Men’s Feelings about Childlessness Often Overlooked

Dear readers,

We don’t talk enough here about the men’s point of view. There are reasons for that. I’m female and so are most of our readers. Also, most attention in books and studies about childlessness is on the women. We are the ones with the wombs. But that doesn’t mean men who are childless not by choice don’t feel the lack of children, too.

Dr. Robin A. Hadley of the UK has done a study and written a book, How is a Man Supposed to Be a Man?, about involuntarily childless men that offers some insights into the male point of view. Hadley himself is childless by marriage. After a couple of failed relationships, he met his wife when she was in her early 40s. She felt she was too old to start trying to have children. Men can be just as “broody” as women, he contends. Socialized to keep their feelings to themselves, they may not talk about it as much as women, but he knows from personal experience that they do feel the loss of the family they might have had.

A few other points gathered from Hadley’s research (links below):

* Fertility statistics in most countries count only the experiences of women, not men, probably because the women are the ones who give birth.

* When you see a woman talking to a toddler on the playground, do you worry that she’s a predator or a pedophile? Probably not. You assume she’s a mom or at least motherly. With a man, however, the warning bells clang. You see a man prowling where children hang out and think uh-oh, better watch him, be ready to call 911. Maybe he just likes kids in a perfectly harmless way, but the suspicion is there.

* For most men, the lack of children damages their image of virility and masculinity. They feel less manly than other men.

* If they’re not fathers, who are they? Like women, they need to figure out their place in the world when they have no offspring.

* In work situations, the presence of wife and children verifies men’s status as adults and their dependability as workers. Like women, they can feel left out when the conversations turn to family matters.

* Like women, they deal with nosy questions about why they don’t have children, as well as rude jokes about their sperm, which are not at all funny to them.

* Hadley found that many men do not understand the impact of age and other factors regarding infertility. Like women, they may see assisted reproductive technology, IVF and such, as a magic solution that makes age irrelevant, although the success rates are not good.

* Most people are unaware that men’s fertility declines with age. The male hormones slowly decline after age 40. Also, babies born to older fathers have more risk of genetic issues.

* Like women, men suffer what Jody Day calls “disenfranchised grief,” a sorrow that is not always recognized as valid. People don’t see it in the same way as a death in the family, although losing the children you thought you were going to have is a huge loss.

Man or woman, I would love to read your comments on these points. Guys, what challenges do you face by not having children? Please share. Invite your childless friends to join in.

Everyone counts here at Childless by Marriage.

How is a Man Supposed to Be a Man? Male Childlessness—a Life Course Disrupted   The book is quite expensive, but you might want to sample a bit of it.

Involuntarily Childless Men and the Desire for Fatherhood

Hadley’s interview with Civilla Morgan at the Childless Not by Choice podcast

Hadley’s wonderful resource list for childless men:

What do the men say about being childless by marriage?

Is Childless by Marriage just for women? No, definitely not. Sometimes it seems as if this is an all-girls site, but I welcome men as well as women. Both men and women struggle with the same issues about children. One wants them and the other doesn’t. One can’t have them, and the other can’t imagine life without them. The relationship, the engagement, or the marriage is in danger. Should they go? Should they stay? Sometimes I wish we were back in the olden days when everybody who got married had kids, and if they didn’t want children, they didn’t get married.
Of course men are not the ones who get pregnant, and they are not the ones whose fertility ends in their 40s, so that part is different, but their comments sound pretty similar to the ones I get from women.
Let me share a few of the men’s comments I have received lately. I encourage you readers to respond to each other. I don’t have all the words of wisdom. You can find all of these comments under the post, If You Disagree About Children, is Your Relationship Doomed? 
Anonymous said…
Hello, I don’t know if this post is strictly for women but I’m a 37 year old male with 45 year old girlfriend. We’ve been friends since I was 27 but began dating at 30. I’ve never been married and I have no kids. She has been married and has two kids who both are now married. She has two grandkids, a 2-year-old and a newborn. I didn’t begin to think about kids until her first grandson was born, but she was 42 at the time. Now at 45, pregnancy would be a high risk. Friends and co-workers around us are having kids left and right and I can’t deny that it is eating me inside. She said that it’s written all over my face when we see a baby and/or her grandkids. She wants me to be happy and is willing to sacrifice by losing me. I just don’t know if I’m willing to lose her for the chance of having a child. Any thoughts greatly appreciated.
Hi, My wife is leaving me because I don’t want a second child, and it’s killing me. I feel I am being punished for that decision. She says she always wanted two but she never talked to me about it, so now I face becoming a part-time dad and I don’t know what to do .
Anonymous said…
Hello everyone, I am going through a terrible situation with my girlfriend. We have been together for seven years now. We are both immigrants (she is from Russia and I am from Brazil) who live in Los Angeles. I am 32 and she is 35. Her mother passed away in 2010 due to a brain tumor. Since then, she has become addicted to the idea of having a child. At the moment, I do not feel that crazy desire to be a father. I moved to the U.S. kind of late in life at 25 and I am just now transferring to a four-year university to get a degree in business. I have a degree in Physical Education from Brazil, but the hassle to get it validated here was so time-consuming that I decided to do something else. I am also not happy with my career because my work is unstable and the pay is very low. On the other hand, she moved here when she was 13 and had her whole education in the U.S. She is very successful in her career and she is stable financially. Four years ago, I asked her to help me to pay for school so I could finish faster, but she said she was not interested to spend her money like that.
It made me concerned because if she wants a family with me, how is going to be when the kid arrives? I have no financial means to provide for a kid. Not even half of the bills for a child. It really scares me that I may find myself in a situation where I won’t be able to support my son/daughter. I am feeling terrible because I cannot make her happy. I can see that she resents me because she picks fights all the time for silly reasons. The other night she said that it is better for us to go apart. I just cried for the whole day and I am feeling lonely and worthless. It kills me that I am not enough for her and that I cannot make her happy. She said that she wants me to be a stay-in dad, but I am very independent and I believe that I must have a career. It would be better for both of us if I have one. I fear that once the baby arrives, she will just break up with me and leave me in a difficult situation. I would not be able to abandon a child.
I moved here on my own and I have no family in the States. Our relationship was one of the main reasons that made me stay in the country. I also understand that she is coming close to 40 and that it might become harder to become pregnant, but she does not want to wait any longer. Am I being a jerk or too selfish? It is just killing me that the whole focus of my adult life is coming to an end. I just want her to be happy and she deserves all the best. It just hurts that I am not good enough. I believe that the best should be to leave her alone and not interfere on her life. I want her dreams to come true. I wish I could have a normal job so I could help and give her what she wants. I struggled financially since I got here. It took me seven years to get a green card and now (after nine years) things are getting better. I just don’t want to struggle right now, and I want to get my college degree before a kid. What should I do?
Well, dear readers, what do you think? I welcome your comments.