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