Single dads face more pressure to have babies (and single moms win at dating)

Never say never, but I’m done having babies.

This was apparent to me Saturday, our weekly “Adventure Day” when my kids and I do something fun and unusual. This week we rode the subway to Chinatown where we shared a bubble tea (and got a lesson in urban race relations when a tiny, elderly Chinese man screamed f-bombs and n-bombs at a very large young black man so loudly that my daughter clapped her hands over her ears and curled into my shoulder. I like when Adventure Day has an educational element). I treated them to spring rolls and pho at my favorite Vietnamese joint and we strolled the streets of lower Manhattan, wandering in and out of shops.

It was fun and easy. That’s the thing: it was easy. The kids just turned 3 and 5 and this was one of the first Adventure Days that did not require a stroller, diaper or coordinating around nap time. I felt free as a bird! My mind reels with dreams of all the fun family activities and trips we will take. Mine are now children. They’re done being babies.

And I feel pretty done having babies. While friends will occasionally ask if I want more children, I don’t feel much pressure to make a decision. I’m single, after all. I have two kids who are awesome and healthy. A girl and a boy, for crying out loud. Plus, I’m 36 – my fertility’s time is coming to a close. Never say never, but I’m set.

I’ve noticed something interesting about the single dads I date, however. Several of them have launched into early, unprompted, somewhat defensive explanations about why they’re reluctant to have more kids. Frankly, it can make me feel a little defensive. I mean, can I get through my beet-pecan-gargonzola salad before committing to a family planning agenda, please?

This is what I surmise: These recently separated or divorced men spend years in unhappy, often chaste marriages and they fantasize about all the young women and hot sex they will have when they get out. When these guys jump onto OKCupid, they soon realize that many of these lusty ladies of their dreams may indeed be young and cute. But they’re not that young. Their uteruses are screaming! At the guys! They need to make a decision – are they open to having more babies? Yes or no, cuz dude, time is wasting!

This dynamic is one of the reasons I prefer to date fathers of young kids – they tend to be on the same babymaking page as me. I’ve gone out with a few childless guys who made it clear they wanted to have children of their own. I very much appreciate that position, and I may one day find myself thrilled conceive or adopt a child with a second husband. But this is not a driving force for me. Instead, I think about how amazing it would be to be a stepmom, or what a great gift it would be for my children to love and be loved by someone they see me partnering with – and for our children to grow to care for one another.

I’ve written about how having my children has freed me up to enjoy dating and men in a new, wonderful way. Several of the dads I’ve gone out with seem relieved to find that my biological clock has more or less run out of batteries, and that I’m not replacing them anytime soon.

I see this freedom as a unique advantage that many single moms enjoy over our male counterparts  — not to mention our childless, female ones. Single moms like me are liberated by not needing another child — nor the need to find a man to sire one. The less you need from a man, the easier it is to enjoy him, and take your time getting to know him for who he is.And the less pressure a man feels from a woman and her screaming womb, the more he can enjoy her, too.

Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

19 thoughts on “Single dads face more pressure to have babies (and single moms win at dating)

  1. My ex has actually said stuff to me before about wanting a “new” family… and I have to try to ignore the wording and hope to God that he doesn’t abandon his children once he tries to “start over”. So I think at least some of these guys selfishly don’t want anyone else’s baggage even though they have their own. And if that’s true, it’s all the better that they aren’t interested in me. Your reason that they basically just want to bang younger chicks and will tell them what they want to hear doesn’t paint the best picture of these guys either.

    It’s funny you think all these guys were in miserable, sexless marriages – spoken like someone that has never been cheated on! You’re lucky…

    I’m really not as bitter as I sound… like you, I do feel a lot more freedom in the fact that I don’t need to be looking for Mr. Right right now. And, in fact, I have a date in a few days with the one good-looking, single dad I’ve talked to that does seem to be on the same page as me kid-wise. And I am very much looking forward to it! I just thought there would be more guys like him out there (I don’t live in a major metro so that’s not helping I assume)…

  2. Hi Erica-

    You wrote: “Your reason that they basically just want to bang younger chicks and will tell them what they want to hear doesn’t paint the best picture of these guys either.”

    I never said anything about telling them what they want to hear. But sure, what guy doesn’t love the idea of sex with younger women? I don’t fault anyone for that. I find it interesting only that these guys seem to step out into the world after marriage and find the realities of dating later in life. Women experience similar wakeup calls, but different.

  3. I can completely relate to this article, in more ways than just one. I recently found out my ex (who had no time for family in the 10 years of marriage) is expecting with his new lady. At first it felt like taking a bullet. Afterall, he is a guy who’d rather be surfing and traveling the world and just wanted to have time to himself. But when the phone call came in with the announcement (for the sake of our kids) he tells me he wants a family again!! Um…. you have a family you idiot! Yes this news tested my biological clock, regretting having my tubes tied, but I am over it realizing my life is just getting easier with my 11 & 13 year old. He is starting all over again, at the ripe age of 50! Good luck buddy

    1. Elizabeth, I can only imagine how irate I would be. But I love how you turned that around to appreciate what you have (and the challenges he likely faces).

  4. Speaking as a single dad, I think you got it right. I dove into the dating scene but cooled off a bit once I realized that a) it’s very relaxing to be single and b) having another kid with another woman would be the opposite of relaxing.

  5. No, not really. It’s more of an implicit thing. All my dates so far have been with childless women (which has surprised me), and they’ve been tactful enough not to show up without a fertility calendar, but I know it’s something I’ll most likely have to face and figure out pretty quickly if I continue a relationship.

  6. Always the edit after ‘send’ …

    Curious: If you meet women on OKCupid, let’s say (not suggesting that you do, maybe I’m projecting), there’s the ‘Offspring’ box, and options include: ‘Have kids,’ ‘Definitely want kids, ‘Not sure,’ etc. If you see women say they definitely want kids, do you skip her? And what does your box say?

    I keep mine at ‘I have kids’ because a) it’s true, and b) it leaves things open. Though I find myself increasingly quick to hit ‘next’ on guys who say they definitely want kids. It is such a deal-breaking issue, why waste anyone’s time?

  7. I’m off OKCupid for now, in small part because of the issue you raise: It puts the kid thing right up front (as it does with a bunch of things), and I haven’t gotten my head around it quite yet.

    On the one hand, I feel like having another kid would be crazy, on the other, I feel like it’s the most natural thing in the world to have a baby with a woman I love. That last thought shocks me a bit, because I certainly didn’t think that way when I was 30.

  8. That’s the thing about dating – it’s a fine line between avoiding landmines and aiming for what we want and need, yet remaining open to the wonders of love.

    Glad we got this all out of the way now …

  9. Another reason is the the number of dating options that divorced men have vs divorced women. I’d say women fare much better than men for the same level of attractiveness.

  10. My dating profile will say “Absolutely no farking way I am having more kids.”

    Her kids + my kids = too darned many kids already. I never wanted more than 2 kids because of sheer economics. Now, instead of two kids it’s four or five kids on probably no more money than me and my ex-wife brought home. To add more to that would put undue financial hardship on the existing children who (remember) did NOT CHOOSE to be the product of broken homes and blended families.’

    Second, it would put existing step-kids at a disadvantage to the new “non-step” kids, who might think they enjoy more legitimacy or power than the other children. Why would I do that to my kids? The “I love you all just the same” doesn’t cut it if the situation I create is not fair or equitable.

    I am also more reluctant to have kids with a woman who has already left one (or more) guys who she had kids with. For her, making a baby then saying “Sayonara!” is just a little too easy for her… and she knows she will be adding another payee on the old child support list when she splits too… Even if we split custody, unless she’s making as much as me, I am shelling out each month. I really did not anticipate my wife leaving me and thought we had what it took to go the distance. Now I think of relationships as more… “as long as she’s happy”. I don’t expect her to stick around – women are independent now so creating “interdepencies” like children and complex financial arrangement is as dumb as it is unecessary.

    Don’t want child support leaving the house in six directions. I already have kids who already need LOTS of SUPPORT. Think of their feelings? She’s not mom to them, but she’s mom to her younger siblings? Has anyone thought of the family dynamics of this? I have, and it sucks royally for my kids.

    If she has kids and wants more, she just has to go look elsewhere for that. And I can’t afford to have those “Oopsie – forgot my pill! Guess what honey, you ARE having more kids!” babies, so for me I will be proving my point with a vasectomy. That she may or may not know about…

    I’ll see her “Oopsie – forgot my pill!” and raise her a “Oopsie – forgot to mention my vasectomy!”

    Gotta cover my @$$ going into this next one. If that makes them too skittish and flighty, well, then so be it.

    1. Thanks for this perspective. It sounds like you are really smarting from your divorce and I wish you well. Plenty of women out there who don’t want kids — either MORE kids or any at all, so I wouldn’t worry too much about limited dating pool.

  11. Oh my! No, Insidious_Sid is NOT the only victim. I’m a single mom who was betrayed by a single dad. Growing up I’ve always heard people tell me “Don’t date someone with kids.” I, wearing my heart on my sleeve, ended up dating a single dad at the time. I didn’t have any kids at the time and was a young college student. This same man ended up being my son’s father. At first, it was wonderful, then we had hard times but things were still good. I even ended up moving in. I fell in love with him and his daughter. Then came the talk about having another baby. He didn’t seem too sure at first and neither was I. Then, I thought we eased into it. One night we tried and nothing happened. I didn’t end up pregnant. So about a month or two later we tried for a baby again. Something happened. I was pregnant. I was ecstatic! Unfortunately, my son’s dad was not. When he found out I was 100% pregnant, he just looked at me like I was stupid, and went back to fixing a car he was working on. My heart dropped. I thought maybe he was just shocked. Then, he began to treat me different. He offered me beer and cigarettes, while I was pregnant! He complained when he thought I ate too much, while I was pregnant and would tell me those two slices of pizza were enough. He was cranky, would come home late, and just verbally abusive, all of this, on top of his daughter’s mom’s drama had me miserable. It was like he wanted me to have a miscarriage. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so stressed and I couldn’t think. I came back home with my parents and it was the best thing I had ever done. I had my son here and went to court and got full custody, and an order for child support. No, I’m not a deadbeat mom who sits on her butt, popping out kids like a PEZ dispenser and collects child support. That’s a disgusting stereotype. I work full time, I’m in college full time, I’m raising a baby boy without his father and I’ll tell you that I’d faint from exhaustion daily if it weren’t for the grace of God.

    I say all of that to state that you are right Emma for writing this article about single dads. I wish I would have read it before I met my son’s dad. I thought single dads would never abandon a second child especially if they’re still raising their first one. Pretty ironic.

    And to Insidious_Sid, not every single mother is some baby making whore who wants to lay up, then leave and collect child support. That’s disgusting. Where’s my child support? Because even after enforcement got involved, I don’t get a red cent of it. I didn’t make this baby by myself and I can’t afford to pay for all of his needs by myself but I am. No, this goes both ways. Men can leave too because single moms are a lot more common than single dads. There are victims everywhere in the world but please don’t generalize.

    One thing I can say, I spent a lot of my pregnancy alone and my son does not know his father. I am footing my son’s entire bill. Naturally, I am poor, I am tired, and guess what? I do not want any more kids. Everyone knows that about me. I love my son. It’s just too hard to raise a child without a partner and I’m not risking it twice. Kudos to you Emma for doing it. You are a very strong woman. :)

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