We were set up for this dating fail long ago.
I had two very different conversations with two different people on the same subject: how someone’s kids become an issue for people dating over a certain age. That certain age, it seems, is about 45. There’s a reason for that number and there’s a reason for the issue.
Of course, some of you may be thinking that because you don’t have kids and you’re under 45, this is not going to be pertinent to you. Give me a minute. You’ll be 45 someday, God willing and the creek don’t rise.
One conversation was with a woman in her mid-40s who will not date men with small children. The other was with a man in his late-40s who has small children and is upset that his kids are an issue. Interesting.
I’m 47. My dating range on dating apps has roughly been the same: five years younger and five years older. Anything outside of this parameter gets dicey for me. 42 to 52 is my sweet spot right now.
Most men in my age range fall into two categories and this is what sparked my two conversations.
Man #1 — On the younger side, the ones around 42 are frequently never married and have no kids.
Man #2 — On the older side, they have small children, roughly age six to ten years old.
Both are a problem for me. When I look at the dating profiles of men who fall in the first category, I often see that under the “children” category, they note “Want Someday.” Well, that shop closed 13 years ago. Out. Of. Business. Regarding men in the second category, like the woman I talked to, I choose not to date men with small children. Don’t @ me, bro. There are reasons. More on that in a minute.
People in their 40s who are dating have a real problem.
How did we get here?
It’s simple. There is a serious discrepancy in social norms regarding settling down. They set this up for us to fail and we’re failing spectacularly.
Though current trends are starting to see a small change in this, women have notably settled down, gotten married, and had kids earlier than men. This is a direct result of societal pressure placed on women that getting married and having kids is what we all should want and people have made women who challenge this feel incredibly less than. This especially rings true for Gen X who was raised by Boomer parents. Ask any childless woman in her mid-to-late-30s and she’ll tell you stories. Lots of stories. Awful stories.
While women fight their biological time clock and suffer an endless barrage of “are you going to have kids” questions, men are less likely to endure the same. Young men are encouraged to sow their wild oats, live free, and experience life. All the carpe diem stuff.
If I had a dime for every dating profile I saw of a man in his late 30s or early 40s who had never been married or had kids but had 32 countries stamped in his passport, I could afford a nice trip to Spain.
All of a sudden, these men have returned from far-off lands at the ripe age of 40, and how they’re ready to hunker down. Well, that’s a problem.
If there are equal numbers of men and women, how is this even a problem?
This is also pretty simple. It is not easy for a woman over the age of 40 to have kids. It increases health risks and our ability to reproduce late in life decreases drastically. So, who are these 40-something men going to marry to have kids? Younger women.
I am totally undesirable to a good number of men in my dating pool due to my no longer functional fallopian tubes. I’m cool with that. Having a kid at this stage in my life would be like hitting mile number 25 of a marathon and deciding to go back to the start. Ain’t nobody got that kind of energy.
Data has my back here. It’s not just that it feels true, it is true. There are far more men in their 40s (25%) without kids than women (16%).
So where does the problem come into the picture?
Let’s go back to the two conversations. One was with a woman very much like myself. Mid-40s, dating, and freshly empty nested.
We had our kids in our late 20s and are both divorced because we put too much emphasis on our biological time clocks and not enough on choosing the right person with whom to spend the rest of our lives.
For those of you that are younger and still reading this, please let us be your cautionary tale. I give this practice two thumbs down. Do not recommend.
She and I have the same rule. No men with kids younger than high school age. Younger than this and it problem arise after a few months because there's a big lifestyle difference. This means our dating pool is two types of men.
First are those who have never had kids and don’t want them. Someday I’ll tell you why these guys are problematic. Now is not that time. Second is older men with kids on their way out the door or already gone. The issue here is that the latter frequently seeks younger women. There are psychological reasons why the 52-year-old empty nesters don’t want to date us.
The second conversation was with a man in his late 40s with two kids, ages 4 and 6. He said that he has a very limited dating pool, as well. He feels women in their 40s see his kids as baggage. So, he sticks to women in their mid-30s who also have small kids.
He says these women are hard to find because a lot of women in their 30s who have kids are still married. Those that aren’t have never been married and still want to have kids. He’s done in the kid department.
Do women really see this man's kids as baggage?
Yes and no. We don’t fault men for having kids. We genuinely like kids and there is something seriously attractive about a grown man who can french braid hair. Our uteruses get all weird over that.
The issue middle-aged women have is not with the kids, it’s a matter of where we are in our lives. My male conversation partner spent his 20s and 30s building his career, traveling the world, and basically chilling out.
My female friend and I spent our 20s and 30s trying to find a mate, mating, and then taking care of the results of that mating. We. Are. Done.
The reason I don’t want to date someone with kids is that it’s my turn to travel the world, build the business that I waited to start until I was done doing all that momming, and basically chill out. It’s the same reason that my perfect man right now would be someone who works remotely and can run off with me at a moment's notice.
If I want to go spend two months in Spain, that is going to be an issue for a guy tethered to two small kids. I’d rather not sit down at the table to play a few hands when I know I’m going to lose.
So, basically, men and women have flip-flopped our roles. Men are doing what we did in our 30s and we’re doing what men did in their 30s. Our timing sucks.
What does this mean for us?
Who the hell knows? We are all solidly in a waiting game. Both men and women have to wait out the storm of wading through potential dates that fit into criteria that works for both parties. Or we have to wait until we all just get older and it becomes less of a problem.
What I do know is that there is another clear option that everyone should consider. Just stay single. I don’t just say that as someone who is utterly exhausted from dating, though that’s totally true.
Now may be the time for us to focus on what’s important to us. For middle-aged dads, that's the kids. For middle-aged women, that’s going to be living our best god damn life. Both are equally important. There is nothing selfish in knowing what your priorities are and the limitations that may put on your love life. We just have to own that.
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