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.

Join our conversation (45 Comments).
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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.

    1. 2.1
      RustyLH

      Jill, that’s the perfect response.  I myself don’t like Evan’s advice to turn the question around on the guy.  For me, that sends up red flags.  I would have responded to that turn around by smiling and saying, “Well it’s fair that you also know my feelings, but i asked first.”
      Men don’t have a lock on asking tough questions before making a connection.  Women are pros at this.  For instance, almost every woman I have met has asked within minutes, what I do, or where I went to school (college not high school).  It’s a blatant attempt to assess my value and thus how much interest she will have in a relationship.  I learned to stop taking it personal.  Some women are happy with my place in the world and some aren’t.  I appreciate the shallow women that eliminate themselves from my life before I waste time and energy on them.
      I guess I don’t understand why this question needs to feel so loaded.  OK, so it is important to him.  Do you want to make a connection with him only to find out weeks later that your views are a deal breaker?  Better to just find out right away if he is not going to want you based on your views on children.
      I Personally don’t want more kids.  A woman without kids is a good thing.  Frankly I’m tired of the 40+ women wanting to start a family.  No, I want to concentrate on having a romantic relationship with a woman.  I do not want to raise kids again.  I also have no desire to be put on the back burner again. 
      So, given Melissa’s views, I would rather hear her respond with, “Well, given my age, I doubt I could have kids naturally, but if the man I marry really wants kids, I am open to it.  However he might need to be open to adopting.  I am also OK with not having any children.”
      If I asked the question first, and she said she wanted to know my views first, I would assume that she is then going to tailor her response based on what I say.  That is not what I want.  I would want to know her feelings without the filter provided by knowledge of my feelings.  I would immediately clue into the fact that she is turning it around on me for just that reason…to be able to tailor her answer based on my thoughts.

  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.

    1. 5.1
      Lisa

      But the author is not saying she does not want kids.   She is saying she is not sure she can have children at her age.    She is open to having children, but it is unlikely that she will be able to conceive at her age.   I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with saying you do not want kids, and you should say it if that is what you feel.    But that is not what she is saying.  I feel the same way as she does.

  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.

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