Is a woman’s life pointless without children?

I just read a very interesting post written by a woman who objects to everyone thinking her decision to not have kids is their business and their assumption that the only reason she doesn’t have any is because she can’t have any.   Her objection, more specifically, is that anyone thinks it’s their business to ask what she’s planning to do with her womb in the first place.  The post itself didn’t spark my thoughts today as much as the many comments she received about it.

One commenter tells the author that she can’t know what she’s missing by not having kids.  Others talk about leading a “more fulfilling” life by having kids.  This all echoes a million different comments I’ve heard over the past decade on the subject of having babies: women claiming that their life can’t be complete without kids, that if they don’t have more than one child they can’t feel happy, that having children makes a life more meaningful, that having children makes them a better person.

I’ve got news for everyone:  what having children really does for you is wear you out, make you fatter (not universally, but very common), steals all your time for personal development, divides (by however many children you have) the time you have to spend with your spouse as a couple, each additional child you have robs attention from the previous children you already had (your love may be infinite but your time and attention are not), it robs you of sleep, robs you of relaxation, makes hanging out with grownups difficult, and drains you of money.

I want to take a moment to remember how angry I used to get when women I talked to who were working outside the home used to imply that my life must be mind-numbing and less worthy because I was a stay at home mom.  It’s always been my belief that if a woman decides to have children the best thing she can do for them is to stay home with them as long as finances allow.  I still believe this and career women without children assuming that staying home is an unfulfilling life choice are asses.

Since then I have encountered so many smug women with children who think their purpose in life (having babies) is the most noble and fulfilling one that a woman can have.   Women who think a childless life is less meaningful and fulfilling are also asses.

Smug career women are asses.

Smug working moms are asses.

Smug stay at home moms are asses.

What I want to say to the woman who suggested that you can’t know what you’re missing by choosing to not have kids is this: if I have two eyes in my head (or one really sharp one) with which to observe the parents I see around me I can know EXACTLY what I would have missed by not having one.  Now that I have one I can say authoritatively that I was NOT missing anything  necessary to make my life more fulfilling or meaningful.

I was on the fence about having kids for seven years (right after having spent a decade knowing absolutely that I didn’t want any) before I finally decided to give in to my hormones and have one.  The idea of having a kid had nothing to do with being fulfilled.  I was already fulfilled by my life, by the things I chose to spend my time doing, by the people I chose to know, by the goals and ambitions I already had for myself, and the new things I was always learning.  I wasn’t missing anything in my life, I just wanted to take a detour, to go in a new direction.

If I had turned out to be infertile I would not have been devastated, I would merely have been disappointed.  I wanted to experience family life but long before I even met my husband I had a serious sit-down with myself after dating one too many stupid men where I basically slapped myself upside the head and told myself that having fun, having a good life, and finding meaning was all my personal responsibility to myself and that I would end up so much less powerful if I looked to other people to fulfill my needs and dreams.

The plus of having my child is not about my own fulfillment, the plus is that having him gave me him.  I love him.  I am proud of him.  I won’t give him back.  He’s awesome.  He’s smart.  He’s handsome.  He’s talented.  I love him more than anyone else.

However, I didn’t need him to truly understand the circle of life, the fact that we’re mortal, or that parenting is hard.  I do understand some of the choices my parents made better now that I am one, but that knowledge wasn’t necessary to develop a strong relationship with my mother.  I didn’t need to have my kid to get closer to my spirituality or to improve my empathy or compassion.  Having a kid has not made me a better person than I would have become without one.

Being a cognizant, evolving, self-aware person is what makes me a better person.  My son is a big part of my life but I would never burden him with being responsible for giving my life meaning and fulfillment.  He will have to be responsible for his own and that’s enough.

So screw you all who think a woman needs children to be fulfilled just because you couldn’t figure out how to make your life meaningful on your own!

Fulfillment in your life should NOT depend on: anyone else.

How about this scenario: how about women stop being smug asses to each other and realize that all of us have different ways of reaching our potential and that the greatest thing we have is: CHOICE.

You will never hear me say that a woman can’t meet her greatest potential and meaning by being a stay at home mother.

Being a woman who chooses both a career and a family is the hardest choice of all, in my opinion, and regardless of the choices I personally would make, I respect any woman who can make having both work.

Lastly (and maybe most importantly of all), you will never hear me suggest that the life of a woman requires either a man or a child to make it meaningful, productive, beautiful, fulfilling, or complete.


  1. Kathy says:

    god! Are we ever going to get past this? It’s the same lashings over and over again. People need to keep their opinions about other people’s lives to themselves and shut it. Women can be vicious and judgmental, so not cool.

    It never occurred to me that I would be incomplete had I chosen to not have a child….a rather narrow minded thought. It would serve us all to just keep our noses out of other people’s choices.

  2. angelina says:

    Thank you Aimee- that’s a rare honor for me! (Because of the whole being mostly insane thing) I have to say that ever since the first time I read your blog I have felt that you have a truly grounded outlook on life which I found refreshing and calming.

    Kathy- I think you are a better woman than I am, I’m not sure I deserve you.

    I am very nosy and opinionated. However, I think that I have a good understanding that my opinions are based only on my own observations and experience and that there are a lot of valid opinions besides my own. I’m nosy and want to know how everyone thinks, what they do when no one’s looking, and all that insufferable stuff but I know that I have no right to know people’s personal business unless they want to share it with me.

  3. amy says:

    I wanted two and had two. I have talked with a good friend who gets tired of people asking when she is having another one? It is so not anybody’s business. I noticed this summer my maternal yearnings for babies has transferred from human babies to milk goat babies. I just melted and felt like I need to have one or two or 10. 🙂

  4. angelina says:

    Do you have room in your yard for goats? I love them. I don’t really get actual maternal yearnings but all baby animals have an undeniable magnetism and I embarrass myself around them.

  5. bela says:

    i loved reading this. im 23 and im sure i never want kids. my best friend has a kid and i know exactly what i will miss and i am ok with it. i agree that everyone should have their own choice. i just wish people would stop telling me “you will change your mind one day!”

  6. angelina says:

    It’s always something isn’t it? Because even if you had one kid then everyone would constantly ask you when you’re going to have another! I believe that people can know their own minds about such things and it refreshes me to hear of another young woman who doesn’t feel her life will be incomplete without children- thanks for commenting!!

  7. Franca says:

    Excellent article! I smiled when I read it. Thank you for being a woman with children who realises women without children are not stupid, selfish or ignorant. I am 35, single and for several reasons currently do not have children and probably won’t. I never ask other people if they have children or about their private life because to me , it is exactly that – private, and figure if people want me to know if they are married have kids etc they will tell me. It is not automatically my right to know. I wish others would pay me the same courtesy. Unfortunately at social gatherings etc that is often the first question asked – if you are married and have children and if you are my age and neither, are considered a bit strange. How sad – if I meet someone I like to get to know that person, their interests, their thoughts on various topics – I don’t see the marital/childbearing status of someone as the sole thing that defines them.
    Oh, and neither do I hate children, which is often the other accusation, and Im not bitter or jealous of those that are married with kids. If you are, well good for you. At this point in my life I am perfectly content to be single and childfree. That may change in future, it may not, but why do some feel the need to attack people who don’t don’t fit society’s expectations.

  8. angelina says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! It’s truly ridiculous that anyone think it’s a woman’s most important possible contribution to the world- to have children. We have come so far and yet…

  9. Tamara says:

    It is my 43rd birthday today——–I chose to travel – have free time–more time to focus on my development…ride on the back of my husbands motorcycle—in otherwords free………………….this is what kept me from having children…….at midnight -last night at the turn from 42 to 43—pushing the child bearing limits———-I talkeed with some tears —wondering if my not having children made my life “less worthy”—as I live a life focused alot on my own fulfillment and enjoyment and freedoms—–and I like that—I just questioned if that made me selfish…and even if I create a great career, circle of friends, love and home and travel and all of the other goodies——————-is that really enough—to be happy and productive in the daily day. I know in my heart that if I really really really wanted children–I would have found a way —I know this becasue anything I ever wanted before –I found a way–no matter how hard–to achieve it…I was driven………………..I have hummed and hahhed about children all of my life…knowing I would make a great mom—trained as an Elementary Education teacher…a nanny forever and even owned my own childrens entertainment company—I could fit the image of a great mom—but I was always pushing myself towards an unconventional and adventurous life-I am an American –married to a great German man and living in Germany and riding motorcycles and travelling and eating good food & wine and working on a creative business of my own———-this feels more right for me—but you doubt it at moments—because you have a body made to make babies–you feel at least obliged to judge yourself and your life choices……………… anyway…I read your opinion and I really appreciated it……I have a right to say no or at least I am not sure about having children—-and I am allowed and can choose to lead a very fulfilling and personally motivated life………you know, I am 43 today—tick tick tick–or probably already tocked already 😉 But just need a “gal pal” to tell me — what I already knew…….it is just a confirmation in going forward—happy and fulfiilled in my 43rd year and all of the other blessed years I am alive to feel my life. Thank you!

  10. angelina says:

    Happy birthday to you! It sounds to me like you’re living a very fulfilling life without kids and I do believe you’re right that if you really wanted them, and if you truly had a drive to have them you would already have found your way there. Our bodies are capable of doing all kinds of amazing things – just because having babies is one of the things it can do doesn’t mean it’s the most incredible thing it can do. We can climb mountains, go on amazing motorcycle trips, build things using our hands, create new things using our brains, we can dive to the bottom of oceans and we can fly to the moon. Having babies in itself takes no skill at all and parenting will sap the blood from your veins unless you happen to be a person who thrives on being around kids ALL THE TIME. Like I said – I believe that fulfillment in our lives is what we make of it. Being capable of finding fulfillment in life regardless of what cards life deals you is the greatest achievement of all.

  11. Kitkat30 says:

    I loved reading this, really really loved it! It’s so nice to meet another woman who thinks the majority of women are hindering each other and judgemental beyond belief when it comes to having children.

    I actually left my church because of nosy old women that wouldn’t stop telling me my life would be so much better with kids, and how I should have them right now because I didn’t know good enough myself apparently.

  12. Kitkat30 says:

    My favorite is when someone calls me selfish for choosing not to have a child. How is that a selfish thing to do? So instead of bringing an extra person into this world I give to my family and friends, I donate to charities, I try and support worthy causes. Yet still I am called selfish. This world seems like a mad place at times.

  13. angelina says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed reading this post! I think it’s so awful (and bizarre) for anyone to say that a woman who doesn’t want kids is selfish. I personally think it was VERY selfish of me to have my one kid. Every woman who doesn’t have kids is doing two amazing things for all the rest of us: saving more of the earth’s resources for those who are already living and giving their other gifts to society to value. We have fought so hard for women’s rights and for women to be able to define themselves on other criteria besides child bearing and being partners of men. Every woman who focuses her talents, gifts, and skills in a different direction than child bearing is holding up the standard of CHOICE for us all. Every woman who does that is contributing to the proof that we are as valuable in society outside of childbearing as men are. I call that very important.

  14. fala says:

    Great post, Angelina, you’ve touched on a lot of things I’ve mulled over many times in my life. I’m a private person, and why I don’t have children isn’t anyone’s business except mine and my husband’s. There are as many ways to live as there are people in the world, and I’ll never understand why so many people feel it’s their duty to judge everyone else.

  15. angelina says:

    I’m happy you got something out of it. Most of the time when we’re being judgmental it’s because we’re feeling defensive of our own choices because we think other people are judging us – so it creates a kind of vicious cycle. It seems more important than ever that women become more accepting of each others’ life choices and not lose the ground we’ve gained over the years.

  16. fala says:

    I wanted to mention before (but forgot) — being a woman who doesn’t have kids OR a high powered career, I’ve found that most people think of me as being only a tiny bit more useful than used piece of chewing gum. Some of the awful things people have to said to me over the years on the topic have pretty well burned themselves into my psyche. I’m glad you wrote this post (and I’m glad it’s found new life with new comments), because I think it’s a topic that deserves more attention.

  17. angelina says:

    It is horrifying to me that you have had awful things said to you because you’re a woman without a high powered career or children. These are not the only markers of a valuable and worthy life. I actually experienced the same thing the year I was a housewife without a child and not being sure I even wanted children. My own brother made comments about how I was “doing nothing” with my life. Other women were really judgmental, like I couldn’t be leading a worthy life just staying home and cooking and writing and gardening. I think that was a valuable experience for me because even though I did eventually decide to have a child I feel like a tiger when women without children or a splashy career get criticized or in any way put down. I don’t accept that.

    Being a housewife without kids was the single most fulfilling and wonderful job and year of my life. No lie. I did MORE in that year that was meaningful to me personally than I’d ever done before or had time for since. I loved it! I was writing a ton, I learned to garden, I was learning to cook, I was sewing, I was taking good care of myself, my husband, and my cat. I was secure and happy. Isn’t that the best in life?

    So, to me, you are leading a creative and meaningful life. You are married to someone you love and respect and who seems very much to love and respect you. You write. You work. You do plumbing. You care for animals. You sew. You paint. You create doll clothes. You are living a vibrant life. That’s my definition of success no matter what anyone else might say.

  18. Marjorie says:

    I am a childless 52-year-old who never wanted or had children. After a major health crisis last year I was unable to work, not qualified for unemployment because I wasn’t looking for work, and denied disability because, well, who knows why? I have been feeling very low about my inability to support myself and being dependent on one of my sisters for room and board and grocery money and haircuts and shampoo and new underpants.

    A month ago my sister’s eight-year-old granddaughter came to live with us. She’s a bright but emotionally troubled child and can be very frustrating for someone like me without that patient-with-children gene. In caring for her during the day while her mother and grandmother are at work I finally feel like a useful person again–still glad I never had children of my own but aware that I am contributing to her emotional healing and assisting her mother through a very difficult transition to being the custodial parent after her ex-husband essentially took her children away.

    It has become clear to me that while it is difficult for a childless adult to fully understand the stresses and joys of parenthood the experience of caring for a child can release (oops, woo-woo alert!) a kind of healing energy. It is giving me a better sense of proportion about my own emotional problems. I still struggle with the modern American disease of thinking my self-worth is tied primarily to my ability to earn money. I still believe that the decision not to have children is a good one for many (if not most) people. But is is easier for me now to appreciate that there are many complex interactions that come with child-rearing and I am more open to understanding the decision to become a parent than I might have been a year ago.

  19. angelina says:

    What a great experience to share! Any experiences we have that give us new perspective is so valuable to our personal evolution. I have no idea how I escaped that belief that my self worth is about earning money – I really don’t. I never felt useless when my husband was the sole earner in our household – I did so much work around the house to improve the over-all quality of our lives that I felt like an important contributor – it’s just that the contribution wasn’t in dollars. I worry that so many people (like yourself) feel useless when not earning money. I’m glad that you’ve found healing and a sense of usefulness with your grandniece – at the same time helping her through a difficult time.

  20. Nuria Lis says:

    I have to say that I struggled to read this article, because I do want kids. I am 37 and for some odd reason struggling with a lot of emotions about kids. I been with my “Fiancé” for 6-7 yrs now, & have expressed my interest in kids but, for some reason other things have always taken priority, oh and we are not married yet! But, then I ask myself why do I want kids? Because others have them? Because I am a women and should? & then I keep wondering if I am just selfish. My mother today asked me what about kids?
    Society has a lot to do with the pressure I feel, the fact that I work in the medical field and know that if I wait pass 40 I may have some major complications.
    Perhaps it’s the best thing but, what if it isn’t? I grew up with 3 brothers who have their own kids & who have struggled in so many ways! Many many ways. Example: Oldest nephew graduated from High School and already has a family., how is that possible? I has a parent wouldn’t be able to handle that?! It’s crazy!
    While my brothers have not been the best role models, I can’t help to wonder if maybe this itch is all just proving that I can do a good job,. But then what if don’t.
    But, then I have my best friend (awesome mom) who after high school had her first and which in a year will be attending college. I seem to think that my generation has more of a sane mentality when it comes to raising a family., and of course it depends on our culture. But, again who knows.
    Then I find myself going through Facebook and looking at happy families all old friends with their kids, and the pressure resumes again.
    The pressures of life are harsh and I don’t know why? I wanna add to it, can’t comprehend it. Perhaps because of my childhood I wanna fulfilled the mother role., don’t know.
    Regardless of any choice we make has women, it’s simply ours to choose it. That’s why we live in America, and while I am still finding myself and trying to comprehend this urge I have. I am glad God is giving me this time alone to get it together and figure things out. Perhaps the person I am with isn’t going to be my husband anyway. Perhaps waiting is the most wise decision, even if right now it doesn’t feel like it is. Even if right now I simply just ‘don’t know’.

    Bottom line we all have the freedom of choice.

  21. angelina says:

    I would say that the main thing you’re experiencing is the hormonal imperative. Your body is telling you to have kids. It has very little or nothing to do with whether you’re fit enough or want them enough or are at a good point in your life for them – hormones don’t pay attention to any of that. It’s just your body chemistry.

    If you truly just want to be a mother you can do that through adoption – there are so many children in the world in need of mothers and fathers. If you have the strong desire to parent you can fulfill that in quite a few ways that don’t require you to actually get pregnant and give birth. Parenting is NOT about a being coming out of your womb or being blood related to you. It’s about nurturing and providing boundaries and giving more of yourself than you actually have to give.

    Society pressures, family pressures, age pressures – that’s all bullshit. The only reason to have a baby is because YOU really want that responsibility and YOU feel that’s an important path for you to take.

    But you’re right that the bottom line is that we have the freedom of choice and while I have my personal opinions and have shared them here – I can never know what is right for YOU. My main point with this article is to attack the idea that women can’t live fulfilled and happy lives without children. That’s a lousy myth that devalues the contributions that women make to the professional world, the scientific world, the academic world, the artistic world. It suggests that outside of having kids – a woman’s life is meaningless. What an awful and antiquated view! I want to add my voice to the truth that the lives of women are full of so many different kinds of potential for fulfillment.

  22. PASCH says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I am currently 25 years old and I am now constantly getting the question of when are you going to have kids. I new it was coming because out of all my cousins I’m literally the only girl left without kids.

    Personally, I’m not ready, I’m in school and they are so far from my mind. The only time I think about it is whenever someone brings the subject up, mainly by my mom. I’ve felt a lot pressure from her and I tell her idk a lot and I can see how sadden she gets by not gettting a grandchild. She really wants that moment to be with me while giving birth. I get it, I understand it but i don’t want to have kids just to give her that moment she is longing for. It’s not about her it’s about me because after that moment is over my life is altered not hers.

    In my heart I really feel like kids aren’t for me. I am one of those career oriented women, a workholic. I like to work and the goals I have, I dont think i’ll have time to dedicate to a child.

    It just really urks me that people think I need to have kids to be fulfilled in life, kids are not all there is to life.

  23. angelina says:

    You stick with your gut – you do what feels right for you! No matter what path you take – you’ll find fulfillment if you’re doing what fires your spirit, gets you up in the morning, makes you look forward to tomorrow. I understand how your mom feels – I’d love it if I got to be a Grandmother some day – but I’d so much rather my son not have children if it isn’t something he truly wants for himself. I think in your mom’s heart she wants the same for you. She has her own dreams and it might be hard for her to let them go but this is your life. Your life is has so many potential paths to it, so many roads to fulfillment that are open to you. If kid(s) end up being part of that, wonderful. If not, you are whole and beautiful without them too! Best wishes to you!

  24. angelina says:

    I’m so glad this article was refreshing to you. Infertility can be such a cruel blow and I’m sorry you experienced it. Take gentle care of yourself before kicking down the door to your other dreams!

  25. Lisa king says:

    Angelina, your article has helped me today. I left having children too late, started at 41. Only too late that not so easy to conceive. I remember seeing in the media woman having children at 40 and beyond so I thought no problem. My issue comes from being selfish before that time in wanting to live as I wished before children. The celebs were freezing their eggs and so had their children in different ways. I was naive not realising their births may’ve been IVF etc. After 3 miscarriages, egg donor with which travelled to Alicante and spent thousands of pounds, I still didn’t manage to carry. But for six weeks after egg donation I was instantly pregnant with two embryos and it was the most magical feeling I’ve ever felt. Neither develop and one released naturally the other would not and I ended up being rushed to hospital with blood poisoning and having it removed. My husband was so traumatised and disappointed by it all he wouldn’t try for egg donation again or adoption. I hold a terrible guilt that we never experienced a family, it was what he’d always wanted. It does feel we live a half life. Now we watch our friends having children and have to listen to comments like ‘I wish you guys could’ve experienced this’! Heartbreaking! So life does feel like something is missing, his dreams not fulfilled. He always wanted a cat so he came home with a kitten, who is the apple of our eye and brings constant joy. We are a little lost if I’m honest in finding our own fulfilment. I guess you get to thinking that everything else is shallow or pointless. But your article has hit something deep inside me. Strange as I’ve read many and nothing has shifted. My mother is 81 now and will need our support at some stage and one saving grace is I will be able to give her my full attention. I love that as she has given so much of her to so many. My husband says he is over not having kids, no point in dwelling on the past. He sees things logically as diagnosed with high functioning low level autism last year. The issue is for me my deep down guilt I didn’t act earlier to have a family. I didn’t feel it in my thirties but after the first miscarriage my maternal instincts flooded in which no dam could ever hold. So it’s a progressive journey now of enlightenment now to respect the rest of your life. It’s a lot of self examination. I walk in the woods behind us with my cat and spend time with nature which definitely inspires me, so from little acorns.

  26. angelina says:

    I apologize for not responding to this incredibly thoughtful and personal response to my post! My websites have had so many issues in the past several months that I have mostly abandoned them so I didn’t see your comment until right now. I’m so pleased that my post helped you a bit. What you’ve experienced is so hard and painful – really tough to get past. But the fact that you’re redefining your sense of fulfillment in order to enjoy your life is wonderful! Definitely not a quick process but well worth the effort. Absolute best wishes to you, your husband, and your cat!

  27. Eva says:

    Gosh, I really feel for you! I’ll be 56 at the end of the month and we never had kids due to infertility problems too. Thankfully I never had to experience anything as devastating as a miscarriage.
    I was feeling a bit sorry for myself this evening, listening to the kids in the neighbourhood enjoying a warm summer evening. I envied my neighbours their happy children and their paths to “grandparenthood”. I guess there is always something else we will yearn for but reading these posts today have done me good and help me to feel grateful for all the many blessings in my life. Take care, Eva

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