My husband and I were married for less than 3 hours before I was asked The Question:
When are you going to have kids?
One of our wedding guests asked me that question at our reception. We hadn’t even cut the cake yet. Soon after, we went to a party at a friend’s house and a woman I’ve never met before told me that she’d “convert” me to having babies. Her words, not mine.
Almost 2 years later, we haven’t decided whether or not we’ll have children soon…or ever. And that’s a decision between the two of us and no one else.
Being childfree comes with a lot of baggage the older you get and the longer you’re married, usually at the very beginning of meeting someone. There are all kinds of assumptions about childfree couples for a variety of reasons. And of course, that’s not a blanket statement for the way all interactions happen.
This is absolutely not an article to ignite a feud—we don’t need the MilSpouse Mommy Wars. I don’t believe that being childfree in the military means that there’s some gigantic gap that can’t be bridged between families with kids and those without.
We have so many things in common with each other besides our reproductive decisions and circumstances–like the most glaring one: living the military life.
And it is absolutely possible to live a really productive, happy and successful childfree life in the military community. Here are 7 ways to do just that:
A Childfree Military Spouse’s Guide to Military Life
Protect Your Dignity
Everyone is childfree for a different reason. Sometimes the reasons are benign. Sometimes they’re painful. You do not owe anyone an explanation for your family’s personal reproductive choices or a retelling of your history. You don’t even need to tell someone that you’re “trying” or that you’re thinking about it. You don’t have to talk about a miscarriage or your IVF treatments. Your story and choices are your own and you shouldn’t feel pressured to divulge information that makes you uncomfortable.
Decide with your partner what you both feel comfortable sharing with others and have a few go-to responses. A simple, “I’m not comfortable talking about that,” should clearly signal to everyone that the baby topic is off-limits.
Don’t Excuse Yourself
Time and time again, I’ve noticed (and my childfree milspouse friends have corroborated) that (usually) moms assume that the childfree among us just don’t like kids.
I’ve been in situations where all of the moms leave the room or house with their kids and don’t invite me along (even though I was the only female left in the room). Usually it truly, really isn’t personal.
If you’re comfortable being around children, spend time playing with the kids or sitting with the mom as she feeds a baby. Offer to help with babysitting. Ask to come along if you’re not invited when the moms and kids make a move to go play in the backyard.
Don’t Discount the Moms (and Dads)
Some of the coolest people I know are moms and dads. It would be unfortunate to write people off just because they don’t live the same lifestyle that you do. So give them a chance. You might end up with lifetime friends who enrich your world.
Understand Not Everyone Will Understand
No matter how many times you say it, some people will not understand why you don’t have kids. While I wish some people could be more empathetic, that’s not always the case.
Learn how to let it go and find common ground on another topic. And if you can’t find common ground on good faith, know when to walk away.
Don’t Be Intimidated…or Discouraged
If you have a bad experience at an FRG meeting or command party, give it another chance. Often, people don’t mean to be hurtful–they just have never had the shoe on the other foot.
Remember That You Are a Family
Families come in all shapes and sizes. There’s no one right or wrong family. You and your partner are just as legitimate as a family with 2 parents and 10 kids or a family with a single parent and 2 kids and 3 gerbils.
Seek out Other Childfree Couples
There’s nothing wrong with hanging out with couples with kids, but often while talking with my other childfree milspouse friends, we’ve found a common thread: the conversation skews to children.
My friends have expressed emotions ranging from slight discomfort to feeling left out or singled out to totally being comfortable or to being hurt in those situations.
Intentionally seek out other childfree couples if your circumstances make it tough to be around families with kids.
Having a child (or not having one) is not the sum of who you are or what your relationship is. Not in the civilian world. Not in the military one. So go have fun. Go enjoy life.