At What Age Does Wanting A Baby Become A Dating Deal-Breaker?

couple making out woman holding condom
Love, Family

How old will I be when I decide I want kids? And will my boyfriend wait for me?

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I discussed the issue that could eventually end our relationship. One of us wants a baby someday, and the other isn't so sure.

My boyfriend knows he wants to be a dad. But he's in his early 30s in New York City, which is like being 24 in any part of the country. He's got decades of fertility ahead of him. The clock's not ticking yet. But it will. Why Your 20-Something Boyfriend Wants A Baby

My clock's digital. Or maybe I can't tell time. All I know is that I don't know if I want kids. I'm great with them. I've wondered what it would be like to have a child with a few of the men I've dated. Yet I feel that many people have children out of a sense of obligation, or for selfish reasons. I wouldn't consider it settling to be the cool aunt instead of the mom.

But I also know that I should probably make up my mind as I approach my 30s, and that I can't string my boyfriend along in the meantime. Baby Blues: You're Ready, He's Not!

My expectations of a partner have changed as I've grown up. When I started dating in my teens, all I wanted was a guy who happened to look like Ben Affleck and wouldn't call me a nerd. (Uh. Still looking.) In college, I wanted the poetic, older guy who worked in the advising office of the English department, looked like Hugh Grant and was a huge nerd himself. (Check!)

By the time I moved to New York, I had a clearer idea of what I really wanted—a guy who would be funny, smart, supportive of my dreams and politically liberal.

I have friends who really think they know what they want. My dating deal breakers, however, have always been pretty nebulous. Age is handled on a case-by-case basis, but I don't want to grow old with someone who can't grow much older. Must love dogs... and not have a criminal record. On pickier days, I'll admit that I probably couldn't be with a man without a smartphone. Still, that's considerably more realistic than wanting an A-list celebrity lookalike...

There's a reason it took me years to be as happy as I am now with my current boyfriend. He's special—the special-est—and I know he'll be a great husband and dad someday. And as ambivalent as I am about my own maternal urges, it hurts to think I might miss out on that. Perhaps my not knowing if I want children comes from the same part of my brain that seems to think it has all the time in the world to just let things happen, the same part that gasps every time a high school classmate announces an engagement or pregnancy on Facebook.

I'm still more on Team Maybe than Team Baby, but we've only been dating for—oh, irony—nine months. There's plenty of time to discover that, actually, we're so incompatible that we shouldn't even goes halvsies on a pack of gum.

But what if we do work?

How long can two people love each other before they've got to get on the same page about the big, DNA-sharing life goals? At what age should the baby question be a dating deal breaker, and how am I supposed to figure out if motherhood's for me?