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How to respond to the question, 'Why don't you want to have kids?'

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

There are certain life choices that people feel entitled to grill strangers about. One of them is the choice not to have children. In 2021, Pew Research Center came out with a survey showing that a growing share of childless adults in the U.S. don't ever expect to have kids. Angela L. Harris, who has made that choice herself, says when people find out you're child free...

ANGELA L HARRIS: It seems like, you know, we have three heads.

DAVIS: And they'll say all kinds of things, ranging from well-intentioned to nosy to cruel. NPR's Life Kit reported on how to build a life when you don't have kids in a recent episode, and host Marielle Segarra talked to some child-free people about how and when they respond to those comments.

MARIELLE SEGARRA, BYLINE: Angela L. Harris runs an online community called NoBibsBurpsBottles for Black women who are child-free. And she's heard comments like...

HARRIS: You'll never know true love until you have children.

SEGARRA: If she responds to stuff like that, she says, look, I've been in love.

HARRIS: And there are different forms of love, right? I love my parents. I love my siblings. And so I don't have to bring a child into the world to know what true love is.

SEGARRA: Another comment she's gotten - come on, every woman wants children.

HARRIS: Well, I'm living proof that not every woman wants a child.

SEGARRA: Then there's the old, but if you don't have kids, you know you're going to die alone, right?

HARRIS: There are nursing homes full of lonely parents who have five, six, seven kids, and their kids are not visiting them. I also don't think that a person should have kids with the expectation that those kids that they bought into the world will take care of them.

HARRIS: As you can see, there are plenty of things you can say when people come at you with these kinds of comments. But the bigger point here is this is your life. You are entitled to be child-free and to communicate that whenever and however you want. Maybe in some instances, you'll want to take a warmer approach because you know the person means well, like when your mom says, when are you going to give us grandchildren?

HARRIS: I think there's a playful and joking way in which you can respond, right? Mom, are you going to take care of these kids when I have them? OK. I didn't think so.

SEGARRA: But also, when it's the third time she said that this month, you might decide to sit down with your mom and say, hey, you know, it feels like you're not hearing me or respecting my choice. You can also tell people you don't want kids or not. And you can explain your reasons or not. Cary Carbonaro is child-free by choice. She was always waiting for the urge to have kids to kick in.

CARY CARBONARO: You know, you think of that movie, you know, "My Cousin Vinny."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MY COUSIN VINNY")

MARISA TOMEI: (As Mona Lisa Vito) My biological clock is ticking like this.

CARBONARO: My biological clock is ticking. And I'm like, when is my biological clock going to start running?

SEGARRA: It never did. And at some point, after she got together with her now-husband, his teenage son asked her.

CARBONARO: I don't understand it. You're, like, such an amazing person. And why wouldn't you have children? I just - he could not wrap his head around it.

SEGARRA: The question seemed to be coming from a place of love and curiosity, and she didn't mind answering. We asked listeners for their responses to the question, why don't you have kids? Some of our favorites...

Oh, we can't. Our cats are allergic.

I prefer to borrow the children of others, spoil them and then send them home. And...

I can't imagine why you'd ask such a personal question.

Which, by the way, is a great response to a lot of things. For NPR News, I'm Marielle Segarra.

DAVIS: For more tips on living child-free, go to npr.org/lifekit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Marielle Segarra
Marielle Segarra is a reporter and the host of NPR's Life Kit, the award-winning podcast and radio show that shares trustworthy, nonjudgmental tips that help listeners navigate their lives.