Wannabe Dads vs. Child-Free Guys. Which One Are You?

father with kids

father with kidsTo Have and Have Not. This is a title of a film that featured the famous scene between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in which Bacall famously said, “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” The expression can be altered for many couples to “to have Or to have not,” and the issue isn’t about something as simple as whistling (or blowing) but whether or not to make the life-altering step of having children. Children and money are the two things that make a relationship not only serious but deadly serious and are what married couples fight the most about, after sex. Things can be difficult enough when a couple is already committed to having children and to having a certain number of them, but when the topic is a bone of contention in a relationship, things can be strained. It isn’t easy to manage a relationship, whether it is dating, engagement or marriage when there is such a disagreement over this basic, crucial issue, but there are steps you and your partner can take to approach the topic with mutual understanding. One important thing to keep in mind is to at least try understand your own and your partner’s attitude about the subject of children.

Why Many Men Don’t Want Kids

If you are a single guy who is not (yet) a dad, you may enjoy your freedom and be happy about the notion that you can work all day and night at the office without the nagging guilt some of your colleagues feel or without having to give explanations to a wife who is burdened with the after-school rush of kid activity. However, there may be times when you are concerned about posterity or simply want to share some of your favorite pastimes, such as fishing or going to the ballpark with progeny. This feeling may pass or grow more urgent with time. Few can deny the notion of parenthood for women, it is validated and even pressured to a greater degree than for men. Whether or not you want to have kids usually has little effect on your self-worth. However, to your female partner, it may be everything.

A few years ago, the comedian Sarah Silverman and her father defended Silverman’s desire not to have children to a religious-minded blogger critic. If Sarah had been Stanley Silverman rather than Sarah, it is unlikely the decision not to procreate would have met with criticism or would have required defense. As a man in a relationship, this disparity may affect you in the sense that you have to deal with the consequences of this pressure on your partner. If you have been dating a woman for a while, chances are she is being asked questions from her family and friends about when she is going to tie the knot and have children. You may be asked the same thing, but are likely to receive less pressure than she is, and the pressure gets passed on to you.

Even in 2016, girls are still socialized to want motherhood above other goals, but boys are not brought up the same way. Even if a man wants to be a father, he is given few social rewards for doing so. Nowadays, men often share half of the childcare and housework duties, but the praise and blame for child rearing still fall more heavily on the woman. This means men may be less embarrassed by a messy house, but they also get fainter praise for an immaculate home or a homecooked meal. They are less likely to get time off for a family event or have an important deadline forgiven if a child is sick. Today’s father has greater expectations on him with few rewards, whereas for a woman, being a mother is still a fulfillment of a lifelong dream, she is given praise for a job well done, and sympathy if she had difficulty meeting career goals.

Why Many Men Do Want Kids

In spite of the fact that today’s father is expected to do more for his kids while getting skipped over in the compliment department, the fact that more women work and assist with the family income evens out the picture. Gone are the days when women didn’t know how to balance a checkbook and hardly had a notion of what happened to credit cards after a shopping trip. Women are also trying their hands at basic repairs and home improvements. The advantages of the blurred lines between male and female expectations offset some of the difficulties, and in a way, being a father today is easier and harder because of the partnership model.

Men still want to be fathers for the reason they have always wanted to be fathers—to leave a trace of themselves for the next generation and to have someone to love and to care for. Gone are the days when fathers were unconcerned about paternity except insofar as it would enable them to carry on their name or tradition. People parent today out of an emotional imperative rather than pragmatism or social expectation, and even though the structures in today’s world feel more loose and changeable, the advantage is that family structures today are based on love, commitment and will rather than obligation and expectation.

What If Your Partner Wants Children

If you and your partner both want children, you can begin the planning phase. However, if she wants children and you do not, this can pose a problem. Try not to turn this topic into something you will end up arguing over endlessly. Decide together when the topic is closed and when it is open and try not to allow lingering resentment on either side. It may be a good idea to have a third party, such as at therapist, involved in the issue so you can discuss the topic clearly and arrive at a solution. Not surprisingly, many relationships can end over this subject, but it is worth spending the time discussing it rather than feeling it is hopeless.

Your Partner Does Not Want Children

If your partner does not want children, it may be a difficult matter to pressure her, especially since women are the ones who need to carry the babies in their bodies and give birth. Breach the topic now and again, but avoid being too adamant about it. This may be a situation where you may have to move on if you can’t reach an agreement on the issue. Only time will tell whether it is a vital issue or not. Fortunately, time is on your side, and many men become fathers later in life.

The  issue of whether or not to have children is a personal one, but in a relationship, it also involves your partner. This topic can make or break relationships, but if you and your partner are meant to be, your odds are good of coming to some kind of conclusion eventually. The key is patience and listening to each other.