“How Do I Know If I Absolutely Want Kids?”

I have two romantic prospects. Woman A is 40, has no kids and wants kids. Woman B is 45, has no kids and is unlikely to have her own biological kids. I’ve gone out with both women three times and both seem interested. The main issue at this stage is whether I want to have kids or not. There is no point in continuing with woman B if I want kids. There is no point in continuing with woman A if I don’t want kids.

On one hand, I think to myself that it would be great to have a kid. On the other hand, I’m about to turn 50 and feel like I’m too old. There is a part of me that wants to have a child and another part of me that doesn’t. But it feels like this could be my last chance (assuming things go well with Woman A and she can become pregnant). Every time I think about raising a kid or kids, the following words pop in my head: stress; worry; hard work; chaos; mess; financial pressure. Does everyone think like me before they have a child?

How do I know if I really really absolutely want kids? How can I make the right decision for me? By making a decision, I can then concentrate on a suitable woman and move forward.

Can you possibly point me in the right direction? — Desire to Sire?

It’s not uncommon for people to be a little uncertain or apprehensive about having children. Most people, when they think about the idea of having kids, will consider some of the things you mention: the stress and the hard work and the financial pressure. I know I did. But always, when I thought about having children before I had them, I also thought about so many wonderful things, too: newborn snuggles; visits from the tooth fairy; first day of school pictures; trick-or-treating with my munchkins; squeals on Christmas morning; re-reading favorite children’s books; playing the license plate game on road trips; re-watching ET on family movie night. That you didn’t mention a single thing that you’d look forward to about having a child, and that you suggested a bunch of things you don’t look forward to, suggests that maybe you don’t really want to be a parent. And that is perfectly ok.

I know it’s a scary/sad thing to get older and see opportunities that once seemed like they’d last forever dwindle and disappear. The window for your having a biological child (without medical intervention) with a partner you’re well-suited for is closing. Women close to your age will soon be unable to have biological children without intervention, and it’s very unlikely that a woman much younger, even if you found one you clicked with, would want to procreate with a 50-year-old guy who isn’t even all that interested in being a dad.

The window is closing, and I appreciate that it’s tempting to want to prop it open or to jump through it while you still can, but when you don’t even seem to like the view on the other side, it doesn’t make sense to go explore, especially when there’s no way back in. It’s not going to keep you younger. It’s not going to stop the sand in the hourglass from continuing to fall.

Without kids, you can still have a rich and full life ahead of you. Without Woman A or Woman B, you can still have a rich and full life ahead of you. You don’t even have to have a long-term relationship to enjoy the second half of your life although there is certainly something to be said for the companionship and care and love such a relationship provides.

If any part of you remains on the fence about having a kid and you simply aren’t ready to decide just yet, you don’t have to. (And for what it’s worth, my husband’s dad was 50 when he was born, he lived to 95, and he got to see both his sons marry and meet all his grandchildren; we’re all very glad he had a kid at 50!) Be honest with the women you’re seeing; tell them that most likely you don’t want kids — if that’s the truth — but that you can’t say that with 100% certainty just yet and, if they need 100% certainty at this moment or else need to move on, you understand. I hope they also know that you are not exclusive with either one just yet.

My husband and I have been married 20 years and have three children. We very rarely get any time alone, and we even more rarely go out together. I recently found out that he has been out with a single woman from his work, probably more than once for a drink, and he has asked her to go for dinner when I have been away from home with the kids. He did not tell me any of this.

I have never been a possessive or jealous wife. I’ve always trusted him completely. He’s been invited on a hen night for another woman from the office and there is a zombie bride theme. He says other men are going, but I’m not sure I believe him. He was planning on going shopping with the woman he has been out with for a dress for him to wear to this hen do so he will go dressed as a bridesmaid.

I feel really uncomfortable about this but also feel like I’m being really irrational and unreasonable. — Wife of the Bridesmaid

You have some problems in your marriage that need to be addressed asap. That you very rarely have time alone and almost never go out together is a very big problem that has caught up with you. Clearly, if your husband is keeping his interactions with this woman a secret from you — having dinner with her while you and the kids are out of town and not even mentioning it to you, then he thinks it’s something that warrants being kept a secret (despite your never having been a jealous or possessive person or otherwise giving him reason to believe his having dinner with a female friend/colleague would upset you). That you don’t trust your husband (you don’t know if you believe him when he says other men are going to the bachelorette party) is another huge problem.

Twenty years and three children is a lot, and if you haven’t been carving out time to reconnect, let alone discuss the state of your marriage, it isn’t surprising that one of you is looking for an emotional connection elsewhere. I would find a marriage therapist right away and fucking hire a babysitter (or if the oldest of your three kids is a responsible teenager, hire him or her to watch the younger siblings) and go on some dates with your husband.

In the meantime, tell him your husband that because he has been secretive about his friendship with this female colleague, your discomfort is NOT irrational and unreasonable and, until you two have a chance to discuss these feelings under the guidance of a trained mediator, you are requesting that he not spend time alone with her anymore. If he can’t honor those wishes — for example, if he isn’t willing to meet that minimum act of respect for a limited time frame (until you can meet with a therapist) — then your marital problems are probably bigger than you thought and you should start emotionally and financially preparing yourself for the possibility of a separation.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. LW1: you had better get closer to the woman you prefer. A 45 y.o. woman can still have children (with help of science, or adoption), you don’t seem to have even discussed the matter with her.
    I wouldn’t reduce dating options to fertility chances. Do chose a person you can have a relationship with. This is really what matters. Then you can see as a couple if you want to have kids.

    1. Have to disagree here. If you don’t want kids or are unsure if you want kids, don’t waste the time of a partner who is sure they do want kids – especially if said partner is 40. Free them up to find someone who definitely DOES want kids, they’ve got a limited window to find that person.

  2. LW 1 – I think every person who thoughtfully chooses to be a parent thinks about everything you talked about. I know my husband and I had countless conversations. We came to the conclusion that most things that are worth it take sacrifice and hard work. Why do people run marathons or save for retirement or put extra hours into careers or make sacrifices for anything?

  3. Anonymous says:

    LW 1, Eh… If by 50 you somehow find yourself without kids — barring infertility — NEWSFLASH! You probably never really exactly wanted kids!

  4. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I call kids a joyful burden. They are a combination of joy and fun and wonder with a lot of work. I always knew I wanted kids. I never wavered over whether to have them. I don’t know if that is usual or not. The first three years are pretty labor intensive but also filled with firsts, like first smile, first time to roll over, first time to crawl, first steps, first words. Those things are pretty exciting and amazing as the parent. I think there is a lot of negative press about kids anymore. All the negatives are mentioned without much of the positive. Like most things, kids are a mixed bag of positive and negative.

    I think you should evaluate whether you have enough energy to keep up with a child for three or four years. Do you mind spending your income on a child or would you just want it for yourself. Do you mind putting some of your activities on the back burner for a while during the newborn stage. Does your life seem full as is or do you feel something essential is missing and would that something essential be a child or something else. Are you capable of loving the child you get who might or might not have similar interests or temperament to yourself?

    My life seems so much fuller with kids. Each of them is so unique and in many ways opposites of each other. It has been fun to see how they view the world and to experience their interests and get involved in things I wouldn’t have done by myself. It has been amazing and sometimes startling to have these kids who look so much like me. We’ve met our best friends through our kids although I have no doubt we would have met great friends in other ways if we didn’t have kids. It’s that kids take you down a different path where you meet different people and have different priorities and concerns than people who don’t have kids. How strongly do you feel pulled toward the path with kids?

  5. When you are considering Woman A versus Woman B, based on whether or not you want to have kids and are stressed out because you are unable to figure out whether on not you actually want kids….. then neither Woman A nor Woman B is right for you. If one were a great match, with great attraction and some passion, you’d know it. It seems for some reason you are determined to marry soon and are just desperately grasping at the two options before you. Your desperation and their availability and their at least moderate interest in you don’t make either of them right for you. I’m sure you were trying to write concisely, but when writing of a potential spouse, it seems telling that you said zilch about these women, apart from their ages and that one wants a child. What, if anything, about them actually strongly appeals to you? That is what is important here.

    I think you need to wait for Woman C or Woman D — the woman whom you are so strongly attracted to and who is so compatible with you that there are no doubts about whether you want her or some other woman.

    1. I disagree. If he’s still in the dating multiple people stage then it’s normal to still be questioning which person since he probably doesn’t know either one very well. He could be attracted to them both but not know either well enough to know their long term potential.

      Most healthy relationships start slowly. it’s not necessarily instant passion and a lightening bolt moment of “she’s the one”. Those relationships ships usually end up going down in flames.

      1. dinoceros says:

        I sort of agree with that, but I feel like Ron was responding appropriately based on the LW’s situation. The LW seems to feel that he’s at the point where he has to pick one. He also seems like it’s far enough in that he needs to only date a person who shares his views on kids. If he truly is at that point, then what Ron said makes sense. If he’s not at that point, then it seems like it wasn’t necessary to write in right now.

  6. dinoceros says:

    LW1: If you’re almost 50 and are not super anti- or pro-kids, then I think you could probably say that it’s not a dealbreaker for you either way. You seem to also be trying to approach dating sort of robotically. The time to decide if you want to date someone who wants kids or not is before you start dating, generally. If you can’t do that, then I’d put you in the “doesn’t care” group and, hooray, you can just date whoever you enjoy the best.

    The truth is, you’re making this decision bigger than it is. No matter which person you choose, they may ultimately reject you or you may change your mind about them later or you might date for a few months and then break up or a year and break up. They might find out they or you cannot have children, or might accidentally get pregnant, or whatever. To say that choosing which woman you recently met that you want to get to know more is equivalent to the “am I going to have kids in my lifetime” question is sort of melodramatic.

    But I’d agree with others that if you really truly can’t decide between the two women outside of the kids factor, then it sounds like neither one is necessarily the person for you (or at least it’s too soon to decide). Typically, you want to have kids with someone who stands out a little more and that you prefer at least a little bit more than other random women.

    1. dinoceros says:

      LW2: I think the stuff you’re describing is a symptom of the problem. I’m not sure if you’re implying that your husband is creating the problem, but the problem seems to be that you two don’t have much of a relationship to speak of, this bothers you, but you haven’t done anything about it/spoken up. It may or may not bother your husband, but you haven’t indicated talking to him about it. Time to start talking about it and maybe start couples counseling.

      1. dinoceros says:

        Also, to be clear, I’m not saying that it’s OK for him to be shady. But I don’t think this is going to be solved by him simply not going out with them anymore. It’s not going to solve the underlying issue. And if he’s not being sketchy, then it’s also not going to solve it either.

  7. Hi-I think at your age-50-and being “undecided” about kids, given all the negatives you already think of, having kids is likely not what you really want.
    I just read another letter on a different site,about a woman who married a mn that did not want kids. She pressured him into it and 7 years on,they have 2 kids and the dad has never warmed to them,resents them and resents his wife-their marriage is near done as everyone is unhappy..
    So if you are not sure-don’t. Also,choose a partner because you love her and don’t want to be without her. Maybe one of these women is right for you,but maybe not. Maybe there is woman C,who already has older kids or adult kids. Then you could enjoy being a step-parent or enjoy Grandkids-if this ready made family idea has no appeal-then I really think you don’t really want kids.
    Consider whether you are just thinking you SHOULD have kids instead of if you really want to.

  8. And Ron and Dinoceros made good points.

  9. Avatar photo juliecatharine says:

    LW 1 you’ve had roughly 25 years to responsibly pursue fatherhood. If children were something you truly wanted wouldn’t you have gone searching for that before now? If the only reason you’re considering a child now is the closing window of opportunity you shouldn’t do it. Kids are great but they’re tough and you really have to be all-in. If that’s what you want go for it but nothing you wrote indicated a burning desire to raise and shape a little person.

  10. anonymousse says:

    I think this is one of those things that when you want them, you know. If this topic is confusing, it’s probably not one you are really interested in. So don’t date women who do want kids. I had and still have so many of those worries about finances, stress, hard work, etc but for me of those all things pale in comparison to all the wonder, joy, adventure, etc.

    1. anonymousse says:

      ENERGY. Do you have limitless energy and love to be asked one million questions a day??

      Do you like to schedule and pay for yourself to have time to yourself?

      Do you enjoy five minute showers and all toilet transactions accompanied by a tiny, curious concierge?

      1. Eh, as the dad he’ll probably get to shit in peace most of the time. My daughter doesn’t cry when my husband goes to the bathroom and closes the door… but she does when I do.

  11. Ummm you’re only 3 dates in with both of them. I wouldn’t even think of pursuing kids until you’ve been dating at the VERY least a year so you’re not asking a 40/45 year old to have kids, you’re asking at the least a 41/46 year old. Time and the need to make a decent decision about who you want to be tethered to for the rest of your life is against all of you. If you’re rushing it to beat the clock I think you’re all being silly and gambling with human life. Be satisfied with the life you have and if you’re not satisfied with it take the steps to make it satisfying, don’t go looking to cram a kid into your life because you’re suffering existential boredom.

  12. I’d like to add that i have met several people and have had friends whos parents are 40plus/50plus years older and that most of them have some sort of resentment towards their parents for waiting to have them. They all usually say the same thing that they feel cheated because their parents will likely pass away before they can experience adult life with them and that they cant do certain things with them because of their age. My stepdad was 30yrs older than my mom(50plus older than me and known him since I was 9 yrs old), past away in his 70s, and I was only 26yrs old. Average life expectancy in the US is 78yrs old. Not to mention the health issues that come along with older age. Dementia can start setting in as early as 60yrs old. Its a lot easier for 45-60yr olds taking care of their elderly parents than it is for 25-30yr old who are just getting started out in life. I dont think alot of people see this varible when they decide to start having kids later in life. This is just something to consider in general.

    1. Yeah, don’t have kids in your 50s out of some vague FOMO. You don’t really want them, and that’s fine!

  13. bess marvin says:

    Something for LW1 to think about: would you want kids independent of a partner? If you have kids with Woman A and she gets hit by a bus or whatever, you could spend a lot of years as a single parent.

    If the idea of being a single parent makes you want to run for the hills, then you don’t want kids. And don’t have them if your expectation is that your partner will do most of the heavy lifting. Be all-in, 100% committed to the idea, or don’t do it.

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