How to be Happy When You Can’t Have Kids

If you haven’t chosen a childfree life, you have to learn how to be happy without having kids. These tips on accepting life without children are from me – a woman who has accepted infertility.

How to be Happy When You Can’t Have KidsUnsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility by Janet Jaffe, David Diamond, and Martha Diamond is 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.

Accepting a childfree life is easier said than done – but here’s something that really helped me: “The willingness to win OR lose moves us out of an adversarial relationship to life and into a powerful kind of openness,” writes Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal. “From such a position, we can make a greater commitment to life.” That’s one of the ways I made peace with infertility. Below, I share what also works for me…

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? The first step to accepting a childfree life is express your feelings of pain and loss. Admit that it’s painful to not have children.

Second, you have 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 cheerful about your childfree life, but being open to your life as it is will help you accept the hand you’ve been dealt.

You might also read 5 Ideas for Women Who Are Coping With Childlessness, which I wrote for a reader who needed encouragement.

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Remember that everyone deals with something

How to be Happy Without Having Children

How to be Happy Without Having Children

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.

If want to be happy without having children, remember that infertility is a condition that you’re unfortunate enough to hav…and we all have stuff. Knowing that I’m not alone in the pain that life brings helps me accept a childfree life. All God’s children got their crosses.

Surround yourself with childfree couples

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.

You might also consider joining a group for women who aren’t parents.

Accept that you may experience sadness or disappointment every day

Accepting a Childfree Life

Accepting a Childfree Life – How to be Happy When You Can’t Have Kids

Getting and staying emotionally healthy is a daily choice. Accepting your childfree life and being happy without having children is something you have to decide to do — perhaps every hour! 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!

To be happy without having children, you have to remember that happiness is a daily choice.

If you don’t know what to do to be happy, read How to Be Happy Without Kids – Inspiration From Lesley.

Are you accepting a childfree life? Can you be happy without children? I welcome your comments below.

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41 thoughts on “How to be Happy When You Can’t Have Kids

  • Kelly

    Until this past December, my husband and I had been trying to have kids for about 11 years with 3 miscarriages in that time. Besides the fertility issue, I had been in intense amounts of pain about 80% of the time increasing to more like 95% last year from fibroids, severe endometriosis, and scar tissue. We finally sought the help of a fertility specialist last year, mostly to get answers to the “why” questions, which led us to find out that, not only was it likely I would not conceive again but if I did it could likely cause fatal complications to me. Since it was unlikely we would have a full-term pregnancy and because I was in so much pain we opted to do a total hysterectomy at the end of December (Merry Christmas! lol). I had so much peace with it in the beginning (surprisingly so…almost a relief). I started to look forward to possibly adopting, but as my husband and discussed it more, the more I realized he REALLY did not want to do it. He would do reluctantly it for me, but I need him in it with me and not just folding because he knows how much I want kids. So…here I am trying to figure out what my life looks like without kids. Every time I think about it my heart just breaks all over again. I have started re-analyzing the things in my life that bring me joy and satisfaction. I also started a book called Thankful, which is mostly a daily thankfulness journal and has helped to refocus me, albeit temporarily. But I just can’t shake the grief most days. I have always been an optimistic, glass half-full, hopeful person but this has sent me spiraling into depression, hopeless thoughts of “I guess I am just existing until I die”, and jealousy towards those who have been able to have kids (fully knowing they have their own troubles). I have just been searching for articles or really anything that can help me navigate through it all. Anyway, I am happy you had the option to leave comments, because it is really helpful writing all this out (painful but helpful lol). Anyway, thank you for your articles, they are very encouraging! 🙂

  • Krissia Masin

    For me this situation is so sad, I lost my husband becouse I can not cope with chidless life, I felt less than other women who can get pregnant, any woman needs help to cope with this, I like this page.
    It is necessary to read, to express your feelings, to talk about it with close friends, family and specially your husband.

    • Emily

      I also lost my husband when infertility changed me forever.
      You are not alone.
      3 years later he has had a baby with the woman he was with before, and briefly, during our marriage.
      Infertility is a sad and lonely disease ruining all in its wake. I totally sympathise with you.

  • Kay

    Dear Laurie,
    Incredible to find a site like this where childlessness can be discussed openly and honestly. My situation is, although I married late at 37 yrs, I always thought I would have children and so was surprised to find instead of a child growing inside of me, there was a slow growing cancer. My husband and I prayed into this and the battle against the cancer was fought over 11 long and painful years. No medical intervention. I would not have held on this long except that I had been given unsolicited words of knowledge by three different pastors and elders who saw me with a baby and children. The end result was I needed to have a radical hysterectomy at age 53. At this point in time my husband and I were too old to adopt a child, either from overseas or in our country. That was five years ago now and the feelings of sadness have never gone away. They come up especially when I think of my husband’s children and grandchildren. Unfortunately his ex wife poisoned his sons against him for many years and continues to be a controlling influence in all of their lives. Not once have we had a Christmas dinner with them coming to our place in twenty years of marriage because of her control and their ‘family tradition’ to always have Christmas at their mother’s house,or at a relative’s on her side of the family. All this has done is rub in more the feeling of lack of family. My sister lives overseas and has children and is oblivious to how I feel as she is so busy with her lot. My brother and I fell out about ten years ago and he has cut me out of his life. All I have are the positive memories of growing up in a loving family, and it saddens me to think of this and where we’re all at now with each other. I think the biggest issue is when you see others who’ve been able to have children, and you want to let them know how you feel, but you know they will never get it, and are often too busy often to hear the hurt in your heart. I had never thought of linking up with other couples who don’t have kids. One thing that is on my heart is to get involved with local and overseas mission or voluntary organisations where I can contribute and make a difference in others lives. And yes, being happy with what God has given you, and relishing the times you spend with husband or close friends – with or without children. Being thankful for good friends, health, pets, nature, being alive – the little things in life is really important. I’m not sure staying away from friends with children would be best for me though? Often you can feel a part of the bigger family of God by spending time with other families and enjoying time with them together. My husband and I did move away from our home town where his sons live. I needed to check with him several times if this was the right thing to do. ( We did have other reasons for moving away.) It was hurtful for us both to live close to his children and grand children but never really feel a part of the family because of the ex-wife’s need to control the children. I do think moving away has been a positive as it means if they do come to visit it will be genuine and not as the result of any kind of manipulation. So yes, the sadness comes and goes – and it’s good to know this is quite normal. Thank you for your post. It’s made me realize I’m not alone because I think often that’s the thing that gets you over and over – the aloneness.

  • Laurie Post author

    Is it possible for every woman to accept a childfree life, or to find ways to be happy without having children? I don’t think so. No.

    When I wrote this article in 2012, I really did think women could just choose to be happy. I thought they could rise above their feelings and emotions, and focus on the positive things in life. I thought women without children could rebuild their lives and re-adjust their expectations, and find different ways to be fulfilled and happy.

    But I was wrong. Life and relationships are very complicated for some women. It’s not easy to just “accept a childfree life” and move on. It’s hard, and painful, and sad.

    Recently, I expanded on this article because I don’t think it’s good or deep enough. If you’re interested in learning different ways to grieve and heal, you may find it helpful…

    How to Be Happy as a Childless Woman – Single or Married

    I will keep you in my prayers. May you grieve your broken dreams and find ways to accept the blessings in your life. May you see the good, and focus on the gifts you’ve been given.

    May you see every breath you take as a gift from God, and may you gratefully accept whatever else He chooses to bless you with.

    May you Blossom despite everything.


  • A

    Can I be happy without children? No, absolutely not. I wish I was dead. There is no point carrying on if I cannot fulfill this one basic task. My business is very successful, I have super friends and no financial worries. Still every single day I put a smile on my face to hide the fact that my shitty little life is not worth living. I just wish that I had been smart enough to not put this off for too long.

    • J


      I am childless, your comments about having a “sh*tty life” without kids (despite success) resonates with me, but the “not worth living” does not resonate. I connected with the short comments you wrote, I think you are someone who is loved, who gives love, and brings irreplaceable meaning to those in your life. I thought a life without children does not have meaning, but it does, I was wrong, it is worth living.

      Please, try to see yourself the way I, a stranger, already does. The collected “we” of people that also don’t have kids, we are with you, you matter to us. We love you. I love you.


  • Elle

    I don’t know how to explain how much it hurts right now. I do know it feels like a truck sitting on my chest. My heart forever broken and unable to breathe.

    My ex husband ran off with someone else following multiple misscarriages at the time I was 35 and devastated in more ways than one. I had counselling and grieved and resigned myself to a lonely childless life. I saw a specialist and there is no reason for my losses.

    Two years later I meet a caring kind man whom I’ve fallen madly in love with. I took it and ran with love as I never thought I’d be lucky and find him. He has 2 young boys from a previous relationship, it’s a difficult situation because their mother uses the children as weapons against their father. The boy’s mother has slandered his reputation which has alienated him from the community in which they live and the boys go to school. She has done this through false allegations of domestic abuse after he left her as he could not deal with it any longer. It sounds more like he was the abused one to be honest as their relationship only continued after her getting pregnant the first time they had sex. She then threatened to go back to her country of birth and him never knowing the child unless he had a relationship and provided everything. She continues to cause drama and hates me for existing as she still dreams of them getting back together.

    So I built a relationship with his boys and love them very much. When they are with us I fulfill a lot of a mothers roles and I know I’m lucky to have this but it kicked of a yurning I thought I’d dealt with and it hurts to see his love for them and their love for him. It highlights that nobody loves me like that and that I do not have that love. I have a big heart and a lot of love to give. I spoke to him and he wants no more children due to the hell his ex put him through. That hurts so much, he tells me I’m the love of his life, he wishes his children were mine, how I’m so loving and caring I’d be a great mum etc. He doesn’t see how much it hurts, he told me I should bond with his boys. That that should be enough, that his main reason for having none with me is the two he has already as he doesn’t want them to think he’s replacing them and that I would treat them different.

    I tried to do this, I built a relationship, a good one with both boys. We then didn’t see them while they spent a couple of weeks with their mum. In which time she has poisoned them against us, especially me. So we took them on holiday and she’d told them to be mean to me (we wondered what had happened and my other half questioned them and they admitted they were doing what their mother asked for fear of making her angry). The youngest was physically violent towards me repeatedly. So how am I to do this with her undermining me in such a horrible way. The boys are being effected as its emotional abuse. She is bad mouthing the boy’s father to the boys and trying to alienate him from them.

    So now I’m hurting more than ever and when I try to talk to him he takes it personally. That he thinks I think it’s all his fault for not letting me have his child. It hurt so much that he gave her everything and will not me yet I’m the love of his life? I love him so much but I’m left with this. I’m just not sure what my purpose is and I want the pain to stop. Am I just selfish?

    • Bob

      Elle – You’re not selfish at all. In fact, if anything, you’re being far too generous with your time, effort, and love if you’re being treated as described. If you’ve made it very clear that you want a child of your own, and your current partner quite clearly does not accept that, then you both have very deeply incompatible life goals. He and his children get the positive maternal influence that you provide to make up for their mother’s poisonous behavior, and in return you get… heartache and longing. No matter how great this guy may seem, there is no way that can possibly make up for your deeply undesirable situation.

      And if he doesn’t or can’t realize that, or (even worse) does realize how miserable it makes you, but isn’t willing to change something to help you fulfill a major, basic , and emotionally necessary goal like that, then I don’t see how he deserves to be described as a caring guy. No matter how many doors he opens for you or says he loves you, this incredible emotional disconnect completely overshadows anything else. As far as you’ve described him, he seems to be a very weak-willed pushover with a horrible family situation you are gracious enough to stick around and make a little better. Somehow, he is completely at the mercy of a clearly malicious ex-wife who uses children as a weapon against him, but has somehow found the fortitude to turn you down, even though you’ve demonstrated far better qualities as a potential mother than she has as an actual one. So yes, it absolutely IS his fault for not wanting to have a child with a woman that’s clearly superior to his pathetic ex-wife! Seems that you already treat his kids better than their actual mother – what could he possibly be worried about? He sired two children to a manipulative shrew, but won’t have one with you, the love of his life? I don’t see any logic there, only cowardice. And as a reward for his emotional failure, you merely have to put up with crushing angst every day you see him with his kids.

      For your own sake, please leave him to deal with this horrific mess of his own making, and find a partner who doesn’t make you miserable. This is not something you should subject yourself to, either for his sake, or yours. It’s not your job to make that great a sacrifice and deal with such an emotionally damaging situation, no matter how caring he may seem in other facets of your relationship.

      Unlike some of the people in this site, it sounds like you have the freedom to correct at least a part of this situation. There is an awesome guy out there somewhere who’s major life goals match yours, and who won’t cause you incredible pain just to be around. Please do both of you a huge favor by escaping this terrible situation and moving on sooner rather than later. Wish you the best of luck!

      • Maria

        WOW! I totally agree with the above comments from Bob! My dear Elle, you are being used & abused! I think you need to get out of that messy situation & reconnect or connect with yourself. LOVE yourself! maybe some spiritual support would be helpful! You are doing all the giving with paltry returns on your investments! BAD DEAL!! The more you honor&respect yourself, the more GOOD will enter your life!! The right man will come along when you get in tune with YOUR unique&wonderful self!

  • Elaine

    I’m not sure I’m ready to accept it yet, but this article have me a few things to think about. I married a man who had been married previously and has two kids already. The youngest is still in the house but 14. I adopted her when we got married almost three years ago. But it didn’t fill the need in the slightest. In fact it just makes me feel like a fake. I didn’t carry her, I didn’t nurse her, and I only met her when she was 10 years old, three, almost four years ago. Her biological mother is not dead. A court order gave my husband full custody of her and no visitation to the mother because she was an addict and neglecting the baby. Also the reason my husband left her. Now imagine that… an addict is more woman than I am and apparently more worthy of children than me (she has like 4 total, lost custody of every one dye to her addictions). 3 years is how long we’ve been trying to get pregnant. Even the IUI treatments failed and no one can tell us what’s wrong with us. I feel like it must be me somehow though all the tests show I’m fine, just a little low on hormones which they had me on pills for when we were trying IUI. I’m 34 now, my husband is 42. the next step would be IVF, which we cannot afford. I’m falling to pieces, and my husband thinks our marriage is falling apart just because I can’t be comforted. I feel alone because he has his own kids, he doesn’t understand what I’m going through. He thinks I’m blaming him. In addition I don’t know anyone else who wasn’t able to have kids or who choose not to. one friend had trouble, they could afford the ivf and she got triplets. She may understand what I’m going through but she’s too busy with her kids to take time for me. I know no one else who understands what I’m going through. My sister griped when she didn’t get pregnant the first two months they tried… she has two boys now and mostly only complains about how much they drive her crazy and tells me things like, are you sure you want one of these? They drive you mad. She has much less patience than I do. She was the Tom boy growing up. She always wanted boys but she was never as maternal as I was. It hurts to watch her stressed out over the very thing I wanted most. She takes it for granted. She doesn’t appreciate the gift… or it feels that way. All my friends have multiple kids, every, single, one. How do you even meet people in the same boat as you anyway? It’s kinda rude to ask new people you meet. Envy, jealousy, hurt, pain…. unbearable pain. Every mention of children, parenting, in any context, cuts my heart. Even though I know I’m not the only one I still feel alone. Not even that knowledge helps at actually makes the pain greater to know too many women suffer with this.

  • Delores

    This article was great I had 4 miscarriages in 4 years and it’s been 5 years since I’ve been pregnant. I’m 30 yrs old and people ask me all the time when I’m I having a baby it just makes me so sad, I cry everyday thinking about my situation and I’m just always unhappy. I see so many friends and family having children and deep down inside I feel a bit jealous but then I pray because I know it’s just the devil making me feel that way. I try to deal with my issues by spending lots of time with my neices and nephews whom I love so much and being around family helps too. I still hope someday that God will bless me with children 🙁

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Martha,

    It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot of frustration and disappointment, and those deep feelings of loss aren’t remedied by my little list of tips on how to be happy when you can’t have kids. I wish I could be more helpful, but some of our feelings of grief and pain just have to be experienced.

    Sometimes it’s best to let go of what we wanted, and instead focus on something new in our lives. This is painful – it involves grieving the death of your dream of being a mother. Learning how to be happy when you can’t have kids is an ongoing process that is painful, but it is a valuable endeavor!

    Here’s an article I recently wrote, to encourage women to move forward.

    5 Ideas for Creating a Better Life – And So She Blossoms

    I hope it helps, and I will keep you in my prayers. May you find hope and healing, peace and joy.


  • Martha

    Thank you for your article. I can relate. I’m very frustrated. My husband and I have tried to have children of our own for over ten years. We’ve been to infertility specialists and have tried adoption and nothing is working. I have friends that say “when you want something bad enough you’ll make it happen” , but they don’t understand how frustrating and disappointing it is to spend a lot of money and more than that get your hopes up and think “oh I must be pregnant” or “maybe this time…” just to be disappointed all over again. Or to make plans to adopt, just to have the pregnant woman change her mind after you’ve gotten your hopes up. Or to have adoption agencies act so much like they want to find homes for children and then tell you, “oh you’ll need to foster first and then maybe you can adopt, if they don’t go back to their biological parents” or balk because you’re older, even though you said you’re willing to adopt an older child and it doesn’t have to be a baby. Or not even call you back at all, or not even respond to your inquiries or applications. Or get turned down for a loan, on your 40th birthday, the money you were hoping to get to use for expensive international adoption.
    I appreciate this article very much. Thank you.

  • Flora

    I am 37 years old and trying to decide if I am ready to give up the idea of having a baby. I have PCOS and have a great fertility specialist, but the monthly disappointment is difficult. Most of my friends have children, but I am no longer invited to birthdays, christenings, I think because the assumption is that I don’t have kids because I don’t like them. It leaves me feeling very isolated. My husband is 10 years older than I, and I do worry about ending up truly alone someday. I could try IVF but given the success rate I feel the emotional toll will be great, and I don’t know if physically I can handle it – I was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and am having a lot of physical challenges with my balance, ability to walk, eyesight, among others. How can I put myself through IVF or even pregnancy, shifting my centre of gravity??? It is so much to figure out but I fear given my age and fertility challenges I can’t afford the time I really need to work through everything. All this makes it difficult for me to have any sort of vision around how I want my life to pan out and what my options are.

  • Laurie Post author

    Thanks for your thoughts, Mary! That’s awesome that you’re starting the adoption process. How exciting! My friend adopted two boys almost 11 years ago, and she loves them like they’re her own. She would say the same thing to any couple who wonders how to be happy when they can’t have kids.

    My husband and I talked about adoption, but I didn’t really want kids that strongly. I’d be happy to get pregnant and I would love my kid dearly, but I didn’t want to do in vitro fertilization or even adoption. We even talked about fostering kids, but we really didn’t feel parenthood pulling us that strongly.

    Adoption is a wonderful way to start a family, though. you’re right: there are so many kids who desperately need parents to love and care for them!