Not Happy for Expecting Relatives

Dear JY,

I am 38 years old, married, and have no desire to have children. Today, when I learned that my brother-in-law and his wife are expecting their first child, I didn’t feel happy for them, and instead thought of my own childless marriage. I don’t want to say that I was jealous, or envious, because I still have no desire to have a child, but I did feel left out. Many of my cousins, siblings, and even family friends of my generation are already raising children, and I don’t recall feeling this way when they announced their children.

I feel bad that I am unable to feel joy for them, and I don’t want to be fake and congratulate them when the truth is I don’t feel happy for them at all. What should I do?


Dear BB,

To answer your question directly, what you should do is to be and stay polite. It’s probably not a good idea to be fake, because depending on how good you are at hiding your feelings, the truth may still be evident in your body language or tone of voice. It’s OK to simply say nothing, since no one’s keeping score (and if someone is, then they’re probably not someone you want to concern yourself with anyway). You could also just be happy for them because they are happy, and not necessarily because they are having a child.

You mentioned that you only felt left out today, and not the other times. Ask yourself what has changed between those previous announcements and today’s. You also mentioned your age – is it possible that you’re feeling the effects of a rapidly-closing pregnancy window? (yes, later preganancies are becoming more frequent, but the risk is still there, and real) You say that you have no desire to have children, but sometimes a deadline has a way of changing the mind.

Lastly, everyone makes their own choices in life. If your choice is different from those of the majority in your circle, then it may be hard going against the grain, and possibly even more so if it’s a conscious decision on your part. This is especially true when it comes to choosing whether to have children. Perhaps today was a reminder of the choice you made, reminding you that you are not the same as your cousins, siblings, and family friends. It can be difficult, but remember that ultimately only you know what choice is right for you, and that only you live with the consequences.

I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for writing.