Men agonize over childlessness, too

Day after day, I receive comments and emails from women who are struggling to decide to stay with their male partners who don’t want children or leave in hope of finding someone who wants to father their children. But it’s not all women. Men agonize over this issue, too.

On Sunday, I received a long comment from a man calling himself Rollcage. Here are excerpts from what he wrote:

“So I’m 30/m and my partner is 26/f. We have been dating for a year and compared to many on here with years of marriage behind them that’s nothing, but this woman is extraordinary. The love of my life and I am on the verge of proposing to her.

“Apart from a few ups and downs we have a perfect relationship, we can talk without getting bored nonstop, we share so many similar interests and I could never have imagined a woman like her existed.

“So you probably can guess where I’m going with this. She is already a mother of one, a 2 year old boy from a previous relationship. . .

“She never wanted to have kids before they did and he managed to convince her to conceive. She had always said that she didn’t want kids and that if she did circumstances would be different (she would be married, post career, etc.). You could almost say she was deceived by him. He had no love for her, he simply wanted someone to give him a child after he lost his previous to a previous partner . . .

“My gf is an incredible mum, even more so when she coped so well raising him under the most difficult circumstances! She’s sweet around him and I found that part of her more and more attractive. I started to think to myself hey if we ever do decide, I know she’ll be a great mum.” At this point, I didn’t really think about kids, but I thought that it was possible that we may end up having one someday.

“Then something happened around two weeks ago. She was looking after him (he spent 2 weeks with his mum and 2 with his dad) and he got sick with the stomach flu. He was often sick when he visits her, we think because of the childcare he goes to, and my gf would often get sick herself as a result, something she can’t afford to do with her job. She also has emetophobia and doesn’t do well when he is vomiting. This always prompts her mum to visit to help look after him and clear the mess.

“This isn’t anything new, but this time this event, coupled with her current form of sickness and also a decision having to be made in the future about where he should stay for pre-school (they live in different towns), she decided that she just wasn’t made up to be a mum and that she should give her ex custody and see her son only every other weekend . . .

“I just don’t know how to feel. I can’t leave her, and I know I’ll be happy with her without our own, but her changing her mind about her own son has made me see things differently. I still don’t know if I will ever want kids, but the woman who I love who I always saw was such a great mum is now convinced motherhood is just not for her. She has told me she doesn’t want me holding it against her and she doesn’t want me trying to change her mind. Equally, she told me she doesn’t want to make me unhappy if she can’t give me what I want . . .

“I desperately want her to just notice how great a dad I would be and to crave a child of our own, but the stupid thing about that is I don’t even know if I do want children. I feel as if I’ve always expected to be the one in a relationship who probably sides more with not having kids, but suddenly I find myself wanting kids more than her (even though I’m not sure yet) and her lack of desire vs mine puts me off . . .

“My heart tells me I’m going to marry this woman and deep down I hope, spending more time together, she will change her mind.

“My head tells me I need to get used to the idea of not having children as most likely it isn’t going to happen.

“It’s almost like her wanting it less than me has made me feel unloved. I want her to be able to give me what she gave her ex, and I want to prove to her that it will be different, that we will enjoy it. Whilst she is the opposite, trying to convince me it’s a bad idea . . . ”

There’s a lot more. You can read the whole comment by scrolling down to the end of the comments on the original post. Then you can add your own comments here or there.

While I’m sharing links, here are some articles about the male point of view:

“The Untold Grief of Childless Men”

“Childless Men Speak Out”

“Why Do We Never Worry about Men’s Childlessness and Infertility?”

Also check out my previous posts “What Do the Men Say about Being Childless by Marriage?” and “Father’s Day Tortures Childless Men.”

No, my friends, it’s not just the women who suffer with this dilemma. Please feel free to comment.

3 thoughts on “Men agonize over childlessness, too

  1. Oh wow! Thanks, Sue! I did not expect you to publish about my comment! I’m sure I’m not the only man in this situation, but it does seem more rare. For women that are in a similar situation as mine, I think there is much hope. If it’s a case like mine it can simply be a case that your partner falling in love with you can perhaps make a man who previously didn’t even think of being a dad envision being one. Once someone can see how much of a great parent you can be, I think something usually clicks with a lot of people and they can go from never thinking about kids to suddenly finding it a possibility. If they notice in you kindness, selflessness and patience amongst other things that show you would make a good mum, it can make those thoughts of procreation tick. I know because it happened to me as I see these things in my gf. At least as women you bear the right to have the final say when it comes to the decision. After all, it is women who most suffer when having a child. In that respect it can be much harder as a man with a woman unsure of the idea rather than the other way round. This blog is a wonderful source of info for many. It has helped me feel a lot better. Thanks to Sue!


    • Hey Rollcage,

      You are not alone. I’m a childless stepdad too. I think specific circumstances and motivations really are important when considering whether you should stay or leave. I stayed because I have a great bond with my stepkid and, more important, I have a good understanding with my SO. This is not an easy issue to discuss, but I’m glad I did. I also reached out to a therapist to deal with this from my own vantage point.

      The hard part is realising that there is no middle ground here. Either you leave or you stay. Drawing a list with “pro” and “con” arguments is only a part of the equation. What’s really important is what your gut tells you. It’s an urge, a craving, a drive which pushes you to pursue this. It’s not something you can rationalise. It’s not something you should try to explain with rational arguments. Being a dad is undeniably a part of who you are. An “I always knew this about myself, but I never paid much attention to it because it was self-evident”. The question really is: How strong is this urge? Only you can tell this for yourself.

      It was a hard awakening when I realised that children really aren’t a given but a gift. So much hinges on the right circumstances to have a healthy kid and be able to nurture him or her into a fully healthy, independent adult being. This is why society celebrates the positive stories so hard. Don’t underestimate culture and your upbringing either. We are instilled when we are toddlers to follow this “traditional” path in life: school, college, job, wife, house, kids, retirement. Of course, this not how reality works. Hence, why so many couples split. Most people underestimate the efforts that go into parenting and they neglect talking about it early on.

      To be honest, if you are going to propose to her, you should really be on the same page. You can’t do this if you aren’t honest with yourself about where you stand on this issue. Well, you can, but down the line, you seriously risk starting to resent her for not being able to actualise an important part of your identity.

      Also reconsider the “convincing” part. You can talk about this all you want, but this is a matter of feelings. You can’t make someone want to become the mother to your kids, just like you can’t make someone fall in love with you. Either she feels that way, or she doesn’t. And the only thing left is to accept reality for what it is. Feelings can change over time, yes, but I wouldn’t bank on it for too long. This too hinges on where she comes from and what spot she is in today.

      Finally, consider your own age. You are 30. Not 51. If you live to 80, that’s still 50 good years ahead of you. You want to know how long 50 years is? Half a century ago was 1967. Man still had to land on the moon. The Vietnam war was raging full on. So, 50 years, that’s an awful long time of feeling regret for not having kids.

      Do I agonize about being childless? Sure I do. I have my bad days. It sucks and it hurts. I don’t deny these feelings towards myself, because that would be unhealthy. I’ve acknowledged that having kids with the right partner is the hardest thing you can do. Moreover, that search is more a matter of good luck than having control over your own fate. But I also look at what I have today. My SO makes sure I’m included as a full-on stepdad. We celebrate our blended family and try to enjoy our moments together to their fullest. That’s really important to me, right now.


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