26 October, 2020

No Kidding: Coming Out as Childless

Back in World Childless Week, I reposted about Being Worthy. Since then, Sue posted about feeling worthy and talked about the issue of coming out as childless. Recently, Loribeth has written two posts about coming out  (here and here) too.

In Sue’s post, she said, “Don’t those who matter already know, and as for the rest, it’s none of their business?"

I loved this. It is exactly how I feel. I don’t hide the fact that I don’t have children. But what I do hide, a little, are the emotions around it. Well, except here! But then, I generally hide emotions around a lot of things. They’re mine, they’re personal, and I don’t want to share them! So I don’t talk about personal issues or opinions very openly. Correction. I discuss these things with people I trust, or people I think will try to understand. I’ve said frequently that I tell my story only when I choose to do so. That goes for any personal issue, not just childlessness. And childlessness and infertility is awfully personal. It involves our bodies, our reproductive systems and sex lives, our personalities and character, and – perhaps most importantly – grief. These are very personal issues, intimate issues, that some people feel comfortable sharing, and others don’t. Each of us is different. And as I've written before, coming out takes a toll.

I’m kind of in the middle about sharing. I don't hide my childlessness, and I don’t deliberately hide my feelings about it. However, I do agree that it is important to talk about the issue if we’re ever going to see people change their behaviour towards and their judgement about those of us who don’t have children. But I don’t go out to proselytise either. (There are others who do this brilliantly through blogs and groups and websites, and I thank them for their voices and their courage.) My blog here has two purposes. The first is for me to make sense of my situation, and figure out what I think and what is important to me. The second and most important purpose is to try and help those who have been through similar things or those who want to learn about what it is like to go through these things. My focus here is the No Kidding, not the rest of the world.

There is, however, no doubt though that I am “out.” I've been interviewed in a national magazine and newspapers. These were opportunities for me to spread the word. I was nervous, because doing this meant I put my pain and my otherness out on public display, and it meant that I didn’t have a chance to respond or deal with judgements that might have come up as such. It was very scary. I probably prefer the individual interactions I have with people to help them understand, or just – hopefully – make them think, just for a moment, about the No Kidding who walk amongst them.

If I want to say something to an individual or a group, I do speak up. I’ll casually mention in conversation that I don’t have children if it is relevant and then just move on. If someone has made a glaring judgement about people without children, or deliberately overlooked my situation because it isn’t the norm, I’ll point it out. As I have said, I’m not going to be dismissed or ignored! If I am asked about it, I choose how I want to respond – it ranges from saying simply "no, I don't have children" to willingly sharing more deeply, depending on the context and the person asking. I hold strongly to that right to choose how or if I respond. It gives me the power, and the confidence, in a situation where I might otherwise feel vulnerable.

But mostly, I have to say that it just isn't top of my mind to share (unnecessary) details of my story. It goes against my nature. But also, and most importantly, because being childless is really only a small part of who I am. At one stage of my life it felt like it was 100% of who I was. But no longer. It’s part of me, but only a small part now. I am not kidding.


From WCW 2018



  1. I love this meme! It's so you in all your multifacted am-ness! And that is the whole point, isn't it? That we all have many facets, not one that defines all.

    And I love your points about discernment, about having the agency to share or not at each opportunity. So powerful.

  2. I loved reading this. I am also childless by choice. There are times I feel if others expect something of me that I am not able to give back as a reply. I get questions and looks but like you said, my childlessness is a part of me. It's not me. And I am still a woman.

  3. Love this. The choice to share or not is so personal. And no one is owed our stories. I run on the "way too free with my own information" side, but I also find that the farther from the raw wound of my childlessness I get, the less I need to share about it when it comes up. I think part of it is I feel less need to justify my life because I am far more comfortable in it now. It's not the life I imagined, but now it's mine and I choose to embrace it and I will not apologize for it. You remind me of a situation that popped up at school, a post is brewing! I love your thoughts on this "coming out," and what it means to stay "out" from that point forward.

  4. "What I do hide, a little, are the emotions around it." Yes! This, exactly -- me too. I also like what Jess says above: "I think part of it is I feel less need to justify my life because I am far more comfortable in it now." It's my life, and if others have a problem with it, that's THEIR problem.

  5. Well done, Mali. I totally agree and appreciate the mention of my blog. Big hugs from far away in Oregon.