Created By: jayoungrJuly 24, 2013 Last Edited By: jayoungrAugust 27, 2014
Troped

Not Wanting Kids Is Weird (hats?)

A character is openly critical of another\'s lack of desire to have children.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
This trope occurs when one character criticizes, pities, or disapproves of another (almost Always Female, though there are exceptions) for not wanting to have children. The targeted character may have actually announced her intention of never having children, or she may simply not be visibly eager to start a family. This trope does not apply to those who want children but can't have them for some reason.

The critic typically believes that there's something unwholesome, selfish, or at best tragically misguided about not wanting kids. Besides, everyone knows Babies Make Everything Better—unless you're some kind of Child Hater, that is. May take the form of an I Want Grandkids speech if the critic is the target's parent or parent-in-law.

Not to be confused with Mandatory Motherhood, which is about fate or the law forcing pregnancy even onto unwilling women. This trope is about characters exerting social pressure that may be uncomfortable but can be resisted.

Applies specifically to in-universe statements and attitudes of characters. If the author seems to share the critic's opinion, it overlaps with Writer On Board or Author Filibuster. If the author makes sure that the targeted character learns An Aesop about how wonderful it is to have children, it overlaps with Author Tract.

See also Career Versus Family, Good Girls Avoid Abortion, and Law Of Inverse Fertility. The opposite situation, where a woman is criticized for wanting children, is Real Women Never Wear Dresses.

Examples

Film
  • At one point in Happy Go Lucky, Poppy goes to visit her married and pregnant sister, who berates her for not yet settling down.

Literature
  • In Graceling, Katsa has no desire to marry or have children, simply believing the role is not for her. Other characters criticize her opinions, most notably Giddon, who flips out when she refuses to marry him and says that one day she will grow to want children, despite her denial.
  • The nonfiction book I Can Barely Take Care of Myself by Jen Kirkman is all about this. In fact, the intro starts out with arguments people give her when she mentions she doesn't want kids (and gives her counter-arguments).

Live Action TV
  • This becomes a plot point in an episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine is looked down on by her female friends, all of whom are mothers, who feel she needs to "move to Long Island and have a baby already."
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Bernadette's fiance Howard almost breaks up with her because she is (initially) against the idea of children. Her soon-to-be-mother-in-law is also not shy about wanting grandchildren.
  • Referenced in Community. When calling out his friend's cruel and distant father, Jeff tells him that there's an emptiness in him that can only be filled by having a kid (implying that wanting to have and raise kids is the natural course).
  • Robin in How I Met Your Mother openly doesn't want to have kids and doesn't like them. This causes friction with the child-happy Ted, who at one point during an argument on the matter tells her that it's good that she doesn't want kids, because they'd get brainfreeze from nursing on her (since she's such an ice queen).
  • House Of Cards US: The fact that the ruthlessly pragmatic Underwoods have consciously decided not to have children get in their way of climbing the path to power leads into a major plot point of season 2. The topic is brought up in a CNN interview with Claire in an effort to paint their marriage as cold and calculated. She reveals to the public that she had an abortion (she actually had three) because she was raped by a military officer in college. Frank is a Child Hater.
  • A rare male-on-male example: in Star Trek The Next Generation, Wesley Crusher thinks the reason Captain Picard doesn't have kids is because he's a Child Hater.

Newspaper Comics
  • Thérèse from For Better Or For Worse was criticized by both other characters and the creator for not wanting children. It is one of the main reasons many fans found her Unintentionally Sympathetic. Much of the story of her marriage to Anthony was communicated to readers via a week of New Year’s party bathroom gossip, with a group of young women clucking over how awful Thérèse was for having a job and not wanting a baby.

Radio
  • In one episode of Susan Calman is Convicted, Susan goes into a rant about how no-one seems to believe she doesn't want kids; they assume she means she can't, and ask if she's considered adopting, or a sperm-donor.

Theater
  • In Table Manners (part of The Norman Conquests by Alan Ayckbourn), Housewife Sarah criticizes her sister-in-law, career woman Ruth, for not wanting children:
    Sarah: It's no business of mine if you choose to deny yourself one of the greatest satisfactions in a woman's—
    Ruth: There you go again! "Deny myself"? What's the matter with you all?
    Sarah: I might well ask, what's the matter with you?

Webcomics
  • Cartoonist Nina Paley had a cartoon where she's criticized as being "immature" for not wanting kids. She mentally compares these people to a caveman saying "Look what Og make!"

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Famous Israeli writer A. B. Yehoshu'a was recently the target of fierce criticism when he claimed that women who don't want kids are "sick."
  • Israeli comedian Adi Ashkenazi once joked about the Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, saying that a young woman can have two children before turning 20 and still have people ask her if she doesn't want kids.
Community Feedback Replies: 53
  • July 24, 2013
    Sibuna
    • In Graceling Katsa has no desire to marry or have children, simply believing the role is not for her. Other characters criticize her opinions, most notably Giddon, who flipped out when she refused to marry him and said that one day she would grow to want children, despite her denial.
  • July 24, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    On The Big Bang Theory Bernadette is initially against the idea of children, having been forced to constantly watch her younger siblings as a teen and not wanting her career and body to be negatively affected. Her fiance Howard almost breaks up with her over it as he always pictured himself as a father one day and her soon-to-be-mother-in-law was not shy about wanting grandchildren. They reach a comprise of sorts that when they're ready Howard will be the one to take time off work and care for the kids, and the next season has her realizing she could see herself as a mom one day.
  • July 24, 2013
    FastEddie
    The name should be something No Children Wanted. We don't want tropes named with something that sounds like dialog. You are naming a trope, not titling an article.
  • July 24, 2013
    jayoungr
    I'm open to a different title, but "No Children Wanted" sounds like it would be from Alice's point of view, not her critics'. Maybe something like "Criticizing the Childless"? (FWIW, I was trying to make a reference to What Do You Mean Its For Kids and What Do You Mean Its Not For Kids, but meh, not necessary!)
  • July 24, 2013
    xanderiskander
    ^Don't make a title purely just to reference another trope name, because it's against wiki policy via Everythings Worse With Snowclones
  • July 24, 2013
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Live Action TV
    • This becomes a plot point in an episode of Seinfeld, in which Elaine is looked down on by her female friends, all of whom are mothers, and feel she needs to, "Move to Long Island, and have a baby already". Elaine is firm in not wanting kids, and ends up attracting a Guy Of The Week named Kevin (who later turns out to be Bizarro Jerry), who shares her same view, and even goes as far as getting a vasectomy... only for them to both change their mind, which leads to a reverse vasectomy for Kevin. In a subplot of the same episode, both Jerry and Kramer compete for a Girl Of The Week's affection, and when they learn she doesn't want children, they both decide to get vasectomies; Newman also decides to get one to impress Elaine, but when they learn Kevin is getting his reversed, and Kramer's was botched, Jerry and Newman high-tail it out of the doctor's office.
  • July 24, 2013
    DracMonster
  • July 24, 2013
    313Bluestreak
  • July 24, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Either of them.
  • July 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    I like No Respect For The Childless. Also, it should be noted that there are instances where a character isn't called out by another, but where the narrative treats a person's lack of desire to have children as a sign that they're cold.

    Mention should be made of Child Hater - basically, in some peoples' minds, not wanting kids instantly makes you a Child Hater.
    • Referenced by Jeff in Community: When calls out his friend's cruel and distant father, telling him that there's an emptiness in him that can only be filled by having a kid (implicitly implying that wanting to have and raise kids is the natural course).
    • Robin in How I Met Your Mother openly doesn't want to have kids and doesn't like them. This causes friction with the child-happy Ted, who at one point during an argument on the matter tells her that it's good that she doesn't want kids, because they'd get brainfreeze from nursing on her (since she's such an ice queen).
  • July 25, 2013
    jayoungr
    Thanks for all the examples! I've added most of them, but trimmed them to keep the focus on character-on-character criticism.

    Larkmarn, can you think of any specific characters who criticize Robin for not wanting children? I think this trope will work better if we keep it to character-on-character stuff and let Writer On Board / Author Tract handle the situation where the author is condemning Alice implicitly.
  • July 25, 2013
    jayoungr
    I'm still thinking about a good title. Thank you for the suggestions, and please keep them coming. These are the two ideas that I'd like the title to contain, ideally:

    1. The trope is about character reactions to other characters, not audience reactions or creator reactions.

    2. The criticism is directed at people who choose not to have children, not those who want them but can't have them for some reason.

    Of the suggested titles so far, I like "No Respect for the Childless" best, but I'm worried that it doesn't get point 2 across.
  • July 25, 2013
    Antigone3
    Another vote for No Respect For The Childless.

    Do we want a No Real Life Examples Please flag on this one? The attitude is certainly Truth In Television, but real-world examples could easily turn into bashing.
  • July 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Modified my HIMYM with a specific example.
  • July 25, 2013
    jayoungr
    Changed the title (though I'm still open to other suggestions) and added the How I Met Your Mother example. Also worked in the Child Hater reference.

    As for "No Real Life Examples," I was originally going to add that, but then I thought that it might not be so bad as long as we confine it to people expressing their opinions. Any Real Life examples then should just consist of people expressing disapproval of others not having children--in other words, confirmation that real people hold these attitudes, which wouldn't really be bashing since it's their own words. But again, I'm open to the idea if people think it's a concern.
  • July 25, 2013
    jatay3
    Actually the title sounds more like someone who has a stigma because they do want children but aren't getting any. Which is another trope.
  • July 25, 2013
    Waterlily
    Therese from For Better Or For Worse was criticized by both other characters and the creator for not wanting children.

    It is one of the main reasons many fans found her Unintentionally Sympathetic. I haven't read many of those old strips and somebody who is more familiar with them may be able to make a better entry.
  • July 26, 2013
    DAN004
  • July 26, 2013
    jayoungr
    Tweaked things a little, tried out the revised title, and added the For Better or For Worse example. (I'd welcome a specific example of someone criticizing Therese in-strip, if anyone knows of one.)
  • July 26, 2013
    eowynjedi
    I can't provide quotes for the Therese example but basically:

    After Therese married Anthony, he pressured her into having a baby and promised that he would take care of it so that she could continue her career. In actually, he expected that magic baby feelings would make her forget that promise so she would be a stay-at-home mom. When she appeared to get post-partum depression instead, she was roundly savaged by all the other characters.
  • July 29, 2013
    jayoungr
    I found a reference to a specific example of a character(s) criticizing Therese (thanks to Shaenon Garritty's awesome essay on Anthony http://shaenon.livejournal.com/29475.html) and added it to the For Better Or For Worse example.

    Anyone have more examples or suggestions as to what else this entry needs?
  • July 30, 2013
    jayoungr
    Added a Theater example.
  • July 31, 2013
    dvorak
    Literature
    • The nonfiction book I Can Barely Take Care Of Myself by Jen Kirkman is all about this. In fact, the intro starts out with arguments people give her when she mentions she doesn't want kids, and gives her counter-arguments.
  • August 6, 2013
    jayoungr
    Any more examples? Picture suggestions? What does this need in order to be ready to launch?
  • August 12, 2013
    captainpat
    ^ Get rid of the first paragraph. That's an Example As A Thesis. You don't need an example in your trope description when you have an example section right below it.
  • August 13, 2013
    jayoungr
    ^ It's an example in addition to a thesis. Also, using the hypothetical character of Alice is (IMO) a simpler/more graceful way to get in some details about the range of situations covered by the trope that would otherwise be awkward to word if I had to write "the character who doesn't want to have children" every time. I'm inclined to leave it unless someone can point me to where it's actually violating a set-in-stone site rule.
  • August 27, 2013
    henke37
    • *Mute in Hate Plus looks down on women who doesn't have a child.
  • August 27, 2013
    Telcontar
    No Respect For The Childless flows better as a title than the current No Respect For Not Wanting Kids; count me in favor as well. Condemning The Childless has the bonus of being slightly shorter and is therefore my preference overall.

    ^^ The first paragraph adds nothing. The couple maybes are bland. The description is shorter and easier to read without it; remember, Clear Concise Witty. This is part of the 90% of the time when an example as thesis is a weak way to introduce a trope, as stated on that page.

    There is no hard-and-fast rule against them, but there is strong prejudice against bad ones. The rest of your description is good and I would consider it launch-worthy.
  • April 26, 2014
    silveryrow
    (Excuse me if this shows up twice, nothing seemed to happen last time I hit 'send')

    Condemning Childless Choice?

    Once the title is decided and the first paragraph disagreement sorted (for my part, it doesn't seem necessary), I'd vote launch ready.
  • April 26, 2014
    DAN004
    Childless here can also mean "we had a child once, but he/she died". Very different from "not wanying a child".
  • April 26, 2014
    DaibhidC
    Radio
    • In one episode of Susan Calman is Convicted, Susan goes into a rant about how no-one seems to believe she doesn't want kids; they assume she means she can't, and ask if she's considered adopting, or a sperm-donor. She doesn't want kids. She doesn't get on with the ones she knows, and her parents gave her a mass of neuroses that she doesn't want to pass on to someone else.
  • April 27, 2014
    Arivne
  • April 30, 2014
    boone
    Name suggestion: You Need To Breed
  • May 6, 2014
    Antigone3
    ^ Sounds more like an alternate title for Mandatory Motherhood (not to mention sounding like dialogue).
  • May 6, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Film
    • At one point in Happy Go Lucky, Poppy goes to visit her married and pregnant sister, who berates her for not yet settling down. She responds that she's happy with her life as it is. It's also worth noting that Poppy is by no means a Child Hater - she teaches little kids for a living, and even goes to bat for one of the kids after finding out that he's being abused at home.
  • May 6, 2014
    littlemissmuffet
    • Cartoonist Nina Paley had a cartoon where she's criticized as being "immature" for not wanting kids. She mentally compares these people to a caveman saying "Look what Og make!"
  • May 6, 2014
    HellKillUsAll
  • August 15, 2014
    jayoungr
    Okay, I'm revisiting this to see if I can't get it launch-ready. I've tweaked and rearranged the description and added some examples. I'm also trying out a new title. (Boone, I actually really like "You Need to Breed," but I suspect it won't fly because of the dialogue thing.)
  • August 15, 2014
    bejjinks
    This does work both ways. Some people are criticized for wanting children. Frequently I'm told how lucky I am to not have children. This trope should at least reference that and if possible, have links to the counter tropes.
  • August 15, 2014
    jayoungr
    What are the countertrope names? Let me know, and I'll edit them in. BTW, the main reason I'm proposing the trope from the negative point of view is because Mandatory Motherhood needs a cleanup; many of the examples under that trope really should go under this one.
  • August 15, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    • Israeli comedian Adi Ashkenazi once joked about the Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, saying that a young woman can have two children before turning 20 and still have people ask her if she doesn't want kids.

    • Famous Israeli writer A. B. Yehoshu'a was recently the target of fierce criticism when he claimed that women who don't want kids are 'sick'.
  • August 15, 2014
    bejjinks
    ^ I'm not sure if there are counter-tropes or not. I searched but couldn't find any. Perhaps in Hollywood, everyone wants babies so the opposite would be rare. However, there might be a few examples where a group of bachelors berates the one who doesn't want to be a bachelor anymore or a group of Straw Feminists berates the woman that wants to go domestic. These could just be inverses of the trope.
  • August 15, 2014
    arbiter099
    • House Of Cards US: The fact that the ruthlessly pragmatic Underwoods have consciously decided not to have children get in their way of climbing the path to power leads into a major plot point of season 2. When this topic is brought up in a CNN interview with Claire in an effort to paint their marriage as cold and calculated she reveals to the public that she had an abortion (she actually had three) because she was raped by a military officer in college. Frank is a Child Hater.
  • August 15, 2014
    DAN004
    Criticized for wanting children = Real Women Never Wear Dresses (although it only refers to women doing it...)
  • August 15, 2014
    bejjinks
    ^ You are correct.
  • August 15, 2014
    HeavyTony
    A male example, but I'm not sure if it works. In Star Trek The Next Generation, Wesley Crusher thinks Captain Picard doesn't have kids because he's a Child Hater. Picard's simply uncomfortable with children and he's too committed to his career to start a family.

    Speaking of strong career commitment, I suppose someone who doesn't have children for this reason is easily taken for a workaholic despite the line between dedication and unbalancement.
  • August 15, 2014
    dexterian120
    Yeah, as somebody said earlier, it would be Flame Bait
  • August 16, 2014
    bejjinks
    Okay, so the counter-tropes to this are Real Women Never Wear Dresses and Confirmed Bachelor.
  • August 16, 2014
    Antigone3
    How would Confirmed Bachelor be a countertrope to this one? Confirmed Bachelor is about marriage, not children.
  • August 16, 2014
    bejjinks
    Because Confirmed Bachelor is anti-family. It's not a perfect countertrope but it is one of the closest to being a coutnertrope I could find. Either that or I'm going to have to create a new trope just to be the countertrope.
  • August 18, 2014
    jayoungr
    Bejjinks: I've added Real Women Never Wear Dresses, but Confirmed Bachelor doesn't really fit IMO. It's a character trope, while this is a character reaction trope.

    Heavy Tony: I think the ST:TNG example works fine as a male-on-male version of the "not eager to start a family—what's wrong with this person?" variant.
  • August 22, 2014
    jayoungr
    I think the text is pretty stable, and we've got a good body of examples. If you think this is ready to go, please give it a hat! Otherwise, please let me know what I can do to make it better.
  • August 27, 2014
    DAN004
    Launch?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable