by Amy Alkon
Q: I’m a 35-year-old guy who’s doing online dating and who’s against having kids for moral reasons. Don’t get me wrong; I love kids. I just don’t think we need any more people on this crowded, violent planet. I’m wondering whether I should make the “no kids” thing clear in my profile. I know this can be a major deal-breaker for many women.—Nobody’s Daddy
A: Saying you won’t have kids for “moral reasons” sounds better than my reasons: I find them loud, sticky and expensive. There’s also the problem of how long they take to, uh, ripen, which used to be 18 years—before kids started living at home until 30. (Many murder sentences are shorter.)
And now, bear with me as I put a buzz saw through your reasons. As for this “violent planet” business, it used to be that somebody was always cracking somebody over the head with a cudgel. But today, as psychologist Steven Pinker reports in The Better Angels of Our Nature, the planet is less violent than ever, and violence continues to decline. As for the “crowded” argument, in 2011, National Geographic’s Robert Kunzig reported that all seven billion earthlings could fit comfortably in Texas—“if Texas were settled as densely as New York City.” And it turns out that women in the U.S. aren’t having enough children to replace the population dying off. According to World Bank data, American mommies are only having 1.9 children, while demographers put the replacement rate at 2.1 of the screeching, airplane-seat-kicking little darlings.
The good news is that if you truly like kids, you don’t have to bring them into the world to bring them into your life. There’s adoption, of course (though most women who can give birth to children will want to instead of importing one “made in China”). But there are also countless kids already in existence whose divorced, widowed, or otherwise single moms have a harder time finding boyfriends—even if they’re uber-hot and so sweet they make your teeth hurt. Do profile searches for moms, and say in your profile that you don’t want to create new earthlings but love kids and are open to a woman who already has some. To describe the likely spike in your popularity after hanging the “Welcome, Single Moms!” sign, well, ever watch a pack of wild dingoes descend on a downed cow?
Then again, say you like your life child-free but went all eco-pacifist so you wouldn’t seem like a big meanie. Definitely put the “nobody’s daddy” thing in your profile. You might also want to consider a vasectomy (with a surgeon who does loads of them, which lessens the risks). Unfortunately, getting snipped is not the deterrent to aspiring mommies that you might think it would be. Women pining to spawn are prone to chirp, “Vasectomies can be reversed!”—forgetting that it’s a little harder to reverse a man’s aversion to, say, tapping into a quarter-million-plus dollars of his earnings to fund orthodontia, grad school and rehab.
More bad news: For some women, not wanting kids at the moment seems to be no guarantee of not eventually wanting them. Badly. Desperately. And by the way, I’ve always found the, “Come on, you’ll want kids someday!” remark insulting, as if some random stranger at a cocktail party could know my mind better than I do. But a study in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology by Finnish researcher Anna Rotkirch found that women—like me—who were sure they didn’t want children sometimes found themselves suddenly experiencing “baby fever,” which goes way beyond the wish to have a child. It’s a painful physical longing to have a baby (often experienced in a woman’s early 20s and between 28 and 35). One of Rotkirch’s subjects, a woman in her 30s who knew it wasn’t the right time for a child, described feeling an “agonizing” and “all-encompassing desire” to have one, to the point where she was “practically ready to rob a sperm bank.”
In other words, yes: Disclose! Disclose! Disclose! State your preference in your profile. But don’t think that this will be any sort of mandate for women to care about what you want. Some will—even some of those with a uterus howling, “I WANT A BAYBEEE!” They’ll be the ones who default to their ethics instead of their biology. So until there’s highly reliable male birth control that doesn’t require a scalpel, make it your priority to find out whether a woman is ethical before having sex with her. It’s really your best—and maybe only—defense against the joy of bringing something into the world that spends half its time hating you and the other half begging you for money. Y