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.

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“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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45 thoughts on “5 Surprising Secrets for Coping With Childlessness

  • stef

    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.

  • Elle

    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?

  • Elrese

    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.

  • Dannie Sisco

    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!

  • Alvyn

    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.

  • Charlie Gilbert

    I am trying to understand why is it that there aren’t any books for the childless MAN! Or is it women are the only ones that have to deal with being childless?

  • Laurie Post author

    Dear Michelle,

    I felt the same way – I didn’t want to undergo fertility treatments, and it was so difficult to cope with the idea of a childless life. It may have been a bit easier for me because I always put off having kids until I was in my late 30s…so the pull towards motherhood may not have been as strong as if I’d always wanted to have children.

    The bad news is that I don’t think you ever “move on.” Even me, even though I’m okay with being childless….I still see babies and pregnant women, and my heart does seize up. I’m totally at peace with not having kids, and yet I still feel sad when I see those reminders of babies and pregnancy.

    But there is good news! You learn to live with it, you learn to accept that there will be painful moments of grief. You surrender to your life as it is….and it DOES get easier and easier to cope with childlessness.

    The key is accepting that there is no “moving on”, and surrendering to those occasional bouts of pain and grief.

    I suspect I’ll still feel sad, even when I’m 80 years old and completely unable to even pick up a child, much less get pregnant! It’s just the way it is.

    Acceptance does bring peace.

    I will keep you in my prayers, for strength and healing and comfort. May you reach out and find support and love in your friends and family.

    You might be encouraged by my free weekly newsletter, called SheBlossoms. I help women look upwards to grow healthy and strong, emotionally and spiritually. You may find it helpful, and you can sign up here:

    Take care of yourself, and stay open to God’s love, healing, power, and freedom.


  • Michelle

    Prayers would be appreciated. Thanks for the article. Facing 39. Have tried to conceive naturally for five years with no success. Not interested in infertility treatments. I feel like there is enough pressure with this where thousands of dollars on the line would push me over the edge. Husband is having a hard time seeing me impacted by this and for the last year has discussed the idea of moving on. I don’t know how to. Or when I think I make progress something happens to set me back again such as this week where I considered maybe we did it this time, but lo and behold no, and on top of that yesterday a young mother was sitting in front of us at church and I hardly heard a single word the pastor said because I could not help staring at this little girl and mother. How I wish I could understand God’s Will. But I am at a loss.

  • Laurie Post author

    Thank you for sharing how you’re coping with childlessness…I really appreciate your honesty and courage!

    I’m choosing to believe I have more power than I think. I can’t change how I feel, but I can change what I think about and do in life. I won’t allow myself to continue feeling sad and depressed about something I can’t change! I’d rather choose life, light, and love.

    I just wrote this article about coping with depression:

    Maybe it’ll help you cope with being childless, I don’t know. But it did help me to write it 🙂

    Wishing you peace, light, joy, and acceptance in your life,

  • manu

    i always feel like crying when see a pregnant lady or seeing couples pampering their babies.i am suffering from severe depression .i have no best friend even my husband didnt listen and care about my feeling ..i always ly on bed with thoughts of being childless always fluctuating ..i dont know how to cop up with it but actually even a single day didnt passed when i havent thought of being a mother.every day thoughts came to my mind why god make my life hell…i am feeling so devasted please friends help me..

    • kathy

      Hi Manu,
      I understand your feelings. I’m on the same boat.whenever I have a party with my family friends all the ladies started to talk about their kids.I can’t join with them and share my feelings or experiences. I just keep smiling.but underneath that smile a sharp knife tear my herat.Thanks god at least my husband could understand some.I always stay lonely.I try not to hang out with women has child.anyway that is our life.but everyone needs to understand baby is not a buying stuff that if I want I can buy any time.I didn’t choose not to have child.here us nothing I can do.hopefully we all find the way to live on.

    • Susan

      Dear Manu,
      As someone who has been in your shoes I encourage you to get counseling. Couples and on your own. My husband was unsupportive as well because he didn’t know how to be supportive. With counseling and really focusing on myself, we have finally turned things around.

  • Alison

    I’m grateful that I ran across this article today. I’m a 45 year old female and came to terms years ago with the fact that we probably wouldn’t be able to have a baby, but there are times when the hurt resurfaces, and this Mother’s Day weekend was one of those times.

    I was uncharacteristically devastated this Mother’s Day, and was at my Church receiving the usual “Happy Mother’s Day” greetings from people who don’t know us well enough to know that we don’t have kids. I was feeling pretty bitter at that point, but then our Pastor happened to come outside where I was standing (I was ushering outside one of the doors before Mass). He said, “Happy Woman’s Day!” and hugged me and made it a point to tell me that during his Masses, he never makes too big a deal about Mother’s Day because he knows how many women (and couples) out there want children and can’t have them. After a short conversation, I started to feel much more like my old self and was remembering the blessings I do have. That was Sunday.

    Then Monday (yesterday), everything came crashing down (I guess I was still sensitive) when I heard that some slightly younger friends of ours are having their first baby. They’re not such close friends that we talk and e-mail all the time, but it’s a couple we have fun with and see several times a year. It just so happens that we will be going to a baseball game with them this coming weekend. So I’ve been full of dread and have even told my husband that I’m not sure I can do it. There are just some times when a person can be so blah that she can’t even imagine plastering a smile on her face, asking all the required questions, and feigning animated interest in all the details. Well, that was me.

    But this article helped me today because it made me remember all the great things about our life, and how there are a lot of stresses and worries I don’t have to deal with when it comes to raising a kid. Yes, I would have preferred to have one (or six!), but it didn’t happen. And when I imagine how much worse people in this world have it, especially in countries where women are widely mistreated, oppressed and terrorized, it reminds me that I have it good and I have to make the best of it. My husband and I are best friends, and while we presume our relationship would have been good with a house full of kids, we know it would be different than what it is now, and we love what we’ve got.

    There’s still some sadness in me, and it will be tough hearing about all their excitement, but I’m going to pamper myself a little bit this week and not worry so much about the things I need to get done. I may also do some guilt-free shopping and treat myself to something nice to wear to the game Saturday that I can feel really good and attractive in. It’s definitely not a substitute, but a little TLC for oneself is necessary sometimes to help get through things like this.

    For me, I believe sacrifice on some level is required and/or inevitable in every life, and I see this as one of those sacrifices I have to live with. Better to try to keep in mind the positives than to wallow in self-pity (which I’ve been doing the last couple of days!) I feel for all who haven’t found their peace yet with being childless – I’ve been there and still regress sometimes – but I hope that if anyone here ends up not having kids, that you can find it. Despite what some people (usually with children) say, you don’t have to have kids to have and know true love; and you are just as special and worth just as much as anyone who does have kids. Your life is important regardless. We all have the same Father, and it’s what HE thinks that counts. And his love for all of us is equal and unconditional.

    • Anna

      Thank you for this response, it really spoke to me. We just found out we can’t have children two weeks ago after a year of surgeries, IUIs, IVFs. We’re 32, and our closest friends have babies and it feels unbearable being around them sometimes. I feel like we’re still in shock and denial about it, but the depression of the situation is really starting to set in. Something about your response really struck me that there is someone out there that completely understands. I hope we find our peace soon, I miss our old life of happiness, easiness and fun.

  • Modi

    Thank you for this blog!
    I have been struggling with childlessness for 5 years now and recently realized that I have to do something to try and feel better, otherwise I will lose my mind. Reading about other people’s feelings and similar experiences helps a bit. I am less alone.

    I feel that life played a big trick on me and my husband, we did not think we wanted children for the longest time, and in our early 40’s our minds changed completely. Now it is the biggest suffering and the biggest loss we have to endure every single day. We have had many professional hardships and it took many years and many sacrifices to have our careers, since we came from a different country, we spoke a different language, so in our 20’s and 30’s we had to focus on studying and working hard and establishing ourselves. And then in our early 40’s we realized that we wanted more from life.

    Only it was too late then and every single day we regret that we had such circumstances that children were not part of our plans. We even tried to adopt and nothing came out of that. We are not very religious persons, I wish we were, I think our pain would be easier to endure if we thought that God had a plan for us. Being in the medical field, I help people every day and try to make their lives easier or better, but there is nobody or nothing that could help us. I see pregnant women every day, and also extremely sad cases of child abuse or neglect, or drug addicted mothers who have child after child with no regard towards their babies’ health and well being. My husband is a teacher and puts a lot of effort in helping his students become better adults, more educated, more knowledgeable, more compassionate.
    We are content with our careers and happy that we can make a difference in other people’s lives, but would want nothing more than having our own child.

    Life is generally so sad, and as I said, I wish I believed there is a reason for this, it is extremely hard to accept that everything is arbitrary and being a good person does not mean anything.
    I cannot imagine living the rest of our lives with so much pain and sorrow, but likely this is the path that we will be travelling on and we have to accept it.

  • brian brown

    I am a single male that is writing to this blog. I never wanted children until I was blessed with a son. He was the joy of my life. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t think about him. After my first born, I saw the miracle of life. All I wanted to do is to come home to see my baby. My whole world was consumed with my wife and the baby. But there was a catch. She was from the south and I am from the north.
    She was never comfortable in New York. After the baby was two years old she suddenly took the child and moved to Georgia. I agreed to the move because I thought that it would cure her of always wanting to be with her family. I did everything in my power to make the move successful. I hock everything I had so as she would not want for anything. I brought her a new car and turned in my 401k so she would have money. Everything was going well. Then she asked to come home. She took a flight to New York and left the car in Georgia. I took a stand that she should take the baby back to Georgia and try to settle there. She went back to Georgia and in the following months the baby died. I was heartbroken and couldn’t function. I started drugging and ended up losing everything that I worked for.
    We ended up in a divorce. She went on to another marriage and had two kids. I haven’t had much luck in the last twenty years. I haven’t gotten married nor have kids. It has depressed me to no end. Luckily I went on line to find help. I never resolved the conflict within myself on why I haven’t been married nor conceived another child. I wished death upon myself for twenty years. My existence has been torturous because I am the last of my family. When I die my lineage is over. I don’t do drugs or drink anymore. I attend 12-step fellowships. I share where I am at but no one seems to relate to my plight because 99% have kids. I tried starving myself to death. I tried to re-enter the womb by a million sexual affairs. Nothing has helped. Not until now! I have found people just like me. I am sixty four and lost my son at forty three. I have nothing to live for and no one to leave it to. I have been told that I need to think differently. They are right. I find that the people with the most acceptance and happiness are those who believe in God. There is something with increase faith and acceptance that brings about peace and serenity. I have been told to move on; God doesn’t have this in his plans; adopt kids; find someone with grandchildren. I am living against my will. I have no control on when I will leave this earth. I have been in a self-made prison. I have faith and hope that whatever my God has plan for me is in my own best interest.

  • Jo

    I’m happy to find this site today. A place I can say what I feel!
    My story is complex as to how I wound up childless- and extremely painful. The seeds of my own childlessness hark back to a coerced abortion in my 20’s that I never really got over. I couldn’t get on top of my grief and feelings of betrayal. Had to watch my ex partner get together with a friend and have children. I lost my trust in men in general. Women too now as I have been hurt by the many throwaway comments about my childlessness.
    My voice is silenced but I wanted to say here that abortion is another reason so many are childless these days – and not everyone who had an abortion made a “choice”. When I was young I was very naive and easily pushed around.
    I regret it bitterly. And I’m sure I’m not alone!
    The world doesn’t want to listen, it’s easier to judge.
    I’m so tired of being judged and misunderstood. My self esteem is minimal.
    I used to try really hard to speak up for the marginalised and the disempowered because I relate so strongly. But I’m tired now.
    i have become the stereotype of the bitter childless woman. It’s just another wound to my spirit and one I pray there is recovery from.
    Otherwise I can’t see the point in going on.
    Its hard to stuff down my anger and feelings of bitterness but if I dont I just get judged again. Meanwhile expected to listen endlessly to how hard it is to be a mother!
    No doubt there are many struggles involved but oh my god if I could choose those hardships over the ones I go through internally I would leap at the chance – to be seen, to be part of the community, to have a voice! To hold my own child.
    I struggle on alone as many do.
    My once good heart is very frayed and nowadays I avoid most people. They have become a source of pain.
    I have discovered how cruel the world can really be – one reason I sometimes think maybe it’s ok I don’t have children. I would not wish to subject my worst enemy to this kind of pain.
    I’m just spewing it out here as there is nowhere else. I’m sure I could recover if I was allowed to talk openly and receive understanding and human comfort, but that is very scarce upon the ground for women alone with no children.
    I was somebody’s child once. Mothers never think that their own children may end up with none of their own. Maybe that’s how some learn to be kinder.
    Ugh I’m so angry today!