Not all men want to be fathers: what’s wrong with that?

By Allix Denham 

He’s handsome, newly-divorced and eligible, but 38 year old journalist Henry Deedes fears he has an admission that will ‘horrify potential girlfriends’ – he doesn’t want children. ‘I suppose having children is a bit like starting your own business,’ he writes. ‘If we knew just how tough it was going to be, no one would ever try.’

He’s right, raising children is tough (two years of au-pairing was enough to put me off) but the majority choose to do it all the same.

The ones who hold back, particularly those in the public eye, face intense media scrutiny, from Prince Harry (who is still only 31) to Leonardo DiCaprio, the recent target of a scathing attack by columnist Jan Moir. In it, she described him as ‘Hollywood’s number one toxic bachelor’, and warned that he’ll have ‘no one to fuss over him in his twilight years.’ ‘Even George Clooney settled down and got married!’ she went on, forgetting that Clooney was 53 by the time of his Venetian extravaganza.

At 41, DiCaprio is far from alone. A 2014 study in Norway found that one in four men aren’t fathers by the age of 45, despite the country having one of the highest birth rates in the western world. ‘Developments in working life force a mounting number of men into project jobs,’ explains sociology professor An-Magritt Jensen, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. ‘As a result people are expected to be accessible for work all the time.’

While women are the driving force behind having children, ‘Many men still entertain doubts,’ Jensen says. ‘They procrastinate, and end up childless. When women do give birth…it can often be with men who have kids from previous relationships.’

Isn’t it time everyone accepted that, just as not all of us want to start our own businesses, we don’t all want to be parents, either? Previous generations had little or no choice – you got married in your twenties and, due to the lack of reliable contraception, most marriages produced children.

Surely it’s better to have children because you want them, and not because you couldn’t prevent them?

‘I’ve never felt that caveman-like surge to multiply,’ admits Deedes. ‘I know people who take great masculine pride at passing on their genes, like they are bestowing some great gift to mankind. Such feelings strike me as quite odd and egotistical.’

There’s still plenty of time for Leonardo DiCaprio to settle down and pass on his genes, if he so wishes. But with that shiny new Oscar on his mantelpiece, I doubt the wrath of a columnist is causing him much concern.


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