I’m a Man Who Doesn’t Want to Have Kids. Who Is Left To Date?

Hi Evan,

You frequently advise singles to reevaluate their list of deal breakers and to shorten that list where they can to increase their options.

How do you feel about applying that advice to parenting preferences?

I’m interested in dating women in their 30′s through early 40′s. I like children, but I am sure that I don’t want to be a parent. It seems likely that women who list exactly how many children they want on Match.com are pretty set on their preferences too.

I don’t want to date someone, grow attached to her and then feel hurt when the parenthood issue sends us off on our separate ways. The option of least risk would be to filter my searches to only return profiles of women who are sure they don’t want to be parents. My problem with that option is that it also returns a greatly reduced number of profiles.

I know you don’t have a magic wand, so I just have to play the hand I’ve been dealt. I’m willing to take a risk by contacting women who list that they are “not sure” about wanting children. I’m wondering if there are other types of women worth taking a risk on. Maybe women who may have listed a less than accurate preference about having children to not scare people away?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

Steve

Steve,

I’m running your email, not only because you’re a regular commenter, but because it follows last week’s question so neatly.

Steve’s a perfect example of a kind, relationship-oriented guy, who is extremely conscientious about the potential damage of two partners having different long-term goals. Of course, he’s more worried about getting hurt than he is about hurting the woman, but we’ll leave that aside. The point is that he is, as he pointed out, in a position of scarcity. Act with integrity and his pool of dateable women diminishes considerably.

Expecting your partner to share your rare passion cuts your dating pool by 99%.

This brings up a larger point that I’ve wanted to make for a long time:

People who are not “mainstream” have some very tough choices to make in dating. These choices mainly apply to two sets of people:

1) People who are in a minority in their preferences and insist that others share their preferences.

You’re in a minority in your preferences if you were into BDSM, or were an animal activist, or gave half your earnings to the Pentecostal Church.

There’s no judgment against minorities, but we must acknowledge that if you insist that your partner also have your non-mainstream preference, there are going to be far fewer singles from which to choose.

Simple exercise: Ask yourself what percent of people are ALSO (hardcore bikers, jobless backpackers, Buddhists who don’t believe in possessions)? Expecting your partner to share your rare passion cuts your dating pool by 99%.

My advice: find someone who is open to/tolerates your passion. Otherwise, accept the fact that it’s going to be a rare day, indeed, when you find the cute, kind, stable, age-appropriate, emotionally available person who ALSO eats only green foods.

2) People who are in a minority of OTHER people’s preferences.

An Asian man who will only date Caucasian women.

A sixty-year-old widow who will only date men 5-10 years younger.

A Jewish rocker with dreadlocks who wants to be with a Jewish woman.

A man who doesn’t want to have children. Let’s call him Steve.

My advice to you is the same as my advice to anyone who restricts their own choices: open up or quit complaining how hard you’ve made it on yourself.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with these choices, except to point out that they are choices that are self-restricting.

You can probably add other things to this list, including overweight women, older women, short men, and poor men. These are not choices, but they are groups that face longer odds because they don’t fit into many people’s preferences.

So if you’re in one of the above minorities and you’re faced with a frustrating situation, you have a choice: Keep doing what you’re doing, or change. I don’t judge you either way. I just have to point out the obvious:

If you’re only open to dating 5% of the population – you’re going to have a harder time finding love.

So what changes can be made?

An overweight woman could lose weight. The Jewish rocker could cut his hair to appeal to his demographic. The vegan could tolerate a man who eats chicken and eggs. The shorter man could be open to heavier women, the older woman to older men.

The problem is when we refuse to budge and then complain how hard it is to find anyone. It would be like me saying that I want to drive a car, but I’ll only drive a hot pink Lamborghini that I see being driven down my street. Guess I’m not going to be doing too much driving.

I don’t blame you, Steve, for not wanting to have kids. It’s a huge decision, a life-altering decision, and you shouldn’t do it if it makes you feel profoundly uncomfortable. Just know that the only options you have are to date women in their 30′s who state that they don’t want kids, to date women who are in their 40′s who may be cool with the idea of not having kids, or wait for women in their 50′s whose kids are already grown.

Otherwise, buddy, my advice to you is the same as my advice to anyone who restricts their own choices: open up or quit complaining how hard you’ve made it on yourself.

By the way, thanks for putting yourself on the line with this one – a lot of readers can identify with you.

Evan

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Holly Hoffman

    I just thought I would weigh in from the woman’s perspective. About a year ago I dated a guy who was dear-god near perfection. About a month or so into dating, he brought up something he said was important. He was 99.95% certain he would never want kids, and that he knew this was a deal-breaker for most women so he wanted to be upfront about it.

    I had never really considered NOT having kids before. At first I was dismayed, but after some reflection told him we didn’t need to worry about that just yet and let’s just see how everything else goes. Not all women are looking for the One (or believe in the One for that matter), and not all women have considered the possibilities. He was such a great man in so many ways & his reasons for not wanting kids were so sensible that I was willing to imagine a kid-free future. I was surprised to find that I could be happy that way.

    So, who knows? Why not view it as simply a difference? Besides, if you keep getting older you’ll basically be dating women past that age anyway.

  2. 2
    Dana Palumbo

    I must admit I admire someone who knows what they want. And because parenthood is something no one should ever enter into unwillingly, because innocent children will suffer, I appauld those who decline.
    That said, realize there are many younger women who already have children and may not desire more. Stick to your principles or you will regret it.
    If you are worried that your dating pool will shrink, so what? It only takes one. The “one” is always worth waiting for.

  3. 3
    Steve


    You’re in a minority in your preferences if you were into BDSM, or were an animal activist, or gave half your earnings to the Pentecostal Church.

    Hey…, I never gave half my earnings to the Pentecostal church. :)

  4. 4
    Honey

    Well, first I want to say that the BF and I are both in our late twenties and are atheist vegetarians who don’t want kids. By EMK’s measure, our dating pool was pretty small, and while we were both optn to dating outside our preferences, we found each other. So it can happen.

    One thing that neither Steve nor EMK mention is where Steve lives, which is a HUUUUUGE factor. If you live in mapdot, KS, then you’re probably SOL. However, if you live in a major metropolitan area, then your odds go WAAAAAY up, just because dating is a numbers game. So if Steve lives in an area where the dating pool is pretty small, then perhaps he needs to consider relocating to an area that would give him more options.

    Tough in this economy, I know. But them’s my two cents :-)

  5. 5
    Steve

    @Holly Hoffman, post #1:


    Not all women are looking for the One (or believe in the One for that matter), and not all women have considered the possibilities.

    Holly, I didn’t get any surprises with Evan’s answer. You can only cut things so many ways once you look at reality with your eyes open.

    The reason why I sent my email in and quoted your comment above is that I am a bit confused by women on match.com who list themselves as “not sure” despite being in their late 30s or even mid 40s.

    Aside from issues of the “biological clock” adoption is a significant expense and often requires years of bureaucracy. That isn’t even considering the time it takes to raise a child to adulthood….and fit a romance in before doing that.

    Evan pointed out that I’m an oddball ( I am, no sweat ), so perhaps it is silly/hypocritical of me to be amazed that there are women in their mid 30s – mid 40s who have never REALLY gave the issue serious thought.

    Since it is less common for someone, especially a woman not to want to be a parent I was wondering if these women who are at a more developed stage of their lives put down “not sure” to avoid seeming like odd balls?

    1. 5.1
      D

      I am 33 and genuinely unsure. I was a 99% ‘no’ in my 20s, and then a couple of cute babies got me thinking that I do like kids. Since then my desire to have kids has varied depending on everyday experiences (e.g., a crying baby on a plane vs. a beautiful moment involving a child). Trying to give the issue “serious thought” in a rational way hasn’t helped. I have tried this many times and with different techniques (e.g., spending time with kids; a pros and cons list; attending evidence-based lectures on the topic), since I wanted to clarify my thoughts to give a previous partner who wanted kids an answer and would really like to know how I feel myself to avoid mismatched dating in the future. Sometimes you can’t force the answer to something, and you just have to wait and see. Replying to let you know that at least some women may really be uncertain.

  6. 6
    A-L

    Here’s part of my post (#7) on the previous thread about the girl whose boyfriend wasn’t sure he wanted kids I wrote:

    “I’m one of the not sure people concerning having kids. I don’t feel any burning desire to have kids, but at the same time I think I’d make a good parent and if the dad was super-involved, it could be fun My future spouse’s feelings will probably be the determining factor as to whether or not I end up having children.”

    I’m not in my 30s or 40s yet, but I’m 28 and I don’t see myself changing my position in the next 5-7 years. But the older I become, the less likely I think I’d be to want kids. Then again, my older sister was like me and she ended up really wanting them. Go figure.

  7. 7
    Claire

    Steve

    Having myself put “not sure” in my profile, I can assure you it is not because I haven’t thought about it. I would definitely like to have children but ONLY with the right man. It’s a big decision and one that should be made jointly.

  8. 8
    Kenley

    I don’t think that “not sure” necessarily means these women haven’t given the issue serious thought. It could mean that the woman will decide based on the circumstances she finds herself in…she’s flexible.

    I also think that some women may opt for “not sure” for different reasons. Like you suggested, if they really don’t want children, they might say “not sure” so as not to seem like odd balls or worse cold-hearted woman. However, women in their late 30′s and 40′s who actually do want children may say “not sure” so that men won’t think they are the desperately seeking motherhood type of women and avoid them/write them off.

    As others have said, I just think you should try to find out what the deal is early on so if she really does want children, neither of you would have much invested time in a relationship where on such an important matter both partners can’t be fulfilled.

  9. 9
    Glenda

    Steve,

    You don’t mention in your letter whether your searches also exclude women who already have children from a previous relationship or not. If so, then that would further narrow your options, especially for women in their late 30′s/early 40′s.

    As for myself, I’m in my early 40′s, and I have put “not sure” or “maybe”, since I have two teenagers and currently do not plan on having more children. However, if I were to meet someone who felt strongly about us raising a child together, then I would definitely consider adoption.

  10. 10
    Selena

    I had my son when I was 22. In my 30′s I dated men around my age, older and younger. Many said they were unsure if they wanted kids of their own, or thought they would want them “someday”. The older my son (and I!) got, the more I felt I didn’t want any more. I didn’t want to start all over with pregnancy, birth, diapers, spit up, babysitters, daycare, school and the whole long process involved in raising children to adulthood. Fortunately, in the last 10 years my 2 serious relationships were with men who already had kids of their own and didn’t particularly want any more either.

    Steve, are you open to dating women who already have kids? Would you consider someone whose kids are in their teens, or college age? Less years spent helping ‘raise’ them the older they are. I think you are about my age 47, no? The women I know in their 40′s have already had all the kids they want to give birth to. For some, (like me) their kids are already grown and out of the house.

    If your preferred age range is 30′s to 42, you may be limiting yourself. Expanding it upward would give you more choices. As certainly would dating women who’s children were older, grown, or nearly there.

  11. 11
    Rani

    I’m another “not sure”, early-30s woman. As a few others have mentioned, it really depends on the potential daddy. In someways I do envy my friends who have always known either way. I’m a little concerned that at 40 I’ll change my mind and desperately want kids. Or meet the right baby daddy too late. But, either way, and unlike most choices in life, I’d rather regret not having kids and being the fun, involved Aunt (bio or honorary) than regret having kids.

    Right now I’m dating someone with a 10yo daughter who lives in another state. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to have anymore kids (he’s 45 and worried about being too old, plus, he may not want to go through all that again). So, we’ll see where that goes. There are good and bad points about being childless (and perhaps wanting to stay that way) and dating someone with a kid.

  12. 12
    lisaq

    I’m an ‘older’ woman who prefers to date younger men. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to meeting someone my age or a year or two older. It does mean someone significantly older isn’t even a blip on my radar. That being said, I realize it significantly lowers my potential matches and I can accept that. It just means I have to be patient as it will probably take longer to find just the right guy that’s into older women.

  13. 13
    Steve

    @Glenda & Selena.

    Yes, I am open to dating women with grown children or children who don’t “live at home” as match puts it. As I wrote, I like kids, my preference is simply to not be a parent.

  14. 14
    barbara

    At my age, 63, I get 3 or 4 new hits per week. I respond to 1 or 2.
    I usually date one new person per week. I have been dating a couple of the same people for 6 months and 2 months, respectively.

    I think this is good since most men my age are dead or married, and if not, why not??
    barbara

  15. 15
    Robyn

    Hi Steve,

    Absolutely nothing wrong with being upfront about not wanting your own children. Because having children / not having children is not one of those issues/topics where you can compromise easily – it is pretty much one of those “you both have to be a YES or you both have to be a NO” situations in order for things to work out.

    I’m 43 and as much as I do love children (I have a horde of nephews, nieces & god-children) I never got around to having any of my own, and at this stage of the game I’ve pretty much decided that I won’t be having any of my own.

    So if you live in the Boston area & are partial to tall blondes with a foreign accent, we should talk… :)

  16. 16
    Steve

    @Robyn post #15

    I live in the D.C. area, but if you find yourself traveling down here or find me traveling up there you are entitled to one free night out :)

  17. 17
    Susan

    Steve,

    I’m totally late answering this because I don’t drop by regularly these days. However, if you think you’re an oddball–I’m a 39-year-old woman who has never for one moment wanted to have a child. My online profiles state this clearly. I think it’s far more acceptable for a man to want to remain childless than it is for a woman. As someone mentioned above, it’s perceived as cold. Whatever.

    I tend to agree with you about not wanting to go down the path with someone who’s stated goal is to be a parent. It IS the ultimate deal-breaker. Perhaps I could learn to live with a smoker, but you don’t bring a human into the world just to make your man happy. You might be surprised how much this limits my dating options. At this point, I’m just ticking off the years, waiting for the childbirth thing to be off the table. Or at least for no one to expect that from me.

    Incidentally, I live in San Francisco, but will be flying home to DC for two weeks in November. I might suggest getting together, but it would make my mother too happy. ;-)

    Good luck to you, Steve!

  18. 18
    Susan

    Hi Steve,

    I am looking to date men who don’t want kids. I like them but due to lifestyle choices, I do not want to take the traditional path.
    And let me tell you, a woman who does not want kids is judged twice as harshly as a man who does not, in the dating scene.

    Having said that, parenthood is something that is a life time commitment. To be anything less will be unfair to all parties concerned. So I hope you keep your stance and persevere.
    :-)

  19. 19
    Alexis

    Hi Steve,

    Yes, since you are sure you do not want kids, your dating pool will be smaller, but I have faith that you will meet the right girl with the same preference eventually. I say this because I am one of those women, and I have more than just a few friends that feel similarly about the whole children topic. So although yes, we are in the minority, there are plenty of women and men who don’t want kids, so just keep lookin!

  20. 20
    Erica

    I can only concur with what the other non-kid-wanting women have said. I honestly believe I would scare fewer men off by saying I was a Satanist than by saying I, at 35, don’t want children. “What’s WRONG with you, you freak???” is the usual reaction… more or less politely phrased.
    And I have to take issue with the analogy offered here. People into BDSM or Pentacostalism have places they can go to meet like-minded people. For those who don’t want kids, there are no such venues.
    It’s also rather insensitive to equate veganism or smoking with having children. Deciding to compromise on those issues affects only the person making that choice. But bringing an unwanted child into the world affects that child’s whole future, being raised by someone who didn’t really want him. Not cool.

  21. 21
    Susan

    The decision as to whether or not to have children is a huge problem. It’s binary – either you do or you don’t. There is no in-between, there is no gray area. You can negotiate where you live, the place you live in, what color you paint it, the car you drive, how to landscape your garden, what to eat, what movie to see, how often you visit your parents, and to some extent the career paths you take. But children drive family dynamics and you really can’t compromise on that. Once a decision is executed, it can’t be undone.
    And it is horribly unjust to the man when his partner marries him “hoping he’ll change his mind”, or “accidentally” gets pregnant. If she wants a sperm donor, she should just be upfront about that and plan on raising the child alone.
    An obvious logical thing to do then would be to focus on meeting people through dating services customized for this issue. Google “childfree” , “child free” dating and the services are out there. That would go with any issue that was hugely important to somebody. If veganism is an issue, you go to a vegan dating site. If practicing your religious faith is important to you, then you utilize dating services geared toward dating others in that faith.
    When I was 32 I met a wonderful 37 year old man who didn’t want children. As you can guess he wasn’t exactly Joe Popular in the dating world. But we are happy, and still an item, 19 years later. We made the right decision.
    Prior to meeting him, I was very ambivalent about children. In fact, I ended a relationship with a man who said he wanted children – NOT because he wanted them, but because he was bad-tempered, emotionally abusive, and inattentive. I realized that I would never want him to father my children, so why the heck was I hanging around putting up with him?!?

  22. 22
    Heather

    Hahahaha … I have NEVER wanted children, and I beg to differ that ‘most’ women want children. I know too many like myself to believe that is the case. I actually find it odd when men insist they want children – it’s almost hypocritical. The way I was raised (which was somewhat dysfunctional, mind you) one of the frst things I learned about relationships was this: if a woman wants a man to stick around, she would be wise not to ‘saddle’ him with children (my mother’s exact words). Having children is NOT easy in this modern day existence – I don’t know how anyone, God bless ‘em, does it!

    Join a group like ‘No Kidding!’ for childfree-by-choice people. You are not alone, and not even in a tiny minority.

    Getting to Evan’s point about being in the minority on preferences. I will attest that, as a woman who only finds men who dress the way we all did back in high school (sort of on the ‘punk’ side) attractive, I have pretty much dug my own hole. I will argue that it is a lifestyle/philosophy/mindset/etc. but that doesn’t ease the situation. I will cry and moan that I can’t find a man because the ONE guy I know who meets my criteria won’t date me. Meanwhile there are probably several men would love to date me but I have put them in the ‘unworthy’ pile because they aren’t ‘like me’ that way. That is dating self-sabotage at its finest and I stubbornly refuse to change. I wish I could sometimes, ’cause it’s lonely here.

    Hello, my name is Heather and I’m a death rock subculture fetishist. As long as there are men out there who fit that description I won’t want to date outside of it. THAT is being in the minority!

  23. 23
    Jessica

    Just one more perspective on why women might say they are unsure about wanting kids: I just turned forty and as I don’t have kids now, I probably won’t. Fine by me.
    I would still select “unsure” about kids on a dating site though, because I don’t want to rule out guys that already have them. I know the whole step-parent thing can be tough, but I do like kids and I definitely wouldn’t rule it out ahead of time.
    I don’t know how old this thread is, but I found it because I’m in a bdsm sub-group and not sure how or when to bring up the topic. It seems worth dating guys who don’t put it in their profile because they might well be into my thing, but not want to scare off a lot of women. If I meet someone I hit it off with in other respects, it might be worth seeing if he’s into it or willing to experiment. Sorry, going way off topic now….

  24. 24
    Roma

    It’s nice to see that some men really know they don’t want children. I’m in my mid-30′s and never wanted to have children, I still don’t want them, and my last boyfriend walked away because he wants to be a father. In fact, I already lost 2 nice guys because of that, so I feel like a really really tiny minority when trying to find a guy who’s really sure he doesn’t want them – because of course I don’t want to get hurt again when having to part ways when HE decides to have children! It’s hard to find those guys, I tell you! – most are “not sure” and that usually means they’re “normal”, that is, they WILL have children someday. Come on Steves, keep looking, there are still women who dream of finding a guy who knows what they want ( above 30, it’s so easy to say we don’t want children before that :D )

  25. 25
    vicki

    If he doesn’t want children of his own, he should NOT attempt to date a woman who has no children. Even a woman in her 40s without kids might change her mind and want to have fertility treatments or adopt. I recently read that Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger dumped her boyfriend because she wants children and he doesn’t. She is in her late 40s.
    What is the solution for Steve? Steve should date ONLY single moms with kids over 18 years of age. If by saying he doesn’t want kids means (probably) he doesn’t want to spend 18 years raising them, then he needs to get with a woman whose children are grown. That way, *her* maternal needs are satisfied already and are unlikely to become an issue. Also, kids over 18 won’t need midnight feedings and diaper changes, and are unlikely to still be living at home.
    So Steve, either change your ideal match preferences on Match.com and/or join a site like SingleParentsMeet and start dating more single moms whose kids are grown. That is your ideal match.

    1. 25.1
      Richard

      Vicki,

      You’re correct, except for one item: I married a lady who had tow boys, ages 12 & 14. I NEVER wanted kids. They’re grown and quite successful now. One of them has dtwo boys. BUT, the expense never goes away.
      Richard 

  26. 26
    Sarah

    I’m a single mum and dating regularly. My observations of men who don’t have or want children is that they don’t understand the concept of selfless giving. Just giving to make others happy. It tends to be a little too much about them and their needs. For this reason alone it is probably best that Steve steers clear of single mums. The last thing they need is another child – especially one that can reach the cupboards.

  27. 27
    Zax

    I’m in my 40s & always knew I never wanted kids.  Knowing exactly what you want & not being able to be tied down to the guy often seems to be what the kid issue really is.  As a woman, you’d better be prepared to raise the kid yourself.  I have had men tell me that I will change my mind when I meet the right guy.  That comment is telling me that I really don’t know what I want & that comment alone is the final date. 

  28. 28
    KellyAnn

    I’m a woman in my early 30s and I absolutely don’t want kids.  I don’t want anyone else’s kids either so I avoid dating single fathers.  I’ve been called all sorts of nasty things…the kindest were along the lines of “cold, heartless, selfish b****.”  I understand this turns the dating pool into a shallow puddle at best but like some of the other posters have pointed out, this isn’t an area where you can compromise.
    I live in a major city but it’s becoming harder and harder to find men my age who are childfree.   Another year of fruitless dating and I’ll be ready to throw in the towel and embrace spinsterhood.
    Oh yeah, I’m also into BDSM so I guess I’m really out of luck!  ;)

  29. 29
    Jessica

    Kelly Ann, I’m in a similar situation, but I guess I haven’t been dating long enough to find it a disadvantage yet.
    I’ve never been certain I DON’T want kids, but I definitely don’t want to have my own now at 40, plus kids are a major impediment to certain consensual adult activities. ;)
    I wouldn’t rule out a great guy if he already had kids though.

  30. 30
    KellyAnn

    Jessica,
    I would rule out a great guy if he already had kids.  I’ve already been through all that drama with some of the guys I’ve dated.  A person with kids will have completely different priorities than someone who doesn’t.  Sometimes these can be reconciled, sometimes they can’t.  Kids are not and never will be welcome in my home.
    My experiences with single fathers have been bad.  One in particular had his kids every other weekend which meant I could only see him on the off weeks or twice per month.  I like to see someone a little more frequently than that.  Then those dates started getting pre-empted by kid drama so I would see him once a month or less.  When I let him know I was unhappy, I was told that I was selfish and that his kids ALWAYS came first….subtext: I came last.  Sorry if I’m not willing to come last in my relationships.
    There was another guy I dated who had an extremely jealous ex-wife.  Whenever she suspected he was out on a date, she would work their 4 year old up into a crying tantrum and put her on the phone with her daddy.  More than once we had to leave a nice dinner so he could go read her a bedtime story to calm her down.
    I realize this puts me in the minority but I’m just not interested in dealing with other people’s kid drama/ex-wife drama/child support drama, etc.

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