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.

Men Hurt Over Childlessness, Too

Dear friends,

We get a lot of comments from women whose male partners don’t want children or can’t have them. Either they were open about it from the start or they changed their mind somewhere along the way. It’s easy to get mad at these men and blame them for everything. But sometimes the situation is reversed.

About a year ago, Anonymous wrote:

I’m a 34-year-old childless man. My wife has two boys from her previous marriage, and due to health issues is infertile. Though I’ve always wanted a child, I delayed it as some do, waiting for the ‘right’ time, financial stability, etc., etc. However, the older I have gotten, the stronger the desire has grown. Now, the powerful sadness of not having a child, of not feeling a real part of our family, and the resentment and feeling second class to my stepsons’ father and my wife as the biological parents has begun to consume me and bring about a depression that I didn’t know was possible.

I have always had a great desire for us to be as close to a conventional family as possible. I’ve poured my heart, soul, years, resources, and time into it, yet the results I hoped for always eluded me. The father pays no child support, and it falls to me provide, clothe, and care for the boys, which I happily do. But doing homework with them, but never allowed to attend a teacher conference, maintaining all the responsibilities of a parent while I’m not and never will be called ‘Dad’, is a torture that I’m not familiar with. Simply, I feel resentful, hurt, and lonely from what I perceive my role to be: second class, outsider, not good enough.

No matter what I do, I’ll never have the bond my wife does with her ex. I’ll never have those experiences with her, and it’s hitting me for the first time that this is my reality. I love my wife dearly, which is perhaps an aggravating circumstance to my emotion. It’s my own fault for making the choices in life I have. I just hoped for more, and I’m understanding that that hope was foolish.

Thank you for providing a venue to vent…..this has been eating me alive. I’ve browsed your blog and it helps to know that it isn’t just me, that maybe I’m not completely weird in my feelings.

More recently, Tony had this to say:

I got married very late in life, 42, and my wife, or soon to be ex, was 45. She had two boys from her first marriage. We agreed at the time that we wouldn’t have kids because it’s hard for women over 40 to have healthy kids. I was quite heavy (360 lbs) and wasn’t as attractive as I was in my younger years. Then, I was okay with not having my own kids. Some years later, I had weight loss surgery and lost 150 lbs. We lost a grandbaby five years ago, and my wife went into a tailspin. My youngest stepson and his wife had two boys, and while I care for them, I don’t love them like my own. I’ve tried and I can’t. I resent being around them and knowing that none of my DNA is in them. This may sound ugly; so be it. They are my feelings and I don’t apologize for them. I’m 63 and my wife is 66. She’s let herself go and I’m in the gym EVERY DAY ! I’ve met someone many years younger whom I’ve fallen in love with and who can and will give me children. My own DNA, my sperm-produced children. I know many people may hate me for this. Again, so be it. But what am I supposed to do? Stay married to my soon-to-be ex and resent that I never had my own kids? Or do what my heart and soul are telling me to do?

I responded that it looks like he already knows what he’s going to do. It does sound ugly, but people feel what they feel.

Here’s another situation for which you might feel more sympathetic. Author Elliot Jager has written a book about being a childless Orthodox Jew. The Pater: My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness describes how not having children turns him into an outcast in his religion. In his case, he is infertile. He and his wife have tried all the options, and they haven’t worked. “In Judaism,” he writes, “having children is seen as a blessing. But someone who doesn’t have children isn’t seen as being unblessed, but as being actually punished.”

Jager notes that just because men might not talk about it, they do feel the sting of childlessness.

I think that’s true, and it’s not just in the Jewish faith. I’m Catholic, and I can tell you that both men and women who don’t have children often feel like they don’t fit in. But it’s not just at church. The subject can arise at work and in social settings, too. “Hey, Jack, bring the wife and kids.” But Jack doesn’t have any kids. Men might share in the jokes about male body parts that follow, but they may be hurting on the inside.

We women want to claim all the childless grief because we’re the ones who carry the babies in our wombs, but men are part of the story, too.

What do think about all this? I’d love to read your comments.