I have a secret: I’m a Jesus-following Christian, I’ve been happily married for 13 years, and I don’t have or want children.
I had a vasectomy three years ago.
My family doesn’t know. I have a few friends and acquaintances that know about it, but most don’t. I’m usually very reluctant to bring up the fact that I have never desired to be a father. I don’t have anything against children. I love my nieces and nephews. My friends have awesome kids and I enjoy playing with them. I especially enjoy the excuse to play with Legos again.
But… I feel broken.
I feel broken because I regularly hear things like this from pastors and teachers: “You cannot truly know the love of the Father until you become a parent,” or “It’s our duty to parent the next generation of Believers!” I go to church and hear about all the kid’s programs and youth programs and family programs. So not only do I feel broken, I feel left out.
My wife and I feel like outsiders in church.
We understand we’re taking a path that most don’t. We understand most couples that call themselves evangelical Christians typically want children. And most couples we know in the church – in their early to mid-thirties like us – already have children or are trying to have children.
Over a decade ago, shortly after moving to the West Coast, we joined a small group with similar aged couples and we loved it. It was the first small group my wife had ever been a part of, and for an introvert and new Christian like her it was very exciting to find friends she could feel safe with. Within three years we were no longer part of the group because it shifted to become a young parent's small group.
Several years later at a different church, we were invited to another small group. When we arrived we met eight other couples. Their 15 combined children were playing upstairs. The couples as a group were meeting for the first time that night and were discussing which series on Biblical parenting they wanted to study. Needless to say, we didn’t go back and no one reached out to us. Each of the couples (except one) pretended not to notice us in church.
My wife doesn’t go to church anymore.
She couldn’t stomach the constant interrogations about why we don’t have children. There were too many awkward questions about our fertility issues, too many assumptions on Mother’s Day, and too many women we don’t know saying things to her like, “I’m praying for you to conceive.”
I still go to church regularly, but I usually try to not talk to anyone. Whenever I meet someone for the first time, the first two questions out of their mouth are, “Are you married?” and, “Do you have kids?” It blows me away how easy it is for strangers to get intensely personal after those first two questions. I’ve been asked whether or not we’ve been to a fertility specialist within minutes of an introduction. I used to just say that we don’t have kids “yet.” I don’t lie anymore. I now say that we’ve decided to not have children. People don’t usually talk to me after that.
I understand that we don’t fit, that we’re outside the lines. People my age should be married with children. Churches have a plan for that. But isn’t something wrong when churches leave out people that are different? All the things I’ve written about are frustrating for me, but they could be devastating for a man who desperately wants to be a dad but finds out he, or his wife, are unable to have kids. That man gets asked the same questions I do. He gets the same interrogation. He gets invited to the same parenting small group. He gets left behind like I do.
If there’s one thing I wish, it’s that I could be brave enough to tell my parents.
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