fairly low across the United States.
Social media platforms, on the other hand, may tell a slightly different story. Sometimes it can seem as though everyone you know is getting pregnant and starting a family. If you’re anything like me, a young adult woman who does not want children, you may find your decision not to have kids extensively questioned by everyone from family members to friends. Sometimes the questioning paves the way for respectful discussion. Other times, it’s dissolves into passive-aggressive commentary — usually from women with children who presume that their stance is the right one.
“But you would make such a great mom!”
“You know, your life doesn’t begin until you have children.”
What, exactly, is the end game to keep shaming women with these comments? Really, the only thing you feel afterwards is guilt-tripped. You feel bad about your lifestyle, choices and the direction you chose in life. That’s no way to live! I asked a few professional women to share the worst things people say when they find out they don’t want kids, and how they respond. One quick tip: Don’t say any of these things to women…ever.
1. “Don’t you want a family?”
Meredith Castin is a physical therapist and founder of The Non-Clinical PT. She is married, has cats and is turning 40 this year. Castin is child-free by choice. Yet, she is often asked this question when people find out that she does not have children.
Castin is dumbfounded by this question, because she already has a loving family.
“I frequently travel to see my parents and sister, which requires a cross-country flight,” Castin said. “If I had kids, I wouldn’t get to see my family as often.” Castin points out that being child-free allows her to be present for her aging parents. This is a significant priority to her. “I can really focus on maintaining close ties with my parents and sister, even though we don’t live close to each other.”
2. “You’ll change your mind.”
Life coach Kourtney Thomas can’t think of a comment that gets under her skin more than this one. At 35, she constantly gets little digs — even from strangers online — about why she will be “sorry one day” about her choice not to have children.
Thomas cites two underlying assumptions as the reasons why this comment makes her so frustrated. The first assumption is that she is clearly incapable of making her own lifestyle decisions. The second is that joy and fulfillment can seemingly only be found through motherhood.
“Ultimately, it’s incredibly disrespectful to assume that my choices are wrong because of your worldview and refusal to see my experience as valid,” she said.
3. “I hope you have a baby anyway.”
Yoga instructor Lauren Holmes Larry is married and child-free. She neatly puts the kibosh on friendships with people who say things like this.
“It’s totally demeaning,” she said. “It ignores my personal wishes and lets me know they don’t have my best interests at heart.”
4. “One day, you’ll have to choose between your career and a family.”
Perhaps one of the most upsetting responses I heard was from Jessica Gardiner, EIC of The Assistant Room. Gardiner is the founder of her own business, yet finds herself constantly told that one day she will have to choose between her work or having a family.
At nearly 30, Gardiner struggles to see how people cannot see that, to her, having a family is a personal choice.
“Being undecided, to them, at my age, is absolutely shocking,” she said. “I’m even regularly told that I should be grateful that I have a partner who has a stable career to ‘look after me’ when I decide to have children — without them even knowing if I want children or not!”
Gardiner responds by taking the high road and staying focused on her business.
“I want to focus on building the business I poured my heart and soul into. I am proud of what I have accomplished so far, I do not need anyone to ‘look after me,’ and I don’t need a family to feel as though I have achieved something in my life.”
This article originally appeared on Fairygodboss. As the largest career community for women, Fairygodboss provides millions of women with career connections, community advice and hard-to-find intel about how companies treat women.