“We’re not planning to have children.” It’s weird, the variety of responses this statement elicits: acceptance, disbelief, hostility, even condemnation — and sometimes from total strangers. Apparently, childlessness is not considered a valid option in our society. I know, because the reactions to the decision my fiancé and I made together have sent me spinning to understand why.

We all craft individual lives for ourselves, each of us fulfilling distinct roles in this world. We are different members, performing different tasks.My “favorite” response so far comes from a professional I’d just met: “Well, God might have a different plan for you.” Say what? For some reason, one of the most intimate areas of a couple’s life — one fraught with complications and any number of extenuating circumstances — has become fair game for public speculation.

Choosing childlessness may be one of the most misunderstood options adults face today. Statistics show 53.8% of women aged 25 to 29 are childless, and 30.8% of women aged 30 to 34. 7.4 million, or 12% of all women aged 15 to 44, struggle with infertility, which is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 months of trying without medical assistance. And there are various reasons women are choosing not to have children, from being environmentally conscious, to lack of resources, to putting careers first, to a disability making child-rearing difficult. There are many, many adults in our country who do not have children. So why is this choice seen as so uncommon and wrong? Why do so many outsiders feel the need to correct the childlessness they encounter?

Children Are Expected

The expectation to have kids is everywhere, even in beloved pop culture. In Jurassic World, Claire tells her sister she’s unlikely to have children, and her sister insists that she will, responding, “It’s worth it.” In The Big Bang Theory, Howard almost breaks up with Bernadette because she doesn’t want kids; after they’re married, Bernadette changes her mind, and they have a child. Robin in How I Met Your Mother openly dislikes kids and doesn’t want them. But this decision is taken away from her when she finds out she is physically incapable of having them; she’s distraught by the news. These stories perpetuate the idea that women don’t really know what they’re saying when they voice their disinterest in having children.

“The assumption of child-bearing as the default for all women is troubling because it allows them to bypass the critical question of why they truly want kids (terrible reasons do exist!) and not fully understand the sacrifices they must make,” writes JaJa Yang in RELEVANT Magazine. “Some of us don’t even pause to consider what a life without children could be like before hopping on the one-way train to motherhood, potentially leading to a resentful and broken relationship between mother and child.”

Lifestyle vlogger Jenny Mustard posted a video last year on her YouTube page titled, “Why I Don’t Want Kids,” citing minimalism, environmentalism, lifestyle, and simply not enjoying spending time with kids as her reasons. Among the 4,000+ comments (many by women saying they’re thankful they’re not alone in the stigma they’ve faced for remaining childless), are statements that criticize her for her decision — that she must be saying she has bad genes if she doesn’t want children; that she’d understand the value of children when she’s 80, frail, and dependent; that she shouldn’t have a partner if she doesn’t want kids; that she’s calling all children parasites (even though she stated at the beginning of the video this was a personal choice, best for her).

The assumption that everyone should have children is dangerous, because not everyone should. The argument that “Even if you don’t love kids now, you’ll love them once they’re yours” isn’t universally true. Britney Gil wrote a piece on Refinery21 about the abuse she’d experienced from her father and her reasons for remaining childless:

I have often heard people claim that not having children is selfish — that it’s a shirking of responsibility, based on petty desires to be comfortable and travel and sleep late on weekends. But mine is a choice between two possible outcomes: That I may have children and regret it, or that I may not have children and regret it. The latter would certainly be sad, a decision that I could never take back. But the first impacts another human being for the rest of their life, and the second impacts only me. If making the second choice is selfish, then I must be using a different definition of the term.

Personally, I didn’t consider that I might not actually want children until I was well into adulthood. For reasons involving my health and work as a missionary, I realized it may not be the best choice for me. I’m actually thankful I remained single so long, because if I had married young, I’d probably be living a life unfitting to my goals, personality, health issues, and biblical strengths. I get to impact a lot of people in my current position; I am able to help a fledgling ministry find its feet. I am also able to work when I can and rest when my body conks out. I know God has put me in this place, one that seems tailor-made for me, for a reason. Like Aabye-Gayle Francis-Favilla, who writes in The Body Is Not An Apology:

“My certainty hasn’t made my decision easy. It’s not one I’ve made flippantly. I’m not apathetic about the fact that my choice has an effect on others. I’ll admit to feeling small pangs of guilt and sadness — pinpricks in my conscience — for not giving my father or my in-laws their first grandchild. But I can’t have a child for someone else, to make another person happy.… I will not have a child just because that’s what others expect or hope.”

But Children Are Biblical!

In Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card, a scientist states that having children is the meaning of life and  therefore it’s impossible to not want kids:

Here is the meaning of life: …to make babies with her, with him, or to find them some other way, but then to raise them up, and watch them do the same thing, generation after generation, so that when you die you know you are permanently a part of the great web of life. That you are not a loose thread, snipped off.

For some reason, many Christians have taken to heart this same ideology. In an article titled, “What If I Don’t Want Babies?” a 29-year-old female asks CBMW.org, “Is it right to go into marriage with no intention to have children?” The response appalled me. “While we are free in Christ to choose marriage or celibate service for His glory,” Candice Watters replied, “Christian marriage is a calling that includes an openness to the babies people around us say are optional.” She associates submitting to God with having children, saying, “Biological fruitfulness is the reward for obedience.” The former is grossly misinterpreting the Bible; the latter is prosperity gospel nonsense. Children are not God’s reward for our good works, and saying so diminishes the longing of men and women who want children but can’t have them, suggesting if they just had more faith they would be bouncing babies on their knees right now.

Adam and Eve were told by God to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28), a directive that has already been achieved. They were fruitful — the earth has been filled, as anyone looking at our population and its stress on our available resources can attest. “In the Bible, children are considered a blessing and the barren are made to feel less fortunate,” writes Susan Bruch in The Well. “None of these, however, is a statement of God’s dictating that all must have children if they are able to. Otherwise, Paul would have felt wrong choosing singleness.”

Viewing children as the meaning of life also ignores our actual purpose in existing — to be in relationship with God. We are not simply loose threads if we remain childless, and Jesus did not die on the cross so we could have children; he died to demonstrate his love for us, to redeem us (1 John 4:9–10).

We’re All Different Parts of the Body

The Avengers serve as a useful analogy for 1 Corinthians 12, which talks about different types of people contributing to the work of God: “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body” (v. 14–15). Every member of the superhero team brings different strengths to the table (and, you’ll note, only one of them, Hawkeye, has children — a reality that probably makes it more difficult for him to risk his life for the world’s sake).

I admire Hawkeye for choosing to save the world and have a family; I admire his family for dealing with the stress and worry that must entail. But I also love Thor, Hulk, Scarlet Witch, and the rest of the team for the different strengths they bring. And notably, Hawkeye doesn’t condemn the others because their lives look different from his.

Comparison may be part of the problem here. Many people who have children feel incredibly fulfilled and can’t imagine desiring a different life. They expect others to want the same, and thus respond in disrespectful ways, often without meaning to. They consider comments like, “God may have another plan for you,” as an encouragement towards the ideal life. But what if I had said, “We’re planning to buy a condo instead of a house,” and received that same response?  “Well, God might not want that for you,” sounds ridiculous, as I’d expect a stranger to respect our decision. What if I had said, “We’re planning on having children”? That same reply would be downright disrespectful. But for some reason it’s deemed appropriate because having children is the norm.

We all craft individual lives for ourselves, each of us fulfilling distinct roles in this world. We are different members, performing different tasks. If you have children, I’m confident God will guide you in nurturing them to maturity with love. But if you are uninterested in having children, or unable to, there’s still a space for you in the church, and it’s not an identity that is “less than” those who have kids.

“Quite against my own personality and inclination, God kept calling me away from home — to travel, to speak, to write, to work — and blessing that work abundantly,” writes Karen Swallow Prior in ”Called to Childlessness: The Surprising Ways of God.” “Perhaps God thwarted my plans just to shatter my assumptions about my life and about him. He is, after all, as C. S. Lewis says in A Grief Observed, the great iconoclast. He shatters idols we don’t even know we’ve made.”

Like Prior, I question what the world would look like if childlessness was viewed, not as a problem to be solved, but an opportunity to serve God and people in other ways. A biblical response to childlessness starts with compassion (and I don’t mean pity), not laying down a perceived law or assumption. If you have no relationship with someone who is childless, there is really no reason to comment on their family status. And if you do have a relationship with them and are invited to discuss the topic, remembering that people have different skills, abilities, passions, and callings goes a long way.

If you have children, I celebrate with you. If you don’t but long for them, I mourn with you. If you desire marriage but don’t want kids, I understand, and I think God does too. There are many ways to have an impact on the world, to serve God and others. Having children is only one of them. We can’t all be Hawkeye, nor should we be.


  1. Allison, thank you so, so much for writing this. I teared up many times while reading this piece. You have articulated everything I’ve ever wanted to say to people who comment on whether or not I’m going to have children. My husband and I haven’t decided “for sure” yet, but most people assume that since we didn’t have kids right away, we must not want them at all. Every argument that you mention in favor of having children has been thrown at us. When I meet new people, they are usually surprised that I’m married but don’t have kids. I’ve been told that my marriage will never be as “mature” as those of my child-rearing peers unless I follow suit. I can’t thank you enough for writing this.

  2. It is regrettable that this article was published as is. CBMW is a poor foil, as the answer by Candice Watters barely touches on the theological principles involved and doesn’t really represent the argument for procreation. A marriage should be open to children because God created sex in part for procreation; to deliberate and indefinitely frustrate this purpose for the entirety of a marriage has long been recognized by Christians throughout history as wrong. The author does not seem to be familiar with this history and casually invokes a consequentialist rationale (not particularly backed up by any evidence!) as well as a bizarre theological turn that we can simply treat one of God’s commands as irrelevant in our day and age.
    Here’s is a good introduction to the ideas that ought to be reckoned with in considering this question: http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2010/10/freedom-for-gifts-of-hope-revisiting-the-ethics-of-contraception/

    1. Sex does not equate babies.

      Paul says to marry onky if you want a bunch of babies…right? WRONG!

      He actually says to marry onky if you BURN!

      Are you horny? Get married.

      If you dont want ki get sterilized. It has no effect on the burning.

      Also people who have cancer like me & cant have kids might still be burning & need a marriage to satiate that.

      You christian idiots really need to read that bible again…..properly.

      Im so glad i left Christianity & became messianic instead. We read the bible…using the ancient hebrew as much as possible!

  3. As a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction and at the same time embraces the historic and biblical sexual ethic that prohibits same-sex sexual relations, I have concerns about this piece. Many folks like me wonder why same-sex sexual acts are sinful if opposite-sex couples are supposedly allowed to engage in a variety of non-procreative sexual acts (whether because the acts themselves can’t lead to pregnancy or because contraception is used).

    While I am not prepared to come down hard that using contraception is sinful, I do think that couples who take the permissibility of it for granted need to think through their sexual ethics more deeply. Among all branches of Christianity, there was widespread agreement that artificial contraception is sinful until the early 1900s.

  4. Actually, Ant-Man has a daughter named Cassie. He becomes Ant-Man because he wants to be a better father to his daughter. So, you can have kids and be a superhero. Unless you’re the God of Thunder, a man frozen in ice for decades, or a Witch in love with an android. Just sayin’.

  5. The author unfortunately fails completely to address the unanimous witness of the historical church on the purpose of marriage.

    The traditional marriage service in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, from which comes the vows with which we are all familiar (“for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health”), also states clearly that marriage was *first* “ordained for the procreation of children”; this is not merely the Anglican point of view, but reflects the position held by essentially all Christian denominations up until around the middle of the twentieth century. To contravene this universal historical Christian teaching requires much more support than what is presented here.

    1. K but that isnt in the bible. Thats just some domb church bs all made up.

      Paul says to marry if you burn. Nothing about babies here. People who have cancer & cant have kids are still horny as fk & need marriage.

      You people are soooo funny!

  6. You should at least try to interact with Malachi 2:15 since it seems like a glaring counterexample

    “Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.”

  7. It is regrettable some of these comments are more irrationally dogmatic, coldly insensitive, and vapidly bleak than I’d even expect of Christianity. Not coincidentally, it’s all males arguing women are morally obliged to incubate their seed or else risk their worth. Such a trajectory leads to an overpopulation of repressed neglected minds unable to express the truths accumulating in their hearts. I’m so thankful to not be part of such a tedious and volatile community.

    But alas I’ve only fed into the negativity, and worse, without empirical evidence or religiously approved citations. It is somewhat too late at this point, but thank you Allison for your refreshing insight. Perhaps God has made our existence bigger and more complex than what our narrow habitual neurological pathways can fully fathom. Perhaps he is more playful and adventurous than our innate drive for security can handle. He may just be weary of us clinging to repetitious formulas that worked once but are failing now. Perhaps he smiles when we free ourselves by discovering a way to interact with his creation as we’ve been uniquely individually designed and not as others demand us to be. I admit, this all comes merely from personal observations of this great universe, but ideas don’t generally originate elsewhere. Nobody bleat “God!” please. I hope you keep writing analytically and yet from the heart.

  8. Wow. How wonderful it is that so many commenters on here know the mind and the will of God for everyone. Because it is God’s will that every married Christian couple have kids, that means that every obedient married Christian couple will obviously be able to get pregnant. Oh wait. That’s not the case. Also, just because a position was “held by essentially all Christian denominations” doesn’t make it biblical. I’m quite sure most Christian denominations supported slavery and segregation too. Clearly those things were not the will of God. The truth is that while children are obviously the will of God for some people, they are not God’s will for all people just like marriage is not His will for all people. We can clearly see that by the fact that God hasn’t seen fit to provide those options for everyone regardless of how faithful and obedient a person is. While I’ve seen plenty of Scripture that talks about children, I’ve yet to see one Scripture that states that choosing to not get pregnant is a sin. That’s because there isn’t one. God is sovereign. That is evident by the number of people who get pregnant despite using contraception. For that reason, if God wants to grant someone children, contraception can’t stop Him.

  9. Because you chose to publish this, going to offer a response for yourconsideration:

    As believers, you and your husband will stand before God’s great throne and answer to Him. His assessment of you and your time in the body on earth as individuals and as a couple is what you ought to focus on. Seek His will- trust the Word of Jesus, not your feelings or intuition. We are at risk for following the Babylon we live in (read Revelation 18). Be humble. His ways are not our ways. What if He does have different plans than yours? Be ready to rejoice no matter what! I think you have that desire and deep empathy with others. Continue to cultivate that. It’s so beautiful and valuable.

    Also, in the realm of specifics: a hormonal contraceptive or an IUD can allow you to conceive but can prevent the unique human already existing from implanting. You’d be a parent and just not know it- it’s very serious. If you didn’t know that, you do now. If you persist with that knowledge and use a method that takes that risk, you will have to answer to Him for that.

    Using barrier methods are still effective when used correctly, and even if when using them God gives a child- we can rejoice. He is King.

    I’m submitting this in prayer that He will grow you and your husband in His truth, protect you from the enemy and his designs, and bring you safely to the day of Christ.

    In Him,


  10. The Bible has a very small category called “calling.” Certain significant people throughout Scripture were verbally called by God to do certain things: Moses, Isaiah, David, Paul, the disciples. That’s a certain miraculous calling that most people never hear. Other people are called to be in ordained ministry (pastor/elder, missionary). The rest of us are called to be Christians. That’s pretty much it as far as God’s calling goes.

    We can easily conflate our own feelings of fear, selfishness, discontent, greed, and pride as God’s calling on our life. Sometimes we have to just make a choice to do something we think is right, and we might end up being wrong. That’s ok. But it’s not ok to conflate our own momentary desires with God’s will or calling. When we do this, we’ve actually replaced God with ourselves and we become our own arbiter of truth and virtue.

    The Bible gives every Christian a “big picture” calling: love God, love others. Live a life of service and obedience and thanksgiving. Walk in faithfulness, repentance, and joy. This is our calling as “little people.” It’s up to us–through prayer, community, and courageous choices–to decide how our lives will reflect this calling in everyday choices. And we might make some bad decisions along the way, bad decisions we can learn from and instruct others to avoid.

  11. I don’t usually comment on things, but I just wanted to say THANK YOU for writing this piece!! My husband and I have both grown up in Christian homes and have been married for 4 years. I have known since I was 13 that I did not want kids of my own. My sisters have kids and I love my niece and nephew very much. I am super pumped to be the best aunt EVER, but never had the desire to be a mom. My husband feels the same. And the amount of backlash and cristicism from my (well intentioned or not) Christian peers has been so hurtful. It was very refreshing and comforting to read that there are others out there who feel the same, and to see it backed up with Biblical references as well. God is a loving God. Plain and simple. And I feel that the notion of needing to have children to please Him is very old testiment thinking. So thank you so much for standing up for the rest of us. You have no idea how much it means to us all.

  12. Thank you so much for this article. I have been married 21 years and we also chose not to have children.

    You are right not everyone has the same temperament or inclination to be a parent. God created individuals not cookie cutter people with the same temperament and desires.

    Trying to make everyone into a one size fit all does not work.

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