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Child-free Thriving After 50

No Grandkids Required: Child-free Couples Thriving after 50

Deb Hipp

There was a time when people expected newlyweds to soon add at least one or two babies to the family. Over the years, however, societal expectations for couples has eased, creating greater leeway with one of the biggest decisions of their lives — whether to become parents or remain child-free.

Nowadays, child-free couples in their 20s or 30s undoubtedly enjoy more freedom. They typically have more time and money than their friends who are parents of young children. But what is life like now for couples over 50 who haven’t had kids, whether by choice or by chance?

Are couples missing out when they have no grandchildren to take to the zoo or graduations to attend? Don’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion.

These child-free couples say that not having children or grandchildren hasn’t impeded their nurturing nature, marital happiness or ability to lead fulfilling lives.

Child-free Couples Often Misunderstood

Child-free Couples Travel

Holly (59) and Gary (62) Wolf of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, still field questions from people unsure of what to say after learning that the couple doesn’t have children.

When the couple was younger, the comment was, “No kids yet?” Later, remarks turned to “No kids? You’d better get working on it.” Now, even as the couple nears retirement age, they still receive inquiries. People ask, “No grandkids?” after learning that the couple never had children. “I simply say we have no kids — so, no grandchildren,” says Holly.

Holly and Gary, who’ve been married for 33 years, were open to having children but left pregnancy up to fate. “We decided, if it happens, okay. If it doesn’t, we’re okay with that, too,” says Holly.

Having kids was not in the cards for Holly and Gary, but they’ve never minded being child-free. The couple has many friends who invite them to be part of their own children’s lives. They enjoy participating in prom night send-offs, music recitals and holiday and birthday celebrations.

Without the responsibilities and expenses that come with having children, Holly and Gary have traveled extensively. They’ve taken vacations to several U.S. national parks and trips to Australia, New Zealand, Russia and China. The couple was also able to start saving for retirement sooner than many of their friends with kids.

No Kids? No Regrets

Holly and Gary have no regrets about not having children, they say. That doesn’t mean they haven’t encountered some judgment from other people along the way, though. One year, a coworker protested when Holly took extra time off during the holidays because Holly didn’t have kids.

“Because you have no children, people assume you have no family,” says Holly, who enjoys spending time with her parents and relatives as much as anyone with kids. “We have great family celebrations, and they’re very important to me.”

Meanwhile, Holly and Gary get to enjoy their friends’ families too, including getting to know their children.

“The stereotype that people without children are selfish, self-centered, greedy and don’t like kids is untrue,” says Holly. “We are blessed to have friends and family who’ve invited us to be part of milestone moments of their children’s lives, and that has been a wonderful experience for us.”

More Time to Help Others

More Time to Help Others

When Jen Hutchinson was in middle school, she watched a television cartoon one afternoon that made a powerful impact. As animated images and digits demonstrating over-population popped up on a worldwide map on the screen, Jen took note.

“That always stuck with me,” says Jen, 50, who lives in San Diego, California, with her husband Chris Boucher, 58. Chris has two older children from a previous relationship, and the couple, who’ve been together for 12 years, both knew they didn’t want children.

“Our decision was based on the fact that there are so many kids out there who need parental figures,” says Jen. She and Chris have mentored nearly 20 children over the last ten years, an experience stemming from a chance meeting with a family living in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Chris, who lived with Jen in L.A. at the time, met the family when he and another church member delivered groceries to them. Before long, Chris was taking the kids on outings to the beach. “I want you to meet this family,” Chris told Jen.

When the couple pulled up to the home, six kids emerged, curious about the new face in Chris’s car. “We all went to McDonald’s,” says Jen. “Later, I started doing beach days with the kids, and I just fell in love.”

Jen and Chris unofficially “adopted” the family, along with extended family members. They’ve helped pay for school and sports supplies, summer camp and medical costs over the years. They formed strong bonds with the kids, mentoring and encouraging them to pursue goals.

Making Meaningful Connections

“Finding the people you need — and who need you — might not look like what you expected,” says Jen. “They might be in a different zip code. They might not be your actual kids. But why shouldn’t more children and more people be secure in this world? It’s only going to help.”

One of the girls in the family is now a senior in college, majoring in social work. “She will be the first in her family to graduate from college,” says Jen, who occasionally wondered whether she made the right decision not to have kids but ultimately found fulfillment as a positive role model and friend.

“We spent last weekend together, and she told me she would not have made it through college without me, that I was the phone call that mattered,” says Jen. “And that’s because I had the space in my life to be her cheerleader and mentor.”

Child-free and Loving Life

Child-free and Loving Life

Paige Arnof-Fenn (54) and George Fenn (61), of Cambridge, Massachusetts, never wanted children and have always been happy with their choice. “We are a two-entrepreneur, no-pet, no plant, no-kid family,” says Paige. She and George have always loved traveling and enjoy the freedom of no parental obligations to tie them down.

For example, the couple, married for 28 years, wasn’t limited to traveling only on spring breaks or during summer months. Instead, they often vacationed during off-peak times, paying lower airfares and hotel costs.

Even though the couple’s decision not to have children wasn’t based on finances, they’ve always enjoyed more disposable income, having never incurred the expense — around $233,000 to raise a child through age 17, according to the United States Department of Agriculture — of having children.

Over the years, Paige and George have taken nieces, nephews and godchildren to Europe, paid one private school and one college tuition, and hosted a nephew’s wedding. Meanwhile, they could move to new cities for job opportunities, never having to consider uprooting kids from their friends or locating a new school.

“I’ve never wished I had a child, so I know I made the right decision,” says Paige. “I love being an aunt and godmother, spending time together and then sending them home. I never wanted kids and never even expected to get married, so I am incredibly fortunate to have such a fulfilling life that’s filled with love.”

No Mom Genes Required

Just as parenthood can be a fulfilling experience, so can being child-free, especially when you have more time and energy to contribute to the lives of others. Besides, loving and caring about another person doesn’t require that you share the same DNA or last name.

“It’s a myth that if you don’t have your own children, a biological connection is the only way you can truly experience motherhood,” says Jen. “Helping other people can be just as fulfilling and equally as important, if not critical, to their lives.”

Are you part of a 50+ couple that doesn’t have kids or a younger couple who don’t plan to have children? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

21 Responses to "No Grandkids Required: Child-free Couples Thriving after 50"
    • Lisette Schuitemaker | July 28, 2020 at 11:04 am

      Having a family was very much expected of me but my father’s life appealed to me much more than my mother’s. Now at 65, I am proud of having walked my own path which I have shared for the past 26 years with my partner who had a vasectomy in his early 30’s as he wished to concentrate on making art instead of babies. I love my life and have written a book about the growing awareness that having a family is not for everyone and what fulfilling lives many people lead who have chosen to create rather than procreate, to develop themselves and to be there for other people’s children. It’s a good, good life. With love from Amsterdam

    • Bob | August 13, 2020 at 6:38 pm

      Anyone man who had found a woman who didn’t want kids and grandkids is lucky indeed. Also one who doesn’t see the need for marriage if not religious. I may be alone, but that is way better than being in a mismatched relationship. I get to do what i want, go where i want, when i want.

    • Sonna | August 14, 2020 at 4:51 pm

      Not having children has opened up other ways of giving to others. My husband of thirty years and I are also only children. Stephen is 72 and I am 65. We volunteer with an international ministry to find donors to support children thru school in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal and Africa. We have travelled extensively, and been able to more readily share our means with others in need. We have a very contented and full life.

    • Jack n Jill | August 14, 2020 at 8:10 pm

      No kids here but wonder about being old with no family to care for us and no one to leave it to but charity. Other than that its a but lonely but trying.

      • nicki coker | May 8, 2021 at 12:12 am

        Sorry, I am new to this thread. I turned 50 this year and my husband and I have no children. I would love to be your friend as we get older. We have family here that might help us as we age but they all have kids and I wonder how lonely it will get.

      • Caron Shultz | June 27, 2021 at 6:03 pm

        My husband and I have no children. He has a son from a previous marriage. I’m 54 and he’s 62. I’m often very lonely and would have loved to have children. I love spending time with nieces and nephews but they have grown and have their own lives now. My husband is retiring this year so it would be great to have friends to travel and swap stories. 🙂

    • Guy | August 15, 2020 at 4:53 pm

      My wife and I are both the oldest kids from our respective families. I have a sister and she has 3 brothers and a sister who is 14 years younger. She spent a considerable amount of time taking care of her siblings so her Mom could work. Then she became a school teacher and was taking care of kids again. Expectations for grandchildren from both families were high. Before we got married we had talked a fair amount about future plans. Yes, we had fully expected to follow the 2 kids, dog and a house with a picket fence approach. Plans change. Career paths change and my wife opted out of teaching to pursue a career in law. Before taking that step we had several discussions on the timing of her going back to school and starting a job in the legal field. We realized if we wanted to start a family we would likely be in our mid to late 30s before starting and if we did it would require a disruption in her career path. We opted to be “selfish” as some have said, but it was the best decision and we’ve never regretted it. We’ve traveled, spoiled the 4-footed critters in our life, enjoyed our nieces and nephews and now some of their kids and we retired early to spoil ourselves as a reward for our hard work. We’ve been able to relocate to the other side of the country with no worries of missing our kids or grandchildren. We’ve made many new friends and have gone back to school for enjoyment and to keep ourselves sharp. In a way we’ve been very lucky as this pandemic disrupts the world. Both sets of our parents are gone so there’s no worry over them. And no worry about kid’s/grandchildren’s health or how they will survive this challenging period. Will there be issues as we age and become less independent? Probably. But questions like that give us the opportunity to study and prepare for that next phase of life and we will not be burdens to offspring. We’ve been married 47 years and have known each other for 10 years prior to marriage. Having a caring partner in a childless journey is important. We’ve been very fortunate.

    • Craig | August 15, 2020 at 7:08 pm

      The comment on being selfish & greedy can be considered hurtful & demeaning in a way, some of us really had no choices for lack of a willing partner. Then there was always the guilt bestowed upon me by others that my parents never became grandparents, though this came from others & not them.

      As long as I remember I’m asked to work longer hours, & extra as I don’t have family obligations. My last real vacation was in 2004. I never travel anymore aside of employment. How many would actually travel alone?

      As of now I have found I have so little in common with my peers to share in conversations and even develop friendships.

      How about an article for those of us who not only don’t have children but are truly alone in life?

      • Lex | February 3, 2021 at 6:42 am

        Hi Craig,
        I am currently pondering on the whole idea of having children or not. My partner is no longer able to conceive naturally so it would require a heavy process. A big part of my questioning is linked with the idea of being alone in the future, as you are describing. However, I thought to reach out with regards to your comments about travelling. I honestly highly recommend travelling alone. I have done it in several long trips through central America, South East Asia and parts of Europe and I cannot recommend it enough. It opens the doors to talk to a wide variety of people that you wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to talk to if you travelled with someone (and indeed travelling alone was how I met my now husband in a hostel so you never know what it might hold in store for you!) I cannot recommend it highly enough. And for some inspiration, I recommend the book ‘Tales of a female nomad’… A great read about a single older lady who decided to travel the world alone after her divorce…

        I wish you the best of luck.

    • Carol Mukhopadhyay | August 15, 2020 at 9:00 pm

      We chose not to have children for many reasons. Perhaps the most important is over-population. The world does NOT need more children. We should add to the planet only if we truly are willing and able to invest the emotional, time, and material resources required to produce a healthy, happy, productive human being. We nurture our “nurturing” instincts in other ways, include my being an educator for 40+ years. When we die, our savings will go to charities rather than to offspring. After 50 years of marriage, we have no regrets! The word “selfish” hardly applies to us!

    • prakash | August 17, 2020 at 11:23 am

      Yes that is great but the genetic and a family tree drive still pushes the urge. Their are pros and cons, but having raised 5, and worked with hundreds its a better feeling that you have made an difference in the lives of so many.

    • Audrina | November 22, 2020 at 1:09 pm

      I’m 57 and have never regretted not having children. As a child I realized myself that I didn’t want them and never changed my mind. I’m happily married, had a good career and retired early. I think it’s very old-fashioned to call people ‘selfish’ who don’t want children. Throughout history there has always been smaller or larger chunks of the population who don’t reproduce and our world today is shifting almost to suggesting that those who have too many children are ‘selfish’ themselves. I wish people would stop talking about who will look after them when they’re old. Did you really only have children as an insurance policy to make sure you’re taken care of? How selfish. Plus some families are estranged and live a long way away from each other. Another thing that annoys me is that, sometimes, the childfree feel at pains to emphasise how they love spending time with nieces, nephews and other people’s children – as if they have to try and reassure society (whoever that is) that they’re okay as a person really. Stop apologising and explaining and don’t feel you have to say that if it’s not true. I don’t like spending time with other people’s children. I like spending my time with nieces and nephews a lot more now they are older but that doesn’t happen often as my family is scattered about the country. That’s all fine by me. Also, I really haven’t had the vitriol thrown at me that the media and others seem to suggest is par for the course. The public may be far kinder, intelligent and forward-thinking than you think. No-one’s criticized me for my choice and I’d have something to say if they did.

    • Pat | December 10, 2020 at 5:00 pm

      Audrina..really great comments.
      I like this part: ” Another thing that annoys me is that, sometimes, the childfree feel at pains to emphasise how they love spending time with nieces, nephews and other people’s children – as if they have to try and reassure society (whoever that is) that they’re okay as a person really. Stop apologising and explaining and don’t feel you have to say that if it’s not true.”

      It’s so true.

      It’s so great to read about how different people express their views in being child free.

      I wish there were a “forum ” to share more encouraging thoughts on the subject!

    • Audrina | December 12, 2020 at 9:27 am

      Thanks Pat. That’s very nice of you. I think there are forums out there where you can share your thoughts on the subject. I can’t think of specifics but Facebook has a group for the child-free, and if you Google ‘child-free’ or something along those lines, you should find some forums / discussion groups of people leaving comments at the end of articles.

    • Sean | March 15, 2021 at 9:04 pm

      It is a hard decision either way but for me and my spouse it is our decision and our decision alone. My wife is going on 37 and I am 40. I personally never had a great desire to have one and my wife dies not either. I spoil the hell out of my niece and nephews though.

      • Pat | March 18, 2021 at 9:50 am

        Thanks. I’ll keep checking and reading.

      • Pat | March 18, 2021 at 9:54 am

        I agree. Mine is 38 and I’m 39. I thought with time we were going to crave for them as we were told. 10 years have gone by. It feels now natural to be child – free and it feels great to spoil nieces and nephews. You’re just right

    • Ruth Garcin | April 29, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      I came from a big chaotic family with a rage-aholic father I knew at 10 years old that I did not want kids. Didn’t look like any fun to me. When I was married, my mother shockingly called me selfish. To me, it has nothing to do with being selfish, just a life choice. My choice.

      • Sean Martin | May 3, 2021 at 3:36 pm

        We often do things to please others and not rock the boat. You have to draw the line somewhere.

    • Joe Swanson | June 7, 2021 at 7:51 pm

      I thought the same at one time. Then my wife and I got married and had kids. This happened in our 40’s and 50’s. And you know, having children makes you feel human. So go have kids. Or adopt. But have them. Don’t have furbabies. These are creatures and not people.

    • Eve | July 19, 2021 at 11:32 pm

      I’m 31 and childfree. I cannot find any partner in my area who is also childfree-minded.

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