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Choosing To Be Childfree: Not Simple For Men

Men who choose not to have kids face social challenges

Men who choose not to have kids face social challenges

Baby lust is popularly imagined to be the domain of women: we want babies, we’re supposed to want babies. Babies, babies, babies.

Or we don’t. About 20 percent of women never give birth. That includes women who struggle to conceive and cannot, and it includes adoptive mothers and stepparents. But it also takes into account the minority of women who choose never to have children. These women face often substantial pressure from family, partners and friends. Choosing to be childfree isn’t an easy path for a woman who doesn’t want to be a mom.

It’s not so easy for men, either, writes Ted Cox at the Good Men Project. Apparently guys face a lot of the same social pressure to procreate that women do. Their parents nag them for grandbabies. Their girlfriends nag them for babies. Everyone expects them to become dads.

Many start out not wanting kids and later fold under pressure. Or grow up and discover they really do want children. Ted Cox took the permanent way out. At 28, he had a vasectomy.

I laud Ted for taking birth control bravely into his own hands. There are precious few safe alternatives for men who want to be responsible for birth control, and a vasectomy is by far the most effective. Sometimes they can even be reversed if you change your mind later.

Which you well might, Ted, because dude. You are 28. That’s only a few years younger than me, so I can’t really speak from experience on this point, but I believe there’s a whole life ahead of both of us that we know little about. Decades in which you might meet someone and fall in love with her and her kids. Time to want children of your own. You don’t know.

Your reasons for doing this sound, as you say, selfish and immature. Which is cool: your 20s is a great time to be selfish and immature. The day will come, though, when all your buddies are off at those Little League games you scorned, and you’re home alone with your Japanese game shows. You might just start to feel a little lonely.

Or you might not. I know a few men who’ve had vasectomies after having kids, and not one of them has ever seemed to regret it. The guys I know who did it before having kids have had mixed luck: one later came out as gay, another went through years of fertility therapies to have twins with his wife. You can’t know what the future holds.

I know, I sound like I’m heaping on that social pressure Ted was talking about. Maybe I am. Sometimes social pressure comes from a good place. It’s not that I don’t think men can’t legitimately choose not to have kids. Anyone can. I just think that as we get older, our priorities tend to shift. The hobbies and pursuits that kept us busy may start to pale. Those babies can get even cuter.

Let’s say Ted really does want a childfree life, though. More power to him. His essay also includes a few lines that reveal some gender issues he might want to work through, as Double X points out. He gripes about women turning him down for dates when they know he’s had a vasectomy. Most women want kids and don’t want to date someone who doesn’t. That’s their choice, as much as it is Ted’s to not have any.

I agree that this is an often overlooked issue: a lot of men and women simply don’t want children, and that’s fine. No one should be pushed to have a baby they don’t want. I’m not sure a guy in his 20s who had a vasectomy to make more room in his life for game shows is a great spokesperson for the child-free, though. He hasn’t yet faced the issues that will come up because of that decision, nor has he had a chance to discover what’s great about it.

Photo: Ed Yourdon

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