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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  1. 31

    I am in despair over the”men and kids” thing. My last serious boyfriend was in his early 30s  – I was about 42  when we met, and he wanted kids “someday, but not now”. I spent 2 years hoping he would change his mind and decide I was enough for him without the kids as really, there was little chance of me having them, and even less if we waited till he was “ready”. He never did change his mind, woundn’t commit to me and I had to split up with him. It tore me apart. In the contest between “me” and “unborn foetus I’ve never met yet” I kinda hoped I might have the edge but hey! I didn’t. I’m now 46 and dating again and recently got contacted by a great guy online who wanted to meet me. He’s 45 but guess what – he thinks he may well want kids! I brought this up before we’d even met, pointing out that if he wants kids, why was he contacting a woman of 46…. didn’t seem to have occured to him this was a bit contradictory till I brought it up. I have now been on a few dates with this guy but I’m SO nervous this is history repeating itself – but what can I do? Almost all the men in their 40s on my dating site either HAVE kids or WANT kids, neither of which really works for me! I though men hated a woman with a ticking biological clock and thought I’d be popular as i don’t have kids and am now past the age when I CAN actually have them but it seems this is not the case – how can a 45 year old man seriously talk about wanting kids??! OK biologically he can still become a father, but who wants to be supporting children through college well into their retirement??!

    1. 31.1

      I think many men truly are unrealistic about how long women can have children.   My fiance is 46 and I am 38 and he seems to think that we can wait to marry for two years and then have a family of two with no problem?  Hello?    I had to bring him back down to earth and explain that we would be lucky if we could conceive one child without the help of fertility drugs or in vitro and that he needed to accept the possibility that we may not be able to have kids at all.  I told him that if he truly wanted kids and would be upset if we could not have them he needed to date a much younger women.  I also let him know that at his age he could have his own fertility issues.     Something men always forget. I have several friends where it actually turned out to be the husband not the wife that was the cause of infertility.  We women are on the ball generally with these things, men not always.

  2. 32
    Karl R

    helene said: (#31)
    “I’m now 46 […] Almost all the men in their 40s on my dating site either HAVE kids or WANT kids, neither of which really works for me!”

    As a guy who doesn’t want kids, I’ve faced similar situations as you. Here’s a few things you might want to keep in mind:

    1. By the time people are in their mid-40s, their kids may be grown and gone. If the child is 20, I don’t really need to be a parent to him/her.

    2. Women are more likely to have sole custody than men. For some of those men, they may have their kids 1 or 2 weekends per month (especially if they live in another state). Is the child going to greatly impact your life if he/she is an occasional visitor?

    3. As men (and women) get older, the odds of their children being grown and gone increases. If you shift your target dating range up by 5 years, the situation with children improves noticeably.

    helene said: (#31)
    “I spent 2 years hoping he would change his mind and decide I was enough for him without the kids as really, there was little chance of me having them, and even less if we waited till he was ‘ready’. He never did change his mind, woundn’t commit to me and I had to split up with him.”

    Since you don’t want kids, you didn’t have to split up with him. As soon as you pitch the biological clock out the window, you get a lot more time to find a relationship.

    If you’re enjoying someone’s company, you can afford to waste a couple years in a relationship that ultimately ends … as long as the relationship itself is time well spent.

    Your clock isn’t ticking. Take advantage of that difference.

  3. 33


    Thanks for your comments – I have tried dating men with kids who are in their  teens/early 20s and I thought that might be ok – as you say. they’re grown now – but it seems that the concept of “grown” has changed a lot since I was 20! These guys would frequently arrive at dates announcing they had to leave by 10pm to collect their (20 year old) son from a class or event and drive him back home, or would still treat their weekends with the kids as sacrosanct and automatically expect me to arrange my schedule around this. One of the reasons I don’t have kids is so as not to have to arrange my schedule around them! Kids don’t seem to be grown and gone till about 30 these days.

    As far as spending a couple of years with someone because I can “afford” to as my biological clock’s not ticking, I’d have to disagree on that one – my “baby” clock is not ticking but my “ageing” one is! I would like my next relationship to be my last. I would like to know I am with someone I can grow old with. I do NOT want to be back on dating websites when I’m 50, back to square one after spending a couple of years with some other non-committed guy, and now with an ever smaller number of interested and interesting men available. That’s why I had to split up with him – that and the fact that being with someone who’s basically saying “I’m going to leave you at some point, when it suits me” is unspeakably depressing.

  4. 34

    I’m 45 divorced with 2 kids in college.  Whenever I am contacted by a guy who does not have kids,  it is one of the first questions I ask.   Bottom line is that I don’t want any more  kids and I will not commence any type of connection with a man who does.   I think it is a fair expectation or desire for a person to want to experience parenthood.  There is really nothing like it, but I have passed that phase and not interested in going back.  (And yes it is possible to have kids in mid 40’s my sisters did at 45 and 42)  Yikes!

  5. 35

    I think your answer is fine. It shows you have always been mature enough to think of others before yourself by not having children due to peer pressure or because you think your should just because you can. I am 50 and never had kids nor ever really wanted due to my financial situation. I definitely do not regret this decision at all. I find contributing to the greater good of society by activism far more rewarding than concentrating on one or two people. Nothing wrong if you want to have children , Nothing wrong if you don’t want to have children.

  6. 36

    I’m now 45 and have been looking for a woman to connect with to develop a long-term relationship for the last few years and have had a difficult time finding any women in my age range who are open to developing a serious relationship of any kind. I find this especially difficult with women in the 37-45 age range. I have my theories, but am not sure why this is. Women in this age range seem to be happy either being alone (single or divorced), pursuing their careers, traveling the world and experiencing life moreso than pursuing a long-term relationship and potentially starting or adding children to their family. I have actually dated a few women my age only to find that they opted to hook up with a 20- or 30-something guy for a FWB/No Frills type of affair. I just don’t get it. I would prefer to date women close my age, but find that they are not interested at all in what I want; a stable long-term relationship where starting an adopted family is an option. I am open to dating women with kids, but would also like to be a father myself. I think it is a fair expectation or desire for a person to want to experience parenthood, but find that women basically laugh or cringe if you bring this up as an option. I find it very disconcerting that the world has changed so much that marriage and family aren’t a priority to any of the women I meet. People tell me these women are out there, but I am certainly not finding them.

  7. 37

    I’ve been living in a part of the world (50-100 years behind our times socially speaking)where questioning a woman about children is the norm as an opener from everyone even for acquaintanceships and I find it pretty insulting since it seems like that is what women’s worth is reduced to there.  Although I’m open t having children, either way, my response is that I’m not a baby making machine.  When a Western unattractive divorced older man I met there who admitted that he was having trouble finding a second wife took me out the first (and only since I didnt follow up) time as a FRIEND, he also asked me about this and I responded in the same way.  To be asked this sort of question as openers in this part of the world is even worse.  I would want someone to be thinking at that point only of whether or not he liked me for MYSELF.  My response would be that it is too early to be asking me such things, and I would also be personally turned off the guy (so I’d not be concerned about whether he was turned off or not).  I felt exactly the same when I was in my early 20s and a man my age who took me out once asked me the same question.  Although men particularly in that age group might be concerned about whether or not a woman wants children, being seen only as vehicles to produce them transports us back to a previous era that we have thankfully left behind since we now consider ourselves to be beings of equal worth.  Men don’t seem thrilled with women wanting to marry them right off the bat (and only to get pregnant).  We (surprise surprise) are the same.  

  8. 38

    For Helene (31), I’ve had the situation of guys who were not as serious as they’d let on, and feeling some of my time was wasted (but more since I’ve been a graduate student and there are fewer serious men in these circles).  However, I don’t focus on the biological or aging clock concept.  I look and feel younger, maybe that is part of it (but I think that is also due to my focus), but I think I focus more on the relationship with the man than wondering about children.  We are actually lucky to be in a part of the world where there is less focus on these things than in the countries I’ve been living in recently.  And also, being free up to now (although it was only through finding the wrong guys, not my choice) means I was free to live abroad and do so many other things with my life (and that way we can also, incidentally, meet more people and possibilities).

  9. 39

    I think there is only one way to answer this. Think about what you want, what you feel will make you happy. Then, if a man asks, simply tell him the truth of what you feel. If he is the right man for you, he will like your answer, and if he is not the right man, he will use it to eliminate himself from the competition.

    The wrong thing to do is to know what you want, but then not tell the truth, and end up in a relationship with a man who wants something else, something that won’t make you happy.

    It is OK to be flexible on this, if that is truly how you feel, but make sure that you really are flexible on the issue and not just saying you are to try to avoid being eliminated by a man based on what you really want. Know what you really want and say what you really want.

  10. 40

    I feel for this writer, I have a similar response.  I am 38 and most of my life I was open to having children but it was not my life goal.     Many women must be Mother’s.  For me my focus was career.  As I aged and still did not meet Mr. Right, I would describe my thoughts as realistic.   I realize that at my age it will be difficult for me to conceive or marry and conceive naturally.  Not impossible but difficult.   So I answer this question by saying that I am open to trying to have children, however if it does not work naturally I am not open to using fertility drugs or any unnatural means to conceive.     Having a child is something that is okay with me, but it is not a strong desire or must have.  I say it that way because for many men it is.  They will go to all lengths spend all money to conceive and be very disappointed if it would not happen.  I would not.  You have to be on the same page with that.      It is not that I do not want children, it is just that I am realistic about my abilities to have children and the lengths I will go to do it. Many women in my age range and beyond just are not, men too.    I’ve seem marriages fall apart due to people struggling with in vitro and I do not want to do that, of course again having a child of my own is just not as important to me as it is to others.  I preface this by saying I am open to adoption and I am and I am very open to people that have children of their own.   I think that is what this author is saying.  It is not that she does not want kids, she is just realistic about her ability to have kids.   I dated a guy seriously who said he was fine with this.  He said he had accepted that we may not be able to have kids, etc, however all he did was talking about kids.  Their names, how they would look, how many we would have, every day.  I realized that this was very important to him, more so than he let on, and that if I could not give this to him he would be very hurt.   I ended things.  The reality is that many men are waiting too long to have kids thinking that they can do it at anytime and that is simply not happening.

  11. 41

    I read some of the responses and I guess I am going thru this right now on dating men younger than me just because they are more open to having kids…..because in many occasions when I gave my honest answer to older guys I was brutally critized. I am 43 and still wanting kids? I do want kids and I don’t feel good about lying about my feelings, I disagree with changing our response to “maybe” just to keep a guy interested…..it would be a waste of time…..on the other hand I also answer if faith and God’s will is for me to have kids I am sure I will meet the right guy, otherwise at some point I will have to give up and change my views on that.

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