02/04/2014 12:17 EST | Updated 04/06/2014 05:59 EDT

What to Expect When You're Not Expecting

Children are our most valuable resource; they infuse our lives with purpose and inspire a singular depth of love and devotion. I am profoundly respectful of anyone who makes the incredible commitment to do the best and most difficult job of all. But when it comes to having kids, I'm just not that into them.

Don't get me wrong, I love kids. If you want to build a pillow fort or roll around on the lawn, I'm the cool aunt for you. It's just that I don't want any of my own. It has taken me a considerable amount of time to come to this realization and the reaction from friends, family members and complete strangers has been utterly surprising.

Tsk-Tsking from the Older Generation

Retirees have long forgotten the pain of childbirth, the stress of toddlers and the tempestuousness of teens. They are on a mission to grandparent and they're not taking 'no' for an answer. The disapproval of the baby boomers can range from tacit to taciturn and you should be prepared for the worst.

When I got into the second half of my thirties, the tick-tock alarmists warned me that my biological clock was about to wind down. "There's plenty of time," they'd assure me while regaling me with stories of 'older' women who had successfully conceived.

When they realize my lack of breeding is a choice, the reactions are pretty crazy. I've gotten everything from "What's wrong with you?" to "You can never be a complete women without having a child." The thinking here is that you are not completing the checklist of life and will therefore end with an 'incomplete' which apparently counts as a fail in the big universal balance sheet.

Mixed reactions from friends

Of course you expect like-minded friends to be supportive and you can smugly pat each other on the back while discussing the positive contribution you're making to the environment and population control while sipping lattes in a coffee shop at three in the afternoon. There certainly is a growing number of thirty-somethings who are refusing reproduction and it's great to have a stable of child-free friends to do impulsive things with.

As you get older, more and more of your friends will partner up and procreate. You will find that many of your fringe friends drift away as they seek out mates who have children of the same age; partly because they have more in common and partly because sleep overs are awesome.

The good friends who have children will begin to confide in you, safe in the knowledge that you won't judge them for being unfit parents. I find this the most disturbing reaction because, while I can understand the horror stories of diaper malfunctions and projectile vomiting, I feel saddened by the occasional confession of deep regret at ever having had a family.

Talking tactics

Making the decision to beat the bump is just as difficult as making the decision to have kids. You will be plagued with nagging doubts and the odd bout of hormonal objection. You and your partner may go through a very long and annoying "should we/shouldn't we?" period and you will truly feel a sense of deep-seated relief when you make a final decision.

If you decide to make your choice public, you should be prepared for reactions both wild and wacky. I've become a pro at dodging the question and trained my husband to spill a drink whenever someone happens upon the topic of raising a family. Once you have made the division, I suggest you go forth armed with a strategic quiver of snappy retorts.


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