“So when are you guys going to have kids?”
Someone asked me this question at my wedding reception. Let that sink in. I’ve been asked a variation of this question at least once a month for the past seven years. I wish I was exaggerating, but if you’ve been married any length of time and find yourself without children, you’ve probably been asked the same.
My husband and I are unusual in our group of friends and community. We are the exception, not the norm. Married for seven years and no children? People assume infertility or some other struggle. Others ask if we just don’t want children. Many think we’re unique (or even strange) for waiting this long.
We would love to have children, and one day I think we will if the Lord allows. We are passionate about orphan care, we love our nieces and nephews, and we hope to have a family made of a mix of biological, adopted, and fostered children in our home. Children of all ages adore my husband. It’s endearing and makes me excited to see him become a father one day.
As For Today
But for today, almost in year seven of marriage, it’s just the two of us and a dog we spoil as if it’s her last week on earth every week. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past seven years in a way I can barely describe. Our marriage has grown exponentially. We’ve grown in our faith and our communication. And we’ve been able to serve our people well through the flexibility and freedom that comes with this season.
We are not experiencing infertility. Quite honestly, this has been a choice we made intentionally with open hands, knowing the Lord could change our course at any point. But we’ve also seen friends walk through prolonged infertility, multiple miscarriages, and suffered the intense grief of loss. I’ve held their hands as they wept and brought meals as they recovered. I have prayed for the Lord to open their wombs and bring new life into their homes.
So I want to be sensitive to those of you who may be reading this and think, “But I do want children now and don’t have them.”
How can we respond to this often well-meaning but very personal question? How can we use this season of our lives to love others, glorify God, and not grow bitter? Is it possible to be content even when you are in a season that seems unusually long?
I believe this season is a gift! Even if it’s one you didn’t ask for. Here are some ways to joyfully steward a season of marriage without children, whether for a few years or forever:
Embrace friendship with couples who have children.
When some of our closest friends became parents, we felt frustrated that their flexibility was limited. No longer could we swing by and pick them up for an impromptu dinner because their newborn son needed to be in bed by a certain time. But instead of giving up on that friendship, we made an intentional choice to lean in close.
We started showing up with coffee in hand and offered to babysit for free so they could have a date night. We got down on the floor and played with their son as he grew. When they took him to a doctor’s visit, we asked how it went (and we actually listened and cared about the answer!).
In this transition, we embraced the change as an opportunity to love and serve those friends. We chose to become their village. Instead of being frustrated by our different life stages, we decided to show up with energy and a willingness to help after they experienced sleepless nights.
Now, two and a half years into this process, we see these friends as family. Their son adores my husband in a way that makes me almost want to cry. We learn from them as they parent with grace and patience. And we’ve created a bond that will last, no matter the season.
Don’t avoid couples with children because you think you have nothing in common. Sometimes you may have conversations where you don’t feel you have much to contribute, but you can be a good listener. Encourage your friends when you see them becoming overwhelmed. Ask intentional questions that you can store up for later in life. Just be a good friend, even if it looks different than before.
Be someone’s village.
We have a handful of young couple friends who do not have family nearby, and many who work in ministry. This means babysitting is hard to come by last-minute and is often too expensive on a ministry budget. So we’ve made a rule that we will babysit for free whenever they need us to. We see it as a way to serve and be their family since their actual families are states away.
This ministry is fairly simple because all it requires is time. It’s a good experience for me and my husband as we get to see a bit into the process of parenthood behind-the-scenes. We believe that allowing our friends to invest in their marriages is a worthwhile use of our time! Sometimes we are aren’t able, but we try to say yes any time they ask.
If you have the flexibility to be available during the day, consider offering to watch the kids during naptime so mom can get out and run errands. Ask if she would rather have time to rest, nap, or visit, then show up with coffee and a smile. I pray that the Lord will provide a village for us one day, but I know that today I can choose to be that for someone else.
Store up wisdom in your basket.
A mentor of mine has encouraged me to store up wisdom in my “basket” for a future season. This applies to every season, not just in matters of parenting. When you’re single, longing for a relationship, store up wisdom from the friends who are dating. When you’re dating and long to be married, tuck those truths from married friends inside your basket to call upon one day.
It can be tempting to avoid conversations when we feel we can’t relate or don’t have much to offer. But having a natural curiosity and a genuine interest in others can be one of the most fruitful and productive ways to spend our time in the seasons we hope are just temporary. Tuck those truths and bits of wisdom inside your basket to call upon in a later season. Don’t ignore the things you can’t use today.
Remember good for them is not bad for you.
I know some friends who would find the first few tips I’ve offered here very difficult because of the pain that comes with the reminder that they do not yet have the thing they long for. Surrounding ourselves with people who have what we want is a selfless process. But I believe it can be done when we embrace this truth: good for her is not bad for me.
God has enough goodness to go around. Just because someone has the thing I long for today does not mean that I will never have said thing, or that His goodness has reached its limit. He is good—all the time, in all things—and His character does not change based on our circumstances. I can rejoice for my sister today even as I prayerfully wait for God’s provision in my own life.
When you feel resentment or pain rising up in your heart, pray. Pray for your heart to find contentment in Christ. Pray for your friend, because it’s hard to be bitter toward someone when we are asking God to bless her. Pray for the other friends out there who are also in seasons of waiting. Pray for opportunities to come alongside them and share encouragement and truth from God’s Word. Hide truth in your heart to preach the reality of God’s goodness and provision when your feelings threaten to steal your joy. Believe that God is good to you even when you don’t see the desired answer to the prayers you are praying.
Tend to the garden in which you’ve been planted.
What I mean by this is do the heart-work of tending to the weeds or thorns that are choking out your joy. If you find that scrolling through social media and seeing strangers on the internet receiving the things you want hurts your heart, then stop looking. There’s a difference in embracing relationship with people in different seasons and scrolling aimlessly with a jealous heart. If you find yourself frustrated by the scroll, give it up for a while.
If you are struggling to see the joy of your current season, make a list of the positives and opportunities this season affords. Then praise the Lord for them. Surrender any thoughts of bitterness, frustration, or jealousy and ask the Holy Spirit to foster joy and contentment in their place.
Spend time with people in your same season and talk openly about your struggles. While it is important not to seclude ourselves from those in other stages of life, it is also good to spend time with kindred spirits who understand where we are coming from. Share about the hardships, but encourage each other with the positives.
What Does This Entail?
For my husband and me, this looks like scheduling dinner and dessert with another couple who doesn’t have kids and enjoying the flexibility and quiet conversation. It has also looked like participating in a small group of other women who don’t have children yet and studying the Bible together. Those simple moments remind us that there are some sweet benefits to the “not yet” we’re walking through.
Friend, the Lord is with you today. His presence is not reserved for the future. God is gracious and kind in all His works and He is not withholding good from you just because you have to wait awhile. His timing is perfect, for our good and His glory.
When people ask you questions about your future, you can smile with a calm heart. You can share with them you are just enjoying today, living in the blessings God has poured out, and trusting Him with the future. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24, emphasis added).