Thursday, August 4, 2011

Childlessness from the man's perspective

The only childless men I know are my younger relatives. All the men of my generation and older have children, although they may not have acquired them with their present wives. Childlessness comes with the second wife syndrome; he's done with kids, and you missed your chance.

But sometimes it's the woman who doesn't want to have children with the new husband. Either she has hers already or she never wanted to be a mom. Same problem. Or is it?

Men have more time. Women need to get pregnant no later than their early 40s while men have decades longer, so the need to hurry is less urgent. But once they're committed to a relationship with no babies on the horizon, don't they grieve the loss of children, too?

Man or woman, it always comes down to a decision. Do I love this person enough to sacrifice the children I might have had? Did I always want to be a mom or dad? There are no easy answers and no way for both people to get what they want.

I sometimes read a blog called Him + 17, written by a man who married a woman 17 years older than he is. They were unable to have children together. In a 2009 posting, he wrote, "I know I've missed out on something fundamental to human experience. Sheri has, too. Though I would not change a whit of my past if it meant losing Sheri, I sometimes try to understand who that young man was, and why he made the decisions he did."

A few years ago, an anthology called Nobody's Father was published by Touchwood Editions in Canada. It offers some good examples of the male perspective. Some of the men are content with their situation while others are clearly in pain. One writer admits to conflicted feelings when a child has a tantrum over something he wants at the store. While he is grateful he never had to deal with that situation, he simulantaneously wants to hold and comfort the child, giving him everything he wants.

If you wanted kids and don't have them, it hurts. Even if you never thought you wanted them, you might sometimes feel that something is missing.

Men out there, what do you have to say on this?


Downs said...

Thank you for writing this post, and for acknowledging that men also sometimes want children and are denied. The last lines of your post certainly pertain to me, as do a few earlier lines (I'm the fellow from HimPlus17).

The struggle, I find, is understanding the various shades of my reactions to childlessness. Likely, this is an ongoing, never-ending effort. There's thehonest grief that I'd have loved to bring forth a child with my wife, watch the baby grow, and then enjoy (I would hope) a subsequent friendship with the adult who I helped make.

There's also the part of me that just feels plain left out in a societal, cultural way. At family events, with friends who have children, I'm partly the odd one out. Of course, everyone feels left out in some way: the family that only had daughters or only sons, the man or woman who never married. Perhaps people with kids sometimes look at my wife and I and think, "We could have had a life as free as theirs."

I guess I'll stand by what I wrote on my blog, which you quoted. I'm missing something; I'm not sure exactly what. I've tried to fill that gap by spending time with young people, by being a mentor through teaching and as a volunteer with Big Brothers. It helps, but truly, I'll never understand on the most fundamental level what it means to love one's own child. As I age, as I learn to live with the reality, this reality remains a grief, sometimes sharper, sometimes less so. I suspect it will never fade and never become something to which I grow accustomed.

Thanks for the post, Sue, and thanks for your blog.

Suelick said...

Michael, thank you so much for sharing this. I'd love to hear from other guys on this subject.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post and, Him+17, for your insightful comments. I think that women have more outlets to talk about this issue than men, so I'm really glad to hear this perspective.

I am not sure that hole can ever really be filled, then again, I wouldn't trade my amazing (15 years my senior) husband for the chance of a child.

Anonymous said...

So grateful to find this blog. I am an african american male age 40 still childless. While everyone has a different story, mines started at age 23 with an abortion, various miscarriages concluding with several failed ivf cycles at age 40 . The hole of so many disappointments can't be filled. Any one else out there has any help when everyone who isn't gay, in jail or choses not to have kids seems to have then.

hopefulpapa said...

Glad to find this post. I am an Asian M,40 and childless. Wife had 3 unsuccessful IVF cycles, due to multiple factors. I think a Man's thought pattern is similar to a woman who doesn't bear a child. Emotionally difficult indeed. Really helpless state especially if one truly loves his wife. The tragedy is the thought that there wont be a bloodline here after. Does it really matter to us? I don't know. Surrogacy or adoption is not for everyone. Not an easy option I think. I and my wife don't discuss this topic as if we presume this issue is not an issue at all...but we silently brood on this... Prayer is my hope. God will one day hear our prayers. I am eager to be a father so that I can show my child this beautiful world!

Suelick said...

Dear Hopeful, I hope that your prayers are answered someday. This is definitely a difficult situation, and it's important that you stick together. It's nobody's fault. Take care.

Anonymous said...

It is a truth, that every person at some point of time wishes to have a child. Irrespective of man or a woman, I am from India where woman are more oriented towards having a child. My situation had been very different. i am married from last 4 years. Initially it was not that much influenced my line of thoughts but of late i am realising i am missing something very important objective of my life. But my partner is not concerend about it. I wander, how and why, particulalry when you belong to a country where child is very important for a woman. But my woman is something uncertain. She is satisfied with the way she is going...a free married woman...and i am left wid childless marriage. Adding to the woes is the legal system that advocates for woman, where divorce is a time taking and complicated process. Thus, men like me, die silently ...... .. I want legal system shuld be balanced....... Childless at 40

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

This is a tough situation, Anonymous. It is more complicated in your country because of the different laws and beliefs about marriage. I hope you can find peace and the children you desire.

Anonymous said...

Right now I'm going through a scenario where I have been in a relationship with a woman I love for two years. I am 33 and she is 31. When we met she had a 1 year old son from a previous marriage. While the biological father seems to be a good guy on the occasions we have met; she paints a portrait of him being absent during the pregnancy and early life of the boy. I have loved the child as if he were my own for two years now, however it is not the same as seeing a bit of yourself in a child's smile.

She believes it is a deal breaker to ever, even in the future, consider having a child. While I do not want a child now, I would like to approach the topic in 2-3 years. She does not believe her mind will ever change and even blames the first child on pressure from his father.

The concern she voices the highest is that her son will feel replaced and without a family if there is a second child. Second is that she never wanted kids at all. She has also raised the concern that she will have two children with two guys and that may be a hard societal pill for her to swallow. My hope is the 21st century "modern family" will help get the pill down.

I just don't know if her feelings are truly genuine on this topic, or if some irrational fears and lingering doubts about being in a committed relationship are driving the conversation?

What do you guys think is the best course of action; move on to somebody who I may not love as much or at least in the same way (boy included) but is open to the option of kids in the future? Or stick it out and deal with that feeling of impotence which accompanies any life goal lost? Maybe this too shall pass?

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Boy, I wish I knew the answer. It sounds like everything is perfect except for her not wanting another child. How can you convince her that having a brother or sister would be the best thing for her son? I don't know, but if everything else is good, maybe you should stick with her.
What do other readers think?

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have been trying for a child for the best part of the last decade - We are now 34. After several ivf/icsi cycles, a couple of misscarrages, a serious bout of hyper stimulation where my wife was admitted to hospital unconscious for 2 weeks and a roller coaster of emotions we have almost come to accept that we may never have our own child. Yes it hurts like hell!

I don't really know where I'm going with this post but sometimes it just helps to get it out. Every day gets harder and the prospect of being a dad gets further away. Being a blokes bloke I don't talk about this but just grow older and further away from my friends who all have their own families.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Anonymous, I'm so sorry you're going through this. It does sound like the high-tech solutions are not working and too dangerous for your wife. Can you adopt? I know you want your own kids, but it may not happen. It does hurt, but I promise it will get easier.