Childfree men fly under the radar screen more often than their female counterparts. In our culture, the role of father is not deemed essential in the life of a man. For women, on the other hand, many consider being a mother to be a chief purpose in life. Some people go so far as to propose that this is a woman's main reason for existing. But men who do not become dads are still viewed with suspicion, and they often get a bad rap! They are often thought to be immature 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 placed onto Hollywood actors. Take George Clooney, for example; he's labeled as a playboy and perceived by many as immature and self-focused. The reality about George is that he is extremely hardworking and accomplished in his field, and he has ongoing involvements in philanthropic pursuits around the world. Just one is the ONE Campaign, dedicated to fighting poverty in Africa. Hugh Grant is similarly perceived and is also quite outspoken and involved in activities that help others. Neither of these men have had the distractions of a family to interfere with their career or civic goals.
Men in Hollywood who are dads are portrayed as somehow stronger and more mature. Take Brad Pitt, for example. In the recent Academy Awards, there was talk of his role as a father of six. Funny how few other celebrities' private lives were brought up that evening?
False perceptions persist!
Employers often prefer men who are dads, as they are viewed as more reliable and responsible employees than are guys who have no one to consider but themselves. This is especially true for bachelors. If a man is married and has no children, the boss may anticipate that a little one is on the way. If a baby does not enter the scene, it must be because of infertility, because once a man marries and settles down, isn't the next step to start a family? It's hard for many people to imagine that a couple simply would prefer to be on their own, unencumbered by children and the responsibilities that come with parenting.
So, who are childfree men anyway?
The reality is that men who don't have kids are as varied as their female counterparts. Some have simply never met the right partner with whom to create a family, and their ambivalence about this is such that they're not going to go out to actively seek it. They are the classic childfree by happenstance. Others are truly childfree by choice. They have made a conscious decision to not have kids, either due to lifestyle or to life 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 have become fathers, but they simply couldn't make it happen. Perhaps their partners were infertile, or perhaps they never married due to shyness or other barrier to meeting a mate. They look at their peers who are fathers with envy, wishing that they could have too had this role in life. These men likely feel a grief similar to that experienced by women who were unable to become mothers despite their yearning to do so.
What's the future for childfree living?
I see a rapid change in our society that will hopefully spread across the world in time. Many of the young people I speak to today are seriously contemplating whether or not they want to have kids and they truly view this as an option. Being childfree has become a more acceptable option. With the potential advent of no-cost contraception available to everyone, there will be fewer unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. More and more folks entering the grandparenting years are finding themselves without grandkids and yet, because they aren't alone, it's not so bad.
Who knows, maybe in twenty years, no one will bat an eye if a man doesn't have kids. He won't be viewed as an immature playboy who never grew up. He may even be perceived as someone who is more able to fully focus on goals and aspirations, because he is not distracted by the responsibilities of parenting.
Photo by Graur Codrin.