When I was in my mid twenties I don’t think I had a single friend with kids, but that’s all changed now that I’m closer to forty than thirty. Today the vast majority of my friends have kids, but not all of them. I’ve still got a good number of friends without kids, and most of them are just fine with that.

There’s a lot of pressure to have kids the older you get. I was talking to a female friend the other day who joked that she dreads going to her annual check-up because her doctor always insists on giving her a speech about how her prime child bearing days are quickly dwindling. That doctor isn’t the only one bugging her and my other childless friends. Parents, relatives, friends – even little old ladies in line at the super market – give them grief about not having kids. They lay on the pressure pretty thick, too, warning them that they’ll regret not having kids, that the meaning of life can only be discovered through parenting, that kids crap diamonds, etc.

All of this pressure saddens me because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not having kids. I always tell my friends they shouldn’t feel pressured into having kids because raising kids is an incredibly difficult job even for those of us who were 100% certain we wanted it. I love my girls more than anything, but I still get frustrated from time to time with the lack of sleep, dirty diapers, endless games of pretend, Nickelodeon cartoons, tantrums at the supermarket, limited free time, rare date nights… you name it. If parenting can be this overwhelming for those of us who wanted the job, what will it be like for those who are lukewarm on the idea?

I often hear people say things like, “Once you have kids you’ll be so happy you did. You won’t regret it!” But what if someone gets pressured into having kids and does regret it? What a crappy situation – for both the parents and the child.

Most of the pressure to have kids comes from people with kids; people who can’t imagine that any life other than their own has value. They’re wrong, of course. Not having children allows time for personal development, nurturing relationships (with partners, friends, nieces, nephews, etc.), developing a career, philanthropy, and a million other great things that, if we’re being honest with ourselves, many parents wish they had more time for in their lives.

Personally, I think it’s awesome that people stand by what they believe and live the life they want in the face of such pressure. And while most people don’t mean any harm when they sing the praises of having children to the childless, they probably should think twice. After all, it’s not like recommending a restaurant… it’s recommending something totally life changing.