Please stop saying “You’ll change your mind.”

On a forum I frequent, a man in his 20s asked about vasectomies, saying he is almost 100% sure he’ll never want kids and that his wife is almost as sure as he is.

“Give it ten years” was the popular refrain (in addition to “Why not have her use an IUD? It’s reversible” and “You might change your mind.”).

Look. I understand that saying you’re not 100% sure means there’s a fraction of a possibility that you might at some point say, “Wait! I actually DO want kids!,” but I have to say – telling someone who doesn’t want kids “You might change your mind” is both annoying and patronizing, even if the person is “only” 24 or 25.

It’s also better directed at a different demographic.

24/25 is the same age many people somehow “know” they want kids, which is rarely, if ever, questioned, and certainly not cautioned with, “Why not give it a few years and make sure you’re emotionally prepared for the responsibility and aware – as much as you can be – of how it will impact your life, your marriage, your work, and everything else? After all, you really should be as informed and prepared as possible before introducing, and then raising, a whole new life. Of all the things to not treat lightly, having a child has to be at the top of the list.”

No one says these things (not in polite company, anyway) to people who want kids. It’s assumed that they “know,” even if they say they’re only 93% sure.

Why are those who don’t want a child less trusted to know themselves and what they want than those who do want a child? Why is having kids while uncertain (or uninformed or absolutely oblivious) more readily accepted (even encouraged through a lack of skepticism or questioning) than not having kids?

Encourage them to get the permanent birth control. Why, even say, “Good on ya! I hear vasectomies aren’t bad at all!”

When people who say they don’t want kids are instead encouraged to use birth control that’s comparatively unreliable, what we end up with is unwanted pregnancies that can often lead to abortions or bitter, resentful parents. Doctors who won’t allow women or men to get sterilization procedures are deciding FOR them that they must have the option to become pregnant – even if they don’t want to (thereby sometimes contributing to that future abortion or unhappy/resentful – and likely divorced – parents).

People are reluctant to encourage sterilization – even for those who say they want it – but why? What’s the big harm in not having babies? Why the push to have them? (Highly recommend The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing our Minds from Outmoded Thinking about Parenthood and Reproduction Will Create a Better World, which addresses pronatalist beliefs and how they pressure people to feel like they *should* want and have children.)

“I don’t want to encourage a permanent procedure when you might change your mind later,” they say.

But people change their minds about things all the time. That someone WILL change their mind about children (or anything else) is never a guarantee. (And no one ever says to a pregnant couple, “Welp, you know, you might change your mind in ten years, so… Good luck!”)

Erring on the side of not having kids is far more responsible than erring on the side of risking an unwanted pregnancy. As many will say, adoption is an option if someone changes his/her mind.

And if adoption proves to be a problem later, well… we all make our choices. Parents can’t suddenly decide to go back in time and not have kids, and sometimes people who didn’t want kids when they were younger can’t magically make them appear when they’re older.

Life is a series of choices. We do the best we can with the understanding that by the time we die, we will not have had every single thing we ever wanted the exact way, time, and place we wanted it.

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8 thoughts on “Please stop saying “You’ll change your mind.”

  1. This is the perfect post for me right now. Even if someone is supportive of my husband and I’s choice to not have kids, if we mention we are considering sterilization methods then they say “give it another 5 years…don’t do anything permanent.” It’s nice to know someone feels my frustration on the subject. Thanks for sharing.

    • As if making a baby isn’t THE MOST permanent thing you can ever do. Even if you sterilize you can adopt, you can STILL be a parent. Once you are a parent you can never go back to childfree.

  2. I was 34 when I sought out a vasectomy. I had to visit three doctors before I finally found one who was willing to give me a vasectomy.

    The first told me that I was too young to have one, and to come back in ten years. I told him that most people have had several kids by the time they were my age, and asked him why 34 was too young to choose not to have kids, but not too young to have several. He didn’t get it!

    The second refused to perform a vasectomy on someone who wasn’t married, and told me to get married and to return with my wife.

    The third said, “But you don’t have any children yet. Come back after you’ve had some kids.” I replied, “By then it’ll be too late!”

    The fourth interrogated me for more than fifteen minutes. I asked him if he would have had so many questions if, instead of wanting a vasectomy, I had announced that I planned to have ten kids. He paused a while, and then answered, “No, probably not.” I retorted, “Who am I hurting by having none?” And then I asked, “Which will have a stronger impact on me, my wife, society and the planet? And which is more permanent?”

    After much reflection, he finally said, “You’re absolutely right. How’s three weeks from next Wednesday?” (I had my vasectomy on Valentine’s Day, no less!)

    I am often asked whether I have any regrets about getting a vasectomy. My only regret is that I didn’t get it sooner.

    Jerry Steinberg
    Founding Non-Father Emeritus of NO KIDDING!
    The international social club for childless and childfree couples and singles
    http://www.nokidding.net; jerry@nokidding.net

  3. When I mention the adoption option people think this means I am “not sure” and am “questioning my childfree status”. No, it’s just acknowledging that there are certain ways my life could turn out in which I MAY at that time, be willing to bring a child into my life. It is HIGHLY unlikely, but I try not to totally 100% rule things out because then I look like a schmuck if I change my mind later. But at the same time I can say I am 100% sure I would not want to be pregnant or give birth or have a BABY. Any fleeting “mommy fantasies” I’ve ever had has involved an older kid… you know… one potty trained and old enough to carry on coherent conversations and do fun stuff and who i can take out in public without worrying they will randomly think it’s fun to run out in front of a car. I just need a basic level of rational thinking in any human being that lives with me. So that means if I were to be a “mommy”, that would mean I would be adopting an older child.

    But… even in that scenario, that fantasy quickly turns sour because I do not WANT to be responsible for a minor. What I want are the “Kodak Moments” and NONE of the other crap. Which means, I’d be better suited in the Big Brother/Big Sister program. Or as the awesome aunt. My brother and his wife want kids and selfishly I am not dissuading them because they are determined about this whole breeding thing and it will mean I get to be an aunt. I asked if I could… when they have a kid and said kid is old enough (like potty-trained), can I take said kid on a vacation (different from the one I go on with my husband). He said: “Yes, we will probably be happy for the break”) So yay!

    One of my friends said “What kid wouldn’t want to go on a vacation with crazy aunt (my name). It would be like Willy Wonka but without the creepiness! Yes, yes it would. And will be!

    I guess I see kids like the national guard. Some people would like to be involved with the military but on a very part time limited basis. That’s how I want to be involved with kids. I like kids. They are totally fun, and parents are very right about a lot of the “benefits” they mention of kids. But ALL of those benefits can be gleaned in other ways BESIDES procreating and creating a 24/7 job for yourself that never stops for two decades. I mean, come on. There are less painful ways to get what you want unless what you really want is to be on the PTA and clean up poop and puke.

    • I relate completely with this post! I always ALWAYS say that I reserve the right to change my mind, but I’m 99.9% sure that I won’t. And if I do, I have the option of adopting or being a foster parent. Like you, I much prefer older kids, and when I’m with them, I prefer the fun, good times, not all the crap that comes with being a full-time parent. My brother and sister in law are having kids in the next couple of years, so I am hoping after the kid gets a little older I can slip into my role as “cool aunt.” That’s the plan at least, and the only thing that keeps me from being completely sad that I’ll lose my bro and sister in law for many years as fun social partners.

  4. While it’s possible that someone who has chosen NOT to have children might change their mind, at least they will have options open to them: stopping their birth control, reversing their tubal ligation or vasectomy, adoption, finding a partner who has kids, teaching, borrowing friends’ kids, etc.

    However, someone who has chosen to have children might also change their mind, but once they have kids, they can’t undo what they’ve done. They will be legally responsible for those children until those children are adults, and morally responsible for them for the rest of their lives.

    Jerry Steinberg
    Founding Non-Father Emeritus of NO KIDDING!
    The international social club for childless and childfree couples and singles
    http://www.nokidding.net; jerry@nokidding.net

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