I hear from so many women who fear misrepresenting their desire to have children but also don’t want to waste time. They feel as if they’re in a conundrum: ‘Scare off’ potential prospects or settle for less. Say their age, and the person might automatically assume that they’re in a hurry to have children. Don’t say their age or play down their desire, though, and they risk opting into a situation that’s less than what they need.

There’s often this embarrassment about their age and not being in a relationship, like it’s indicative of them being ‘faulty’. In fact, I’ve heard from a lot of women in their mid to late thirties and beyond who end up dating significantly younger men due to underlying anxiety about the pressure and rejection with partners of a similar age group.

Let’s be clear: If you want children but the other party doesn’t or has a lot of ambivalence around it, your age is irrelevant. No matter your age, the relationship isn’t going to work because you’re incompatible.

So, how do we approach having children while dating?

Dating is a discovery phase. You each explore your curiosity about the other. Much like in business when you’ve just looked at something for the first time, it’s too soon to ask for a commitment. Sure, you might gather information that suggests that they cannot commit (and then you opt out), but you can’t expect them to commit to you or a future at this stage.

If, as part of an initial dating conversation they reveal that they don’t want to have children, then you bid them farewell. No judgement. Same for if they’re not into relationships, commitment, being emotionally available. Given that you’re at stage 0-1, there is no reason to hang about. To do so would suggest that you’re not serious about your intention and desire to have children.

What could a veritable stranger have going for them that you would ignore your needs and values this early into the proceedings?

Let’s say that you both decide to proceed to a relationship (stage 2) by mutual agreement. At this point, you are not looking for them to say that they want to have kids with you. Still, you make it clear that you’re not interested in something casual. If that’s going to scare them off, this is no bad thing. You need to know that you’re with someone who is genuinely invested in exploring possibilities with you.

When you’re clear about your intentions and desires for a relationship, it’s not that you expect them to say that you The One, but you’re only interested in moving forward with someone who’s open to a serious relationship.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that someone in their late thirties might be thinking about settling down or having children. No relationship can work without compatibility, so if someone reveals that they’re not on the same page simply because they don’t share similar values to you, that’s no bad thing. You know where you stand, and they have a right to want something different.

You are going to come across people who bolt at the mention of a future or babies or whatever, or who act weird about your age. Your job isn’t to use your ‘goodness’ or ‘worthiness’ to try to convince them into your desires. It’s like dating someone who shames you for being “overweight” or black or of a certain religion. Their cruddy behaviour only has to continue being your problem if you stick around or continue to date similar people. It’s crucial to be mindful. This way, you don’t unconsciously put yourself in impossible situations as part of a pattern of seeking validation or avoiding your fears.

Your age isn’t something to be ashamed of.

You can meet someone who’s willing to co-create a mutually fulfilling relationship when you’re unwilling to invest your bandwidth in someone who mistreats you or isn’t on the same page.

Yes, you are looking to have a family, but your age, needs and desires aren’t a burden to someone who’s on the same page. Own who you are instead of apologising for or downplaying yourself to fit societal conditioning about who is and isn’t attractive.

Accept no substitutes. If you date someone and they’re wishy-washy or uninterested in being serious, flush them out. Don’t force them to change, don’t try to please them—cut them loose. If someone is scared of commitment, they will be scared off for a multitude of reasons. When you own your needs and desires, you can make way for a more befitting relationship.

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