Astonishingly no statistics are kept on the numbers of men ageing without children in the UK; whether men become fathers isn’t recorded anywhere in the way that statistics are kept for women.
Below is an interview with our very own Robin Hadley PhD candidate and co founder of AWOC.
1. How did you come to be interested in childlessness in men?
I came to be interested in men who don’t reproduce through my counsellor training. The criteria for the dissertation subject centred on a personal experience and, as I had been very ‘broody’ in my mid- 30’s, I chose to look at men’s desire for fatherhood. I was really surprised to find there was so litttle material about men’s experience of wanting to become a father. I became so interested in the subject I self-funded my MSc to try amd find out the levels of desire for parenthood between men and women – childless and parents. For the those wanting to become parents the level was about the same between women and men.
2. You’ve spoken to a number of men as part of your research, what are the things that really stick out for you from those interviews?
I think the biggest thing is that, given the opportunity and right conditions, men want to talk about their past, present, and future with regard to parenthood. Almost all the men I have spoken to have said it was the first time they had spoken about their deep thoughts and feelings. The importance of relationship, both of the parent-to-child and the adult-to-adult, was very strong. One thing that shocked me was that all the men in my last study expressed a fear of being seen a paedophile.
3. What has been the hardest thing about doing your research?
The hardest thing was representing the emotional depth of the men’s experiences and then putting them in context of the wider social context. I feel very responsible for the participant’s extremely moving narratives and I am honoured that they shared them with me.
4. Women seem able talk a lot about their feelings about not having had children, whether by choice or circumstance. why do you think men find it so hard to talk about it? do they need to talk about it at all?
Generally men are socialised not to talk about emotions and to express themselves through deeds and actions. For example, at primary school a young boy may like a young girl but, even at that young age, cannot verbalise his emotion, and so hits her. Until fairly recently it was socially taboo for men to express emotions whereas it was socially expected for women to be emotional. Given those two factors then to talk about inner feelings is difficult because you are automatically exposing yourself to the risk of shame, humiliation, and seeming vulnerable. I would say men need to talk. However, they also need to be listened to and heard and, again, perhaps we are not socialised to give men the time and space to do that.
5. What would you like to see happen to help men ageing without children?
I would like to see this group recognised, broadly, in two ways. Firstly, their experiences to be acknowledged
in the media and academia. By doing so social scripts become widely available for men to draw on and adapt, and thus help men to express themselves. Secondly, by the collection of data on men’s fertility intentions and history. We would then have a greater understanding of the population as a whole and be able to manage and plan services for the benefit of all society.
Robin has authored and contributed to numerous articles on this issue including
- Invited article for inside-MAN #100Voices4Men and boys: ‘If you think men don’t care about having kids, listen to what these childless men have to say’. : http://bit.ly/1G1G6tn
- Chapter 6: ‘The impotence of earnestness & the importance of being earnest.’ Studies of Ageing Masculinities: Still in Their Infancy? Edited by Anna Tarrant and Jacqueline H. Watts
- Audio interview by Viv Oyolu with me and 3 involuntarily childless people: http://bit.ly/1B75tGT
- ReValuing Care Research Network Blog: ‘Condemned as a ‘Typical Man’? http://bit.ly/1jq05mq
- International media (Dagens Nyheter): “Det finns en smärta i att inte få bli pappa” (There is a pain not to be a father): http://bit.ly/1iPLtRA
- Sociology at Work interview on the media and my research (YouTube video):http://bit.ly/QHA2AG
- Academic paper: Involuntarily childless men and the desire for fatherhood. http://bit.ly/1d1LVLb
- ReValuing Care Research Network Blog: ‘Childless-by-circumstance: Is it different for men?’http://bit.ly/17rELs9
- International media: ‘I know all about broody men who long to be dads. I am one’: http://bit.ly/17IB8Bq
- International media: ‘Men ‘just as broody as women’, study suggests’.http://bit.ly/179NLSD
- ABC Radio Australia interview: http://bit.ly/GFIhrB
– list of well known me who were not/are not fathers