Does no kids mean no go?
April 5, 2006 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Posting for a friend: Should she break up with her boyfriend because he doesn't want kids?

My friend is in her late 20's and is dating a guy who does not want to have children. She does not want kids now but is pretty sure that she will want them in the future. She loves him and they've been dating for a year and a half but is worried that eventually the kid thing will make them breakup. So should they breakup now or keep dating despite this so called inevitability?
posted by kechi to Human Relations (36 answers total)
Split and cut your losses. There's a huge difference between maybe-yes and maybe-no.
posted by mochapickle at 7:51 PM on April 5, 2006

How old is the other guy?
posted by cellphone at 7:56 PM on April 5, 2006


Dude, I have lost 3 relationships because I don't want kids and I'm a chick. This is a dealbreaker. This is not like buying an Eclipse and realizing you wanted a Subaru later. This is a fucking brat you'll have to deal with. If she's a fence-sitter and he's childfree it WILL NOT WORK. He needs to find a girl that will appreciate him and not some hypothetical larvae that he wants in the future.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:56 PM on April 5, 2006

Er, "the guy"
posted by cellphone at 7:56 PM on April 5, 2006

That SHE wants in the future. I meant.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:57 PM on April 5, 2006

Response by poster: cellphone: both 28

The corollary to this is if she was younger it wouldn't be so much of an issue but now she's concerned she should be out dating other guys rather than getting more involved.
posted by kechi at 8:02 PM on April 5, 2006

If they were younger, I'd say ignore what he says. Before 30, people change their mind about marriage and kids like they change their clothes. At 28, however, the clock start's ticking and this issue tends to be a dealbreaker. She's "yes" and he's "no." Probably time to move on.
posted by cribcage at 8:06 PM on April 5, 2006

Response by poster: For the record, I don't think that they should break-up. They are having fun, not yet thinking about marriage or moving in together and 28's not that old.
posted by kechi at 8:17 PM on April 5, 2006

How long is this going to go on? 1.5 yrs is a bit long for a 'fun' relationship, no?
posted by lemur at 8:19 PM on April 5, 2006

Response by poster: He knows how she feels about this.
posted by kechi at 8:24 PM on April 5, 2006

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:30 PM on April 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

pieoverdone: hah, holy crap, you're like the female version of me. :P

My god. I read this thread and nearly had a heart attack. I thought my girlfriend had coaxed someone into posting this question for her. We had a nice talk, and no, she didn't have anything to do with this. heh.
I got myself clipped several years ago, having long ago decided that I do not ever want kids. I'll be 31 years old this year, and I have never regretted the decision or had any second thoughts about it.

And you're right - "Want your tubes tied? Oh, gee, I dunno.. hrm..." vs. "Can't get pregnant? Want fertility drugs so you plop out a litter? Cash or credit!?"
I didn't have any trouble finding someone to do a vasectomy because I had researched it in advance and came in prepared. I am sad to hear that women still have to fight to get their tubes tied.
posted by drstein at 8:31 PM on April 5, 2006

In my experience, there is an "uh.... no, I'm not sure I do want kids" that comes from not being able to imagine being handling the burden (money, stability, etc.). That might mean "yes." All the other "no"s seem unchangable. I dated one guy for four years whose mind never changed.

Then I was amazed to hear someone say he wanted kids with this certain tone in his voice, as though he -- like me -- can already picture them, already loves them. Imagine that. (If I'd've imagined it was out there, I might not have stayed so long with Mr. No.)

I might be wrong about this particular person's feelings. But I've heard other guys lovingly planning for families, too. If that's her dream, she should find someone who'll share it.
posted by salvia at 8:41 PM on April 5, 2006

Mod note: quite a few comments removed, please contribute to the MeTa thread if you can't respond to the question in this one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:42 PM on April 5, 2006

I think if a person even thinks that children are a possibility for them it is best to find a partner who feels similarly.

I never ever wanted kids for a long time but then I turned 23 or so and babyfever hit me like a sledgehammer. But I wonder if that is something that is more likely to happen when one is female...

Anyway, back on topic: Altho it is theoretically possible that the guy could have a change of heart a few years from now, it is foolish to gamble on the possibility unless one is willing to lose the bet, so to speak. Otherwise the groundwork for a lot of anger and bitterness-on both sides- will be laid.

And ANYONE considering marriage would be well served to hash out the baby question well in advance, and in detail.
posted by konolia at 8:43 PM on April 5, 2006

If being a parent is important to her, she needs to find someone who shares that goal.
posted by jrossi4r at 8:49 PM on April 5, 2006

28 is not that old, but "does not want to have children" can mean an awful lot of different things.

I "did not want to have children" when I was 28, and neither did my wife. We both agreed that we were content with the thought of never having children, ever.

By the time we were in our early 30s, we were less rigid about the matter, but still pretty sure we weren't going to be in a place where children would make sense to us. Around my 35th birthday we decided to take the safety off and see what happened, and we conceived about a week later, which might or might not constitute sort of backing into parenthood, having decided we felt prepared to deal with it.

Some people are more like pieoverdone and just know with the fiery conviction of a holy crusader that they don't want children ever. Some people are more like me and my wife and change over time. Others find themselves in relationships where the partner changes and they really don't, but they weigh their choices and decide the partner is worth more than the hypothetical baby or its lack.

If I were in a relationship with someone closing in on 30 and saying the things pieoverdone is saying regarding surgical sterilization, I'd take that as a sign it was time to look elsewhere or at least deprioritize the relationship.

If I were in a relationship with someone like me, who said at 28 he was unwilling to have children but wasn't willing to pay the $15 copay to get an insurance-funded vasectomy because you never know, I'd say it would be worth putting off ending the relationship and reappraising in a few years.
posted by mph at 8:51 PM on April 5, 2006

Kechi: More constructively, I think it is entirely fair to end the relationship over such an important issue. That doesn't mean I'm saying your friend should end it; Your friend may decide the relationship is more important to her. But if, after careful consideration, she decides the end the relationship, I believe that is a perfectly appropriate and understandable decision.
posted by Justinian at 8:55 PM on April 5, 2006

26, female, don't want kids, and would never, ever inflict myself on anyone who did want kids . . . because I really, really don't. My husband I think wouldn't mind kids, but doesn't really care one way or another -- he has nephews and some of our friends have kids, which are entertaining for a while and then we give them back. I never want to keep them. They're cute and all, but I have cats, thanks.

Whether or not to have kids is a huge thing in a relationship. If he's a firm "No" at 28, the she needs to respectfully decline to continue the relationship. The older she gets, the more difficult and/or expensive it will be to have A kid, much less more than one. Yes, people are having children at older ages now, but it's much more easy to have them a little younger. She needs to know if he's a firm no, or if he's a maybe. Maybe is something you can work with; a firm feeling in either direction, not so much.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:56 PM on April 5, 2006

*sigh* I didn't think to preview to see whether some of pieoverdone's comments would end up getting deleted, so you're going to have to construct your own version of what someone with "the fiery conviction of a holy crusader that they don't want children ever" might sound like.

If the guy's saying he'd slit open his own scrotum and tie off whatever he found in there, and he's 28, he should be taken at his word. If he isn't willing to fork over the $15 copay for an insurance-funded vasectomy, it might be a question worth tabling for a year or two if your friend's able to view an 18 month investment to this point that provisionally.
posted by mph at 9:01 PM on April 5, 2006

she should break up with him ... having children is one of the most basic questions of a relationship and they're not agreed on it

by the way, there's no need for anyone to place blame on one or the other ... it's just the way it is and one can't change it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:28 PM on April 5, 2006

I was in a very similar situation. I dated a man for many years who did not want children, ever. I was in much the same frame of mind as your friend; I wasn't ready for kids yet but I thought I might want them in the future. However, I really loved this man and I wanted to be with him. At that time, I would have willingly given up the possibility of children if I knew I could be with someone I loved as much as I did him. I think it may really depend on how much your friend really does love him, and if she is prepared to make that type of a choice.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 9:31 PM on April 5, 2006

She should make sure that he means what he says. If so, she should dump him. For those of us who do want children, they are the best part of life. They open up parts of your heart that you did not know were there. She should not give that up.
posted by LarryC at 9:34 PM on April 5, 2006

You might ask the question in reverse:

"Should my 28 year old friend, who wants kids, spend a couple of years waiting to see if her new boyfriend is going to change his mind about the subject?"

She'd feel like a monstrous ass and hate herself and him if she sat around from 28-31 only to learn that what he told her at the beginning is in fact that way he's going to keep feeling.

Perhaps he'd change his mind. Big risk to take in the late 20s for a woman who is definitely interested in kids. I don't mean to be harsh but there is a finite period to do it in, and after a while you have to stop dicking around wasting 1-2 years here, 3-5 years there. Quickly, it adds up to serious time lost.
posted by scarabic at 10:55 PM on April 5, 2006

Scarabic is right about risk. Fertility falls fairly rapidly after about 28 or so. Women are half as fertile at 35 as they were at 25.

Let's say your friend waits another 2.5 years. She realizes that this guy never wants kids. So she then struggles with that a bit longer. The relationship blows up. She's 31. Now she has to find another guy and start a relationship. If she's very diligent and lucky, she will find the right guy and start trying to conceive by the time she's 33. There's more than a 1/20 chance that she won't be able to conceive after 3 years.

But let's say that she waits another 5 years or so (or that she waits 2.5 years and then meets the wrong guy and so has to find another). At 38, there's a 1/4 chance she won't conceive after 3 years. And then she's 41 and the chances are pretty low.

Note that these scenarios allow for one kid. Imagine how stressful this is if you were hoping for two kids.

I have had several (female) family doctors tell me that the myth of fertility throughout your 30s is a devastating lie.

If your friend feels that children are important to her and that she won't be happy without them, she's not being true to herself and she's not involving her current boyfriend in a path to happiness. And it isn't fair to try to pressure the other party into having kids -- which is what may happen if she waits and then resents the situation.
posted by acoutu at 11:44 PM on April 5, 2006

People date for different reasons. Some date to find a mate. Some date for companionship. Which type is your friend? She absolutely should not get married to someone who doesn't want kids if she does. But they're not even engaged yet, right? I'm with those who think it's unlikely he'll change his mind. But if she's not ready for kids yet, there's no rush to dump him.
posted by zanni at 1:14 AM on April 6, 2006

My opinion would be that there is no need for them to break up now, but they must communicate and realise that there will come a point where they may have to go their separate ways to fulfill their lives.

I do not want kids, neither does my girlfriend of six years. But from very early on in our relationship (when it was pertinent, at least) made her aware that I would never want kids but that I understood she may, biologically speaking, change her mind one day - and should that day come, we would have to part because it would be unfair of me to expect her to supress her natural urges to stay with me. It's never happened, and I hope it never does, but the reality is this, as pieoverdone says - kids are a dealbreaker...

But, to reiterate - no need to break the deal until it comes to a head, so-to-speak, so long as you communicate constantly up to that point.
posted by benzo8 at 1:40 AM on April 6, 2006

This is such a heart-breaking situation, and unfortunately, there's no happy way out of it. If they were five years younger, I'd say that he's probably too young to make a "final" decision in this matter. People change a lot in their twenties.

I do think that she should end the relationship soon. The fact that she's thinking about this now tells me that the worry is outweighing the other (good) stuff between them. It's going to be hard and hurtful for both if she does say goodbye, but it's probably best.

To give her some context: I have two long-time girlfriends that ended up marrying men that didn't want kids. One had a child (birth control failure) and they went on to be good parents that later divorced for lots of other reasons. The other is still extremely sad and angry about their decision to remain childless. She hoped that he'd change his mind and he never did. Neither one of them is a bad person - they just didn't share the same priorities.

My advice to her is to try to imagine how she'd feel if she never had kids. Would it make her profoundly sad? If yes, then she should end the relationship now, while the availability of eligible partners is high.
posted by Flakypastry at 4:15 AM on April 6, 2006

It sounds to me like the two ways to answer this in the negative would have to be a)he might change his mind and b)let's not worry about the future. The first is something you have to judge for yourself based on how this guy presents it, but the second can easily be regretted.

I spent a good portion of my 20s thinking that way - I blame my hippie parents for never instilling in me the idea that a long term vision is a good thing - and I'm now kinda 5 years behind where I'd like to be. I'll be closing in on 35 by the time I get my PhD, and even if I were to meet someone tomorrow, close to that age by the time we could seriously talk about having a family/etc. It doesn't kill me that I will probably never have kids, but it won't be an ideal life either, I don't think. wrt to kids, my case may not have been any different even if I'd been thinking more long-term, because the one relationship I did stay in too long was not about kids, but that isn't the point: at 28, it's definitely time to think of your whole life as part of the same story, and not get caught up in the little tangent you're going off on now. A few little anecdotes before you start to tell the real story can be charming, but don't just ramble incoherently all night long :).
posted by mdn at 6:57 AM on April 6, 2006

I'll just add my voice to the chorus of "it's a dealbreaker". In my opinion, it's the highest ranked dealbreaker - this is a fundamental difference about how you want to spend your life. It's not subject to compromise - if one of you wants a kid and one doesn't, that's it. There are no half-kids, and a dog probably won't cut it. (This assumes, of course, that everyone involved is old enough where changing their mind is unlikely.)

I've been there - my last two relationships ended because of the exact same issue. But everyone involved agrees that we're all better off now than we would have been if we continued with the relationships.
posted by flipper at 7:40 AM on April 6, 2006

I've seen several relationships where the woman broke it off because the guy didn't want kids. He then has kids with the next woman he dates. However, in each case, I believe he wouldn't have had kids with the previous gf. Seems as if some guys realize it's a dealbreaker, and then change their minds. Also seen a divorce when the woman realized that the guy was *serious* about not having kids.

She could talk to him and make it clear that she'll want kids someday. If he's serious about not having kids, then she has to accept it or leave.

Many child-free couples are happy. There's a surplus of humans on the planet. Not having kids is a reasonable choice. For me, dealbreaker. But it's okay for her to ignore the family pressure and other voices that expect her to have kids. Unless it's her voice.
posted by theora55 at 8:26 AM on April 6, 2006

Yes, she should break up with him. After one more long talk, I'd say. Because it is a pretty serious dealbreaker.

I sympathize with him - a LOT of women want children - I'm not one of them. I feel lucky to have found a man who feels the same.
posted by agregoli at 8:36 AM on April 6, 2006

I (30) am on the fence about kids - My husband (28) was in the 'no kids' camp - until he laid on his new neice. Then he softened his stance.

I'm just sayin - he's still young enough he could change his mind. Sounds like she's not in a huge hurry. If she's enjoying the relationship, she shouldn't write him off.
posted by delladlux at 10:46 AM on April 6, 2006

er.."laid EYES on his new neice"
posted by delladlux at 10:50 AM on April 6, 2006

*Whew* I'm REALLY glad you corrected yourself there, delladlux...
posted by Aquaman at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2006

I'm still laughing at that one, d-lux.

My answer to the poster is no breakup. The key question is if the man wants to eventually marry or not. If he does, then his wife will convince him to have kids, and the context will most likely push him in that direction. 28 year old men say they don't want kids, but those men don't have a wife and a home.
posted by dgaicun at 10:01 PM on April 6, 2006

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