When To Ask or Say If You Have or Want Children

I coach a lot of women who are intelligent, beautiful, successful and childless. Most of them want a child really, REALLY bad. Some want a child more than they want a partner. A few just never really saw themselves as mothers and opted out of parenting. But I wouldn’t know where to begin telling stories of women who have been lead on, lied to or disenchanted to find out that the man they had been secretly hoping would father them a child, won’t.

According to PEW, “Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s.” This trend toward childlessness has doubled in one lifetime.

To explain this PEW cites a 2008 study titled, “The Future of American Fertility” conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research and states, “that social pressure to bear children appears to have diminished for women and that today the decision to have a child is seen as an individual choice.” They continue their explanation by saying, “Improved job opportunities and contraceptive methods help create alternatives for women who choose not to have children.” So if I understand that correctly, they’re saying that women have always felt pressure to have children, but the pressure is diminishing. Additionally, if I’m not mistaken, they’re saying that the diminishing gender gap in terms of income, employment and education is also contributing to this. That’s an odd derivation to make when the same PEW research concludes that, “While childlessness has risen for all racial and ethnic groups, and most education levels, it has fallen over the past decade for women with advanced degrees.” Without citing any particular study, I’m pretty sure it’s a forgone conclusion that advanced degrees usually yield “improved job opportunities”.

Many of my childless female clients have taken steps to preserve their eggs and prolong the possibility of parenting a child. Some have started to initiate the fertilization process without a partner to parent the child with. However, not all of my clients are “wealthy” or privileged enough to afford to freeze their eggs, hire a surrogate, try invetro, or even adopt. For the women who can’t afford a procedure, and those who don’t welcome the responsibility of parenting a child of their own, on their own, it is imperative to discuss their imminent desire to find a mate. For the women brave enough to bring a child into the world themselves, or to take on the responsibility of raising an orphan alone, it is equally as imperative to let someone know those wheels are in motion or that ship has sailed. For the single moms who never asked to do it themselves and for the childless women who just don’t have the desire to be a mother, the advice is still the same. Talk about it. This is true for men as well.

There are many topics you want to avoid early on in dating. Children are not one of them. What’s the point of even exploring the chemistry if you’re not on the same page here? You’re saving both yourself and the other person a lot of time, trouble, regret and disappointment if you get this topic out in the open early on. How? Just like you would any sensitive subject. Carefully.

Asking about someone’s family while you’re on a date is to be expected. It’s a fairly safe zone just as long as their family is no more dysfunctional than the next. Open with a simple, but direct question. “So are you close with your parents?” A great follow up is, “How about the rest of your family? Brothers? Sisters? Nieces or Nephews?” If they haven’t brought up having kids of their own you can nonchalantly ask, “So are you the type that likes to give the kids back at the end of the day or do you enjoy (the idea) of raising your own?”

Just remember that its necessary to talk about this early and honestly. Avoid delay, avoid dismay.

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To read the PEW research, please click HERE.