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Not Wanting Kids Is Weird

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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, or even (if the means are available) decided to be made infertile. This trope does not apply to those who want children but can't have them for some reason.

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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.

This does have some Truth in Television, but at the same time global fertility rates are plummeting and childless families are becoming more common. Some sociologists and scientists argue that traditional family raising methods are becoming outdated to modern culture and that many families don't have the time nor want to put up with the stress or financial costs of raising kids.

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The application of this trope tends to be quite gendered. Due to the history of pressure on women to inevitably get married and have children, a female character will usually be portrayed sympathetically or given a Freudian Excuse for not wanting children. A male however is more likely to be shown as immature or selfish for not wanting them

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 All Lesbians Want Kids, Family Versus Career, Good Girls Avoid Abortion, and Law of Inverse Fertility. The opposite situation, where a woman is criticized for wanting children, is Real Women Don't Wear Dresses.

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Examples

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    Comedy 
  • Israeli comedian Adi Ashkenazi once joked about 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.

    Comic Books 
  • In the new timeline created by One More Day the reason Peter and MJ never married is because she regarded marriage without children as meaningless; moments like lead to fans accusing the whole thing of being an Author Tract by Joe Quesada.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • The entire plot of the Miraculous Ladybug fanfic Baby Boom is kicked off by an older woman who wants grandchildren, and is infuriated by her only child's desire to never have kids. Her anger causes her to be Akumatized into the supervillain Fairy Grandmother, who mind-controls people all over Paris into making babies (something that is acknowledged as mass rape, with both parties in each couple being victims).
    Mabel: Annie, be sensible. You have to have kids.
    Annie: Why?
    Mabel: Because—because that’s what people do.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At one point in Happy-Go-Lucky, Poppy goes to visit her married and pregnant sister, who berates her for not yet settling down.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • In Jurassic World, during a conversation between Claire and her sister Karen, Claire declares that she's unlikely to have children. Karen insists that she will, concluding with, "It's worth it." For what it's worth, Karen doesn't have a low opinion of Claire for it, and it isn't used to make Claire seem cold or weird.
    • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom subverts it. Claire still doesn't have children and no one treats her any differently for it. There is a scene where a male character speaks with Claire and says "a gift for our children", but it's an expression used in the sense of preserving things for all future generations.
    • The previous trilogy managed to subvert it. Jurassic Park has a minor bit of friction between Ellie and Grant, since the former wants kids while the latter doesn't. Naturally he's the one who gets separated from everyone else with the children (who he ends up bonding with). By the third film, they have since split up, and Ellie has married and had children of her own. However they remain good friends.
  • Reversing the Always Female trend, the film of About a Boy has main character Will's relatives insisting that he is in some sense "broken" because of his lack of interest in fatherhood.
  • Amy Schumer's character in Trainwreck gets chided by her settled sister (who is a stepmom and expecting a child) for partying and sleeping around, when she can start a family.
  • The Five-Year Engagement contains a scene where Tom says he doesn't want kids, prompting shocked reactions from his fiancée. She then gets them to babysit her niece in an attempt to show him how great kids are.
  • A variation in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Natasha Romanoff is shown to have repressed guilt over being unable to bear children.
    Natasha: In the Red Room, where I was trained, where I was raised...they have a graduation ceremony. They sterilize you. It's efficient. One less thing to worry about. The one thing that might matter more than a mission. It makes everything easier. Even killing. [beat] You still think you're the only monster on the team?
  • Big Fan: Paul's mother tells them that happiness is found in marriage and children, and calls him "sick" for devoting his life to the New York Giants instead of settling down like his brother and sister.

    Literature 
  • In Graceling Realm, 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).
  • In The Red Tent, Tabea mentions that she wants to be a priestess, rather than to be sold into marriage and used as a Baby Factory or risk Death by Childbirth. This is because Tabea has seen a lot of the adult drama in her family, and witnessed Oholibamah suffer in childbirth for days before dying a horrible death. (But the only option open to her besides marriage and motherhood is becoming a priestess.) Because although her family is not without its problems, it is (at least at this point) much more stable than Tabea's, Dinah can't fathom why she (or anyone else) would want to pass up motherhood (which is placed on a very high pedestal in their culture, and especially among the women of Dinah's family.)
  • In the Ender's Shadow series, a scientist states (as part of an Author Filibuster) that all people instinctively desire to be connected to the "web of life" through having children, and that those who can't do so feel a sense of loss about the subject. So not wanting kids isn't just "weird," it's literally impossible to not want kids.
  • In The Saga of Darren Shan, it's noted that there are so few female vampires because a side effect of becoming one is being left barren. Darren didn't know this when he was blooded, and is devastated to learn he'll never be able to have children. The fact that becoming a vampire means willingly giving up a chance to become a parent is subtly used to distinguish their Blue-and-Orange Morality from normal humans.

    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."
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Bernadette's fiancé 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. Bernadette's discontent is due to having to help raise her siblings when she was young. It is still a point of tension due to Howard always wanting kids (perhaps connected to his own father having vanished when he was a pre-teen). Ultimately they end up having two kids: Halley and Michael.
    • The same happens to Leonard and Penny towards the end of the series, when Penny reveals she doesn't want to have kids and Leonard sadly agrees to this, though not without talking to her father (who wants grandkids) about it. Though like Bernadette, she's forced to change her mind once she becomes pregnant in the series finale.
  • 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).
  • In The Haunting of Hill House, Steve declares he doesn't want kids and his father reacts as though it's the worst thing imaginable. Of course it turns out Steve's Freudian Excuse is due to childhood trauma, and of course he gets over it to have implied Babies Ever After in the finale.
  • 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). Ironically she's devastated to later learn from the doctor that she couldn't have kids even if she wanted to.
  • 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. It's actually because Captain Picard is Married to the Job, although it's definitely true that he has very little idea how to interact with children and is acutely uncomfortable doing so. Over the course of the series, he gets better at it and becomes more comfortable around them, and eventually moves past it much more thoroughly in the canon of the post-series novels. He also ends up becoming Wesley's stepfather, but he was already his surrogate father-figure starting early in the series.
  • In Veep, Amy Brookheimer (a single career woman working for the White House) is criticized by her family for not wanting children.
  • Averted in Supergirl. While Maggie is adamant about not wanting children, which leads to Alex breaking up with her, no one finds it weird or criticizes Maggie for her wish to remain childless.
  • Total Divas chronicles the very real friction between John Cena and Nikki Bella, where their different priorities are outlined; Nikki wants to one day get married and be a mother, John doesn't. The latter's side is shown as reasonable - their hectic schedules and the fact that he's the top man in the company means he would have to take a lot of time off from the road to raise children. Nikki's sister Brie tries meddling in their relationship, convincing John to break it off with her when she thinks Nikki is sacrificing her own dreams. While they do get engaged and prepare for a wedding, Nikki ultimately calls it off, out of the realisation that their priorities are just too different.

    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?

    Web Comics 
  • 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!"
  • In A-gnosis' comics on Greek myth, this is part of the Parents as People tension between the Mother Nature-esque goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone: Demeter genuinely doesn't believe that Persephone doesn't want to become a mother, and Persephone is afraid to tell her when she has an abortion. Fortunately, Persephone's eventual love interest Hades is happy to remain child-free.

    Western Animation 
  • Bob and Margaret: A recurring theme of the series; Bob and Margaret don't want kids but people think they should. They did consider having a baby in the season one episode, "A Night In", but after spending some time with some friends and their obnoxious baby, they ultimately decided to remain childless.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The episode "Marge vs. SSCCTG" has Marge going up against a group of Springfield adults who want the town to stop spending for family care. It portrays every adult without a child as a Child Hater.
    • Another episode had Marge realizing she wants a fourth child, when Homer doesn't (and he also hadn't planned the previous three). Despite Homer's reluctance and the fact the Simpsons can barely finance the family they do have, the episode has Marge being consistently pushy and acting as though Homer has let her down by telling her the truth that he doesn't want more children, and then ultimately implies that Homer not wanting more kids is weird by having him come around to the idea (they don't have a fourth child for reasons entirely unrelated to Homer initially not wanting another).

    Real Life 
  • This can often happen to women in more patriarchal cultures, especially if the critic is a Female Misogynist. The attitude that being childfree is a selfish choice sometimes comes up, though this attitude assumes that the reason for having children (usually because the parents wanted one) and the discipline required to raise one properly are the same thing.
  • Statistically speaking, based on a meta-analysis by Dutch professor Renske Keiser [1], only around 10% of childless women actively chose not to become mothers.
  • Israeli writer A. B. Yehoshu'a was the target of fierce criticism when he claimed that women who don't want kids are "sick".
  • Attitudes to unmarried, childless Australian politician and ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard are riddled with this on both sides of politics, resulting in remarks like: "I mean anyone who chooses to remain deliberately barren... they've got no idea what life's about", "an unproductive old cow", "she has chosen not to be a parent... she is very much a one-dimensional person", "anyone who chooses a life without children, as Gillard has, cannot have much love in them".
  • Annette Funicello mentioned she once believed in this trope in her youth, according to her autobiography, only to change her mind when she witnessed many kids being emotionally neglected by workaholic or self-absorbed parents and cringing at jokey bumper stickers saying that motherhood is a jail sentence without parole or even just a basic Education Mama.
  • Numerous "childfree" movements have sprung over the past several decades. They promote that it's perfectly fine to live a long and happy life with a spouse or partner and voluntarily not have children. Unfortunately, some are more radical than others and can actually accuse men, who want to have children, of seeking to ruin their wives' lives.
  • Sadly this trope is becoming prevalent in countries with declining populations such as China, Japan, and South Korea. If you don't want kids, not only does that make you weird, but also a terrible, selfish person for not contributing to society. Bonus points if this lecture is given to an Otaku.
  • Many doctors won't perform sterilization on someone who is young and doesn't want children. If you're under 35 and childless, it can be near impossible to get the procedure done in many areas. In some cases it's a Double Standard on the part of doctors who are less willing to perform sterilization on women (insinuating that women of reproductive age are always "too young" to decide they don't want kids, but always old enough to decide to be mothers; condescending them by telling them that they can't make that decision for themselves because their potential future husbands will want children, etc.). However, tubal ligations tend to require more recovery time than vasectomies and are less easily reversed (especially bilateral salpingectomies, which cannot be reversed because the Fallopian tubes are removed completely), so in other cases it's a fear-of-liability issue on behalf of the practitioner.
  • Trucked out by opponents of same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception, as the sole reason for marriage is to have children, and doing so for love or happiness is selfish. (Well, it used to be true...)
  • Woe betide any outright Antinatalists who run up against people with this mindset.
  • Feminist journalist Amanda Marcotte wrote a blog entry speaking frankly about her own desire not have children, seeing them as a massive restriction on her personal happiness and freedom, and, should her birth control fail, she would have an abortion without hesitation. In the same article, Marcotte wrote how horrified with herself she was for taking this position, realizing just how engrained this mindset was in her.

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