Is it worse to be an older single or a childless couple?

old loner single guyPeople think that once you get married, the shunning stops, that suddenly you’ve finally arrived into the Jewish community as a full fledged member, but you haven’t. In fact, some may say that you’re better off staying single than marrying at such an age where it’s likely that you will be the token childless couple of your community. The childless couple is shunned, people speculate, talk loshon horah about them and pity them, but it just so happens to be that the frum community has no place for them. As a single you may look at the community with dismay because it only works if you’re married, but once you’re married you realize that it only works if you have children. Shul events, parties, holiday’s, and shabbos table debates over how to pay exorbitant tuition prices all revolve around families with children. The childless couple may have love, but without kids, they are shunned just as older singles are. 

No, not all communities are like that, not all communities shun or talk ugly about the childless couple. I did notice that one of my facebook friends posted about someone wanting to interview women without children and how they cope. Bayla Sheva Brenner, senior writer at the Orthodox Union (OU), is currently writing an article about frum women without children.
She will be focusing on how these Jewish woman must dig deep to discover their G-d given mission on this world, and despite the pain and the constant reminders of the lack, are building their neshamos and making a tremendous impact on this world. She hopes to speak with a variety of women from across the Torah observant spectrum Litvish, Chassidish, Sephardi, Baalos Teshuvah, converts, and from around the globe. This friend compares it to slut shaming, I’m not sure about that, but it sounds pretty shameful to me. It sounds like this writer is just trying to write an article perpetuating the belief that women are baby factories and nothing else comes from them.

With the shidduch crisis already the norm, the childless couples are going to become the norm as well. Sure, if women pay a lot of money they can have children, but not all women have the time or means for fertility treatment. However, I do wonder why more older folks who can’t have kids don’t adopt or become foster parents. It’s a tough thing for sure, but the few folks I know who adopted children are very happy families.

What do you think? Is it worse to be childless or an older single? 

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  • DUDE

    Frum couples don’t want to adopt because then they wont be able to touch their kids once they pass the age of adolescence.

    • Anonymous

      You have to be kidding me…that’s insane. But I guess in a world with separate seating on buses and proclamations calling for folks to stop conversing with their sisters in law, anything is possible.

    • Yochanan

      I think it might depend on what age the kids were adopted.

  • http://twitter.com/susqhb Susanne

    One of the most insightful pieces you’ve written. I think no matter where you are, in the frum community there is always something that makes you different from everyone else. If you’re single, if you’re married without children, if you’re children are too close together, yada yada yada. Somehow people find ways to make you feel like an outsider.

    • Anonymous

      The truth of “the grass is always greener”

    • Duby

      excellent point Susanne. In teh frum community there is ALWAYS something to comment or “shun” … as you say, teh couple that gets pregnant on their wedding night… the couple that has kids one after the other… the couple that spaces their kids out just perfectly that everyone whispers about their usage of Birth control… and of course the couple that is childless.

      Great article Heshy ! enjoyed it immensely.

  • Randomness

    I’ve experienced both & neither are easy.
    At least when you’re married you are able to get your foot in the door of the community through shul and other couples you become friends with.
    Believe it or not it’s harder to fit into a jewish community as a single.
    Instead of blaming the “shidduch crisis”, why not blame the frum communities for freezing out single people and forcing them to have their own society within the community?

    • Michael K.

      Agreed with everything you said.

      That’s how we differentiate ourselves from other in a society where individuality is suppressed in favor of community. We separate ourselves from others through stupidity. The Daf Yomi crowd, the Hashkama Minyan crowd, the Kiddush Club crowd, the we-don’t-socialize-with-them-because-they-send-their-kids-to-a-co-ed-school crowd, the only-white-shirts-on-shabbos crowd.

  • Michael K.

    Speaking as the male half of a frum childless couple, I can tell you that the community falls into two camps: Those who don’t care, and those who don’t know what to make of us. For those who don’t care, we count them as friends and they accept us for what they are. We found ourselves gravitating towards making friends with “older” couples – those with kids either already in High School, or even out of the house in college completely. There are those who don’t know what to make of us, and they deal with us at arm’s length, as if they’re not certain if we’re human or not.

    Of course, we’re grateful to our friends who don’t ask questions about the lack of kids, because – bottom line – it’s none of their business. They accept us for who they are, they name us in their will to take care of their own kids in case g-d forbid something happens, and they feel more comfortable with us because they’re not competing with us.

    As for those who keep us at arm’s length…. *#@% them.

    • Another one of those

      None of their business indeed.

  • Seriously?

    Actually, we have a very active Shabbos table, and we tend to shun older singles because most are too weird for polite company, and we also often shun nice people with kids because their kids are barbarians.

    We prefer couples without kids (either too, old, too young, or not blessed that way). Much more interesting company.

  • Anonymous

    After 3 months of marriage, my BIL started demanding in front of groups of ppl that I become pregnant … lol. Yeah, the incessant chit chat never stops in the jewish community.

    • A. Nuran

      Did you give him the kicking he so desperately deserved?

      • Anonymous

        Hahaha … Thanks ! I thought I was the only one who thought it was offensive.

  • Opinion

    Maybe the ‘breeders’ will one day be envious of the childfree couples. Let’s face it, there is no perfect, forever wealthy, Jewish couple who easily produce a bunch of well-behaved, beautiful, highly intelligent children, who will never go otd, have medical problems, etc. It is just a myth the gloating frumme continue to perpetuate perhaps to satisfy their ever growing superiority complex. They are living in a dream world if they envision their good fortune will never change. If a couple are not blessed with children immediately, or indeed ever, companionship, not children, should always be the foremost reason for their marriage.

  • D. Sayani

    Talk about Sophie’s Choice.

    Never having the joy of children and never being able to celebrate having a brit, or bar mitzvah, or walking your kids down the aisle, is really tragic. People make the childless couple feel out of place. OTOH, at least these couples have themselves, and not having kids can often be very good for a marriage, as these couples can spend more money on each other and focus on careers, romance, intimacy, etc.

    Never marrying has its positives and negatives. The biggest downfall is that people perceive singles as flawed or deficient or weird. OTOH, not all folks are cut out for marriage. People like having their space, doing their own thing, can’t compromise, are asexual, etc.

  • Yoshky

    Wrong question, Dollink: You should have asked which is better, not which is worse. Also, Captain Jewboyinsky, why do you think you need an apostrophe to make a plural (“Shul events, parties, holiday’s, and shabbos table debates . . .”)? Oy! These morons who think they know how to write a language, any language.

    • Minucha

      Please cut Heshy some slack. He made a typo. Big deal! I find many more typos in the some of the comments than I do in Heshy’s blog.

  • http://challahmaidel.wordpress.com Challah Maidel

    While older singles may be harrassed and shamed for not being married, I tend to believe that people are more understanding towards them than they are towards married couples without children. I have been married for 3 1/2 years and family, friends, neighbhors, and acquaintences alike have been pestering me and even making me feel guilty for not having children. They constantly compare me to those who are parents. A lot of my friends with children have either shunned me or only talk about their children to me. Some have even asked what is holding me back. I have my reasons why I don’t have children yet and its no ones place to demand an explaination from me. Alot of couples who are childless are not always attributed to fertility issues. People chose to put off having children for various reasons be it school, career, or finances. Others have no interest in parenthood and shun the idea of having children. That is just the way of the world. Do I feel like I am missing out on the ultimate joys of life by not being a parent? I don’t know but some people claim I am. Children should be wanted and desired; not to be beget in order to fit in with your community. Pressuring or guilting someone into doing something they don’t want to do will only ensue consenquences. Family planning is a personal choice that should only be made by married couples. Yes, older singles are given more slack because people know why they don’t have children. However, they think people like us have no excuse nor valid reason.

    • Anonymous

      Tell them to mind their own business and stay out of your bedroom.

      • Michael K.

        Yup. That’s what I do. My parents weren’t happy about that, but tough boogers.

        • http://challahmaidel.wordpres.com Challah Maidel

          I’ve told people numerous times to stop peeping into my bedroom window but some of them will persist thinking that I am miserable and should appreciate their concern. Some have asked me when I was going to give my parents nachas to which I replied that I fail to see how being shtupped by my husband gives them nachas (excuse the crassness). Then again, I didn’t have to be married to give them nachas. Many career oriented older single women are opting to having children via sperm donors.

  • tzfatisha

    personally i don’t understand this at all… why don’t people just myob….
    as an older person without kids (married late and just divorced) i prefer the company of older people with either older teens or no kids at home… i’m just not in the loop of people with children, i find small children generally irritating at the shabbat table, it’s usually impossible to have a ‘proper’ conversation and as much as i like the parents….i’d rather not spend a couple of hours cooped up with their kids… however ‘delightful’ – that’s fine. it’s my choice how i spend shabbat.
    fortunately for me i live in a great community where there are lots of other people like me and i feel very supported.
    however it is very very insensitive of people to ask the couple with no kids why they don’t have kids -very often there are fertility issues involved….tho not always… and to say ‘soon by you’ or whatever is very hurtful.
    i’ve had people say to me – even when i’ve told them my age…… ‘well sarah immanu had a baby at 90′ as if only i dovened properly i too could have a baby… and they are surprised if i say something back…
    i think singles and marrieds with no kids need to make their own social circles, even together, and stuff everybody else.
    i think it’s true in the secular world too.. once people have kids they aren’t in the same loop as their friends without.. and it’s ok. very often these relationships, even longstanding friendships, go through a hiatus and only get going again once the harassed parents have a little more energy… ie once the kids are in first grade….
    that’s just the way it goes…

  • Alter Cocker

    “With the shidduch crisis already the norm, the childless couples are going to become the norm as well. ”

    How is that? Childless couples are going to increase?

  • Mark

    Now, how to tell my frummie relatives to stop davening for me to have kids after three years of marriage because we got a heter from a modernishe YU rabbi to be on the pill?

    • tesyaa

      Visit them for Shabbos. Leave the pill packet on the bathroom counter.

  • Dave

    Simple solution.

    Wait for both of you to be at some reasonably public event. When someone starts pressing about children, she bursts into tears and flees.

    He shifts, says quietly, “We can’t”, and goes after her.

    Done. They don’t need to know that the reason you “can’t” is birth control, and while you may be a nebach case, they will stop bugging you about it.

    Then, if you do decide to have kids, it becomes a great miracle, and everyone will be excited for you.

    • tesyaa

      Dave, you misunderestimate the busibodiness of the frum community. While the immediate response may be a shocked silence, it won’t be long before the couple gets testimonials from well-meaning do-gooders about the wonderful work done by ATIME and Bonei Olam; lists of herbal remedies and reproductive specialists; inundated with requests to put their names on tehillim lists. Or just find themselves in shul hearing their names among the misheberachs for cholim. It won’t end until the wife hits 45 or 50 or so.

    • tesyaa

      I wrote a longer response which is stuck in moderation. Suffice it to say that when you live among busybodies (i.e. the entire frum world), an “admission” such as this is the beginning, not the end, of the ordeal.

  • Older Single

    It’s worse to be an older single, because you are necessarily living a disreputable lifestyle under a shameful cloud of some sort: pathetically celibate, transgressing with a partner or transgressing without a partner.

    A barren couple, particularly the wife, may be in tremendous emotional pain, but they can still be respectable members of the community.

    Another major difference is this: Singlehood is a public matter that is everybody’s business; the community should be involved in helping its singles marry.

    In contrast, barrenness is a private matter, never appropriate to discuss with the couple, because it’s nobody’s business whether they are delaying or attempting parenthood. To raise the subject would be to judge them or to cause them further pain. And as in the _Rugrats_ Chanukah episode [spoiler alert], a barren couple might white-lie for years that they’re delaying so as not to become objects of pity.

    You can even combine the two: older unmarried women who are trying unsuccessfully to become pregnant “on their own.” Even divorced moms may pine for additional children.

    • Anon

      Some of those singles might be gay too don’t forget that.

    • tesyaa

      Only in the frum world is marrying off young people the business of the entire community. And barren/childless couples get plenty of unwanted “advice”.

  • Um…

    Solution is to put your foot down, and tell everybody else to mind their own business. I did that and I haven’t heard a peep from anybody since.

  • Shtark attack

    Solution for the childless Frum couple: tell people if you had kids you would send them to public school instead of the day school.

  • MK

    If you can’t afford fertility treatment, there is an organization called Bonei Olam.

  • cutedeadgal

    It’s sad that the girls in the frum community are constantly told in seminaries and high school, “So when you get married and have babies…” I know because I attended Bais Yaakov school, and I must say that it must be a nightmare being a lesbian in a Bais Yaakov school.
    The girls in frum society are constantly being told things like, “You should dress tznius so boys don’t look at you,” and “You should look pretty and put on makeup for your husband.” Of course I believe that women should dress tzniusdik and all that, but the problem is that our schools teach girls to see themselves in relation to males. I dress tzniusdik and wear makeup, but it has nothing to do with boys. They make it sound like your education and career are worthless if there is no family you’re supporting. That’s why I want to open a Bais Yaakov school that is solely career oriented.

  • Love for Heshi

    I guess the guy who gave you the choson shmuz forgot to tell you to stop using rubbers… ;)

    Whatever you do, I wish you both all the best.