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January 11, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Daily Mail article that suggests men are to blame for women who want but don’t have children is all of a piece with others of its genre (Daily Mail, 1/6/16). As I said yesterday, the writer claims that 16% of all women of childbearing years fall into that category. So it’s noteworthy that two of the three women she found to illustrate her point were at fault themselves for failing to have the children they wanted. One pursued obviously flawed strategies for finding the right mate (a two-year affair with a man she knew to be married and have kids followed by a gay man and “countless married men”) and the other set up barriers (“exacting standards”) that were too high for the men she dated to clear.

The third interviewee is a woman who neither wants kids nor has them.

This is an article about men being at fault for women not having kids? Someone might want to take a closer look at her subject.

While she’s at it, writer Maureen Brookbanks might also take a look at several other matters. For example, since she seems to want us to believe that the reason more women don’t have children is the laggardly men in their lives, might she have asked a man or two about his decision to remain childless? Might she have talked to her interviewees’ various boyfriends? Yes, she might have, but of course she didn’t. When it comes to attributing base motivations to men, it seems the last people writers like Brookbanks want to hear from is men. After all, they might have reasonable explanations for not having children or not having them with those particular women. And she doesn’t want that.

So once again, the Mail article keeps the men silent.

And what is this concept of “fault?” How is it that a man’s decision not to be a father constitutes, in some way, a wrong on his part? The very concept suggests that it’s his duty to whatever woman he’s seeing to sire children if she so wishes. Is there anyone, apart from a few in the news media and academia who believes such nonsense? Beyond Brookbanks, her interviewees and a writer two years ago at The Guardian (about whom I wrote here), I can think of none.

That of course is little but the basest sexism. What would Brookbanks, or the two women in her article, say if a man demanded of a woman that she produce children and, on being refused, claimed she was at fault for failing in her duty to him? Surely she’d rain condemnation down on such a claim, and rightly so, but for some reason, when it’s women doing the demanding of men, anything goes.

The fact is that men in general want children as much as women in general do. But some of them, like some women, don’t, and even those who do have the right to choose the woman with which they wish to start a family. That no one chose to do so with Brookbanks’s interviewees is at worst simply the luck of the draw.

Had Brookbanks picked up her telephone and chatted up a few men, what might she have learned about their decision to forgo fatherhood? For one thing, she might have learned that many men are leery of committing to be a dad out of fear of what can happen in family courts. As readers of this blog well know, family court can be a long nightmare from which many fathers never awaken. Indeed, parents of either sex who lose custody and contact with their children, who are treated like nothing but sources of income, reviled as potential child abusers and relegated to mere visitors in their beloved children’s lives often find the process tortuous. And why not? Non-custodial fathers are about eight times as likely as other dads to take their own lives. Not a lot to like about that.

But even if the matter stops short of that extreme, the typical experience of fathers who divorce, begins with their love of the mother, continues with the passionate attachment to their children, only to see each destroyed by a judge who hasn’t the slightest notion of the reality of their lives or those of their children. All of a sudden the man whose whole existence is bound up in his children finds himself prohibited from seeing them more than once every couple of weeks. And if Mom takes a notion to deny or limit even that niggardly parenting time, she can and let’s see him try to prevent her.

I could go on and on, through false allegations of child abuse, domestic violence or unfitness. We could talk about move-aways, abductions to foreign climes, parental alienation and the like, but need not. The point is that the system of family law confronting fathers can come to look very much like a minefield; one wrong step and ka-boom!

Had she asked, Brookbanks might have learned some of that. But of course she didn’t, likely because it would have made her thesis so much less tenable.

But Brookbanks isn’t done exhibiting her ignorance.

So are women like Melanie merely unlucky - or all too reflective of a generation desperately trying to convince unwilling men to have a child?

The latter, it seems. And that's because, as ever, men have the benefit of time on their side. Their reluctance to tie themselves down has become even more pronounced today, as they don't have to rush into marriage, a long-term relationship, or even the vaguest of friendships to have sex with women.

Please. The old saw about not buying the cow if the milk is free is simple nonsense. If it were true, no men — or very few - nowadays would marry. And yet they do, and those who don’t are likely either in an important relationship or looking for one. Call it what you will, but we humans are serial monogamists, also known as pair-bonders. We seek out significant others and bond with them. It’s what we do; it’s what we’ve always done, far, far back into the evolutionary mists. And we’re not about to stop now.

No, the problem — to the extent there is one — of childless women has its roots elsewhere, a place, oddly enough, Brookbanks actually stumbles onto.

More about that next time.

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