When you’re dating someone who doesn’t want to have kids

While 2016 might be the worst year in recent memory (ghost of Prince, can you hear me?), one thing that keeps me smiling is a romantic relationship that started in the spring. It’s the one bright spot in an otherwise garbage year.

In the months since I began dating this fellow, my feelings continue to grow. He makes me feel like I’m Meg Ryan and he’s my bearded Tom Hanks. Or Billy Crystal. It’s a true romantic comedy grounded in reality; we struggle with work-life balance, working opposite schedules, money, compromises, housing, mood swings—and did I mention work?

We’ve had serious talks about taking the next step and living together. We’ve also talked about what we want out of life, at least in the near future. Not long after our relationship began, I learned that I am dating a man who doesn’t want kids. He’s 80 percent sure on that.

I’m not sure if I think his honesty is refreshing or shortsighted or selfish. And while it might be a deal-breaker for some women, it isn’t for me.  

But what about other thirtysomething women—women who may want to be mothers one day—what should they do in this situation? Do they try to convince their partners to change their minds? Break up? Push having kids on someone who doesn’t want them and hope for the best?  

I’ve told a few friends about my personal situation. One gave me a look of pity followed by a hug. (“How sad,” she might’ve been thinking, “missing out on motherhood!”) Another scoffed and replied, “Oh please, men don’t know what they want.” She believes that, early on in a relationship, men aren’t sure about anything. And then there is my mother, who didn’t want kids (she wanted dogs), and then she met my dad and changed her mind.

But at the age of 32, I have learned that you cannot change a person and frankly, you shouldn’t try because it won’t end well. Plus, why would I want to pressure someone I love into something they don’t want to do? Remember this is rearing children, not watering plants.

I respect a woman’s choice to be a mother. I also respect those who do not want to be. We are not in a population crisis. Our country isn’t making propaganda videos begging us to procreate. (I’m looking at you Denmark and your “Do It For Denmark” campaign encouraging citizens to go on vacation, have sex and end the country’s lowest national birth rate in 27 years.)

Don’t get me wrong, kids are fun, and I often walk away from hanging out with them thinking, “maybe motherhood would be for me…” But it’s worth noting that I have that thought as I am walking AWAY from them.

I don’t feel sad about not wanting to have kids. I only start to feel horrible when I think of my parents or my boyfriend’s parents. Will they be disappointed without grandkids?

What it really comes down to is being honest with yourself. And my truth is that I am looking for a partner-in-crime, first. Having children would be icing on an already-pretty-sweet cake, but it’s not essential. And I wouldn’t try to convince my partner otherwise.

Katie Bell is a Portland-based freelance writer who has contributed to publications throughout Maine, New England and London.

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