Three misconceptions about childfree men

Don’t jump to conclusions!

Posted May 26, 2014

Childfree men fly under the radar moreso than women who don’t have kids. Many people consider motherhood to be a woman’s chief purpose in life; in fact, some people go so far as proposing this to be a woman’s main reason for existing.  In our culture, the role of father is not deemed essential in a man’s life, but men who don’t become dads are still viewed with suspicion, and they often get a bad rap. Below are some of the stereotypes about childfree men.

1. Childfree men are little boys who never grew up and whose primary goal in life is to play.

This stereotype of the little boy in a man’s body is even applied to Hollywood actors. Take George Clooney, for example: He’s labeled as a playboy and perceived by many as immature and self-focused. The reality is that Mr. Clooney is extremely hardworking and accomplished in his field with philanthropic pursuits around the world like the ONE Campaign dedicated to fighting poverty in Africa.

Hugh Grant is similarly perceived and is also quite outspoken and involved in helping others. Neither of these men have had the distractions of a family to interfere with their career or civic goals.

Meanwhile, Hollywood dads are often portrayed as somehow stronger and more mature. Take Brad Pitt, father of six, for example. He is cited by Leading Women magazine as an important role model for men today mainly because of the super job he does as a father.

2. Childfree men are less reliable at work than fathers.

Employers often prefer men who are dads, as they are viewed as more reliable and responsible employees than guys who have no one to consider but themselves. A CNBC article suggests that when a family man asks for a flexible schedule to participate in a child-related activity, it’s perceived as unselfish and responsible, but if a childfree man requests similar flexibility for a leisure or civic activity, he’s considered unserious about his job.

3. Childfree men are afraid of commitment

The reality is that men who don’t have kids are as varied as their female counterparts. As I describe in my book, Complete Without Kids, some have simply never met the right partner with whom to create a family, and their ambivalence about this keeps them from actively seeking it. They are classic childfree by happenstance individuals. Others are truly childfree by choice, consciously deciding to not have kids due to lifestyle considerations or values. If they are in a relationship, it’s with someone who shares their view and also has chosen a life without kids. And then there are the childfree by circumstance guys. They would have loved to be fathers, but they simply couldn’t make it happen. Perhaps their partners were infertile or they never married due to shyness or other barriers to meeting a mate. They look at their peers who are fathers with envy, wishing that they too could have had this role in life. These men likely feel a grief similar to that felt by women who were unable to become mothers despite yearning to do so. Author Sue Lick described one man’s experience with “childlessness” as a difficult compromise to be with his infertile partner. 

So, next time you come across a man who’s not a father, don’t jump to conclusions about the reasons behind his life choices, or his personal qualities and activities. You may be surprised by what you find if you look past your preconceptions.