Here’s the truth: there aren’t any quick tips or easy fixes for happiness in a childless life. But, my ideas on how to be happy when you can’t have kids may help you see things in a new light – especially if you haven’t chosen a childfree life.
Let’s start with one of my favorite quotes about being willing to accept the hard parts of life is from Dr Rachel Naomi Remen:
“The willingness to win or lose moves us out of an adversarial relationship to life and into a powerful kind of openness,” writes Dr. Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal. “From such a position, we can make a greater commitment to life. The willingness to win or lose moves us out of an adversarial relationship to life and into a powerful kind of openness. From such a position, we can make a greater commitment to life. Not only pleasant life, or comfortable life, or our idea of life, but all life. Joy seems more closely related to aliveness than to happiness.”
I’ll sprinkle more quotes from Kitchen Table Wisdom in this blog post. If you can take her wisdom to heart – really learn from and absorb it – you will learn how to be happy even when you can’t have kids. It worked for me, and I hope it’ll help you move forward in your life.
Being willing to win or lose in life is one of the ways I made peace with infertility. I decided that life itself is the gift – not children, a husband, family, or any of the other things I used to think were the source of happiness.
How to be Happy Without Having Children
Kitchen Table Wisdom is one of my favorite books because it’s all about accepting both the bitter and the sweet parts of life. Dr Remen is an oncologist who never had children. She struggled with Crohn’s Disease for most her life, and when she was in her 20s had surgery to remove most of her intestines. Remen knows failure and heartache…and she teaches people how to bounce back to live full, passionate lives.
Be willing to let go of how your life “should” be
Do you associate not having children with feelings of failure, being a “loser”, or feeling less worthy or fulfilled than the mom next door? If you do, then you’re normal. Many women feel like they’re unworthy if they don’t have children. They feel less valuable and lovable. So, the first step to finding happiness without kids is express those feelings of pain and loss. Admit that it’s painful to not have children, weep over your loss, grieve the death of your dreams. Not having kids is a painful thing to accept, and it needs to be mourned.
Second, start thinking about how to be open to your life as it is. Instead of hating your body or wrestling with the fact that you can’t have kids, try opening your heart and mind to a life without children. You don’t have to love or be constantly happy about not having kids, but acceptance will help you heal and move on.
You might find 5 Ideas for Women Who Are Coping With Childlessness helpful. I wrote for a reader who asked for tips on how to be happy without kids in her life..
Change how you think about happiness
Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes. it’s not a permanent condition that you’ll always feel. A permanent feeling of peace and acceptance is the foundation of joy, and it can only come from a relationship with God. Everybody has problems; they just look different. My friend’s 19 year old son was recently killed in a car crash. I have ulcerative colitis; my husband and I are coping with male infertility (azoospermia). One of my writing colleagues recently had a stroke, and can’t think clearly enough to write anymore.
Having children won’t make you happy for the rest of your life. Problems will arise with them, and you may find yourself even less happy because of your kids! This is because people, places and possessions are not the true source of happiness.
“The strength that I notice developing in many of my patients and in myself after all these years could almost be called a form of curiosity,” writes Dr Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom. “What one of my colleagues calls fearlessness. At one level, of course, I fear outcome as much as anyone. But more and more I am able to move in and out of that and to experience a place beyond preference for outcome, a life beyond life and death. It is a place of freedom, even anticipation. Decisions made from this perspective are life-affirming and not fear-driven. It is a grace.”
Spend time with childfree couples
Here’s a practical tip on how to be happy when you can’t have kids: avoid spending time with families, pregnant women, and child-oriented friends! It’s an easy, effective way to protect your mind and guard your heart from feeling despair.
We spend time with friends who have kids – but I most enjoy my friends who don’t have children, or who have grown children! I especially like my friends who have chosen never to have children. If it hurts you to spend time with pregnant friends or big families, then reduce those visits. I wouldn’t advise avoiding families altogether, but I think accepting a childfree life is easier when you’re with people in the same situation.
Another thing that helped me be happy without children is my dog. We adopted Georgie from the SPCA, and she adds so much love and happiness to our lives – and frustration too – that it helps take our minds off not having kids. I’d never call her my “fur baby” and I don’t see her as a replacement for a child, but I do enjoy having her around.
Accept the wisp of sorrow – and choose to be happy without kids anyway
I’ll always feel a wisp of disappointment and sorrow in my heart, but I’ve chosen to pursue a joy-filled, faithful, exciting life! I love God, and am building a closer relationship with Jesus. I’ve accepted the idea that I’ll be childless forever, and I’m deeply happy.
Getting and staying emotionally healthy is a daily choice. Accepting your childfree life and being happy without having children is something you have to choose to do. Being okay with your life doesn’t happen overnight. And, feelings of acceptance don’t last forever. It’s like showering or eating; you have to do it every day. Sometimes three times a day, or three times an hour.
To be happy without having children, remember that happiness is a daily choice.
Help Being Happy Without Kids
If you’re struggling with the pain, read Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility by Janet Jaffe, David Diamond, and Martha Diamond.
It’s a valuable resource for women and men who are childless. Sometimes it’s the little things, like knowing you’re not alone, that can make a big difference. If you feel like you’ll never be happy without a baby, reading books for childless couples can help you accept and even be happy with your life.
You may also find it helpful to read How to Be Happy Without Kids – Inspiration From Lesley.
One last quote:
“The less we are attached to life, the more alive we can become,” writes Dr Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom. “The less we have preferences about life, the more deeply we can experience and participate in life. This is not to say that I don’t prefer raisin toast to blueberry muffins. It is to say that I don’t prefer raisin toast so much that I am unwilling to get out of bed unless I can have raisin toast, or that the absence of raisin toast ruins the whole day. Embracing life may be more about tasting than it is about either raisin toast or blueberry muffins. More about trusting one’s ability to take joy in the newness of the day and what it may bring. More about adventure than having your own way.”
What do you think about my tips on how to be happy when you can’t have kids? Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below. And don’t worry, I won’t give you advice! It’s your turn to talk.