Care and Feeding

The Right Match

I don’t think I want kids, but every man on the dating apps seems to want to be a dad. Am I doomed?

Woman using phone to swipe left on a man with a baby.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Duminda Perera on Unsplash and Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a 38-year-old straight woman, and I’m very torn over the issue of having kids. It is almost all I think about all day. I recently ended a four-year relationship because my (younger) partner wanted kids. He didn’t want them yet and didn’t know when he would, but he told me that if we tried to have a baby and I couldn’t, he would most likely leave me to find someone younger. I was heartbroken. We even had my eggs frozen to buy us time, but they were only able to freeze five eggs. He seemed to take having children as an obligation, not a desire.

I realized that, though I feel a lot of pressure from society to become a mother and even have a fantasy about being pregnant, I don’t actually see the point in having children. I love my job and couldn’t imagine doing it while taking care of a kid. I don’t like the idea of being pregnant, but at the same time, the thought of getting my tubes tied makes me very sad. I am not sure I could go through an abortion. I don’t get jealous when I see my friends with kids, but I love holding babies. I don’t think I would be a bad mother, but I also don’t see how I would enjoy it. The idea of going on a vacation with little kids seems like torture. When I think about the subject at length, I always end up thinking of outsourcing: “Well, if we could hire a surrogate, and a nanny, and maybe just send them off to the grandparents … ”

After the breakup, I got on Tinder and posted a profile that I thought made it pretty obvious that I was only looking for a good time. The first date I go on, the guy opens with “I want to have kids.” I told him that I didn’t, but we kept dating. At one point, he got mad and yelled at me, demanding to know why he isn’t “good enough” for me to want to have kids with him. Now I am dating another guy who is quite lovely, but on the second date, he started talking about having kids too!

I wish I could just say that I don’t want to be a mom, but I also fear that if I don’t have children, I will be alone forever, as it seems like something a lot of men desire. Am I doomed to have broken relationships because I don’t want something that everyone else wants? Are men really using Tinder to find the future mother of their children? Should I just put “I don’t want kids” on my profile? Or should I just suck it up and get pregnant, hoping I fall in love with the baby upon its birth? The clock is ticking; should I just let it run out?

—Baby-Free by Design

Dear BFbD,

Your ex-boyfriend sounds like a tremendous asshole. It’s one thing to deeply want children, but to go so far as to say, “I’ll replace you with a newer model with fully working parts” if you tried but found yourself unable to give them to him? GOOD RIDDANCE.

As a Tinder veteran (LOL sob, mostly sob), I can assure you that there are men looking for everything imaginable on there, from someone to fuck them within the hour, to a record deal— to, yes, a woman to bear their children. You’ve had the unfortunate luck of finding two men back to back who were focused on the last thing, but there are countless other dudes swiping who’d be amped to meet someone who isn’t trying to have their babies.

What you must avoid, however, with Tinder dates and paramours acquired from other sources alike, is continuing to see men who are looking for the mothers of their children. Your first Tinder bae was dead wrong for yelling at you (another bullet dodged!) and for continuing a relationship with a woman who told him she didn’t want kids, while expecting that her mind would change for reasons unknown. However, you should show men the grace they so often deny women and refuse to waste their time (or yours) when you become aware of them wanting to start a family. Hiding your own disinterest is just cruel, and you will not find a healthy, mutually respectful long-term relationship by doing such a thing.

I’m sensing a lack of clarity regarding your choice not to have kids. Is the handwringing because you feel guilty or wrong for saying, “I DON’T WANT NO DAMN KIDS” with your chest? Or are you genuinely unclear? I’m inclined to say you’re sure, but if so, you need to get comfortable with that internally so that you can communicate with partners and others about it. You don’t have to have an abortion or tubal ligation to avoid parenthood, so you needn’t worry over those things. The most important thing you can do is know for certain where you stand on the matter and own it.

Gambling on falling in love with your baby after it’s born or on telling a man that you are open to kids when you meet him only to say “Sike!” later are two very good recipes for disaster and heartbreak. No child or partner deserves that sort of selfishness. There are men out there who don’t want kids, and that’s whom you should focus on meeting. Try the app Hinge—it’s got more filters, including one that allows you to select only from men who say they aren’t interested in having children. Swipe rightly, lady!