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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?

MoominsYonisAreScary Fri 17-May-13 06:59:44

My 3 cousins are all childless and all in their mid to late 40s. I have no idea why and I've never asked, I think that would be rude. They don't have professional careers so it's not for that reason. It could be for medical reasons but I don't think so.

garlicgrump Fri 17-May-13 00:22:20

You're touching on a very strong feminist point there, Mumsy. A woman can hope for the same career opportunities as a man with a wife - if she doesn't have children.

Mumsyblouse Thu 16-May-13 23:59:56

There can be some demographic/class thing going on as well- where I was brought up, it would have been highly unusual for three or four siblings to remain childfree, and people would have openly commented on it, because it was a council estate where people had children young, and quite a few of them. Lots of professional women (and men) choose not to have children, and for a few, time runs out a bit- I have friends who might have been parents had they met earlier in life, but it's just the way it is.

I think over 40% of women (not sure about men?) with professional careers are child-free and so the chances of some of these women being siblings with similar ambitions is probably not as unlikely as it seems.

Scuttlebutter Thu 16-May-13 23:51:15

I would regard any conversation or query about DC or number thereof to be rude and impertinent, unless it was a very close friend.

I'm now 48, very happily married with no DC and my sibling, 45 yr old DB has none either, though he is now in a long term relationship with a woman who has two teenagers from a previous relationship.

louisianablue2000 Thu 16-May-13 23:49:15

I'm one of four and until seven years ago when DB2 had his first my parents had no grandchildren. Mum complained loudly about it! At the time we ranged in age from 26 to 35. So not quite as old as the OP but not far off. There are now 6 in the next generation.

I'm shocked at some of the assumptions people are coming out with, we had a fantastic childhood (idyllic countryside upbringing) and are very close, although separated by miles now. We are highly educated (6 ancient university degrees between us), two of us are single and DB had his first child at the same age Dad was when I was born so maybe there is just a family pattern of having kids later than normal (both my grandmothers and I had children in our late thirties and forties).

From my viewpoint I personally didn't want kids for a long time (and still think that is a very logical choice). Having kids late has worked for us because we live a long way from family but can afford to pay people to fill the 'granny gap' since both our careers are very established. We also can afford to have three, having come from a larger family I was of the view that choosing to have none was fine but if you had kids you needed to have at least three because it is so fab being one of a bigger family, onlies and pairs just don't cut it.

I also think there's an element of doing what everyone around you does, like groups of friends all having kids around the same time. It has been lovely watching our kids play with their cousins, something that wouldn't have been the same if my kids were all older than DBs. While none of us had kids it was easy to pretend we were still teenagers!

Disappearing Thu 16-May-13 23:14:09

I would never comment on something like this, I think it's generally a bit rude to comment on other peoples childbearing, so would leave well alone.

As for thinking about the common cause, I might well ponder this. I remember having a conversation with my brother once years ago, about exactly this. My paternal grandmother was one of ten children, yet my dad has only one cousin (who has no children), and he was an only child, that seemed to me long odds. Basically, of those ten siblings two generations ago, only my brother and I existed as descendants.

HollyBerryBush Thu 16-May-13 23:07:03

my post earlier:

I worked with a bloke who was No2 of 4, two brothers, two sisters, he died in a tragic accident in his late 30's, and his sister has finally got married in her 50's. TBH the vibe I got from all four of them was that they were all completely asexual. I don't know if it was their upbringing, very very monied people, privately educated abroad at boarding school from a young age. Maybe that had something to do with it.

The more I think about it - all 4 were highly academic - children, indeed partners, would have got in their way. All very high achievers.

Sad really, they never had the opportunity to pass their intellect on.

But as I said, all gave the vibe of being asexual, I was surprised when one got married in her 50's.

StarRose Thu 16-May-13 23:01:56

I'm the oldest of 6 siblings and so far there's only my dd. Any cousins are a long, long way off...

Interestingly my sisters and I all struggle with relationships whereas our brothers are in serious long term relationships.

Definitely something in our upbringing I think.

SoftDay Thu 16-May-13 22:49:16

Interesting thread. I am one of four siblings, aged 31 to 40, none of whom is a parent. Two of my siblings, like me, have chosen not to have children, but the youngest, who is getting married next year, is very keen to do so. (The oldies will be thrilled!)

It is very interesting to me that some people might assume we had an unhappy childhood. On the contrary, although otherwise rather unremarkable, I would say a distinguishing collective characteristic of our lot is that we are an extremely close family who all enjoy a very close relationship with both parents. Indeed, I have observed that some - by no means all! - of the people most keen to have children are those with unhappy childhoods and distant relationships with siblings. I suppose there is an element for me of not feeling a "need" to create my own nuclear family as such, because my "original" family provides such great emotional sustenance. I can't speak for my siblings, however. BTW, three of us are married, with the youngest getting wed next year. As I said, interesting thread. smile

Unacceptable Thu 16-May-13 11:32:04

Glad to hear it, love it when things turn out good in the end. Hope you have a lovely visit when they arrive.

You planted a seed though after finding the original question a bit strange and having never wondered why some of the people I know haven't reproduced as yet, I then started thinking about the siblings I know who are childless. Would still never comment on it or ask them about their personal choices unless maybe it was a conversation they instigated.

digerd Thu 16-May-13 10:23:25

My friend who her and DH didn't want DC, was annoyed that other family members had said " But who is going to look after you when you are old?"
She said, " What a selfish reason for having children!"

OwlLady Thu 16-May-13 10:01:31

I don't think sibling between 33 and 40 without children is that odd these days is it?

MiaowTheCat Thu 16-May-13 10:00:22

Why on earth would I judge, assume, question or even bloody notice?! It's none of my business and I probably wouldn't even make the association between you being siblings and all being childless/free unless it was pointed out to me (I tend to be totally oblivious to a lot of stuff). It's none of my business why people do or don't have children, and unless they choose to discuss it with me, I don't make it my business.

And as for the usual offensive assumptions and stereotyping about those with no kids - give it a fucking rest. I'd rather someone who had different priorities acted on those priorities, rather than doing a bad job of slotting a child in where there isn't really a child-shaped space and screwing them up... plus, I went through years of not having kids for various reasons - I didn't undergo some massive personality change when I had them, I didn't suddenly become worthy and saintlike - I'm the same person I was, just with others to consider - having kids is NO one-way ticket to being a good person and choosing not to is no one-way ticket to not. It's really offensive to see these assumptions trotted out and it's fucking hurtful to those who can't have kids to constantly be lumped into that category - yes when we had no kids we spent money on holidays and gadgets - why the fuck wouldn't we? Had nowt else to spend it on really.

Never ceases to amaze me how the world loves to judge and pry into people's reproductive plans. Had one - why aren't you having a second? Had two - oh are you going to try again to collect both sexes? Had three - I guess you'll be done now? Had four - never heard of contraception? Had none - oh are you having problems? oh I guess some people just are too selfish to have kids?

melika Thu 16-May-13 09:28:25

Out of us five kids, only one brother did not have kids.

I often wanted to ask why, but didn't. I'm still devastated, he died 2 years ago suddenly and i often think what a wonderful dad he would of been. He was also very handsome. He had plenty of women in his life. Was it choice or medical, I will never know.

Jan49 Wed 15-May-13 13:19:18

Yes, like PanickingIdiot says, it's unusual for there to be 4 siblings in a family. In my family history you'd have to go back to the 1890s to find a couple producing 4+ children. In England, the average family has been closer to 2 children for many decades.

PanickingIdiot Wed 15-May-13 12:41:15

I think the only unusual thing in this is for a 40-year old to have three siblings. I'm 35 and most of my peers are only children or have one sibling tops.

Joking aside: the age range you've given (33-40) means that most likely all four of them are still fertile, so all of them may choose to have children later on in life. Not to mention adopt, or have a partner who has children from a previous relationship etc. It's too early to tell whether they've made this decision consciously or if it just hasn't happened yet. Wait until they are in their fifties.

digerd Wed 15-May-13 11:02:55

My 2 neighbours are now in their 80s. Both lost DHs in their 40s and neither had DC nor married again.
One wanted DC but DH didn't, and she was an only DC and so was he.

The other had 4 DB and not one had DC. I found that unusual, which it is.

A friend was an only DC and she and her DH didn't want DC. He did have siblings.

Peevish Wed 15-May-13 10:37:30

Just catching up on the thread now.

TigOldBitties, gosh, that was -- honest! Fair enough, I asked for responses, but in return, I find your assumptions about childless/child free people perplexing. Do you really think people without children are more likely to be spoilt and selfish? I assure you that, having been childless for 39 years, I am as selfish/unselfish as I ever was before having DS! I had him because I wanted to, not as a selfless act of giving back to the universe or something. Lack of sleep and prioritising his welfare doesn't make me a better person, it just makes me a parent. Environmentally, not having a child would have been more unselfish. And again, perhaps because I was child free myself for so long, I have no difficulty whatsoever seeing why people choose not to reproduce-- surely it's not that mysterious? Do you really not know anyone without children or stepchildren? That strikes me as pretty unusual.

Unacceptable, parents have now booked flight after I blew up at them!

MrsMook Wed 15-May-13 07:57:56

i'd have assumed between a lot of siblings that it was a lifestyle choice e.g. Low priority compared to universtity and career.

DH's family amuse me. He's one of 5. They all have two each. All have a boy first. The Brothers all have a second boy. The sisters all have a girl second. It makes me want to have a 3rd child so we don't conform to their neat little pattern!

Mrsrobertduvall Wed 15-May-13 07:03:38

Dh has eight siblings, aged between 57 and 40.....five of them do not have children. One has never had a relationship at all.

Dh said his childhood was not grim, but there was little attention paid to him especially, and he struggled to have an adult relationship with his parents, especially his mother. He is closer to PIL since she died.

I have 2 dcs, and would not be bothered if they chose not to have children. I know people who don't, simply because they didn't met the right person till their forties. I never particularly wanted children either...I didn't marry till 35.

WafflyVersatile Wed 15-May-13 04:49:50

Until s few years ago none of us 4 siblings had kids. The youngest was 37. The shortest relationship 8 years. from a stable home. Now 3 siblings do have kids. I do think it was unusual but whatever.

Unacceptable Wed 15-May-13 04:48:01

I suppose I might wonder a little bit Peevish

Not having a wildly happy upbringing, pursuing academia and not being particularly close would say to me that all four adults found the things some find within families elsewhere.

When I think of Siblings I think of fun and games, support found from them, battles with them (playful or otherwise) and some shared interests/experiences. I always wanted a child and hoped for more than one because I was fortunate enough to have siblings who became friends. Some people get on fine with their families but don't have a particular closeness that they then want to recreate as adults.

TBH I find your parents seemingly not in a rush to meet their Grandchild more comment worthy than you, your brother and sisters not having children. Have they given any indication as to why?

HullMum Wed 15-May-13 03:36:16

it is unusual. But no, I would never comment on anyone's breeding choices! how rude is that? shock I would assume there were personal or medical reasons and certainly not see it as my business to pry

garlicyoni Wed 15-May-13 03:03:37

... I struggle with it as a life choice

One of my sibs & partner decided - very carefully - to have a lot of wonderful holidays instead of children. They have done, and continue to!

I wondered whether you would struggle less with the idea, when given a concrete example of a couple who made it, precisely, as a life choice?

They've had more than four holidays every year, often to far-flung destinations and always in comfort. They travel independently so they can put their ideal trip together. They're due to retire (early option) very soon, and will spend the first two years buzzing around the world while considering what to do next smile

NapaCab Wed 15-May-13 02:57:48

My family is like that: I have three siblings, all past 40, and I'm the only one with children. People do find it odd and often ask me if I'm an only child because I never talk about cousins for my DC or anything.

I find it a little sad, particularly for my DC, but more because my siblings are all single as well and have never really managed to fly the nest emotionally so that is the strange part for me, rather than people being childless by choice.

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