How to be Happy When You Can’t Have Kids

If you haven’t chosen a childfree life, you have to learn how to be happy without having kids. These tips on accepting life without children are from me – a woman who has accepted infertility.

When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden: Encouragement for Couples Facing Infertility by Sandra Glahn and William Cutrer is a good resource. Sometimes it’s the little things, like knowing you’re not alone, that can make a big difference. If you feel like you’ll never be happy without a baby, reading books for childless couples can help you accept and even be happy with your life.

Accepting a childfree life is easier said than done – but here’s something that really helped me: “The willingness to win OR lose moves us out of an adversarial relationship to life and into a powerful kind of openness,” writes Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal. “From such a position, we can make a greater commitment to life.”

Kitchen Table Wisdom is one of my favorite books because it’s all about accepting both the bitter and the sweet parts of life. Dr Remen is an oncologist who never had children. She struggled with Crohn’s Disease for most her life, and when she was in her 20s had surgery to remove most of her intestines. Remen knows failure and heartache…and she teaches people how to bounce back to live full, passionate lives.

How to be Happy Without Having Children

Be willing to let go of how your life “should” be

Do you associate not having children with feelings of failure, being a “loser”, or feeling less worthy or fulfilled than the mom next door? The first step to accepting a childfree life is express your feelings of pain and loss. Admit that it’s painful to not have children.

Second, you have to be open to your life as it is. Instead of hating your body or wrestling with the fact that you can’t have kids, try opening your heart and mind to a life without children. You don’t have to love or be cheerful about your childfree life, but being open to your life as it is will help you accept the hand you’ve been dealt.

You might also read 5 Ways to be Happy as a Childless Couple, which I wrote for a reader who needed encouragement.

Remember that everyone deals with something

Everybody has problems; they just look different. My friend’s 19 year old son was recently killed in a car crash. I have ulcerative colitis; my husband and I are coping with male infertility (azoospermia). One of my writing colleagues recently had a stroke, and can’t think clearly enough to write anymore.

If want to be happy without having children, remember that infertility is a condition that you’re unfortunate enough to hav…and we all have stuff. Knowing that I’m not alone in the pain that life brings helps me accept a childfree life. All God’s children got their crosses.

Surround yourself with childfree couples

We spend time with friends who have kids – but I most enjoy my friends who don’t have children, or who have grown children! I especially like my friends who have chosen never to have children. If it hurts you to spend time with pregnant friends or big families, then reduce those visits. I wouldn’t advise avoiding families altogether, but I think accepting a childfree life is easier when you’re with people in the same situation.

Another thing that helped me be happy without children is my dog. We adopted Georgie from the SPCA, and she adds so much love and happiness to our lives – and frustration too – that it helps take our minds off not having kids.

You might also consider joining a group for women who aren’t parents.

Accepting a Childfree Life

Accepting a Childfree Life – How to be Happy When You Can’t Have Kids

Remember that you’ll experience sadness, bitterness, or regret every day

Getting and staying emotionally healthy is a daily choice. Accepting your childfree life and being happy without having children is something you have to decide to do — perhaps every hour! Being okay with your life doesn’t happen overnight. And, feelings of acceptance don’t last forever. It’s like showering or eating; you have to do it every day. Sometimes three times a day!

To be happy without having children, you have to remember that happiness is a daily choice.

If you don’t know what to do to be happy, read What Goals Should You Set for Your Life? 4 Types of Life Goals.

Are you accepting a childfree life? Can you be happy without children? I welcome your comments below.

Before You Go...

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Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
I'm a full-time freelance writer and blogger in Vancouver, BC. I created the "Quips and Tips" blog series; my degrees are in Education, Psychology, and Social Work. I welcome your comments below, but I don't give advice. I can offer you a prayer and a blessing, though! You'd be surprised how helpful a prayer can be....

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14 Responses

  1. Laurie says:

    Dear Elly,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, and for showing us we’re not alone. It’s painful and sad, but…it is what it is, and we have no choice but to live with not having kids. We might as well be happy, right? It’s a choice we can make. :-)


  2. Elly says:

    Thanks everyone for your stories on here. I thought I was alone being childless. But I see I am not alone many of us are out there and trying to cope with a loss we never had!

  3. Laurie says:

    Dear Rea,

    It’s such a difficult decision to make! I agree that this is the right time to figure out if you should have kids or not…because at 30, you still have lots of time to have kids. You still have at least 5 more years before you really have to make this decision.

    The problem is that you don’t know what you’re deciding FOR! That is, you don’t know what your kids would be like, or if you’d regret it afterward. That’s the tough part about trying to decide if you should have kids. Other life decisions seem to have more “known” qualities to them.

    I don’t think you’ll ever get over the emotional part of a childfree life. It’ll always be a bit sad for you, that you never had kids. There will always be some grief and regret, I think.

    Maybe that’s the key…you need to accept the pain that will accompany either decision. Either way, it’s a sacrifice. Either way – kids or not – you have to give up something, don’t you?

    Stay true to you,

  4. Rea says:

    I am in a bit of a different situation that I am finding hard to handle.

    While I do not have fertility issues, my partner who is 20 years my senior had a vasectomy. We have been together for 5 years, and at first he wanted to have kids, and I did not. As time rolled on we seemed to have switch positions. He decided he did not want to have anymore kids (he has grown teenagers with his ex). Finding this out made me re-think whether I actually wanted to have kids, now that the option has been eradicated. I love him so much, but I always wonder whether that is going to be enough – for the rest of my life. As a child I always thought I would have kids. As I got older, the idea went out the window with an ex who did not want to have kids, which I thought I was ok with, but then again I was in my early 20s and the thought of children seemed so far away.

    There are times I feel guilty because I will not be giving my parents grandchildren. I feel guilty at times because I (as far as I know) can have children and there are couples out there that would trade me in a heart beat. Watching my childhood friends have their children, makes me overjoyed for them, genuinely, but I wonder if there is something I am missing out on. There are times that I feel like my life is incomplete, but after reading your article, perhaps its because I need more in my life to fulfill other aspects in my life. The thought of dying alone scares me.

    At the age of 30, I feel like I am questioning this at the right time, before it is too late. The biggest issue is debating whether or not having children will be worth giving up the man I love for having children, with perhaps a man I don’t love as much, or on my own. When I think of it that way, I know I don’t want to have children. Maybe planning our stress-free life together is a start. I just don’t know how to get over the emotional part of it. Especially when he already has kids. I now realize that it is an feeling I will have to deal with everyday.

    I just don’t know how to start my child-free life.

  5. Laurie says:

    Dear Lois,

    Thank you for being here, and for sharing how you feel about not having children. It’s not an easy thing to get used to – the idea that you won’t have kids. I think most women grow up thinking they’ll have kids someday, and it’s sad and difficult to change that plan.

    Yes, I 100% believe you can grieve something you never had! You’re grieving the end of an expectation, a dream, a plan for your life. I grieved the end of my dream of being a published writer. That was a loss of something I never had – a writing career in the traditional sense – and I was very sad about it.

    I encourage you to grieve your loss. Maybe your husband can’t share the grief of transitioning to a childfree life — but that doesn’t mean you can’t honor your own feelings and thoughts.

    Also, remember that grieving the end of this expectation (having kids) isn’t a one-time thing. I finally accepted that we won’t have children a year ago, but my sadness still crops up sometimes. I’m always partly sad when friends and neighbors announce a pregnancy…and it would make me feel sad if someone talked nonstop about her pregnancy. That’s a very difficult position to be in.

    Please feel free to come back and write about your feelings anytime, okay? Expressing how you feel is very important – even if your husband doesn’t agree!

    Stay true to you,

  6. Lois says:

    I am married without children. We have recently arrived at the decision not to have children due to my age and our financial situaiton – I have only told 2 of my friends, who have both said it was a brave decision! I don’t feel very brave at all.

    I feel like I am going through a period of mourning, which my husband doesn’t understand. How can you mourn something you have never had?! But I had a dream of having a family, which now isn’t to be. I am scared it will tear me and my husband apart.

    I am trying to look forward to the future and be grateful for all I do have in my life and for all the opportunities being childfree will bring. But it is also heartbreakingly sad at times. I have a close family member who is pregnant and talks about her baby non-stop, it is hard to listen to.

  7. Laurie says:


    Thanks for your comment! The Hannah’s prayer website sounds really good – I think there’s a book with a similar name, for women coping with fertility issues.

    I’d love to check Content as Two out! It sounds inspiring and hopeful. But I like to think of me and Bruce as “Very Happy as Two” (as opposed to being content, which to me has an element of disappointment and resignation).

    I think it’s a bit easier for us, because I was never consumed with the idea of having kids. I wanted to get pregnant, but could also see myself being happy without children. I still wish we had kids, but am very grateful for the benefits of being childless.

  8. Kristi says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am a part of a Christian ministry called Hannah’s Prayer ( for women dealing with fertility challenges, both infertility and pregnancy loss. One of the forums there is called “Content As Two” and it is for those who have come to a place of accepting that their family will remain the size that it was when began on their wedding day as husband and wife. There are some amazing women there whose lives are full and joyful, in spite of not having the children that they once dreamed of. They are honest about the sting of infertility that never quite goes away, but also about the joy that fills their lives. I have been very encouraged by their stories, as I am by yours as well!

  9. Laurie says:

    Thanks for being here, Jennifer.

    What is your passion? What could you spend hours or even days doing, and totally lose track of time? What have you always dreamed of doing?

    I think it’s easier to accept a childfree life if we find and pursue our passions.

    What will you do with the one wild and precious life you have?

  10. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this article and for the comments left by women. I also cannot have children due to make infertility (azoospermia), and there are times…most times…where I feel my life has zero meaning. I am not happy in my career…never really was “career driven”, as I always wanted to be a mom. I dread hearing about the latest baby born into the family, and I avoid almost all family gatherings. I have no friends anymore unless they also are childless. I get SO tired of hearing how women are not fulfilled until they have children…and am equally tired of hearing “why don’t you just adopt”…it’s so nice to hear I’m not alone, and just knowing other women can feel my pain helps…I don’t know why we have to go through this, but maybe someday God will explain it to us.

  11. Laurie says:

    Dear n,

    It sounds like you are very unhappy with life right now, and that you’re stressed as well. I’ve learned that stress and painful emotions can trigger negative coping behaviours – which is what bulimia is.

    I can’t give you the help you need, I’m sorry to say. You need to talk to someone in person about your feelings about your ex-boyfriend, not having children, and your broken dreams.

    It’s very important to get the help you need as soon as possible. Please don’t put it off, because you’re just prolonging the pain.

    Do you have a counsellor or someone you trust, who you can talk to?

  12. n says:

    For a long time I stayed away from my friends with kids. I felt not on the same page. I felt isolated an outsider and a failure.what was it about me that put me in this place? The guy I hoped to marry and raise a family with decided to get someone else pregnant. I was devastated. I saw my dreams collapse. My bulimia from years back escalated. I travelled, had adventures I felt life felt not worth living. I still feel a failure I still feel unfullfilled. I felt in supported and outside of society…. I am bitter I want to shout and scream at those people around me child rearing…not noticing my pain. I feel stupid. I spend time with my friends with kids now. I feel the pain. I feel detached from life. I am depressed

  13. Cate says:

    Where do I begin? I was super fertile, but my husband wasn’t and nothing worked. It is too late now for me. All my adult life I have worked with children, mostly as a teacher and people assume that because I am so good with them, I must also have children. Sometimes it is just too difficult to say that I don’t have any so I make them up. Pitiful, eh? The hardest time is on Mother’s Day when everyone (including complete strangers) wishes you “happy mother’s day”. Why does everyone assume that if you wear a wedding ring, you must have children? The ache never goes away and there is no escape.

  14. Jennifer says:

    This is perfect and it’s nice to read about someone else that has dealt with the same thing

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