For some men, not having kids really matters
Date: December 3, 2020
Author: Dr Joanne Lawrence-Bourne
Some of life’s adversities are more hidden than others.
While not having children may never be an issue for some men, for others, it can cause a lot of underlying stress, quietly impacting everyday life and decisions.
This can be a sensitive and deeply personal topic that men feel unable to talk about. Or no-one has ever asked.
Differences in how men experience childlessness depends on their desire, choice and circumstances. Some men have adopted, fostered, or stepchildren. Some men are not the biological father of their children (donor/IVF). Some men have no children at all. Men may decide early in life not to have children or be suddenly told (or confirmed suspicion) of their infertility. Some men have remained single. Men who thought they might have children one day, find that life hasn’t turned out that way and now feel too old to have children.
Not all men without children feel childless. The term ‘childless’ might sound negative or more important. Whereas ‘childfree’ might sound offhand or carefree. Terminology can confuse how a man actually feels about not having children.
Men experience being childless in different ways.
Some feel isolated, excluded, misunderstood, whether they wanted to have children or not. Other men feel a loss of purpose in life, or it’s a slur on their manhood. Some men have also experienced feeling uncomfortable or not trusted with other people’s kids.
Not having a partner can make things worse.
This can lead to feelings and emotions of depression, anxiety, and for some men contribute to thoughts of suicide. While some men are ok about not having kids, others have regrets and are filled with despair, or left with a lingering sadness.
Everyone is different but not alone.
There are no clear guidelines about ‘how to cope’ with involuntary childlessness. Over time, men find different ways that suit them. Some join a men’s organisation (eg. Australian Men’s Shed Association), become involved in the community or work, build relationships with nieces and nephews, mentor students (sharing skills with others), care for pets or become involved in animal protection and land care issues, travel, study, talk with a psychologist (or similar).
So, what’s the next step?
Putting emotions into a box is not always good for mental health.
You might need to talk to someone — a partner, friend, your GP or a counsellor/psychologist.
Talking about what it’s like not to be a father can help to release strong hidden thoughts and feelings.
Take part in a podcast?
Over the years I have found some men like to hear what other men are saying about what it’s like not to have children. Please contact me if you would like to share your story on a podcast.
Dr Joanne Lawrence-Bourne
T: 02 6363 8444
The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health Orange NSW
You Got This Mate provides tips and info to help rural men reach their best possible mental health.
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s mental health, you can call the NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 for advice.
Having a tough time and need someone to talk to right now? The following services are here to help. They are confidential and available 24/7.
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Men’s Line Australia– 1300 78 99 78
- Kids Help Line – counselling and support provided for young people (to 24 years old) who are feeling depressed, sad, or lonely – or just need someone to talk to – 1800 55 1800
- Domestic Violence Line – 1800 656 463
- Suicide Call Back Service– 1300 659 467