Men Who Don’t Want Children: Do They Feel the Guilt?

Sylvia D. Lucas challenges the gendered double-standard that surrounds the choice to not have children.

This post first appeared on Dink Life, which celebrates the Dual-Income-No-Kids Lifestyle.

Child-free men, whether they’re Dual-Income-No-Kids (DINK) “lifers” or just waiting until later to have kids, haven’t shared the focus of the barrage of attacks their female counterparts have endured since the advent of birth control. How do men without children get off so much easier … or do they?

Whether in magazine articles, blogs, online publications, or in person, women without children are “bingoed” (chastised for not having kids/told why we should have kids—“Oh my god, you’d love it!”) pretty regularly. We’re told—usually indirectly and/or from a safe distance—that we’re cold, we’re freaks, we’re selfish, we’re child-haters, we’re non-nurturers, we’re unnatural. And that’s for starters.

Most insults are actually too absurd to be offensive, so I’ll call them “pesky.” Offensive would be the study oft-repeated in the media that women are apparently at higher risk of developing breast cancer if we don’t produce offspring. How’s that for pressure?

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Are men without children made to feel guilty, too?

I recently saw an article online titled “Childless Men May Face Higher Risk of Heart Disease.” So, I guess we’re all screwed. At least we’ll die young together.

A survey conducted by author Laura S. Scott, author of Two is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice, found that men and women’s reasons for choosing blissfully unladen lives are basically the same, and the “why” of it has been covered ad nauseam. So I thought I’d interview a few men who frequent The Childfree Life Internet forum about their experiences simply living as men who choose not to have children.

Have they been pressured to use their semen to procreate the same way we’ve been pressured to use our uteri incubate? Have they had difficulty finding a partner? What word comes to mind when asked to imagine having a child in their lives?

(“NOOOOOOO!” was one word.)

I do, of course, ask them why they don’t want children, because the personal answers are far more interesting and relevant than the overarching psychobabble “there-must-be-something-‘off’-deep-within-you” explanations some are desperately seeking.

The men in this interview, ages 26-53, hail from the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and are identified in this article in keeping with their individual preferences. Their answers below may or may not surprise you, but what they unquestionably do is give you a glimpse of the men’s world in a way you haven’t seen it before.

First, I’m going to ask every child-free person’s favorite question: Why don’t you want kids?

ERICH, 27, CANADA: I want the freedom to travel, to work wherever I want, to come and go as I please. I want the freedom to have freedom. Can’t just pick up and go with a kid.

ALAN SMITH, 53, BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA: I actually find this a difficult question to comprehend. For me, the opposite question applies—“Why on earth would anyone wish to produce children?” I do realise that people have children for all sorts of reasons—they find them endearing, they feel they have a religious or social duty to breed, the vanity of having a copy of themselves, a need to prove their “manhood” or “womanhood”, the financial benefits or simply that they have never thought about it and regarded it as a “default” position to reproduce. None of these applies to me.

JOSH, 36, OKLAHOMA: I like the freedom. I’m the type of person who needs a lot of downtime, and a child would definitely get in the way of that. I also just don’t like being completely responsible for something other than myself. I have no more desire to have a pet than I do to have a kid.

ANONYMOUS, 26, MONTANA: For me, it was a bit of knowing my nature. I can be overly caring and take things a bit personally. If I had a child, I would imagine that I’d feel I let them down greatly if they failed at something. In the same breath, when I put my mind to accomplishing a goal, I block out everything around me till I finish my goal. I didn’t want to live a life that was both unfair to that child and to me. I would probably drive the child nuts and cause a mini hell for myself. Once I add in the fact I’d probably have a partner in the mix, it seems very maddening.

PAUL L., 44, NEW HAMPSHIRE: They are very expensive and time consuming. I don’t make that much money, and I certainly wouldn’t have the house I own if I had kids to support. I like my peace and quiet and the freedom to come and go as I see fit (for instance, I took my bike for a weekend trip this past weekend on a spur of the moment and my partner worked). The cats need no supervision!

E. CARROLL HALE III, 48, VIRGINIA: That’s a very complex issue. A large component to my choice is that I’m the oldest of 6, and it was expected that as soon as I was of sufficient age to do so (we’re talking 8-9 years old), I’d be watching over the rest of the herd, keeping them out of trouble, etc. If they got in trouble, after my Dad gave them theirs, I’d get some too because I was supposed to be keeping them out of trouble. Even early on, I was thinking that I probably didn’t want to have a kid because being a kid sucked and I didn’t want to inflict that on somebody else.

Do you ever feel judged for not wanting children? If so, by whom?

ERICH, 27: Most common judgment is that I’m “selfish” (i.e. just want to be promiscuous). Mostly from people who finished whatever schooling they finished and bought into the white picket fence routine of life and never considered there were alternatives.

ALAN, 53: Frequently—by (a) the media, who seem to regard breeding as a heroic act (b) by politicians, who are obsessed with “the family” and regard childless or childfree adults as “non-people,” (c) by the taxation and economic systems that discriminate against me, (d) by the advertising media that seem to assume everyone is a member of a “mum –dad – 2.3 kids nuclear family,” (e) by the occasional jealous breeder, and (f) by religious fanatics who regard sex when not utilized for procreation as against God’s directive.

JOSH, 36: Definitely. Most people think that I’m a selfish, irresponsible child-hater if I tell them that I don’t want kids. I have a selfish side, as everyone does, but I’m pretty responsible and do like some kids.

ANON, 26: From a random stranger, I have been judged, and from family misunderstood. Sometimes I’ve noticed that if a man does come out and says he doesn’t want to have kids, he can be negatively labeled. These labels can simply be [that a child-free guy is] a guy who likes to sleep around or a guy who is immature and possibly not responsible.

Whether reading men’s magazines or articles online, have you found much literature that represents, discusses, or explores child-free men (before DINKlife of course)?

ERICH, 27: I’ve found there are the occasional articles on fatherhood, and then what a vasectomy is all about once the fathers have had all the kids they want, but nothing for CF guys.

ALAN, 53: Very little. One can find a small amount online by specifically Googling an appropriate phrase, but few articles in hard copy or standard news sites seem to regard it as a viable subject.

ANON, 26: I honestly have not came across anything at all discussing a child-free lifestyle short of maybe one or two articles about men who are infertile or have some other complication that prevents them from having a child. Usually those articles deal with how they may cope or work around the issue, but I’d hardly call that child-free by choice.

PAUL, 44: I’ll have to admit that I’ve NEVER seen an article in any of the magazines I read (Men’s Journal, Men’s Health—which I’ve only been getting 4 months or so) or any of the outdoor magazines I receive. It’s disappointing, to say the least.

What’s it been like to try to find a partner as a child-free man?

ERICH, 27: Am not sure if I’ll ever marry, so I don’t even take an interest in someone until I know they’re child-free. My or her being child-free really hasn’t been an issue with anyone, and it hasn’t been difficult to find anyone. More and more of us all the time.

JOSH, 36: I’ve only been looking again for a few months, but so far I’d classify it as near-impossible.

ANON, 26: Sometimes the partners I would hit it off with would run for the door at the thought of being with a guy on his ranch when confronted with the prospect of no children. I had given up on finding someone till I accidentally met my current girlfriend.

E. CARROLL, 48: Actually, for me, it wasn’t too terribly hard to find a childfree partner. I’d never have seriously dated or married a woman that wanted or already had kids, and I’d always made that clear after a fairly short period of going out.

Imagine your life with a child (your child) in it. What’s the first word that comes to mind?

ERICH, 27: PRISON.

ALAN, 53: NOOOOOOOO!

JOSH, 36: Trapped.

ANON, 26: Panic.

PAUL, 44: Trapped.

E. CARROLL, 48: Miserable.

Is there anything that could change your mind about children? Like a great love of your life?

ERICH, 27: It would be the great love of my life that would make me glad I had a vasectomy.

ALAN, 53: I doubt there would be anything that could change my mind about not wishing to father or adopt children of my own.

JOSH, 36: No, and I’m sterilized, so it can’t happen accidentally, either.

ANON, 26: I’ll admit to being in one particular relationship where I became tempted by the prospect of having a child. Though, the whole time, I felt uncomfortable about it. It stemmed from feeling a bit pressured. The emotional high we all can get being in a new relationship played a big role, as well. Worry of being alone was a feeling that entered my mind, too. Once I sorted through all my feelings, it wasn’t that my choice had changed at all—it was because of the above factors. Down the line, the emotional high would have subsided, the feeling of being pressured would have settled into resentment, and the act of wanting to belong would have isolated me. Not wanting to be alone would have become just that, and I’m certain I would have regretted it.

PAUL, 44: Never. I would never have a kid at 44 years old, anyway. It’s ridiculous.

E. CARROLL, 48: No, my decision about reproducing is mine to make, and stems from reasons that are critically important to me. I want to hold on to what makes me *ME*, and anybody who would want to change that obviously doesn’t care about the real me, they just want me to fit in the idea they have in their head about what they think I should be like.

♦◊♦

While these men and many others are certain they never want children, there are just as many men who fully intend to become parents when they find the right partner, the right adoption agency, the right timing, the right number of drinks … But, until that time, men of all types will probably continue to have their testicles scrutinized by strangers (figuratively speaking) who think they shouldn’t be “wasting” all that good sperm. And, as a child-free woman and a DINK, I have to say—awesome! Because we women would like to step back and hang out at the punch-and-brownies table while you figure out what to say to the “What? No kids?” questions, for a change. We really appreciate it.


—Photo by Stephen Sheffield

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About Sylvia D. Lucas

Sylvia has also written an ebook called "No Children, No Guilt" for No Children, No Guilt
Kindle
and Nook. "It is a no-holds-barred must-read for everyone who is thinking about having children, isn't thinking about having children, wants children, doesn't want children, has children, or doesn't have children." -- Jerry Steinberg, Founding Non-Father Emeritus of NO KIDDING! Find out more about Sylvia D. Lucas at www.sylviadlucas.com.

Comments

  1. Having been married for ten years, going through ivf to have the ONE child I do, and realizing how challenging, expensive and frustrating it can be to raise a child in today’s society…I’m glad I only had the one! I am often told I am selfish for only having ONE. And while I love him and am glad that I have him in my life, I can totally respect how others feel about their decision to NOT have any children. It is a deeply personal decision, and not to be criticized or judged. I have several guy friends who have made no bones about how they do not want children, and yet all of them are interested, and somewhat successful, at maintaining a committed relationship despite their feelings on children. You have the life you choose to have, regardless on whether or not you decide to share that life with offspring.

    • “You have the life you choose to have” I think our lives are based largely on things outside of our control.

      • Bullsh*t. While there are some things we can’t control, we can certainly control whether or not we use birth control, whether or not we discuss the topic of children with potential mates, and whether or not to marry someone with conflicting life choices from ours. I think our lives are largely based on things we can control, but it’s easy for life to throw you a curveball and make it seem otherwise. There is no substitute for personal responsibility.

  2. I enjoyed this articles so much. I do not want children because I do not want children. Simple as that.

    I am seriously on a mission to get my tubes permanently blocked.

    I am finding it hard to find a guy who feels the same way I do around here.

    Sometimes I feel the guy says he wants kids to try to get me, which backfires because I won’t date a man who did. It causes a circle of “gettung no where”.

    Sigh … I just wish therer were more men around where I lived that wanted to be child “free” by choice, too.

    = (

    • Mar-Taja… I know exactly where you are coming from. It is very difficult to find a man who feels the same way. I just hope you stay true to you and don’t change how you feel because you feel like you have to in order to have a relationship. I’ve heard of women doing that and in the end they end up paying the price.

  3. It breaks my heart to read these comments. Not because of your choices but because of the confirmation knowing that I just don’t want children. Reading these comnents confirms i prob will never change my mind. I recently just split up from a 7 year relationship with a woman I want to spent the rest of my life with. But we couldn’t carry on knowing we wanted different paths. I feel so lonely and pressured into believing there is something wrong with me because of my choices.

    • I’m soon in a same kind of situation. 7 years, wonderful time we had with that special one. How has it been for you afterwards? We were going ahead happily together, but “accident” happened, now it seems sure we are going to divorce soon. I went through thinking this child thing over and over in my head, but no – it really isn’t for me either. I love to be with kids sometimes, they like me and so on, but to take care of them thousands and thousands of days in a row limiting your own life in every possible way… No and no.

      If I may ask, how is it going nowadays?

  4. Well I must be an alien from mars or something.
    I don’t want children but I’m actually looking for single moms to date. Why? because they already have their own so they (potentially) wont ask for more.
    Yes, I know, I’ll end up being a father figure to the kid(s) but I don’t mind. I don’t dislike children.
    I just don’t want a small Steve that’s all, because if he fails at something I will feel like I failed him in some way. If he’s not tall enough, it’ll be because of me, at least 50% of it (I’m decently tall but no Jordan and I tend to like petite women).
    And quite honestly being a kid sucks, you have to follow all these rules, it took me 21 years to become independent and the master of my own life, 21 years is a long sentence and one time was enough.
    That said, if I meet a woman with kids, that’s perfect, the kids are already there and if I could help in any way, I’m willing to. If they fail in any way, I can be supportive but I don’t have to feel responsible for it, they’re not my blood.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I have created a page on Facebook, I Don’t Want Kids and That’s OK for those us of who wish to not have kids and would like a place to vent, share stories or feel like your not alone.

  6. Steven D. Timm says:

    Just finished reading this article and related posts and I must say I think this article is spot on!! I also appreciate the comments and different points of view on the same topic. I feel the same way about children. I am a 35 year old male who is not married and has no children. I am not married, nor do I have a girlfriend nor do I have kids, by choice. I feel that marriage and kids are a call and an office that God calls you to. I have never felt nor received that call. I also have never wished nor desired to be married or have children. As I have grown older, I receive less and less criticism for my decision to remain single and childfree. However, when I was in my late teens and into my early twenties, I received a whole LOT of critique!! Since then, I have learned how to surround myself with people who positively affirm me in the whole of my personhood and I have reciprocated that affirmation of other peoples choices, be it about marriage and family, social values, political belief etc. I made that decision a looong time ago and could not be more comfortable!! I have found in life that when I can relax and be comfortable in my own lifestyle, I can relax and be comfortable and respectful of other’s lifestyle choices!! I have found this works very well!! I also have an extreme amount of respect for others on the opposite side of the spectrum from me on the marriage and children issue. I have an extremely good freind that couldn’t wait to get his family started right out of High School. He is an excellent husband and an excellent father!! He is a person that actually wants to be a husband and a father. He is not henpecked by his wife nor is he annoyed by his children. He is a true family man, excellent at it and I couldn’t be happier for him!!

    Anyway, just my 2 cents on the issue!!

    Thanks for all the good posts guy’s!! Keep it up!!

    Catch you on the web!!

    Steven D. Timm

  7. I can’t believe anyone would open their mouth and call someone selfish if they didn’t want to have children. Like it is a sin and wrong. Better to not have then to have and not take care of. People got some nerve. I had an argument with my dumb cousin when I was in HS about that. I was 16 and she was 17, told her that I didn’t want to have children that I would adopt. She had a conniption, said all kinds of dumb things like why would I want to take care of someone else’s children. Why not. Please, please, please better to not have at all then to have and wish you didn’t. People are some dumb nowadays.

  8. As a wife I always wanted children, my husband just refused to have kids. He thought they were like rats and when they are older all they want is money for drugs, booze, condoms or birth control pills, tattoos and crappy low rider Honda’s. So needless to say we didn’t have kids, this disappointed all of our family members. He just didn’t care! We only had sex once in 45 years. Hes never slept with me and has made his home in his garage. He worked midnights so he didn’t have to be at home, worked all holidays, weekends never took vacation. He’s content in his garage with his cars ad work shop. We hadn’t talked in years, he does things in the house that I leave a note about. This is about as intimant as it gets. I’ll let you decide if he feels guilty not having kids. I don’t think so !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Talen Storla says:

    Guilt? About what? The desire to live financially free? The ability to travel and live abroad easily? The ability to pick up at a moment’s notice and move somewhere else? I have never had a desire for the expense of children and I don’t need to justify my feelings on that issue to anyone!

  10. I was banned from The ChildFree Life message board because some views on children and population I expressed border on antinatalist and offended many people who are significantly younger than me. I also have not succeeded at maintaining friendships with any local child-free people in my area because they saw my autism symptoms and must have been bothered by them. If all the childfree and antinatalist people in my area hate me, that does not change my mind about refusing to bear children.
    I NEVER want the responsibilities that parenting comes with. I KNOW I’ll NEVER be fit to handle those responsibilities. I had a vasectomy & was confirmed sterile earlier this year. I still have yet to find a partner, and I do find it quite hard in my area because I live amongst people who just won’t stop overpopulating the world. Every time I see someone with a kid next to him/her I shy away from him/her. Wanna be my friend? You better NEVER have kids, NOT even just one!

  11. ClassyGlobal says:

    Please let me know where I can find these young handsome responsible financially progressive sensitive men!!!

  12. i never thought abouts kids until now when my bro had a baby girl,she is 4 now and we love her,such pride and joy.im 48,and left my job take over my life,was very fulfilled,hadnt time think bout kids,i was made redundant and what was it all for.i bitterly regret not making a plan,have a partner,that wasnt the prob,he went along with what ever i wanted.now i think he regrets our just job filled lives.ive learn from bitter experience,u shoud go with the natural way of life if u meet someone u genuinly get on with,make a plan.any comments,i should have done where u see yourself in 5yrs.

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