Will the childfree regret their choice later?

The Drink of Regret

A man in his early thirties who, along with his wife, isn’t sure he ever wants kids asked this question on an internet forum I frequent:

Do you regret not having kids?

Everyone’s answer: “No.”

I always think the “regret” question (or, sometimes, curse – “You’ll regret it!”) is a little weird, because it creates – as I see it, anyway – a paradox.

If someone who genuinely doesn’t want kids at 20, 25, and then 30 doesn’t have kids, s/he’s behaving in a manner consistent with her/his desires for his/her life. “I don’t want to have or raise children” = “I won’t have or raise children.”

If at 55 or 60 the same person has retired and says, “Gee, I wish I would have had kids,” that isn’t – or shouldn’t be called – regret. If anything, someone who genuinely didn’t want children when younger but decides when they’re older that they “shoulda had them” is experiencing a simple desire for something they don’t currently have. They want a child or children right NOW…that is, to suddenly have them around for this moment now that they’ve changed their mind/become lonely/had a crisis. But they certainly didn’t want them before, didn’t want to spend the rest of their lives raising them, or they would have tried to have them.

How can there be regret for something that was never, until now, a desire?

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll regret not having kids later?” (something many people ask) also implies that at some point everyone wants, or will want to have had, kids. And that simply isn’t the case. It also implies that you should aim your life in a direction that MIGHT eliminate regret felt on a porch swing at 90 years old, that to be on the safe side, maybe you should give birth and overhaul your life even if you really don’t want to on the off-chance that you’ll have second thoughts in the future.

A good predictor of future regret – whether it’s over eating a donut, marrying the wrong person, or calling in sick for the third time that week – is thinking I’m going to hate myself for this later.

A person who desperately wants children, marries someone who doesn’t want children, and agrees to stay married without children even as s/he continues to want them will very likely likely have that thought. This person is creating a perfect regret scenario.

But people who truly don’t want children usually aren’t thinking, “I’m going to hate myself for this later.” See video below (60 seconds) for an explanation.


22 thoughts on “Will the childfree regret their choice later?

  1. Pingback: He Says He Wants Kids – But Does He Mean, “I want YOU to have kids”? | "Anonymous" Was a Woman

  2. Kay

    “If anything, someone who genuinely didn’t want children when younger but decides when they’re older that they “shoulda had them” is experiencing a simple desire for something they don’t currently have. They want a child or children right NOW…that is, to suddenly have them around for this moment now that they’ve changed their mind/become lonely/had a crisis. But they certainly didn’t want them before, didn’t want to spend the rest of their lives raising them, or they would have tried to have them.

    How can there be regret for something that was never, until now, a desire?”

    DEFINITELY being used the next time someone throws that at me. Thank you!!

  3. Sally

    YES. Yes, thank you. That is exactly it. I know, without a doubt, that I will infinitely regret having a kid right now (due to parental or societal pressures, etc.); I can’t concern myself with the possibility of changing in the future. We all change as we get older, and not one of us knows exactly in what ways we will change, so why would we make decisions for a future self that doesn’t even exist yet instead of the present self that does?

    1. Having children is Hell! Believe me, I had my 1st of 2 when I was 19. I became a mother, step mother and a wife at 19. I’m now in my mid thirties and my life is better now that I am divorced and my oldest is almost an adult. I salute all the ladies who had the sense enough to remain child free. I honestly thing marriage at any age can be hell also and the decision to get married should be carefully considered, just as having children should be. With divorce rates at an all time high, Men rarely stick by their wives for a lifetime, whether they have kids with a woman or not. Women should just enjoy life without the stress that children and marriage bring! More women need to focus on a career and travel. I’m so tired of seeing women’s lives ruined by some man and his false promises of a wonderful family life, when all he really wants is his freedom too. I’m just lucky I had my 2 kids so early that I am still in my mid thirties when they are about to graduate high school! Hallelujah!!

      1. Susan Nercher

        Love your post but something needs to be corrected. You stated that: “Men rarely stick by their wives for a lifetime, whether they have kids with a woman or not.” The fact is, women file for divorce and initiate breakups most of the time. I think that more people should just enjoy life and not try fit into someone else’s idea of what life is.

      2. Luna

        Susan, this is a reply to you, but your post has no reply button for some reason.

        From my experience, if a women initiates a break up or divorce it’s usually because she found out her spouse was cheating or he became physically or emotionally abusive. I don’t fault a women (or anybody) for getting out of that situation. Men cheating is very common. This might be why it’s more common for the woman to break it off. And I consider cheating and abuse to be “not sticking by their wives.” So the divorce isn’t what does it anyways.

  4. What I hate most about that question is that it makes it seem like people generally have children so they’ll have the pleasure of what children bring later on in life…like grandchildren or companionship from them as adults. That whole concept just makes me sa.

  5. There are no gurarantees in life, and one can regret any decision ever made. Just go to TrueMomConfessions.com and/or TrueDadConfessions.com to find evidence of people who regret having children.

    If I’m going to regret my decision — one way or the other, I’d rather regret NOT having children than have them and resent them. If you end up regretting NOT having children, you can still have lots of children in your life: adoption, nieces & nephews, friends’ kids, teach, work in a daycare, babysit, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Adopted Grandparents, etc. If you have kids and regret it, it is your legal responsibility to look after them until they are adults, and your moral responsibility for the rest of your life (or theirs).

    I was reading an article in the paper on making career choices, and I thought the following advice pertained, as well, to people making the decision whether to have kids: “Assume that whichever choice you make will turn out to be the wrong one, then choose the one which would be easier to live with.”

    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

  6. Scott

    I’m childfree, and once in a great while I have a little twinge of something that might be called regret if you stretch the definition of “regret” really far. In those very rare, very brief moments I wonder “what if….?” Then I get back into touch with reality and the feeling goes away.

    Besides, regret is just a part of life. I know for myself that I’ve made the right choice, and a little twinge of something is just a little twinge of something. If you live life without ever feeling or risking any kind of regret, then I’m not sure you’ve really lived life at all.

    Imagine how much worse it would be, how much worse IT IS, to have children and regret having them. Now you’ve ruined at least two lives instead of (hypothetically) ruining just your own.

    Whatever. When people ask about regret, the only thing I can say is:

    “Will I regret it? There’s only one way to find out!”

  7. Bad Puppy!

    I never understand this question when people ask it. I just reply that life is about choices and every door you open closes others. I mean what if I get older and wish I’d climbed a mountain? People seem to think you are “really missing out” on something if you don’t have kids, but that’s by THEIR barometer of preferences in life. Not yours. I know myself well enough to know what I want and don’t want out of life and what would absolutely be a dealbreaker for my happiness. Feeling as strongly as I do about not having kids, I know I won’t ever regret it, but if I did, dude, we can’t make every choice and live every reality. That’s just not possible. At least not in the context of one lifetime without invoking multiple universes.

    Not a lot of people get in my face about being childfree. I’m so blunt in my responses to rude questions like that that people who know anything about me know they should never ask me something or say something to me if they don’t want a 100% unvarnished version of what I think, because if they open their mouths first, I’m not going to hold back. Total strangers don’t know any better, but it’s rare for a total stranger to find some way to ask about my parental status.

    But… on the rare occasions it happens… I just point out that every choice one makes restricts other choices. While it’s true I will “miss out” on certain pleasant things by not being a mother, there are a lot of AWFUL things I won’t have to deal with. Similarly, there are a lot of options still open to me in life with regards to how I can live and what I can do that are not open to my childed friends.

    Of course… when someone says: “What if you regret it?” You can always say: “What if YOU regret having kids?” I’ve actually had several parents confide in me that though they love their children they regret becoming parents. I’ve never met a child free person that regretted not having kids later. I guess theoretically such a person could exist, but it would be like searching for a unicorn.

  8. I’m 56, never had children, and don’t regret it. When I want to interact with children, there are plenty in the world that I can enjoy in various settings and then send home to their parents.

  9. I think what everybody should regret is having no nieces and nephews. They’re the relationship every childless person needs. See, kids take their own parents for granted. They know they’ll always be there for them. But me, their auntie? They can’t take me for granted. I might leave my money to them… or I might leave it to the cat. Their only option is to be nice to me.

    I certainly regret not having more of them…

    1. Luna

      I have no nieces or nephews and I’m glad. But when I visit family across the country I’ll occasionally have other relatives try to pawn their kids off on me for free baby sitting. I hate it and feel no need to have a relationship with kids. That’s the reason I’m not having any kids in the first place.

      1. Susan Nercher

        Luna, this reply is for you. Likewise, your post did not have a reply button. Actually, women are more likely to cheat according to surveys and as many as 20 percent to 30 percent may actually have given birth to children that are not their husbands’ children. Yet, under the law, their husbands would be responsible for child support anyway. Furthermore, women are more likely to initiate emotional, mental and physical abuse in relationships. Finally, when women do file for divorce, it is not because of cheating or abuse. Usually, the reasons are because the woman’s feelings have changed, or she is tired of arguing with the man over how to spend money or raise the children. Since she knows she will most likely obtain custody of the children and obtain child support, she is more likely to file for divorce. Meanwhile, the children are more likely to live in poverty and develop emotional problems which may not surface until later. So women don’t stick with their husbands or their children. That is the sad truth.

      2. Luna

        Susan, can you link me to the studies or surveys that have found this info about the cheating and abuse? I’d like to check on the qualifications of the researchers, the techniques they used, and the demographics of those surveyed. Just because a survey says so doesn’t make it accurate. Anyone can do a survey on any group of people and unless done in the most scientifically and non biased way possible, it could be wrong. And even then, stats can be manipulated to seem like something it’s not by any 3rd party person relaying the info (like a blogger or someone writing a book). So it’s best to go to the source.

        Though I believe that part where men would automatically be responsible for their wife’s kid from another man. That sounds like our justice system alright. It fits perfectly in line with how men are forced to pay child support to a kid that they didn’t want to create in the first place. Do you know if that decision can be reversed if the husband gets a paternity test and takes it to court to prove he’s not the father? If not, that’s messed up.

      3. Susan Nercher


        Here are some websites in which studies reveal that women are more likely to cheat than men:



        There are more studies and you can google them.

        Here is a website that shows that women are more likely to abuse men than the other way around:


        Woman are more likely to abuse their children (even kill their children):


        As many as 21 million men are paying child support for children that are not theirs and 30 percent of DNA tests reveal that men are not the fathers of the children in question:


        In general, courts seem to force men to pay for kids that are not theirs even when DNA tests prove that they are not the fathers but it depends on the jurisdiction as well as the judge.


        It is terrible what we have become as a society. This is what happens when immorality goes unchecked. Promiscuity, illegitimacy, adultery, fraud, abuse and poverty.

  10. Pingback: Motherhood is Not a Club | The Screamie Birds


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