Childlessness from the man’s perspective

The only childless men I know are my younger relatives. All the men of my generation and older have children, although they may not have acquired them with their present wives. Childlessness comes with the second wife syndrome; he’s done with kids, and you missed your chance.

But sometimes it’s the woman who doesn’t want to have children with the new husband. Either she has hers already or she never wanted to be a mom. Same problem. Or is it?

Men have more time. Women need to get pregnant no later than their early 40s while men have decades longer, so the need to hurry is less urgent. But once they’re committed to a relationship with no babies on the horizon, don’t they grieve the loss of children, too?

Man or woman, it always comes down to a decision. Do I love this person enough to sacrifice the children I might have had? Did I always want to be a mom or dad? There are no easy answers and no way for both people to get what they want.

I sometimes read a blog called Him + 17, written by a man who married a woman 17 years older than he is. They were unable to have children together. In a 2009 posting, he wrote, “I know I’ve missed out on something fundamental to human experience. Sheri has, too. Though I would not change a whit of my past if it meant losing Sheri, I sometimes try to understand who that young man was, and why he made the decisions he did.”

A few years ago, an anthology called Nobody’s Father was published by Touchwood Editions in Canada. It offers some good examples of the male perspective. Some of the men are content with their situation while others are clearly in pain. One writer admits to conflicted feelings when a child has a tantrum over something he wants at the store. While he is grateful he never had to deal with that situation, he simultaneously wants to hold and comfort the child, giving him everything he wants.

If you wanted kids and don’t have them, it hurts. Even if you never thought you wanted them, you might sometimes feel that something is missing.

Men out there, what do you have to say on this?

13 thoughts on “Childlessness from the man’s perspective

  1. Thank you for writing this post, and for acknowledging that men also sometimes want children and are denied. The last lines of your post certainly pertain to me, as do a few earlier lines (I'm the fellow from HimPlus17).The struggle, I find, is understanding the various shades of my reactions to childlessness. Likely, this is an ongoing, never-ending effort. There's the honest grief that I'd have loved to bring forth a child with my wife, watch the baby grow, and then enjoy (I would hope) a subsequent friendship with the adult who I helped make.There's also the part of me that just feels plain left out in a societal, cultural way. At family events, with friends who have children, I'm partly the odd one out. Of course, everyone feels left out in some way: the family that only had daughters or only sons, the man or woman who never married. Perhaps people with kids sometimes look at my wife and I and think, “We could have had a life as free as theirs.”I guess I'll stand by what I wrote on my blog, which you quoted. I'm missing something; I'm not sure exactly what. I've tried to fill that gap by spending time with young people, by being a mentor through teaching and as a volunteer with Big Brothers. It helps, but truly, I'll never understand on the most fundamental level what it means to love one's own child. As I age, as I learn to live with the reality, this reality remains a grief, sometimes sharper, sometimes less so. I suspect it will never fade and never become something to which I grow accustomed.Thanks for the post, Sue, and thanks for your blog.


  2. Thanks so much for this post and, Him+17, for your insightful comments. I think that women have more outlets to talk about this issue than men, so I'm really glad to hear this perspective.

    I am not sure that hole can ever really be filled, then again, I wouldn't trade my amazing (15 years my senior) husband for the chance of a child.


  3. So grateful to find this blog. I am an African American male age 40 still childless. While everyone has a different story, mine started at age 23 with an abortion, various miscarriages concluding with several failed IVF cycles at age 40 . The hole of so many disappointments can't be filled. Any one else out there has any help when everyone who isn't gay, in jail or chooses not to have kids seems to have then.


  4. Glad to find this post. I am an Asian M, 40 and childless. Wife had 3 unsuccessful IVF cycles, due to multiple factors. I think a Man's thought pattern is similar to a woman who doesn't bear a child. Emotionally difficult indeed. Really helpless state, especially if one truly loves his wife. The tragedy is the thought that there won’t be a bloodline hereafter. Does it really matter to us? I don't know. Surrogacy or adoption is not for everyone. Not an easy option I think. I and my wife don't discuss this topic as if we presume this issue is not an issue at all…but we silently brood on this… Prayer is my hope. God will one day hear our prayers. I am eager to be a father so that I can show my child this beautiful world!


  5. Dear Hopeful, I hope that your prayers are answered someday. This is definitely a difficult situation, and it's important that you stick together. It's nobody's fault. Take care.


  6. It is a truth, that every person at some point of time wishes to have a child. Irrespective of man or a woman. I am from India where women are more oriented towards having a child. My situation has been very different. I am married for last 4 years. Of late, I am realising I am missing something very important in my life. But my partner is not concerned about it. I wander how and why, particularly when you belong to a country where having a child is very important for a woman. But my woman is something uncertain. She is satisfied with the way she is going…a free married woman…and I am left with a childless marriage. Adding to the woes is the legal system that advocates for woman, where divorce is a time-consuming and complicated process. Thus, men like me die silently. I want the legal system to be be balanced……. Childless at 40


  7. This is a tough situation, Anonymous. It is more complicated in your country because of the different laws and beliefs about marriage. I hope you can find peace and the children you desire.


  8. Right now I'm going through a scenario where I have been in a relationship with a woman I love for two years. I am 33 and she is 31. When we met, she had a 1 year old son from a previous marriage. While the biological father seems to be a good guy on the occasions we have met, she paints a portrait of him being absent during the pregnancy and early life of the boy. I have loved the child as if he were my own for two years now. However it is not the same as seeing a bit of yourself in a child's smile.She believes it is a deal breaker to ever, even in the future, consider having a child. While I do not want a child now, I would like to approach the topic in 2-3 years. She does not believe her mind will ever change and even blames the first child on pressure from his father. The concern she voices the highest is that her son will feel replaced and without a family if there is a second child. Second is that she never wanted kids at all. She has also raised the concern that she will have two children with two guys and that may be a hard societal pill for her to swallow. My hope is the 21st century “modern family” will help get the pill down.I just don't know if her feelings are truly genuine on this topic, or if some irrational fears and lingering doubts about being in a committed relationship are driving the conversation. What do you guys think is the best course of action; move on to somebody whom I may not love as much or at least in the same way (boy included) but is open to the option of kids in the future? Or stick it out and deal with that feeling of impotence which accompanies any life goal lost? Maybe this too shall pass?


  9. Anonymous,
    Boy, I wish I knew the answer. It sounds like everything is perfect except for her not wanting another child. How can you convince her that having a brother or sister would be the best thing for her son? I don't know, but if everything else is good, maybe you should stick with her.
    What do other readers think?


  10. My wife and I have been trying for a child for the best part of the last decade – We are now 34. After several ivf/icsi cycles, a couple of miscarriages, a serious bout of hyper [egg] stimulation where my wife was admitted to the hospital unconscious for 2 weeks and a rollercoaster of emotions, we have almost come to accept that we may never have our own child. Yes, it hurts like hell! I don't really know where I'm going with this post, but sometimes it just helps to get it out. Every day gets harder and the prospect of being a dad gets farther away. Being a bloke’s bloke I don't talk about this but just grow older and farther away from my friends who all have their own families.


  11. Anonymous, I'm so sorry you're going through this. It does sound like the high-tech solutions are not working and too dangerous for your wife. Can you adopt? I know you want your own kids, but it may not happen. It does hurt, but I promise it will get easier.


  12. Very interesting article. I didn’t/don’t want kids, and told my wife that before we were married, but she thought I’d change my mind. I was open to it for a few months one year when I was younger and crazy, but now after 20 years of marriage, I don’t regret it, but my wife does. There are emotions involved, but personally, I’ve never felt I am missing out on anything. Maybe I am just strange, but the desire to reproduce is not there…I do find it annoying at church that everyone just assumes you either have kids, or can’t for medical reasons, rather than by choice, and I don’t go to services on Father’s Day as I don’t like being made to feel like a second class citizen or bad Christian for not having kids…just my opinions…wonder if other men, especially Christian men, feel the same way?


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