Exactly 6 seconds into the video above, actress Anna Kendrick makes a wide-eyed expression—a perfect mix of “WTF is your problem, dude?” and “What do you expect me to say?” The look will be familiar to any woman who has been cornered by a nosy stranger who wants her to justify and explain what’s going on — or not going on — in her uterus.
Kendrick makes “the face” and throws her hands in the air after the E! News interviewer quotes a section from Kendrick’s recently published memoir, in which she unambiguously says she doesn’t want to have children. When the interviewer presses her on whether she stands by this apparently newsworthy nugget, Kendrick deadpans that, considering “the zombie apocalypse is coming,” she doesn’t think it would be fair for her to produce a child who would inherit her poor upper body strength and lack of physical coordination.
Although most of us aren’t as quick-witted as Kendrick, any woman who has dared to boldly make it out of her 20s without procreating is all too practiced at fielding comments — from the well-meaning to the straight-up insulting — about her child-free status. Here, 10 ladies without kids share their worst encounters.
My favourite is when I tell people I don’t have kids and they say, “Why not? What happened?” Often, I’ll look at them as if I’m stunned and say, “Oh shit! I knew I was forgetting something!” — Stephanie, 45
Recently, when I was out for coffee with my mum, I told her I don’t think I want to have kids. To my surprise, she said, “I understand.” I said, “You do? That’s really gr-” and before I could even finish my sentence, she jumped in with “You’ll freeze your eggs and decide later.” I know she is happy as a mother of four, and she wants me to have that too. But she thinks I am more like her than I am. — Maya, 28
I’ve been with my partner for 12 years and married for four. A man I recently met at a volunteer job asked if my husband and I had kids. When I told him no, he said, “But you’re married. You have to have kids. That’s the whole point.” I replied, “We like our lives the way they are.” And he said, “What’s that got to do with anything?”
— Suzanne, 37
My family is originally from India, and most of our family friends in Canada are also Indian. About half of them had arranged marriages and were raised with the idea that a woman’s ultimate responsibility is to bear and raise children. When I was younger, they’d ask pointed questions about why I don’t have kids yet, and I’d respond politely. But as I got older, I just didn’t care anymore. After someone told me I should hurry up and have children I said, “Well, it’s different now that we’re not forced to marry by 18.” My mom gave me a stern talking to after that. These days, if someone asks, I just say “I like gin and sleep.” — Rani, 38
Since my early 20s, I knew I wasn’t interested in having kids. Sometimes people say to me, “You may not want one now, but once you have one you’ll love it!” I just don’t get this “You don’t know until you try it” logic. This isn’t like trying a new food or something. It’s not like I can just give it a try, then give the baby back if I don’t love being a mom. To me, it’s kind of like telling someone, “You may not want a tattoo right now, but once you have one on your body permanently, you’ll love it!” — Darris, 32
I got married last year, and as soon as we got engaged, people started asking me when we were going to have kids. Even casual acquaintances, like the woman who I get my smoothies from in the morning, ask me when I’m going to get pregnant. I say, “We’re not sure, maybe later,” and people look at me like I’ve just slapped them in the face, like I’ve shattered their reality. Sometimes they even try to talk me into it, saying “But you’d make such a great mother!” It makes me feel like I’m letting them down, or like I’m broken in some way because I’m not baby-crazy. — Candis, 30
My spouse and I have been married for 10 years, so the initial, annoying flurry of interest in our reproductive plans has thankfully died down. But in our first few years of marriage, people reacted in all kinds of strange ways when we said we weren’t interested in having kids. My all-time favourite was, “But think of the hair! Your baby would have such good hair!” — Stephanie, 46
Over the years, I’ve had a wide range of unsolicited comments, including, “But if you don’t have children you will be alone in your old age,” and “But you two would be perfect parents — such a waste!” I had one employer who constantly brought up the fact that I didn’t have children and once even tried to make a bet that it would happen within the next year. — Sue, 61
One time a coworker said to me “Don’t be like [a woman in our office]. She put her career first, never had a family or a husband, and now she’s such a bitch!” It’s hurtful to hear that people think I chose my career over a family or chose the bad boy instead of a nice guy to settle down with. I’ve made lots of choices and sacrifices along the way, hoping they would lead me to a relationship and a family, but it just hasn’t happened. And yeah, I guess if I really wanted kids I could just choose to have one on my own. But that’s a very different thing to sign on for than starting a family with a partner. It bothers me that people seem to assume that not having kids is always a choice. — Lisa, 35
My husband and I have both known since we were teens that we don’t want children, and I’ve heard everything from “You don’t know love until you are a mother” to “You will regret it when you are older.” I used to get so mad at these comments, but then I started to realize that, in most cases, people are saying these things because they see the good in me and think I would be a good mom. That warms my heart. — Amy, 31