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... to ask whether you would find four adult siblings, all childless, unusual?

(101 Posts)
Peevish Tue 14-May-13 10:08:29

Would you find it worthy of remark to come across a family of four siblings, aged between 33 and 40, who are all childless by choice?

This is a moot point now, as I have a one year old these days, born just before I turned 40, but I had several people remark on our collective childlessness as strange before I had him. Not that individuals choose not to have children, but that an entire sibling group would choose not to, despite being financially stable, fertile, in relationships etc. It had never occurred to me as odd, but various remarks from people who did not know my siblings, and so were thinking about the situation in the abstract, got me thinking about whether there was something about our growing up that turned us all off the idea of being parents.

Anyway, my question is whether you would (a) find it unusual enough to remark on it and (b) assume there was a common cause, conscious or unconscious, for the decision? Also, those of you who don't have children (I know there are some on here), do your siblings have children?

LokiTheCynicalCat Tue 14-May-13 11:03:48

My parents have friends in their 50s with six adult children (well, ages 19-30ish I think).

No partners, no children. And they all live at home. This is in Ireland, too.

KittensoftPuppydog Tue 14-May-13 11:04:42

I come from a large family, have no kids through choice, but there are lots of nephews and nieces on both sides to satisfy grandparents.
Nobody says anything about it to me.sometimes wish they would as I think that the assumption is that I'm 'barren'. No, just wanted to do other things with my life.

FayeKorgasm Tue 14-May-13 11:04:47

My DH doesn't have children, though he is an amazing SD to my son - they are good friends,supported him financially through university, bought him a car and pays for it to be run etc etc - his brother doesnt have children, or been married and neither has my sister and only sibling.

We also have a number of friends who are happily married in their 40's and don't have children. They have - in my eyes at least- happy fulfilled lives. The only person who I think really isn't happy with their situation is my DSis. She hasn't married or had children and I do believe this is a sadness for her. She hasn't said anything, she doesn't talk about feelings, but I know her v well. sad

Bowlersarm Tue 14-May-13 11:07:36

I think I would think it a little strange, if I thought about it at all.

I would think it was a shame for your parents after having four children themselves, that they didn't go on to have grandchildren.

PeppermintPasty Tue 14-May-13 11:08:36

It's interesting isn't it? I wonder if your statement that your upbringing was not wildly happy holds the key? My sister had my nephew when she was 35, some 15 years ago. My DBro, who I think would make a great dad, has never had children (and is married).

I had an unplanned pregnancy which happily resulted in my now 6yo, and I followed that up with his DSis 3 yrs ago.

However, I had always thought, up until the moment I found out I was pregnant, that I would never have children. My mother is (I know now), a narcissist and I think this played a large part in our collective failure/lateness in having children, more than things like not finding the right person etc.

For example, my mother was very very controlling when we were young, and we followed her "script". In my case, I always remember her telling people that PP would "not have children, oh no she's never wanted them" etc. I recall this even from fairly young.

I think it had an effect on me. I wonder whether, if my DSis wasn't still under the grip of my mother, she would in fact have had more.

My mother put the phone down on me when I rang her to tell her I was pregnant, such was the strength of her belief that I was not to have children.

Just musing on it really.

PeppermintPasty Tue 14-May-13 11:09:52

btw, I read that back-I don't mean "failure" as in we failed! I mean it as a statement of fact.

quesadilla Tue 14-May-13 11:14:37

Statistically speaking its unusual but that doesnt mean its down ti anything depressing or unusual. I would not dream of commenting on it though. One of my pet hates when I was childless was people who thought it was ok to ask me why I hadn't had children. There is a host of reasons people may not have reproduced from the banal to the logistical to highly sensitive medical or psychiatric ones. I find it quite astonishing that people (apart from close and trusted friends) deem it appropriate to wade into what is clearly such a minefield.

diddl Tue 14-May-13 11:26:04

I would think it odd that all four siblings didn't want children-doubt I would ask about it-but would probably assume bad childhood tbh.

Peevish Tue 14-May-13 11:41:09

Quesadilla, I agree entirely, but in my experience people who might not comment on an individual not having children feel it's ok to comment when they see it as 'collective' and therefore weird...

To those who have asked about my parents, it is hard to know how they have felt. Both were badly parented themselves, both grew up the eldest of very poor families, and both lost one parent very young - as adults, both are largely without friends, and are socially awkward, very afraid of new things. Both settled for the minimum offered them in their lives ("that was just the way things were back then" is a big refrain with them both) and seemed prepared to do the same for us, and were baffled and I think slightly embarrassed by our relative academic successes.

I think they may think that people who go to university don't have children, or something, as our cousins of a similar age left school, married and started families immediately. They would certainly have much preferred us to lead working-class lives locally, of the kind they understood, marrying and having families and not leaving our home town, than anything any of us has done. I have sometimes felt that nothing we did really counted for them because it didn't involve big white weddings and lots of babies.

Gosh, that obviously hit a nerve. Honestly, I love them dearly, and wish we didn't live in different countries. But today am v frustrated, as have been begging them to come and visit since early march, when I visited them. Short flight, we would pay, lots of room in our house and a baby grandson they haven't seen in three months, but they keep putting it off!

squeaver Tue 14-May-13 11:44:05

I would think it unusual but not weird.

It is, however, the sort of thing my mother would go on and on and on about.

slug Tue 14-May-13 12:09:12

My BF is one of 4 sisters, all childless. The eldest has just been diagnosed with a particularly nasty genetic disease. Amongst the genetic testing that is now going on in the family is the general relief that the sisters don't have any children to have (potentially) passed the disease onto.

wineoclocktimeyet Tue 14-May-13 12:30:03

I think I would wonder (but never presume to ask).

I might think that 1 or more could be gay (not that that precludes having children of course)

halcyondays Tue 14-May-13 12:36:20

i suppose statistically it would be unusual but I wouldn't remark about as it can be a sensitive subject.

aldiwhore Tue 14-May-13 12:39:25

Unusual but nothing 'wrong' with it.

My Godfather has 2 siblings. They are all aged between 60-70 now and all childless. They have a LOT of Godchildren though, are collectively wonderful 'adults of import' to many children, they just never got round to having their own, or rather, chose not to get round to having their own.

The parent part of me sometimes thinks it's a 'shame' because they would all have made such wonderful parents, the God-daughter in me thinks that they've led more a 'life' and I'm glad they didn't have their own... my Godfather is someone I adore, he's my own personal Willy Wonka (that does sound odd lol) and that would have been less had he been 'distracted' by his own brood!

YABU to listen too closely to people who think it in any way 'weird', YABU to think that unusual has sinister conitations (sp), You and your siblings ANBU to not have your ambitions lie in procreation, and your sisters certainly ANBU to actively choose no children at all (and your brother is NBU to remain unknowable).

shoppingbagsundereyes Tue 14-May-13 12:40:59

I would assume they had had crap childhoods or poor sibling relationships if all 4 had chosen to be childless. I wouldn't dream of commenting though, as you never know if people have chosen not to have kids or are unable.

Decoy Tue 14-May-13 12:44:34

No, I wouldn't think anything of it. Statistically there will always be some groups where everyone becomes a parent, and some where no-one does. How unpleasant of people to make assumptions that something negative must be the cause!

Loa Tue 14-May-13 12:54:19

33 -40 - age range.

No I wouldn't think it that odd but then I know a fair few older mothers - older than 40 - and also several GP - my own parents included - who went from no grandchildren over a few years to 3,4 and 5 GC - all coming at once.

If it was late 40 -50s then I'd assume DC weren't on way and then think it was odd - and assume either upbring or genetics but probably wouldn't comment as it would be a bit rude.

Decoy Tue 14-May-13 13:12:03

Why would people have to make any assumptions? Why do people have to try to imagine a "reason" that isn't there, instead of admitting to themselves that they will never know?

Loa Tue 14-May-13 13:26:18

After having a fact pointed out to me - or realising a fact I automatically and without malicious or real conscious thought try and make 'sense' of that fact.

Oh look that tree red not green - hmm must be something to do with chloroform.

Can't or didn't want - usual reasons not to have DC probably apply- on to next thing.

Peevish Tue 14-May-13 13:35:05

Decoy, I think that's precisely what is at issue. Most averagely thoughtful people are aware that sometimes people who want children aren't able to have them, but they think that an entire sibling group not having them rules out infertility, and thus feel able to comment/ speculate and wonder, because it's perceived to be a choice.

And you can see yourself that some people on this thread would think, even if they didn't say, that such a choice suggested a bad childhood -- they may even be right. I was interested people thought that. Though lots of people with appalling childhoods of abuse and neglect have children, too.

I am certainly parenting my own baby very differently to my own upbringing, though.

Peevish Tue 14-May-13 13:37:37

Honestly, it's not something I think about often, I should say. I think I got started today because I was so frustrated with my parents for not apparently wanting to see their only grandson enough to book a cheapie flight, when I have been asking them to come for months...

gindrinker Tue 14-May-13 13:43:33

My whole generation is childless. There are 7 (siblings/cousins etc) aged between 28-40.
None of us have had children.
All been to university, most married or cohabiting.

Phineyj Tue 14-May-13 13:54:40

I don't think it's that unusual, no - the stats for our (your) generation currently are that 25% of women will remain childless, and that seems likely to increase because of the high cost of living, women being more invested in careers, difficulty of having children later etc. So if you combine those trends with one or two siblings not wanting DC or not wanting them if not partnered, I don't think it's that unusual. But it depends hugely on the circles you move in.

I only really noticed how many friends and acquaintances were childless/free when we spent a long time ttc. It cheered me up to think there were many other options out there.

As regards your parents visiting, given what you've said about their timidity, is it possible the idea of a change to routine, especially one involving flying, makes them very nervous?

ComposHat Tue 14-May-13 14:55:47

I didn't have the jolliest of childhoods and as much as I love children, this certaily puts me off or think twice. I worry that I'd make them unhappy or I wouldn't be a good enough parent. My sister is slso childless too, but we've never really discussed the issue.

I wonder if my parents wonder why they are the only one amongst their social circle who arent grandparents yet.

QueenStromba Tue 14-May-13 18:54:05

My sister and I are both childfree and intend to stay that way. I've been sterilised and she would be if she didn't live in Ireland where it's very difficult to get it done.

We had a pretty crappy childhood. My parents were divorced and my mum didn't cope well. I think not having happy childhood memories probably makes it hard to see what the point of having kids is. I'm also a realist who needs about 9 hours sleep a night - a week of 8 hours sleep a night will have me napping most of Saturday.

I also think we might be missing the maternal gene. My maternal grandmother once said that she wouldn't have had kids if she was my age today.

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