What to Do if You Regret Not Having Children

Older couple sitting next to a young family

Verywell / Catherine Song

Whether you made a conscious decision to remain childless, or it was foisted on you by circumstances outside of your control, it is natural to sometimes regret not having children. In fact, almost every non-parent has wondered if they should have had children—especially as they age. So, if you find that being childless is something you're struggling with, here are some suggestions to help you make your situation regret-free.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

It's normal to have regrets. In fact, every person looks back on their life and regrets something. The key is deciding how you are going to deal with those regrets. Even though you may not be able to completely change your situation, how you respond to your circumstances is what's really important.

First, recognize how you're feeling and be truthful with yourself—especially if you long for a different situation. But, recognize that you cannot stay there. In other words, you cannot let being childless define you. You have so much more to offer the world than just being a parent and the sooner you realize that the better off you will be.

For some people though, this is easier said than done. So, if you find that your regrets are pulling you down, or if you are struggling with depression or loneliness, reach out for help. Finding a therapist or counselor to help you sort through your feelings is important to moving forward in a healthy way.

Examine Your Regrets

When it comes to not having children, it's helpful to explore what it is that you actually regret. For instance, ask yourself if you truly miss not having kids in your life, or is it the idea of having kids that you really miss? In other words, do you find yourself longing for children in your life every day, or do you only get little pangs of regret at baby showers, wedding showers, and bar mitzvahs when you realize that these are experiences you may never have?

When you really think about it, you may realize that you're actually missing a romanticized idea of parenthood rather than the actual experience itself.

Sometimes people regret not having children because they believe that having a child would somehow make them feel complete. But, it's important to let go of this idea of completeness. Believing that a child will make you or your life feel complete is not a healthy expectation. You should never look to another human being to make you feel whole.

Embrace Your Situation

There is no doubt that there is a lot of freedom that comes from not having children that parents often miss out on. For instance, parents can rarely do things spontaneously and are often tied to specific—and sometimes child-centered—schedules. What's more, their primary social circles often consist of playdates and Mommy and Me-type groups.

You, on the other hand, may have more freedom to travel, sleep late on the weekends, join co-workers for a drink, catch up on Netflix, or any number of things that may help you feel fulfilled. You can operate on your own schedule, with fewer demands on your time than the average parent.

Sure, you may feel a little twinge of longing to be a parent, but if your situation is one that you cannot change, it is important to look for the positives in your life rather than dwelling on a situation that you cannot control. Start by making a list of the things in your life that you are truly thankful for. You might be surprised at how amazing your life already is.

Recognize That You're Not Alone

Sometimes it can feel like you are the only one without kids—especially if everyone in your friend circle has kids. But, it's important to realize that this is not the reality. In fact, there are plenty of people in the world who do not have children, many of whom have chosen to remain childless.

In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, nearly half of all women between the ages of 15 and 44 did not have children in 2014. This number is up from 46.5% in 2012 to 47.6% in 2014. This figure is the highest it has been since 1976. These numbers reflect a growing number of people who are living their lives without kids. What's more, the stigma surrounding not having kids is decreasing.

However, if you're feeling like the only person without a child or two, it's important to broaden your circle of friends. For instance, invite women from work who are in a similar situation to hang out after work. Even your divorced friends who have co-parenting arrangements will find themselves with extra free time.

The key is not to force yourself to only hang out with your friends who are parents, but to broaden your circle of friends to include people who can relate to your experiences. You will experience much less regret if you can share your feelings openly with other people.

Explore Your Options

If you truly feel like your life is missing something without children, you might want to explore your options. There are plenty of ways to fill your life with kids. Aside from babysitting your best friend's kids or your nieces and nephews, you could look into mentoring programs like Big Brother Big Sister. You also could volunteer at a local community center, assist with tutoring, or coach a sport. Or, you might even look into volunteering in your church's nursery.

And, if you think you might like something more permanent, you can explore fertility treatments. Depending on your situation, it could be possible to pursue in vitro fertilization with an egg donor or surrogate. If you are single, you could consider planned co-parenting or using a sperm donor.

Another option is becoming a foster parent or adopting. There are millions of kids in the United States alone looking for a loving family. So, if you really do regret not having kids in your life and you want to change that, there are a lot of options open to you. Never feel like what is done is done. There is always room to make a change.

A Word From Verywell

As hard as it might be to deal with the regret of not having children, it's important to realize that you still have a lot to offer the world even without children. After all, giving life to someone is about more than just giving birth.

It's about speaking into people's lives in meaningful and significant ways and you do not have to be a parent to do that. So, step back and take a good hard look at your life. Most likely you have given just as much, if not more, to the people around you than you ever could have as a parent.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • United States Census Bureau. Data. Updated December 30, 2019.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.