5 Things Never to Say to a Childless Woman

5 Things Never to Say to a Childless Woman

Motherhood—and the road to it—is not one-size-fits-all. Some women have kids at a young age, some struggle to get pregnant, some cannot get pregnant, and some don’t even want to have children! The choice to become a mom and the journey to get there are all very personal. Sure, we need a community of people around us in the joy and hardship of having kids, from the struggle to conceive to the long days and short years when they are out of the womb and taking on the world.

It’s easy to make assumptions when we meet a married couple without kids. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. It’s not a rhyme without that final piece! However, not everyone’s story fits within the three lines of a popular rhyme—either by their choice or otherwise. Here are some tips on what not to say the next time you find yourself in conversation with a childless woman. These are all statements that have been said to myself (a childless woman) or other women I know without children.

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  • You don’t have kids? Why not? Don’t you WANT them? When are you going to have them? Don’t wait too long!

    This list of questions sometimes gets asked all at once, sometimes one at a time. The best rule of thumb is, upon finding out a woman or couple is childless, let that be the end of that particular topic of conversation. If the woman wants to say more about her situation, she will. Questions such as those listed here can feel really intrusive, particularly when the woman’s circumstance is painful (such as trouble conceiving, inability to conceive, miscarriage, stillbirth, etc.), or when she doesn’t want children and feels stuck trying to explain herself. Instead of asking more questions about the woman’s experience, allow her to lead the conversation. She can choose to say more or not—it’s not something against you, but this journey can be a very raw and personal one. 

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  • Your dog is just a dog.

    It can seem so silly, the attachment some have to their dog. Sure, dogs are “(wo)man’s best friend,” but they’re not a child!

    It’s true, they’re not a human child. For some women, however, it’s what God has given them in this season. Many dog owners may very well desire a human child, but have to trust in God’s sovereignty—this dog is what He has allowed them (right now), so they make the most of it and love him or her unapologetically. It might be a different kind of relationship and responsibility than a child, but sometimes the care we give our dog is something maternal that, someday, we may get to offer our human child. For now, we’ll take the job of “dog mom.” 

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  • You should adopt.

    Adoption is an incredible option, but it’s a deeply personal decision. There are several factors that go into adoption and it’s simply not for everyone. Not only might this suggestion puncture the hope a woman still holds in having her own child, but it invades her process of discovering if and how she will become a mother. More than likely, those without children are aware of the option to adopt and will choose to consider it in their own timing. 

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  • Have you considered IVF, and/or artificial insemination, and/or this diet?

    Similar to adoption, the fertility options are widely known by many women. Those who desire to get pregnant, no matter how long they have been trying, have probably read books and/or articles with practical tips. They may already be on that diet or taking that supplement. What can be easy to forget when thinking about a woman getting pregnant and having a child is that this whole process goes back to her body, making it all the more personal. Our desire to be helpful with suggestions might sound as if we’re disregarding that all of this goes back to treatments or diets or supplements directly impacting a woman’s body. 

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  • Having no kids must mean that God wants you to stay focused on the ministry you’re in.

    It cuts some of the tension when we can offer reasons as to why a woman who wants a baby cannot have one. God knows the reason and He may have already spoken it to the woman without the child. Having a bystander offer their opinion can feel cheap; other women in ministry have children and can do both things well, so a statement such as the one above can suggest that the woman without a child wouldn’t be able to handle both. Furthermore, we don’t need to know or offer a reason why another woman doesn’t have children. Sometimes, sitting in the unknown with them is what offers real comfort, rather than generating reasons we don’t really have.

    Don’t get me wrong, women without children need the presence and kind words of others while they’re on their journey. What I’m learning, however, is that we will probably know when our words are needed and wanted. It will happen within a relationship with the woman, when some trust has been built and life has been shared together. Being a woman without a child is a different experience for so many people, but always a very personal one, and every woman’s journey should be respected. 

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    I am Mallory—a wife, a writer, and a dog mom to Roger. I love dry humor, clean sheets, sunny days, and frequent reminders of grace. These days, I hang out at malloryredmond.com, where I tell my stories with the hope of uncovering places of connection in our humanity. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter