I’m In My Mid-40′s And Don’t Have Kids. How Do I Handle Men Who Ask About This?

I’m 44 years old, have never been married and don’t have kids. Frequently on a first date or even at a mixer, I get the question from men about if I want kids or not. I think this is a loaded question.

Honestly, I’m not opposed to having children! I’m unsure, given my age, that this will happen naturally, but am open to adoption or if he has kids. How do I answer this question? It seems really early to be even talking about the subject. Right now I’m looking at finding the right connection that will lead to marriage and once that connection is made…we would make these kinds of decisions together. So it’s hard to say a set answer to a guy who asks this so early on. Help! Melissa

Dear Melissa,

You’ve already answered your own question. But that would be a very short blog post, so keep reading.

You can’t control what men want to know, and you can’t blame them for wanting to know it.

While it may be tacky for a man to lead with such heavy artillery upfront, you can’t control what they want to know, and you can’t blame them for wanting to know it. All you can do is figure out how to best handle the potential awkwardness. From my perspective, you can do it in one of two ways:

First, you can flip the entire thing around on him, with a smile:

‘That’s an interesting question, Brad. Before I get into my view on children, I’d love to hear your view. Do you have kids? Want kids? Open to adoption? I’m really quite curious.”

From here, you will actually learn what he wants.

If he says he wants his own biological children, you’re probably not a great match because he’d have to rush to commit to you, marry you, impregnate you within 2 years, and most men who want families don’t see that as an ideal course of action.

If he says he has a son but is open to having more kids, then you can be properly aligned.

You’re not pressuring him… You’re just trying to make a connection, which makes you as desirable as can be.

If he says he’s already had kids and doesn’t want anymore, you’ll have to ask yourself how important children are to your happiness. But like any negotiation, it’s always smart to have the other person make the first offer. Find out where he stands and you can offer your opinion without fear of recrimination. And even if you put that suggestion aside, even if you never turn the tables to ask a man his take on children, you’re still in the clear. You know why?

You’re not forcing your vision on him. You’re not pressuring him. You’re not demanding about how your future family is supposed to look. You’re just trying to make a connection, which makes you as desirable as can be.

The truth is: the answer you gave in your email is the best one you could possibly give. With the right guy, you’re open to any possibility, which leaves every man feeling good about dating you.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Karl R

    Melissa,
    I agree with Evan. I date women your age. I don’t want kids. That answer sounds excellent to me.

  2. 2
    Jill

    I’m your age Melissa. I get this question a lot too, and now answer it with humor. I look up, like I’m thinking hard, and then say “I don’t have any kids to my knowledge.”
    Some men enjoy my humor. Others actually think I’m too stupid to know and start grilling me. Either response gives me helpful info about my date.

  3. 3
    BeenThruTheWars

    One of the best responses I ever heard to the “Do you want to have children?” question was on a man’s profile at Great Expectations (video dating service, and the place where I met my husband). In response, he had written, “Yes – when I meet their mother.” (i.e., his future children’s mother) So you could respond to a potentially loaded question like, “So why don’t you have any kids, don’t you want any?” by simply smiling and saying, “When I meet their father, I’ll discuss it with him.” Then turning the tables, as Evan suggests. It’s classy and real. @Karl R #1, you don’t state your age, but my husband was 33 when he started dating me; I was 44 at the time. Most of the men I dated were in their 30s, and deeply ambivalent about having kids or actively didn’t want them. I was surprised by how many men would say “Maybe” on a profile, then on the second or third date would reveal that they only put “Maybe” so as not to scare off women who wanted kids, but that they, themselves really did not want kids. Or “If the woman I marry wants them, fine, then I suppose I’ll have some.” It’s quite widespread. The younger guys all thought I was a breath of fresh air after the women their age who were giving off desperation vibes to get married and pregnant as quickly as possible.

  4. 4
    Heather

    I think that when guys ask this question it’s a red flag. The answer they are looking for is ‘No’ because they don’t want to get themselves into any delicate situations involving a woman’s waning biology and time constraints. A friend of mine is still bitter about a 2 year relationship she got into in her late 30′s because she felt that the guy was wasting her precious baby-making time by not ultimately committing to her. This is the exact situation men want to avoid.

    On the other hand, I am 36 and pretty up front about not wanting kids, because that’s one of my ‘non-negotiables’. I always thought that it would give me an edge in the dating scene, but it hasn’t. The last few guys I found who were not into having kids were also not into being in a long-term relationship. If there are so many single guys in their 30′s who are looking for love and dead set on not having children – why is it that I can’t find them?

  5. 5
    IdoNOTwantKids

    I respectfully disagree with not making it VERY clear that you do NOT want kids. There is NOTHING wrong with simply saying:
    I do NOT want kids.
    That doesn’t make you nasty. That doesn’t make you negative. That just makes it clear how you feel on the issue and saves both parties from wasting time.

  6. 6
    Honey

    Great question, Evan :-)

    I agree that turning the tables while keeping things light is the best course of action. I’d probably say something along the lines of, “having kids is such a huge, valuable, and important undertaking that it seems to me the only folks who need to explain their decision are the ones who WANT them!”

    It’s certainly easier and less incendiary than how I really feel. Despite what many folks may think, my feelings about those who have children as I’ve stated them on this blog and elsewhere are only expressed at about 10% of their actual strength :-)

  7. 7
    Honey

    And in my case, there are very serious health problems running in my family that (for me, anyway) preclude my having my own biological children, even if I did want them. But I don’t know if there’s a way to express that in a way that will keep the conversation light. “Hey, my mom died of a horrible and protracted genetically dominant disease that I have a 50% chance of having myself, and that I could easily pass on to any kids” is definitely not a first-date conversation I want to have.

    What do people think of saying, “there’s so many factors involved in that decision that I think we should wait and get to know each other a bit more”? I mean, people always say a house is the biggest financial decision you’ll ever make, but it seems to me that children are. You can sell a house and effectively undo the decision, you can’t sell a kid. At least not legally :-)

  8. 8
    Jennifer

    This post confused me a bit because I don’t see where the conflict is.

    Men that she meets ask her if she wants children. She is open to caring for/having children (via adoption or stepparenting or whatever). So she should just tell men ‘i’m open to it’. I’m not seeing the problem or why this is an awkward conversation to have?

  9. 9
    BeenThruTheWars

    @Honey, I never found it necessary to say anything more than, “I decided a long time ago I didn’t want kids.” No man I dated ever pressed the issue or questioned that. I would not recommend going into health/genetic issues on an early date; simply TMI, and not necessary. When women have occasionally asked why I don’t have children and wouldn’t leave it alone, I would look at them and say rather bluntly, “I can’t have any.” Shuts people right up. They don’t need to know that the reason I “can’t” is because I have no desire to be a parent. Let them think what they will. I certainly never had anyone persist with, “Well, why can’t you?”
    @Heather: I can only speak to my own experience. When I was dating five years ago, at 44, looking for guys in their forties to date, that’s not who wanted to date me. The guys who sought me out were guys in their 30s who didn’t want kids. It was certainly fine by me, if a little unexpected at the time. The guys in their forties all seemed captivated by the women in their 20s and 30s. Go figure. When dating online, I cast a very large net age-wise, saying 35-55. Consistently, the men who showed up were 29-35. For me, in my experience. I always tell women in their forties who are dating not to rule out younger men.

  10. 10
    Karl R

    BeenThruTheWars said: (#3)
    “I was surprised by how many men would say ‘Maybe’ on a profile, then on the second or third date would reveal that they only put ‘Maybe’ so as not to scare off women who wanted kids, but that they, themselves really did not want kids.”

    I’m 39. I put “I do not want kids” on my profile, but I was willing to contact women who put “Undecided” on theirs. I was a little surprised to have a few women contact me who wanted kids “Someday” or “Definitely” , but things didn’t progress far enough for me to ask them why they would pursue someone who didn’t want kids.

    I really don’t follow the reasoning of someone who says “Maybe” when they mean “No.” There are women who are scared off because I don’t want kids. They’re the ones who want kids. The relationship will end sooner or later for that reason. What do they gain by postponing the inevitable?

    “The younger guys all thought I was a breath of fresh air after the women their age who were giving off desperation vibes to get married and pregnant as quickly as possible.”

    I haven’t run across that so much.

    Heather asked: (#4)
    “If there are so many single guys in their 30′s who are looking for love and dead set on not having children why is it that I can’t find them?”

    Where (and how) are you trying to find them?

  11. 11
    Honey

    @BeenThruTheWars – I am in favor of the simplest answer being the best and like both your “I decided a long time ago I don’t want kids” and the “I can’t have any” for those who push the issue. I am pretty sure that I did say that I couldn’t have any for health reasons a couple of times when I was dating actively, and was always immediately pressed back with, “would you be open to adoption?” Which then became awkward because the answer is no.

    @ Karl R, despite knowing that I did not want kids I put “maybe” or “not sure” or whatever the similar answer was on my profile. My reasoning was that I think lots of people have not genuinely devoted significant thought to whether or not they really want to have kids, but merely check the “yes, definitely” box because a) it’s what society expects of us, and b) it casts the widest net for them in terms of their ability to find someone to date (since most people say they want kids). I operated under the assumption that if that lots of folks would come down on the maybe/no side if they truly gave it a lot of thought, and especially if they were emotionally invested in a future with someone who knew they didn’t want them – but you have to wait until there is emotional investment for that conversation to happen, so it pays to hedge in the beginning.

    My experience dating was very unlike what most people who are chiming in say. I was internet dating off and on when I was 22-26 and was consistently approached by men in their 30s who wanted to get married and have kids AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. Like, before they really knew me. I had a guy say he was falling for me on the 3rd date, and another guy seriously angling for marriage after less than 2 months. Seriously, who does that – especially for someone whose profile says “maybe”? I’d've loved to meet a guy who just wanted to have fun and see where things went – but the onlyone I ever encountered wanted to pay my rent in return for monogamy on my side (but not his). Ewww. In my experience, no one I met online was a “player” IRL.

  12. 12
    Heather

    Honey – you must be pretty wonderful to get all that devotion from the guys!

    BTTW – So now I know where all the guys in their 30′s are: chasing 20-somethings and 40-somethings! Interesting.

    Karl R – It seems like I only ever got messages from guys in their 20′s and 50′s when I tried online dating. I never seem to meet single guys in their 30′s and 40′s in my day-to-day life – and it’s pretty rare that I get asked out on a date – so I can’t say it’s ever gotten around to the subject of ‘Do you want kids?’ for me.

    Given the option, I would shout it from the rooftops, but people might think that I’m bad for not wanting to have or raise babies. Once I went out with a guy who turned to me for some inexplicable reason and said, “I hate kids!” I think I fell in love with him that instant ;)

  13. 13
    Sayanta

    Heather-

    Aside from the wanting kids part, I think we’re twins.

  14. 14
    Heather

    Sayanta-

    Do you live in L.A. too? I think we need to compare notes and strategize ;)

  15. 15
    Sayanta

    No…lol. Near New York- same idea though- big city, more single women and gay guys than single straight men.

  16. 16
    Rose

    “Impregnate her within two years,” Evan? I realize you’re not a fertility specialist, but I think even that is a stretch. If she is already 44, it is far from certain that she could still become pregnant at 46 or even 44!

  17. 17
    Steve

    Melissa;

    I’m about your age, also never married, I also do not have children and I am not interested in being a parent. If you are ever in the Washington D.C. area you may redeem this coupon for one free dinner and one pleasant evening of conversation with no obligation to buy :)

  18. 18
    Heather

    Sayanta-

    I keep hearing this about NY and LA. It’s very disheartening. Then again, how is that almost everyone I know seems to be dating except me?

    If you’re on Facebook – this is a group I started with a friend:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45030248391

  19. 19
    JuJu

    I think we should have a discussion one day on how to answer loaded questions in general.
    For example, many people ask me (sometimes even before the first date, like in the first phone conversation) why I got divorced. Well, the most honest response is that I don’t want to go into such personal matters with someone I don’t even know yet. If we continue dating, I’ll volunteer information on my own. It’s not like I am hiding anything. I just really don’t have the energy to share my entire life story until I know if the person is even worth my time.
    The thing is, everyone (well, I would like to hope) would know better than ask right away about how much money you make, or about your credit history, or medical history, but demands for emotionally intimate information are somehow okay.

  20. 20
    Sayanta

    Heather- thanks! I’ve put it on my faves list- will join soon.

  21. 21
    Sayanta

    Heather- one more thing- hope this doesn’t embarrass you or anything- lol, but I just saw your pic on FB when seeing that group, and I really have no clue why men aren’t asking you out. Seriously, I just don’t get them…sorry boys.

  22. 22
    morgan

    Wow, this is pretty much my exact same situation. Now 44, I didn’t feel ready to have kids until i was around 40 – up until then I worried i’d be too selfish and, to be honest, battled with a decent case of commitment-phobia. Having worked through that, I would have had to find someone I wanted to commit to quickly (and be lucky with fertility) to have a child, but that hasn’t happened. So as much as I would love to be a parent & raise a child , i’ve pretty much accepted it’s not going to happen. Yet, if asked, my response could be very similar to Melissa’s.

    I also wonder how to deal with this issue on my profile. The ‘Want Children?’ response options on the Australian site I’m on don’t quite fit my situation. I don’t want men who are parents thinking I’m not child-minded, but I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m unrealistically pining for a child in my mid-40s.

    I haven’t been asked about the reason for my childless status by many men. They usually ask whether I’ve been married or engaged and leave it at that.

    How people tackle queries about potentially sensitive issues like children, past relationships etc. in the dating sphere can be quite telling. I don’t feel comfortable when men ask me about this stuff in the first couple of conversations. There should be some rapport there before you dive into this kind of water. Conversely, I recently dated someone for a couple of months and was waiting for him to ask me about why I hadn’t had children but he never did. That was weird too.

    I like Evan’s suggestion. The other response I sometimes use when asked a loaded question is to give the person two hypothetical options and ask how it would be different for them if I answered ‘A’ versus ‘B’ e.g. “If I said to you ‘I’d still like to be a parent’ or ‘I decided many years ago I didn’t want to have children’, what difference would that make for you?” This seems to work better than “Why do you ask that?” which is what I really want to know.

  23. 23
    TripleM

    I lurk here often, and frequently find much food for thought in both Evan’s columns and the reader responses, but this is the first time I’ve been prompted to join in. :) I am 47, no children, never had a burning desire to have any (if I had ever been with a man who did, it’s hard to say what I would have done, especially when I was younger.)

    But my true answer to the “why no kids” question would be even more complicated, and possibly make me seem even more off the wall, than the gyrations you all have to go through (“well, I’m open to various options, depends on the guy, but I won’t hurl myself off a cliff if no kids end up in the picture” etc. etc.)

    For me, it’s not about the guy, or the situation, or anything else but . . . the kid. I have never been able to think about kids in the abstract, as in “I want kids!” To me, kids (not babies, which are, by biological imperative, adorable :)) are, um, people. And here’s how it is for me with people: some few I care for very much, some much fewer I *really* don’t want to be around, and the vast majority I like just fine, but I won’t be crushed if they’re not fixtures in my life.

    Yeah, so, try trotting *that* one out to a guy my age who already has some kids, LOL! “Sure, I’ll go out with you, and if your kids are cool little humans, I’ll sign up for the long haul, but if they’re monumentally annoying little demon spawn, sorry, I’m gonna bail.”

    There’s just no box to check for that. :)

  24. 24
    downtowngal

    I think Evan’s response is spot on.

    On the one hand, this can be a loaded question for people and you risk eliminating a potential match. On the other, having kids is a dealbreaker for many people, and the older you get the more likey you don’t want to waste your time w someone who’s not on the same page as you.

    I also think it’s funny because I’ve seen cases when someone is ademamt about NOT having children, then gets pregnant unexpectedly (or the gf does) and all of a sudden becomes the total proud parent.

    And I know of womeon in their 40′s who got pregnant b/c they didn’t think they could, so they didn’t use any protection.

    Moral of the story – keep it light and don’t make too much of an issue out of it at the first meeting/date.

  25. 25
    julie

    I am 47 and have met a guy who says he wants kids at 40 (has none) so he doesn’t want to have a serious relationship. I am not convinced he really wants kids but maybe is just thinking this is what he wants. He doesn’t date from the internet and said he doesn’t even like approaching girls in bars, so how will he ever meet one? Should I bail or keep the friendship in hopes he changes his mind. I really like this man.

  26. 26
    Selena

    @Julie#25

    I think if someone tells you they don’t want a serious relationship with you- for any reason- you need to believe them.

  27. 27
    Karl R

    julie asked: (#25)
    “Should I bail or keep the friendship in hopes he changes his mind.”

    Keep your options open. You can meet and date other men while maintaining a friendship with someone you like, and I can’t see a compelling reason to bail on a friendship with someone you like.

    But you probably don’t want to get serious unless he changes his mind … or unless you’re okay with spending years in a relationship with someone who ultimately intends to move on. (And if you’re having fun with the relationship, you may want to be exclusive for a while even if it will ultimately end. Since you aren’t trying to have kids, you’re not under the time constraint he is.)

  28. 28
    Julie

    I am not talking to him much except a few texts here and there. Seems like men never really want to be friends but more of friends with benefits. I think now out of sight out of mind is a good practice when it comes to men who
    don’t want to date you due to some major reason like future kids. I bet I’ll hear from him in 10 years when he nver found anyone.

  29. 29
    Julie

    I found the 40 year old man who has a great job and is good looking who is single for 8 years to be most likely not capable of any relationship, not just one that would involve children which makes any relationship 10,0000 times more difficult. I have 2 and am divorced, I should know. I think when 2 people meet all things can be worked out eventually if there is enough love. He nver asked me if I was willing to raise another child which I would have said yes. I wouldn’t ever carry another child but people use surrogates all the time now so I can figure he really just wasn’t that into me to begin with

  30. 30
    noroomforerror

    i am 41 no kids, but ever since i have been around 10 or so, i always thought i would get married and have a family.that is my dream, nothing else.people used to tell me, “is that all you want” and i would answer yes.
    when i married, i went out with my ex for five years, a considerable wait to
    get to know each other and discuss what is important.at the time he was open to having them but, later on in the marriage, well five years into the marriage no kid.and not too long after divorce.to make a long story short i was duped,if he would have told me he changed his mind, i think i would not have got married in the first place.still have been searcing for the one who is eager to have a child.most men i have met didnt even know if they wanted one or not, but they still wanted the sex.sorry, thats not the way it goes.im still hopeful and pray all the time it will be me, for me i would be a great mother i have patience, love, morals, values, honesty and very caring person.
    i think the reason why men dont want more than what they have is, some of the women they have them with are complete psychos!

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