On Being a Child-Free Man

I’ve been thinking about doing this article for several months. I’ve never been sure what to include. How do you write an article about not wanting to do something? It wasn’t easy coming up with ideas. So I did some research on social media, articles from child free people, attitudes towards us and much more.

Before I begin, I want to write a disclaimer. This article is not an open invitation for parents to eulogise about parenting or otherwise try to invalidate my decision or that of any child-free person, especially child free men.

Much of the Child-Free Narrative Focuses on Women

In many ways, this is understandable. It’s women who carry the baby for 9 months with all the medical risks that entails. Most online articles and magazines focus on this decision to reject motherhood. However, it’s important to remember that when a couple decides to have children or not to have children it is not the decision of just one person – it’s a joint decision.

“Where are the men in this conversation?” is a question I see regularly on Twitter from men and women equally – it seems people want to hear the experiences and reasons of child-free men. So that’s what I decided to do here – provide a perspective of a child-free man.

I am not claiming to speak for all child free people, and especially not for all child free men. I’m speaking for and of myself and trying to give you an insight into some of the reasons I chose not to reproduce.

One of the most frustrating things about this community (especially on Twitter) is the oft-repeated mantra that “men aren’t challenged on their decision not to want children” and “men aren’t repeatedly asked when they’re going to settle down and have kids.'”

Tehidy Woods Copyright C Hayward 2020

Sorry to break it to you, but…

We Do Get Criticisms and Interrogation

Here is a selection I’ve encountered on Twitter in 2021 alone:

  • Men who don’t want children don’t know how to commit. Well, I committed to 5 years of university study and 8 years self-employed so far. I’ve been in relationships that lasted 12 years and nearly 8 years respectively. If that isn’t commitment, what is?
  • Men who don’t want children are emotionally immature. I would argue that deciding you don’t want children and having a long list of well thought out reasons for why is the complete opposite of emotional immaturity
  • You’re not a real man until you’ve become a father. I have male genitals and I identify as a man – that’s enough, is it not?
  • Nothing compares to the joy of becoming a father. Ok great, for you. Personally, I beg to differ, I’ve experienced unbridled joy in most areas of my life
  • It’s a man’s duty to carry on his family name. Sorry, but I’m not landed gentry and I also have a common surname
  • But what if your partner wants them? It’s natural for women to want to reproduce, you know! I’ve had this with all partners and even dates – as though I should defer my life choices to someone else
  • You’ll die alone / who will take care of you in old age? I hope to have accrued enough savings to pay for professional care. Failing that, I live in a country with a welfare state
  • You can’t live the student life forever. I’m not, I graduated 12 years ago and I’ve been self-employed since 2013
  • Your mother deserves grandchildren to dote on. Well, she already has some

Those are this year alone. Others include “it’s different when it’s your own” and “you’ll change you mind when the right woman comes along.” Some people have even told me “it’s not your decision whether when you have children though 😉”. We call that reproductive coercion and the law considers it a form of abuse.

My Reasons for Not Wanting Children

I could just say “I don’t want them and never have” and leave it at that. It’s certainly true. It’s also true that I owe nobody an explanation, least of all people who have children. But here are my broad reasons.

I Resent Neediness

Children are nothing if not needy and demanding. I resent people putting that much reliance on me that I no longer feel my life or my life choices are my own. The prospect of being in this situation for at least 18 years – maybe even longer – simply fills me with dread.

Mental Illness

I have (mostly low level) anxiety and depression, SAD and I suspect (though I don’t want to assert) a mild form of BPD. When I am stressed and anxious or have a panic attack, it can wipe me out for days. I simply cannot do much work. To get through this pandemic or any average autumn and winter when it hits me worse (hence SAD) would be unfair on me and any children I might ever have had. It’s best that I don’t.

The Freedom
Me at Grand Canyon in 2012. Copyright L. Gemme 2012

One of the upsides of being self-employed is being able to take a day off when I feel like it. Or, as in the last section, I just can’t and I need some recovery time to take care of my mental health. When work is quiet, I sometimes like to go out exploring the local area with my camera. Can’t really do that with children.

Also, I place a high value on alone time. My partner and I have “creative evenings” where we’re working on individual projects. We wouldn’t have that free time with children.

The Nature of Holidays Will Change

Since my partner and I met, we’ve been to Rhodes, Malta, and Crete – and that’s just the foreign holidays. We’ve had mini breaks in Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, and various other places around the UK. We like doing cultural stuff, seeing historic sites and nature. Kids are generally not interested in doing these things until they are older; I wouldn’t want to force them into doing something that bores them. I will get over never visiting Peppa Pig World, personally.

I’m Not Parent Material

This is just a summary of all the points above. I’d resent the neediness, the lack of space to do my own thing, alone time, time to deal with my mental state, and just getting out to see some culture. Many of the things we have done together are not child-friendly and I’d resent giving those up for a substantial amount of time to cater to a child’s entertainment needs.

On a final note, I just want to reiterate that nobody is owed children or an explanation for why you don’t want them – not your parents, not your partner’s parents – and certainly not complete strangers who feel personally affronted that you made different life decisions from those they made.


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Published by MG Mason Creative

I'm Matt, a freelance writer, writing mostly about education, early career recruitment, tech, B2B and professional services. Dabbling with landscape and nature photography too. For this content , please look at my main site linked below. I'm also a self-published author, creator of the quirky crime comedy book series Salmonweird. If that's what you're looking for, then good news! The village has its own website listed below.

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