Mind & Soul > Grief & Recovery > 5 Surprising Secrets for Coping With Childlessness

5 Surprising Secrets for Coping With Childlessness

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.

how to cope with childlessnessA 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.

how to cope with childlessness

5 Secrets for Women Coping With Childlessness

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

women coping with childlessnessIn 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.

coping with childlessness for womenThe 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.


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46 thoughts on “5 Surprising Secrets for Coping With Childlessness”

  1. You have no idea how much this article has helped me. I cried a lot, facing this horrific struggle at age 40. I wrote down word for word some of what your wrote. I put the books into my Amazon cart to read, when I am able to get the nerve to face this, and then read the books. It’s not easy. It hurts. But, it is what it is.

  2. I’m not completely childless, I have step children, 3 of them and they are wonderful. I couldn’t ask for better step kids. My issue is that my husband doesn’t think it is reasonable to have one of our own. We talked about it before we married and he said if it’s something I really wanted he would do that for me. There is a complication well 2 to be exact. He has to have a reversal vasectomy and now he’s gone back on his word. I’m completely devastated and it’s ruining our relationship and my relationship with the kids. I feel like I’ve been lied to but he tells me we didn’t talk enough about it and he didn’t realize how much I wanted a child with him. He feels irs not a goid decision for us for many reasons, age (were both 40) finances, time ( I’m a nurse and he has a ministry) and he thinks I’ll pay more attention to our child and forget about his kids. To me, there’s always a way financially, our age doesn’t bother me and I actually feel a child of our own would grow us closer together as a family. Help! I’m desperate for answers. I want to leave but I’m a Christian and only believe in divorce if there is adultery but I know I’ll regret never trying to have our own. How do I live with this?

  3. I just want to encourage anyone going through infertility. In November 2011 I found out I have stage 3 endometriosis, and was told that my chances of conceiving naturally is 1%. Our ttc journey of 6 years has been the most difficult yet beautiful experience. I went through anger, denial, I cried for the loss of a baby that never existed, depression, weight gain, self esteem issues as I felt like less of a woman – but we made it through that! Today I look back, childfree, and happier than I ever thought I could be. The stress of ttc’ing not only on myself, but my marriage, was not worth continuing on that path. We learned to reconnect as spouses and best friends, I started taking care of myself and my health, I realized passions in life, and today I’m at peace with the thought that I may never have children, and that’s okay. I’m a woman, strong and powerful, and with tenderness and love I give to others, because when you’ve been brought to the depths of despair, it creates a light within you, that you share with others. The turning point for me, was to look at the things I had, instead of the things I didn’t have. As corny as it sounds, count your blessings! It doesn’t come easy to reach this point, but once you do, you’ll find out that everything will be okay, in the end.

  4. Excellent and well thought out article. I have the ability to bear children, so technically I’m not “forced” into childlessness. However, I suffer from an hereditary hearing disorder that makes spoken language very difficult to interpret, and I suffered as a child with attachment issues that exist to this day. I suffer with PMDD and will almost certainly suffer postnatal depression. I’m easily angered, easily depressed, easy to panic, and feel the happiest when I’m alone and away from triggers. I realized from working with mothers who suffer with depression that their depression worsen with each child they have. They had no time to cope with their illness and their poor children suffered greatly. I realized that just because I can, doesn’t mean that I should. There is reasonable proof that I would be a poor mother. I have to work very hard at my issues to just make myself happy, and I will forever have occasional emotional outburst. My reality hurts as I feel like the likelihood of having a positive parenting experience is poor. But the biggest positive to not having a child is that I will ensure that I do not create another difficult life with bad genes or let my troublesome behavior limit a poor child’s happiness. I feel like this is a true act of selflessness and personal sacrifice. Sometimes being the best parent, is not to be one.

    To cope with my “decision” I go through the list of positives in my head. The obvious one I already mention. That’s probably the best thing anyone can do is to force yourself to look at the positives. Read up on mother’s who regret having children. They are very convincing. And focus on health and happiness. I have options in my life that I would never have. More financial freedom and time are the top two!

  5. I do feel for those women who are childless mums.but sometimes not always women are responsible for their own destiny.most women are too fussy.we cant do anything about that now cos its too late for most women over 35 to have kids but what we can do is encourage the next generation to have kids first and careers second.to the fussy women i say ” when love beckons to you, follow him” Kahlil Gibran. May the divine mother Shakti bless all childless women to be strong and couragous.