If you’re one of a million women coping with childlessness, you know there are no quick or easy tips on how to be happy. Not being able to have kids is devastating. Here’s how my husband and I cope with being a childless couple – we didn’t choose not to have children, but we are living happily and peacefully.
A reader recently emailed me and said: “We recently found out that we can’t have kids and have decided against fertility treatments. It hurts, but I am trying to learn to accept this. I want to be that happy, loving, cheerful wife I was before we became a “childless couple.” I’m thinking I need to read a book, but where do I start?”
At the end of this article, I share a few books for women coping with childlessness. First, though, I describe the five ways I’ve learned how to Blossom without having kids. For example, one of the best ways to be happy as a childless couple is to connect with other couples who can’t have kids. My husband and I haven’t done a good job of doing this because we both tend to be introverts, but I always feel better when I spend time with people who are happy despite not having children. That’s not really a “secret” for coping with childlessness – but I do have a few other thoughts…
5 Secrets for Women Coping With Childlessness
“I need to find my happiness,” says T. “I love my husband with my whole heart, but I just cry and cry every time I think about being a childless couple. I don’t want to see a counsellor but it may come to that. I just don’t know where to begin to accept it.”
I think seeing a counsellor is a great idea. A therapist – especially one who is experienced in infertility issues and finding ways to be happy for childless couples – will give you an objective, healthy perspective on your life.
Here’s a comment from a parent who says the grass is always greener on the other side:
Here’s a whole different perspective on having kids – a reader just wrote this a few hours ago…
“The grass is always greener,” says B. on A Childfree Life After Infertility – 7 Ways to be Happy. “I love my kids but having kids makes your life suck. Enjoy your freedom. Kids have a way of zapping all the meaning out of life. You have to clean up poop all the time, your back hurts all the time, you can’t go anywhere, you lose intimacy, you go broke, they do stupid things, your house gets destroyed, they get you sick all the time, vacations are more stressful than your job…
One way to be happy as a childless couple is to focus on the positive. If it feels like something is missing in your marriage, take time to examine it. Kids won’t fill that void, only complete honesty can do that. Kids only make it worse. Parenting is different than people think it is before they have kids. Yes you love your children forever, but everything else in life ends up sucking. I’m not a jerk, I’m just honest. Hope this helps.”
1. Accept you’ll always struggle with childlessness
My husband and I can’t have kids naturally, unless God decides to miraculously create sperm in my husband’s body (he has azoospermia, which means he doesn’t produce swimmers). While I’d prefer to have kids and would love to get pregnant, I’m still okay with being a childless couple. I’m not thrilled or happy with it, but…who says life is always thrilling and happy?
The sadness of childlessness never, ever goes away for many women – including me. It’s like mourning my grandmother’s death or my sister’s choice to cut me out of her life – I’ll always be sad about the losses I’ve suffered. To be happy as a childless couple, you need to accept that you’ll always feel pangs of heartache, pain, sorrow, and even regret. Everyone has burdens to bear, crosses to carry. For some of us, childlessness is our biggest, heaviest burden.
“Growing up, I always dreamed of having them; being able to watch them grow and going to sport/school events,” says T.
Being a childless woman isn’t easy for anyone – and it’s especially difficult for women who yearn for kids! But, happiness in life isn’t about getting what you want; it’s about figuring out what you can give others and how you can brighten their lives. That’s one of the most important tips for coping with childlessness.
2. Get emotionally and physically healthy
If you’re prone to the blues or depression – or if you’ve always wanted children – you may not find my “secrets” for women coping with childlessness helpful.
I’m one of those lucky people who is naturally happy, positive, and optimistic. But I work at it – I do yoga, pilates, strength training, and cardio almost every day. I eat healthy foods, and avoid sugar, fat, and anything that makes me feel heavy and sluggish. And, I try to get eight hours of sleep a night. You’d be amazed at how your health affects your mindset! And one benefit of childlessness is that I’m free to get as much sleep, exercise, and free time that I need.
3. Focus on the benefits of a childless couple (and there are lots!)
T. says, “I’m trying to see the positives of being a childless couple, yet I break down when I do. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time around family/friends who do have kids and I wish I could experience what they talk about.”
Yes, it would be awesome to experience the joys and pains of having kids! I would love it – I am not childless by choice. But, for some reason, I can easily and happily focus on how lucky and fortunate I am to experience aspects of life that I wouldn’t get with kids. I’m free to pursue whatever goals and activities I want, I love my job, and I love my freedom. That’s the biggest way to be happy as a childless couple: keep focusing on what brings you joy.
4. Stay connected with your spouse – and find joy together
Here’s what Deneice Arthurton said in Childless Couples – Living Happily Without Children:
“One of the main reasons our childless state has turned out so successfully for us has been our strong relationship. Whenever something has come up we have talked about it no matter how uncomfortable this may have been for one or other of us. We still do this from time concerning not having kids, knowing that the demons of resentment get killed off if you bring them out into the open….What counts however is whether you can move on and build from these times. We did.”
One way to cope with childlessness is to reconnect with your spouse. Bruce and I travel, go boating, go on hikes with our dogs, and volunteer with the Big Sisters/Big Brothers organization. Those activities help us focus on the lighter, happier things in life.
5. Find your own “secrets” for coping with childlessness
Here’s where T. and I agree wholeheartedly. She says, “I need to remember that God does things for a reason. Maybe we aren’t meant to have kids; what if we did and they had medical problems, then it wouldn’t be like I dreamed it would either.”
If you believe God is watching our for you, you’ve found the most important way to be happy as a childless couple. My biggest “secret” for women coping with childlessness is that I believe God is protecting me from something. I think Bruce and I are a childless couple because God is saving us from something. Schizophrenia and mental illness runs in my family, so maybe we’re being protected from that? Or, maybe it’s not about God holding something back from us. Infertility has reared its ugly head in my husband’s siblings as well…so maybe childlessness isn’t something God has “given” to us.
Maybe the best tip on coping with childlessness is to accept that our infertility is just part of living in a fallen world, and all God’s children all got their messes. Another tip is to learn how to survive the grieving process after you find out you won’t have children.
Books to help women cope with childlessness
In Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness, Melanie Notkin reveals her own story of coping with childlessness as well as the honest, poignant, humorous, and occasionally heartbreaking stories of women in her generation. She shares the experiences of women who expected love, marriage, and parenthood, but instead found themselves facing a different reality. Notkin reassures women that they are not alone and encourages them to find happiness and fulfillment no matter what the future holds.
Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by clinical psychologist Ellen Walker is an examination of the often-ignored question of what it means to be childfree, by choice or by circumstance, in a family-focused society. Recognizing that there is no one childfree adult, Walker guides the reader through the positive and negative aspects of childfree living, taking into consideration the different issues faced by men or women, couples or singles, whether gay or straight.
The authors of Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility offer a compassionate, gentle guide for women and couples coping with infertility. The book will help reduce your sense of helplessness and isolation, identify your husband’s coping styles to erase unfair expectations, and listen to your “unsung lullabies” (your conscious and unconscious dreams about having a family). This book will help you grieve the losses of infertility and move on.
If you have any thoughts on being happy as a childless couple, please comment below. I can’t offer advice…but I will pray for you. May you find peace and joy, faith and hope as learn how about coping with childlessness. May God bless you with acceptance and happiness, surrender and power.
“Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left.” – Hubert Humphrey.