Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I am 37 and my boyfriend is 42. We have been together several years and have a really happy life together. We both have good jobs and are able to spend a lot of time off doing fun things, like camping and traveling around the U.S. and to other countries. One reason we have this freedom is because we don't want children. Having kids is never something I wanted. I was thrilled to find out he was on the same page. We aren't decided on marriage and for now we are really happy.
The problem is the constant questions we get not just from our friends and coworkers but even from strangers we meet while traveling. When they find out we've been together four years -- and find out or guess our ages -- they jump on us. Why aren't we married? Don't we want kids? What are we waiting for? They say things like, "You'll change your mind about kids," or, "if you don't have kids, you'll regret it." When he's not around, people have said things like, "He'll never marry you unless you make him."
Why can't people mind their business, and why do they ask such personal questions? Any advice on how to respond to all them?
-- Thrilled to be kidless
My personal belief is proselytizing parents are operating from one of two energy sources: all-consuming love or exhaustion-induced insanity. They're either so tired from or so enamored with their baby or babies that it's all they can do to urge the world to join the procreation pack. This is important to remember when starry-eyed mommy friend is bemoaning your childless state or assuring you that you'll "come around." She isn't doing it because she's a meanie or even necessarily judgmental. She just wants you to be as completely happy as she is, or she's so tired she can't think straight. Either way, she can't stand the idea that you'll miss out on the amazing unique incredible experience of parenting.
The truth is, people without kids do miss out -- on kids. But doors open to entirely different experiences that might not otherwise be available. You'll likely enjoy more disposable income, mobility and freedom. Your relationship will be 100 percent about each other, and not divided by the extended family you make. Also, there are plenty of ways for adults to have meaningful interaction with children through volunteering, mentoring and bonding with extended family and friends' children.
Now for the marriage question. You sound a bit more open-minded to that commitment but equally resentful of outsiders passing judgment or offering unsolicited advice. Keep blocking them out. Your relationship is your own and every one moves at its own pace. Some people marry fast and others go years without needing a government contract to legitimize their love. Do what feels right, keep the communication open with your partner, and follow your own path.
You have a great relationship with your partner. Stability at home and the workplace. A life packed with travel and adventure. Hmmm ... Yeah, what the heck is wrong with you guys? When are you going to blow up your life and be like everyone else -- stressed out, maxed out and running low on time, energy and money?
Look, people can be annoying, even the ones you love. And especially when they think they have the whole life thing figured out and have your best interests at heart. Sometimes to maintain peace with them, you just have to let them tell you how to run your life. Doesn't mean they're right. Doesn't mean you have to flip your life upside-down to appease them. And heck, it doesn't mean you even have to listen to them. I often drift when my mom talks to me about politics, my siblings, the fact that I am unmarried without kids, or her garden. Just smile, nod and daydream about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez having a dance party with Jay-Z and Beyonce.
If the noise and chatter ever gets too loud with your well-intentioned, overstepping friends and family, rejoice -- you have the financial freedom to book a trip to a beach far, far away from them to have your own little dance party!
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.