Should I Go Out With Men Who Don’t Know If They Want Kids?

Should I Go Out With Men Who Don’t Know If They Want Kids
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I’ve been following your blog and advice and recently returned to online dating after taking a short break. I’m 35 years old and went through a divorce a few years ago (no kids), and hope to have kids someday. However, when I browse through the match section, over half of the men there have marked “Unspecified/unsure” under the want-kids category. This is true regardless of the platform (e.g, Match, eHarmony, etc). To be clear, the available choices are Yes-I-Want-Kids, No-I-Don’t-Want Kids, Unsure/No-preference. For someone like me who wants children (either biologically or via adoption), is it worth spending time interacting with men who don’t clearly say they want kids on their profiles? I’ve had awkward experiences already where I turn down first-dates because I realized they stated “unspecified” on their profiles. On the one hand, I probably wouldn’t be this “picky” if I meet someone in person at a friend’s dinner party or other social events. But on the other hand, I really don’t want to waste time on men who are seemingly ambivalent on this issue. I’d appreciate it if you can share your thoughts on this, thanks!

-Nicole

I’m SO glad you asked this question, Nicole, since it’s one I address directly in Love U and one that comes up all the time for the above reasons.

And, unlike most of the questions I answer, in which I’m trying to point out a reader’s potential blind spot, I completely agree with your assessment of the situation.

Here’s how I see it:

There are men who really, really want kids like you do. I was one of them. I always wanted to be a Dad and was always looking for a woman who wanted to be a Mom. This vision for your mutual future is essential because if you’re not on the same page, you’re not going to have much of a mutual future.

Then there are men like you described: maybe they already have a kid, maybe they’re undecided. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them. Everyone has the right to be confused or ambivalent or to want to see if they get inspired by the right woman.

The issue is when a woman who knows she wants children hitches herself to the train of the ambivalent guy.

There’s a 50% that if those two people fall in love, move in together and get married, that “unsure/no preference” guy will prefer NOT having children – and she will have unwittingly placed her fertility on the line for a pipe dream.

So is it possible that the other 50% of men DO decide to become fathers when they meet the right woman? Sure.

Is that something you want to take a chance on as a potential mother? Hell, no!

You wouldn’t get on a plane that had a 50% chance of landing. Why get on the undecided train with a 40-year-old guy who’s still figuring out his shit?

You wouldn’t get on a plane that had a 50% chance of landing. Why get on the undecided train with a 40-year-old guy who’s still figuring out his shit?

Stick exclusively with men who know they want kids and you’ll have one less thing to worry about when deciding if you’re going to spend your life together.

Marriage is complicated. Don’t make it more complicated by investing in ambivalent men.

(Same goes for guys who don’t know if they want to get married, by the way!)

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Comments:

  1. 1
    SparklingEmerald

    Evan’s answer is spot on ! And while many people who claim to be “ambivalent” about issues such as marriage or children, I think some have made a firm decision on one side or the other, but don’t want to alienate half of their pool of prospects, so they’ll say “unsure”. This leaves them some wiggle room, when the time comes for a firm decision.

    1. 1.1
      MilkyMae

      Some people say they are “unsure” when in their hearts they are absolutely sure. It could be wiggle room but I think people are avoiding vulnerability. When you communicate your wishes you are showing some of your cards or spilling your guts. It’s a sad way to live but some people feel uncomfortable when they openly admit what they want and they send mixed messages for as long as they can.

    2. 1.2
      SparklingEmerald

      In a past post (https://www.evanmarckatz.com/blog/online-dating-tips-advice/why-do-women-in-their-30s-not-want-to-date-men-in-their-40s ) on this blog one commenter said . . .

      “At most, I will say “unsure,” just to open my profile to more women, because I think there may be many who are saying yes, but don’t really want to, or are open to not having them if they find a man that can give them enough love that they don’t feel the need for kids to fill a hole in their lives. The right man will be enough for them. ”

      If I were a woman who was absolutely 100% sure I wanted kids, I would avoid anyone who puts down “unsure”.

      I was very late to the “wanting to have kids party”. In my early 20’s, I was adamant about not wanting kids (even though I ADORED kids), because 1. I thought I would be a terrible mother (and in my early 20’s I would have) and 2. I was the by product of the marriage from hell, and my mother always swore she would leave my abusive father, as soon as the kids were all in school, then later, when all the kids were out of school, then later she was too old to leave him. I had an extreme fear of being trapped in an abusive marriage and of kids tying me to an abusive husband.

      When I reached my late 20’s, I decided that I shouldn’t let my parents shitty marriage keep me from having children, when I reallly do love kids, and that just because I had shitty parenting didn’t mean I would be a crap mom. However, when I reached my early 30’s, I thought perhaps I shouldn’t let it willingness to have kids be a deal breaker, since I might age out of my child bearing years, and end up with no husband OR children.

      I am SO glad that I got over my early aversion to motherhood, and fell in love with and married a man who definitely wanted children. My fears about being “too late” to have children were unfounded as well, since I had my first and only child a few weeks before turning 35, and got pregnant the first time we tried to conceive. Unfortunately, while I married for love AND children, my hubby pretty much was a womb digger who only married me to be a brood mare, and he left me when our son was in college. He flat out told me he didn’t need me any more since our child was now an adult. 🙁

      As sad as it was to find out that I was nothing but a brood mare to a man that I loved and trusted so much, I am SO GLAD that I got to experience motherhood, and I think that if I had come to the end of my fertile years NEVER having had children, that would have been a greater pain to bear than the divorce.

      Women, if you REALLY want children, just bypass the men who say “unsure”. You could end up wasting your fertile years on a man who really didn’t want children, and just gave an ambiguous answer to to get what he wanted.

      Also, while a woman’s fertility does decline with age, I had a baby with no problem at (almost) age 35, and I have a few women friends who had babies in their late 30’s to early 40’s, with no medical intervention and no birth defects.

      Don’t settle for a childless relationship because you think it might be “too late” and don’t roll the dice with an “unsure” man.

  2. 2
    Malika with an L

    One friend of mine stated ‘unsure’ because he wasn’t sure he would ever find the right click with a woman to marry and have children with. He then met his now-wife, moved in, married and is going to be a daddy within two and a half years (Evan would blanch at the pace, but they are at least very happy and compatible). It can happen, BUT their urge wasn’t very big, it was just happenstance that they met their matching bookend and were then raring to go.

    If it’s the absolute goal of OP, she should focus on the abundant amount of men who say ‘yes, please’ as it will make life easier for her. Men who are unsure or who already have kiddos, are for the young uns who have more time on their side or are also uncertain. Their margin for error is realistically wider. You can only go for the wild card if you can deal with worst-case scenario.

  3. 3
    Karl R

    Nicole,

    Back when I was on Match.com, I experienced a similar situation. Many women listed “Unsure” regarding children, and I definitely didn’t want children. If you want insight into how potential matches ultimately feel, there’s one more place to check.

    Look at what criteria they are seeking in a partner. In my experience, the “Unsure” women’s preferences fell into three neat buckets, each of similar size:
    1) Definitely, Someday, Unsure.
    2) Unsure.
    3) Unsure, Probably Not, Never.

    I clearly matched the women in the third bucket. You clearly match the men in the first bucket.

  4. 4
    Kim

    My story is unusual, but I have to tell it here.
    I was 32 and very done with getting involved with men who were “uncertain”, which inevitably turned into not wanting children at all.
    Then my best friend met someone from a Weekly (newspaper) ad (this was prior to dating apps). She told me she had met this great guy, and while they agreed they were not suited for each other as romantic partners, she thought he and I were a match made in heaven. Except for one thing. He did NOT want children. Ever. And I did. I told her I did not even want to meet him.
    Well, over the next 6 months, she told him things about me, she told me things about him. He would ask me questions, through her, like, why children, anyway? And I would respond. And I would ask questions back. He began to question his decision. We slowly began to become interested in each other, but I still did not want to meet him.
    My friend held an annual holiday party that I always attended, and he was there. In fact, he waited up for me until 1am. (I worked evening shift) which, in retrospect, was a big, big deal. (this is Mr. Gotta be Asleep by 930pm we’re talking about.)
    So we met, we talked. We even sang together. We made a date. We found out we had tons in common. And we started to talk about children. I had wanted 3. He had wanted none. He was terrified at being a father, but he fell in love with me and believed in me. We got married, had adventures (4 months travel in Asia, volunteer work in India, backpacking all over the place) and had our baby girl at age 37.
    This man who had never wanted to be a father became an EXEMPLARY father. He thanks me regularly for the fact that he is. And I made a compromise, too. One child, not three. And one was the perfect number.
    So I would ask those guys who are undecided, what would it take for you to decide? What are your questions? What is holding you back?

    1. 4.1
      okzemlyanika

      The answer is they just don’t want any, but they might want later when you are too old.

  5. 5
    Mickey

    Isn’t it better for a guy to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he doesn’t want kids than to have kids and then decide he doesn’t want any?

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