My wife doesn't want kids but I do -- is change of her mind possible?
May 5, 2013 3:57 PM   Subscribe

After 2 years of marriage my wife (age 33) still doesn't want to have children while I (age 35) desperately want ones. Before marriage we have discussed it and she said that she would like to wait "for about a year" before trying for a baby. I agreed. Now she is saying that she isn't ready yet, and won't be ready for another 2 years. I thought that we have an agreement, but I was mistaken. Is it at all possible that she will change her mind, or postponing children for more years is just a stalling tactic on her behalf?

Being childless is getting unbearably painful to me. I started to avoid friends with children just to not to see happy parents. Every time I see father with child I want to cry. I told my wife all that but she is unmoved. I love my wife but I don't believe I will be able to be happy without family with children. I would wait another years but I am very afraid that she will never be ready and I will be and old, childless and bitter husband.

Having children will not interfere with her career (she is government employee), and might be even helpful as she wants to attend university on weekends but can't due to frequent business travels. Law here offers various protection for mothers of young children (amongst them prohibition of travels and involuntary overtimes). I will be definitely having my share of parenting and she knows it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (63 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, this is a tough one, and what seems like the potential of being a dealbreaker. I think it may be a serious conversation between the two of you, because there is no way a bunch of Mefites can answer your question.

I think the real question is this: Does she want kids, but not for a few more years? Or, does she not want kids, and for whatever reason (doesn't want to lose you, hope you'll change your mind, etc.) isn't being clear about that to you.
posted by arnicae at 4:04 PM on May 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

Neither of you can know whether or not she'll want children in two years. She might think she knows, and two years from now realize she still doesn't.

You two need to have some very serious conversations about this, and that's best facilitated by a counselor. Because if there isn't some serious feeling on her part that she wants to have kids, then you two have a very deep incompatibility.
posted by fatbird at 4:05 PM on May 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I dont think you're really trying to see this from her perspective. Having a baby is really hard on a women's body and mind and her overall health. You won't be the one dealing with the physical changes yourself, and if you have love and respect for your wife, you'll try to understand her perspective and feelings when she says she's not ready yet. Try to really dive in and ask her what she means re readiness. Find out what she's worried about. I bet she brings up very interesting points that you may have not considered and could understand after hearing what she has to say.
posted by discopolo at 4:07 PM on May 5, 2013 [32 favorites]

I don't think the legal framework in your country matters much. You two need to talk to each other and be honest about this. Is she not ready or does she really not want to have children. You may find it easier to discuss this with a marriage counsellor because it would appear that your conversations so far have not helped you get clarity.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:07 PM on May 5, 2013

Having children will not interfere with her career (she is government employee), and might be even helpful as she wants to attend university on weekends but can't due to frequent business travels.

It sounds like you're badly underestimating how much work it takes to raise an infant. It's not going to be like "Oh, now that I have weekends home, I have all the time I need to get my degree!" It's going to be more like "Holy shit, this is practically a second full-time job. At least I get weekends free, but there's no way in hell I'm going to have time for school for the next ten years or so."

If you want to find some common ground on this, you need to start by taking seriously how much of an impact it's going to have on her goals.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:08 PM on May 5, 2013 [65 favorites]

You know, avoiding kids and people with them is one of the worst ways to go about this. You're going out of your way to detach yourself from the realities of being a parent and building up this unrealistic ideal of what it is to have a kid. You don't need to stop being a romantic about the idea, but it's really, really, not that romantic.

Your wife is the one who will be carrying the child, putting on significant weight, having permanent changes to her body, go on a hormonal adventure that won't stop for *years*, possibly breastfeed for a couple years, maybe pump daily. She's the one who will go through the physical adventures that may be there if becoming pregnant is difficult, or carrying to term isn't possible. This is all just the first two years, and not at all comprehensive. You need to understand this, because she probably has a pretty good idea of what it means to her.

You need to decide if this is the ultimate deal breaker for you, because I love my kids, but it's not a romantic enterprise, it's quite literally the very definition of a labor of love. If you are thinking about this relationship about not being the right thing because maybe she doesn't want to have kids, I am going to tell you that a relationship after kids is tested in so many more ways that it's really, truly hard to explain to people who don't have kids or haven't lived in a house where they are being raised. My wife and I might be bad managers of our kid raising, but we're pretty realistic about the level of effort, and we regard what she puts in day in and day out raising our kids as a stay at home mom as waaaaaaay more difficult than my job where I get a break from it all.

Let me qualify all of that above with a statement that I was basically you, and my wife eventually changed her mind, but it was her decision and by the time she had made it I wasn't sure. I had gotten a little more comfortable with the relationship being just the two of us. I think that head space was actually healthier for us to have a kid in. So yeah, people change how they feel about it, but it's time for a hard conversation and you can't hope and want this one to just go your way because it's such a larger deal than that.
posted by iamabot at 4:16 PM on May 5, 2013 [29 favorites]

I thought that we have an agreement, but I was mistaken. Is it at all possible that she will change her mind, or postponing children for more years is just a stalling tactic on her behalf?

If I were in your position, I'd feel frustrated, worried, and angry. Your concern about whether she's 'stalling' suggests to me that your trust is waning, as well. And your wife has complicated feelings of her own. Forgive me for repeating the most common advice on this site: it's a perfect situation for counseling.

Even one person facing a difficult decision can benefit a great deal by going over it with a therapist. With two people, you have the added problem of conflict and/or fear of conflict. If you go into it as a decision-making effort, it's not about who's right or wrong, who's reasonable or unfair.

Please don't try to get through this yourselves. If your wife refuses to go for counseling, go alone. It will help you separate all the entwined strands of matter, and to communicate more calmly.
posted by wryly at 4:22 PM on May 5, 2013

It is possible she will change her mind. But it sounds to me like she doesn't really want children and is stalling. It's up to you to decide whether her lack of desire for children is a deal breaker.

There is nothing wrong with you whichever way you decide.
posted by Justinian at 4:22 PM on May 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would have a talk with her, ask her what she isn't ready for. Ask her what things might change in two years that would change her answer. Ask her if she is ready to commit to a child on the condition of you staying married.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:22 PM on May 5, 2013

If you want to find some common ground on this, you need to start by taking seriously how much of an impact it's going to have on her goals.

This is irrelevant and a distraction.

What we have hear is a critical basis of your decision to marry has changed. The issue to be brought to her attention is how her unilateral decision to delay is affecting your premise of marriage with her. This will help her in understanding the impact this is having on the foundation of your marriage, while bringing this to a full top level level discussion between the two of you (instead of people on the internet). She needs to hear and understand the affect this is having on you, and you need to hear and understand her motivations - as husband and wife, not contractual 'partners.' Good luck.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:24 PM on May 5, 2013 [13 favorites]

Does she tell you what her reasons for not being ready yet? There aren't a lot of details in your post about what specific things she's concerned about. Is it her career track? Fear of how children will change your current lifestyle? Concern about how complications might change her body forever? Personal goals that she hasn't achieved yet?

You say that you'll help with the parenting, but are you both ready for the reality of how much work a baby will take? Do you do at least half of the household chores now - cleaning, cooking, shopping, buying gifts for family, managing schedules for social events/dentist/doctor, etc? I've found that the best predictor of how much help a spouse will be with child rearing work is how much household work they do before children are on the scene.

Your comment about how her job will not be affected and that she can go to University on the weekends makes me think that you are not fully aware of how much of a change having a child will be for her.

I think that you may benefit from some very detailed discussions, maybe with a therapist. That said, if you want children and she does not, I think that both of you should find new partners whose wishes and goals are more in line with your own. You should have the family you want and she should be able to remain childless if that's her wish. Her reversal on this issue is a serious and possibly permanently damaging change in the relationship.
posted by quince at 4:34 PM on May 5, 2013 [16 favorites]

I think this is very sad and you do need to have the conversations mentioned and with a counselor if that is helpful. A question occurred to me, however. Have you considered how you would feel about staying married if your wife happened to be unable to have children? Would you then want to stay married to her? A lot of your ultimate decision is going to be based on how committed you are to her, I think. Would that be a different situation for you than her choosing not to have children?

This is, of course, none of my business and I don't want an answer. I just think you should ask yourself the question and see what your answer would be. If she knows that you feel her choosing not to have children would be a betrayal of a promise to you, how do you think she would then feel about such a (hypothetical) inability to have children. I am NOT suggesting that she has any inability. Not at all.

That question was meant only to ask you to look at your ideas from her perspective. She obviously has some real and important reasons for postponing--or actually being unwilling to take on--motherhood. What are the things she fears? I think you need to understand more about her feelings and thoughts.

No matter what you think about how parenting is shared, it affects her in every way from the very beginning and forever far more than it affects you.
posted by Anitanola at 4:35 PM on May 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Having children will not interfere with her career (she is government employee), and might be even helpful as she wants to attend university on weekends but can't due to frequent business travels.

1) Having a child will turn your life 100% upside forever. There will be no down time for the next few years, pretty much at all. And you can kiss most of your hobbies goodbye excepting maaaaybe one or two.

2) Make sure your marriage is rock fucking solid before having kids. A baby - even like a great "easy" baby - will put a lot of pressure on your relationship, have no doubts.

3) Nthing everyone; you need to find out if she genuinely just wants more time, or actually doesn't want kids.

But make no mistake, having a baby is not like having a puppy. I was a childcare worker for five years, and had spent a lot of time around babies and parents; I thought I knew the score. OP, I did not know the score!
posted by smoke at 4:39 PM on May 5, 2013 [16 favorites]

It is possible she will change her mind. But it sounds to me like she doesn't really want children and is stalling.

I couldn't disagree more that that's the proper conclusion to draw. We don't know *what* conclusion to draw because we don't have enough information. You really need to talk about this with her and get her reasons for delaying. It's not as if she's 40 and not sure she wants children. She's still pretty young and maybe she's scared or wants to squeeze out as much childless freedom as she can before becoming tied down for the next 20 or more years.

She also might be feeling pressured by you, because you certainly are sounding pretty desperate, and the pressure might be making her back away even more.

So--- you need to have serious conversations with her about this, and I agree that counseling with her is a good idea.
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:40 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I completely sympathize with you...I remember how hard the CHILDREN, NOW urge hit me, and how frustrating it was to not be on the same page as my partner.

BUT. This:

Having children will not interfere with her career (she is government employee), and might be even helpful as she wants to attend university on weekends but can't due to frequent business travels. Law here offers various protection for mothers of young children (amongst them prohibition of travels and involuntary overtimes). I will be definitely having my share of parenting and she knows it.

is totally dismissive of her feelings and concerns, not to mention really painfully naive about the demands of parenthood in general and motherhood in particular. I think you really need to address this from a perspective of understanding her concerns, not preemptively deciding that they're not valid.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:42 PM on May 5, 2013 [25 favorites]

I think that you need to talk with her and clarify her feelings on kids. There's a big difference between not wanting them now, and not wanting them ever. You could also adopt children -- would that be acceptable?

Yes, the process of having children and dealing with a newborn will be much harder on her than you -- but it does get even more difficult with age. Over 35 is considered "advanced maternal age" (at least here in the states) and doctors will want to keep a closer eye on things, which can be a lot more invasive. You should talk about things now.

I also doubt that she would have time for the child, classes and the University, and a full-time job. Parenting is so hard those first few years. I think that you're being a little overly optimistic about that. But I do feel for you.
posted by Ostara at 4:49 PM on May 5, 2013

Is it at all possible that she will change her mind, or postponing children for more years is just a stalling tactic on her behalf?

You know that no one on the internet knows the answer to this question, right? And that the only person likely to know for sure is your wife, and even she may not?

It's possible, yes, that she doesn't want kids at all and is just trying to wait until she can't safely do it, because she wants you and your marriage as it is. But it might be more likely that she's ambivalent about having kids and doesn't want to face the decision and commit.

Having kids changes a lot of things about a woman's life. It's a very big deal. You are trying to reassure her that it really won't change her life for the worse, and she's apparently not buying your reassurance. That's not unreasonable on her part, because you really don't know - what you're really reassuring her about is that you will do your very best to minimize the negative effects on her, but you can't guarantee her that she won't lose anthing she values, because you're only human.

It is totally possible that as a couple, you face an impasse, where you want kids desperately and she doesn't want them enough to deal with it. That's one of the few reasons worth ending a good, happy marriage, and I'm very sorry. But you need to talk to her about this and try to find out the answer to your question - is it just your anxiety and your eagerness to start life with children that's making you impatient with the goals she's expressed, or is it that she's avoiding the whole issue because she doesn't want to have kids and she doesn't want to end the relationship?
posted by gingerest at 4:53 PM on May 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

Men can have children without female romantic partners. But there is a reason that surrogacy is so expensive. A 'cheap' surrogacy would probably be about $20,000.-$40,000. You might want to start saving.

If that amount seems crazy to you or unrealistic for you to spend, then you haven't taken seriously the risks and opportunity costs - not of parenthood, but of pregnancy and childbirth alone.

I don't want to be unnecessarily harsh on you. It's hard that you thought you were on the same page (and she gave you reason to believe it) but it turns out you're not.

But your apparent lack of understanding of the extent to which pregnancy, birth, and parenthood will affect your wife's life gives me more sympathy for her. You don't actually sound like someone who will do even 50% of the care taking work, let alone more, because you don't like someone who has a real grasp on what that means. That, plus your avoidance coping tactics makes me wonder whether your wife in good faith wanted children but is now second guessing whether you will be a true partner to her in it.

The Young Rope Rider said very wisely (on my phone, can try to find it later) that no one should opt into parenthood until they are ready to take on 100% of the financial and care taking responsibility. Because not only do you not know what life will bring, I think it's a pretty fair bet that if you don't regularly think you're doing more than half, you're probably not doing nearly enough.

If you really want kids and she doesn't (or doesn't want them with you) that is a fair reason to leave. But if you don't think that you would then pursue either adoption or surrogacy on your own, I think it fair to ask yourself whether you really want not only to have kids but to have the full work and responsibility of being a parent.

I'm a believer in getting help for the hard things in life and these are hard questions. I think that one more year of individual and couple's therapy to really explore these issues could only benefit you and your wife and any kids you have in the future, with or without her.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:28 PM on May 5, 2013 [24 favorites]

There is no guarantee that she will ever want kids.

There is no guarantee that she can even have kids.

There is no guarantee that the next woman you marry will be able to have kids.

There is no guarantee that you will be able to have kids.

At the end of the day you have to decide, do you love her enough to be with her for the rest of your life? If you aren't certain, then, don't have kids. Single parent households aren't much fun.
posted by myselfasme at 5:30 PM on May 5, 2013 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: Having children will not interfere with her career (she is government employee), and might be even helpful as she wants to attend university on weekends but can't due to frequent business travels. Law here offers various protection for mothers of young children (amongst them prohibition of travels and involuntary overtimes). I will be definitely having my share of parenting and she knows it.

I'm curious--are you expecting her to be a stay-at-home mom? Or will you be the one staying home to do childcare? Or do you have alternative childcare arrangements? The effects to a woman's life aren't just the major changes to her body. If you plan on having her be the primary caretaker there isn't really a career in the world that won't be affected by that.

I echo the other posters who say it sounds like you have an unrealistic idea of the difficulties of childraising and the mother-specific difficulties in particular. At the same time, if you went into the marriage with the expectation of having kids then it is a very major issue for your wife to decide she may not want them. You guys really need to talk about this and decide whether she will ever want kids. Preferably through a counselor, because this is likely going to get emotional for both of you.
posted by Anonymous at 5:43 PM on May 5, 2013

Have you thoroughly considered the changes bringing a child into your family will or may cause, and the effects on each of you individually as well as your relationship?

Have you discussed adopting a young child with yourself as the primary caregiver?
posted by thatdawnperson at 5:49 PM on May 5, 2013

I am sorry that you are struggling but I don't think you appreciate that choosing to have a child doesn't mean that boom! She's pregnant and the first pregnancy is successful. If you feel like crying now when you see fathers with kids, how will you feel if your wife miscarries? If she can't have kids? If you knew she couldn't have kids, would you still have gotten married? And you are asking her to undertake an extremely grueling and occasionally life-threatening process physically. I think you need to really understand what that means before going any further.
posted by kat518 at 5:51 PM on May 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think people are being unnecessarily harsh and judgmental on this person. Any assumption that he's not going to take on a big part of the responsibility or he doesn't understand the toll preganancy will have on his wife is completely unfounded and off-topic. There is surely more to the story than he wrote.

The crux of the issue is that you married your wife on the under the assumption you two will be trying for a baby in a year. Now she's either changed her mind, or is continuing to delay. Does she even want kids, or is she saying she hopes to want a kid in a few years? Obviously, more talks and probably with a counselor is needed, but I think this is enough reason to leave if unsettled. Does she not even want to adopt? Marriage isn't only about being with your one love forever and ever. You agreed to start a family, and it's important to this more important to you than staying with your wife? I think it's ok if it is...go and find someone who either wants to have children right away, or find a way to be a single parent.
posted by ribboncake at 5:56 PM on May 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

I went from never wanting to have children to desperately wanting to have children to being ambivalent about it. In the space of a couple of years. Thankfully, I did not have children during the time I was desperate to have them.

Point is - life changes.

I started to avoid friends with children just to not to see happy parents.

Don't do this - engage with them so as to learn more about kids, particularly if you want to have them.

I told my wife all that but she is unmoved.

Because she is the one who has to deal with the direct physical and emotional and psychological impact of having a child.

Having children will not interfere with her career (she is government employee), and might be even helpful as she wants to attend university on weekends but can't due to frequent business travels.

This does not make sense. If she does not have time to go to uni on the weekends now because of work, of course her work will be affected when she has a baby.

You both need to have a long talk. You need to see a counsellor. You need to take into consideration that she may never want kids or may never be able to have them.
posted by heyjude at 5:57 PM on May 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

Get off MeFi and go talk to her. Literally nothing anyone can say outside of your relationship will have any bearing on this.
posted by wrok at 5:59 PM on May 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

It sounds like you're in a country that's apt to have decent health care and protections for working women; it's hard to tell, of course. If that's true, then there's not really that much difference between doing it now and waiting a couple more years. Lots of people these days are having kids in their 40s. It doesn't sound like she's really changed her mind, just that she's not quite there. You're not going to find another woman--at least, not an emotionally stable one--who wants to have kids RIGHT AWAY with you, so: Patience.

You can't guarantee that everything's going to go well. Lots of people just wing it, but it'll all go better for both of you if you spend the intervening time doing things that will really reassure her that you're both ready. Unless she's made some noises about just plain not liking kids, there's plenty you can do here to make the situation more amenable and make it happen possibly quicker and overall more smoothly in any case. This is really not a disaster.
posted by Sequence at 6:23 PM on May 5, 2013

ribboncake: "I think people are being unnecessarily harsh and judgmental on this person. Any assumption that he's not going to take on a big part of the responsibility or he doesn't understand the toll preganancy will have on his wife is completely unfounded and off-topic.'

As a matter of fact, he says as much right in the question:
I will be definitely having my share of parenting and she knows it.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:26 PM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Having children will not interfere with her career

I live in a country with legal protections for mothers, generous maternal/parental leave and one I think is quite enlightened about sexism and yet I can reel off a dozen women I personally know that found being a working mother meant they got fired, demoted, denied promotions, harassed or greeted with incredous stares when they walked into job interviews visibly pregnant. She is in her prime career-climbing phase, thinking about pursing more education for her career (except right now she is too busy...) and you are expecting her to sacrifice that. Perhaps you can show her the sacrifices you are making right now (and your future sacrifices like being a full time parent if that works best) towards the goal of having children. She may also see that two more years in her job give her more security or a natural break to have children.

You do sound like you have developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms as well as unrealistic ideals about parenting. She may worry that the added stress of having a child and having your fantasy disproved will cause you to use the same coping mechanisms (avoidance, hyper-focus, emotional de-regulation) at a time when she really needs a co-parent.
posted by saucysault at 6:34 PM on May 5, 2013 [19 favorites]

You are pointing out reasons why you think she should have kids.

She doesn't want to have kids. That trumps all your reasons. People who don't want to have kids should not have them.

You say you feel like an agreement was broken. It's quite right that you feel hurt about this. It is also quite right that your wife break whatever tacit agreement you might have had if she has realized she doesn't want kids. Having kids is the most important life decision most people make. You cannot (well, should not) do it lightly or as a favor to anyone else.

Absent concrete and compelling reasons for waiting--which you did not mention--I think it is pretty unlikely that your wife will want kids at age 35 if she doesn't want them at 33. I think you have a painful choice to make. I'm sorry.
posted by mattu at 6:44 PM on May 5, 2013 [14 favorites]

Does she not want actual babies? Or does she not want to be pregnant? Would you be okay with adoption? Or fostering?
posted by Ideefixe at 6:48 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does her job pay well enough for her to be the breadwinner and for you to be the full-time parent? Could you adopt? That isn't the answer if she doesn't want to be a mother at all, but if her main concerns are her career then that could help somewhat (but not completely).
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:48 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm approaching this more from the perspective of: "This is something that was the basis upon which you decided to get married."

Forget the issue itself, the debate over kids, etc.

You discussed the issue before marriage, reached an agreement. Now the goalposts have been shifted.

I would have some serious concerns in relation to this. Who is to say that the goalposts won't be shifted again, and again, and again.

I know this probably sounds a little harsh, but your wife is backing away from an agreement she made with you before you both got married, one upon which you based at least a bit of that marriage.

I think you need to talk to her, urgently. Has she changed her mind? Did she feel like this all along and simply said what she said beforehand to put your mind at ease?

People's minds can change. I know this from personal experience in terms of wanting children/wanting more children. But you seriously need to talk about this - if the basis of your marriage is eroded over issues like this, then that puts everything under threat.
posted by chris88 at 6:50 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

So far all I'm seeing in your post is this:

-I desperately want kids. Here are all the reasons why she can have a kid, and our agreement.
-She decided she wants to wait.

Did you ask her why?? Because right now, I can't tell why she wants to wait. Does she have a reason? Does she want to travel with you? Does she want to be older? Is she nervous about body and lifestyle changes?

You need to talk to your wife.

Can she change her mind? Maybe, but you won't know until you talk to her.

You also need to empathize and care about the reasons she might be hesitant. You are asking that she empathize with your extreme desire for kids, so you need to show her the same respect in the conversation you end up having about kids.

And you're saying that she said "about a year" for kids, and how long has it been? Did you mark it in your calendar and now right at the year point you're being annoyed that she might want to wait?

Have you ever made agreements with her that moved? Probably. Treat her like a person and find out why. If you cannot handle waiting, then I'd say you and your wife aren't a match. Also, it seems that you want a kid, not that you want a kid - with her. Which kind of makes her sound like a baby-machine in your mind, especially since you are boiling down her ability to have children NOW because of her job, a vague agreement, and because you want them.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:59 PM on May 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

ribboncake: "I think people are being unnecessarily harsh and judgmental on this person. Any assumption that he's not going to take on a big part of the responsibility or he doesn't understand the toll preganancy will have on his wife is completely unfounded and off-topic.'

As a matter of fact, he says as much right in the question:
I will be definitely having my share of parenting and she knows it.

He doesn't explicitly say what his share will be. She's the one who will have to gestate, stay off caffeine/some foods/products/alcohol, endure the exhaustion and physiological changes in addition to much more after the baby is born, provided there aren't complications which affect her and/or the baby's health forever.

Also, once OP's fantasy of being a dad doesn't translate to reality, he may just withdraw or be unwilling to take care of a wife in need of emotional support and a baby who needs a dad who is ready to do more than whatever dad thinks is his fair share.

Women have a lot to consider when having a baby. Sometimes the person you marry seems like they would be a great father, but then you find out they can't provide the emotional support you need as a mom-to-be or has no realistic idea of babies and children. I mean, the whole idea of doing "my share" is ridiculous. It's not an evenly divided split in the first place. He may think his share may end up to getting up only half the time to take care of baby, feed it or change its diaper, without caring if his wife feels sick or isolated or exhausted. Who will take care of and support her emotionally and physically as she recovers? Maybe she doesn't think he will, since he promises to do his share, whatever that means. She'll still have to face the lion's share alone, being that it's her body.
posted by discopolo at 7:07 PM on May 5, 2013 [12 favorites]

I'm uncomfortable with the "she moved the goal posts" line of thinking because AFAIK their marriage was not a business arrangement so any temptation to say "we had a deal" strikes me as enormously crass. Not to mention why would you want someone who doesn't want a kid to have a kid?

At any rate, she doesn't want to have a kid now. Without a functioning crystal ball, none of us have the ability to say with any certainty whether she will want to have a kid three days, weeks, months, years or decades from now. How ling are you willing to wait to find out?
posted by kat518 at 7:11 PM on May 5, 2013 [22 favorites]

I'm your wife's age, and sort of similar in my reproduction procrastination. I really truly do want a kid, at some point, but I also really like being childfree and am not convinced I'm ready to make the transition. In fact, if it were biologically feasible, I suspect I could put off motherhood for another couple decades. It's possible that this is your wife's stance, too - but none of us knows what's going on in her mind.

There are so many things I worry about when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood: physical and mental changes, my career vs. my desire to be a stay-at-home mom, my personal and social life, my ability to parent, and of course everything about the new human whose life I will be responsible for. These are all legitimate concerns, and I'm really just scratching the surface here. Having children is a huge, risky, life-changing, irreversible endeavor. It's completely understandable if she wants to delay it. The problem is whether she'll delay it forever.

You need to talk to her about this. Don't accuse or pressure her, just find out what's on her mind. Ask her what her ideal scenario would be for her to start trying for a baby; maybe something needs to be in place that isn't there yet. Or maybe she just wants to hang on to that freedom for a little while more, in which case ask her how she'll decide when she's ready to make that transition.

Finally, Anon, I think avoiding parents because it pains you emotionally is exactly the wrong thing to do in this situation. Not only is avoidance an unproductive way of dealing with problems, I don't think it's doing any favors for your perception of parenthood. If anything, you want to spend more time with parents. Even blissfully happy parents with perfect children have all sorts of struggles, and they'll readily tell you all sorts of stories if you ask. It could be that your wife's idea of parenthood is more grounded in reality than yours.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:31 PM on May 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

You, and especially she, need to talk with someone really smart about this kind of thing who can help you both dig and dig until you discover the real truths of the situation. I don't think the Internet can help as much as someone talking to her and helping her get to the truth, and convincing you of it.
posted by amtho at 7:33 PM on May 5, 2013

Sorry man, that's hard. It's difficult to not connect on something that seems essential after being married for awhile. Just a couple of things to consider, perhaps from the perspective of your wife, and also for your own long-term well-being:

1. It's really hard as a spouse, I think, to get into a huge life commitment if one is feeling guilted or pressured into doing it. If it was your wife asking for advice, I would tell her not to have a child if she was feeling pressure to do so, rather than having reasons that have to do with love and commitment and a desire to primarily take care of that little child. If she is doing this for you primarily, I suspect it wouldn't be for the right reasons.

2. You shouldn't be doing this because you think it's going to resolve an emotional need in your life. This is a hard one, because relationships and family bring us a LOT of life satisfaction at times. However, I'm not sure that putting so much pressure on other people, such that you will be a "bitter old man" without their participation, should be a proper motivation for anyone to be making huge decisions like this. I would recommend resolving these questions for yourself before pursuing this question further. Namely, why is having children related so fundamentally to your future well being? Could you be happy without this happening? Also, what would you do if you found out that you were not able to have children, even if you were both on the same page?

This last question is a hard one, but if it is literally unresolvable in your mind, perhaps this is something that is important to work out before putting pressure on your wife. Is it possible that your emotional dependence on this future reality may already be putting a very difficult, if not impossible, burden on her?
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:37 PM on May 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you want to find some common ground on this, you need to start by taking seriously how much of an impact it's going to have on her goals.

This is irrelevant and a distraction.


How is trying to understand why his wife is hesitant to have children "irrelevant and a distraction"?

The OP should be asking his wife, "Why don't you want to have kids now? What needs to change for us to have kids soon?" etc., etc.

Counseling. Not, "You tricked me, you witch!"
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:29 PM on May 5, 2013 [15 favorites]

Just wanted to support everyone who said some form of 'having a child with someone who doesn't really want one is a terrible idea!'

Trust me, it's never a good idea.

Not sure what the answer is here, but I would suggest lots and lots of conversations about the issue and what the exact problems are. Can you overcome them? If not then maybe it is a deal breaker.
posted by Youremyworld at 8:40 PM on May 5, 2013

Tough situation,

I have to chuckle a little bit at the bias in some of the responses, I remember a thread some time ago where a woman was complaining that her partner didn't want kids and a huge press of Mefites gave such great advice as "you can't afford to wait, DTMFA and find someone who has goals that are in line with yours". Instead you get a lot of soapbox preaching about how men can't possibly appreciate how women have to suffer with children.

Now, to be clear. I'm not saying that women have it easy, or that men are always rock stars at standing up and doing our share. I will however say that if it's fair for a woman to say "Our goals aren't the same and this is dealbreaker for me", than it's fair for you to say as well. However, I'd spend a lot of time chatting about this with your wife and really getting to understand her reasoning before you take any action. I'll echo the sentiment that if you can't have an adult discussion about this, you two probably aren't ready for kids regardless.

I would also agree with the idea that you need to decide if having children is really a dealbreaker for you, and if so you need to make this clear to your wife.

Good luck.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 8:59 PM on May 5, 2013 [11 favorites]

Impossible to answer this question without knowing the specific reasons she doesn't want kids now and whether she really enjoys spending time with children.
posted by Dansaman at 9:13 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The married couples I know who had kids within a year or two of first getting married are now divorced or separated. Kids do put a great deal of pressure on a marriage.

But, I do feel badly for you because you went into your marriage, you believed, with a mutual expectation of a certain thing -- trying for a baby after a year -- and your wife has unilaterally changed that goal. Plus you did a very good thing by telling her how this affected you, and telling her your emotions and vulnerabilities, and according to you she was "unmoved." So something seems wrong here. If you have been brave and opened up to her about why waiting makes you insecure, she should have opened up to you about why she wants to wait, in return. Maybe she did and you're leaving that out of your question.

If you have talked to her about your feeling and she has remained stoic and impassive and hasn't given you any particular reason why two years from now is better than now for her, then I think something is very wrong and you should consider divorce. But if she has listened to you with some empathy yet nevertheless held firm that she isn't really ready yet and would like to accomplish xxx before starting a family, I would look at that more generously.

If the latter, if pregnancy/baby classes are offered in your country, you might ask her for a commitment to taking some of those together this year so you can both be more sure you know what you are getting into. I took several of these with my husband and they were not huge commitments of time but were very helpful because we knew less than we thought we did. You might also consider putting together a list of things you will be willing to do in terms of childcare to reassure her that you know how difficult it will be to care for a child and you are willing to do your share. For example, if there are 4 wake ups a night, you will do 2 of them and handle everything from diaper changes to warming up formula and feeding it to the baby or just soothing back to sleep if neither of those things worked. Or if there are 4 wake ups a night but you won't do feedings you will do all 4 diaper changes. If you think these things through and make some lists you can reassure her that you DO have a realistic idea of how much extra work a baby will add to your marriage and that you really do intend to do half or more of the work.

Good luck to you, sincerely.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:17 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having a baby will ruin you. It steals your health, your rest, your sex life, your prized possessions, your social life, and your sanity. If you're a woman it also frequently robs you of your career, or at least steers you into an exciting variety of dead ends, not to mentioned literally scraping the calcium from your bones and a hundred other physical horrors. Everything you ever enjoyed doing will be taken away from you, sometimes permanently, by this screaming little monster that enters your life and will never, ever go away. If you are both not 100% committed, nay, enthusiastic, about having kids, then it is a terrible mistake and you shouldn't do it. It's not something you can or should try to wheedle or convince anyone who doesn't want to do it, to do.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:50 PM on May 5, 2013 [28 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for many thoughtful responses. I'd like to clarify:
-- I talked about this with my wife many times. When asked why she doesn't want kids her answer is "I'm not ready yet." She isn't raising any specific problems;
-- I really know exactly what having a baby means for a women and for a marriage -- I was 18 when my mother born my younger sister, and since she was single at that time I was per force surrogate father (who changed diapers, feed, bathe etc.).;
-- Having a baby now won't affect her career. She has decided to pursue career in another field. For this she needs to attend university on weekends. She is considering quitting current highly paid governmental job and start work as a shop clerk or receptionist at the gym just to be able to attend university.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:18 PM on May 5, 2013

-- Having a baby now won't affect her career. She has decided to pursue career in another field.

I think you just need to decide if this is your dealbreaker, but this update reiterates that you either don't understand the toll it will take on your wife to have a baby, or you are not communicating well here.

Attempting to attend university in any way, even "on weekends" will be a tremendous undertaking. Pretending in any way that this will be anything except difficult while caring for a newborn is... well, dismissive. If this is your approach to the discussion with your wife, then I can understand why your wife is saying she doesn't feel ready.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:56 PM on May 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

I talked about this with my wife many times. When asked why she doesn't want kids her answer is "I'm not ready yet." She isn't raising any specific problems

You are having some serious communication problems in your marriage if you aren't able to get any more of a response. I can't imagine walking away from that if your pain is truly as great as you say it is. Just because she doesn't raise any specific problems doesn't mean you can't (and then proceed to discuss them).

There are so many questions you don't seem to have any interest in answering:

WHY isn't she ready?
What would she need to be ready?
How can you work with her to help her be ready?

(It would seem that she is interested in getting her new career started before having children, is that the case?)

I'd say you need to deal with this (it is a far bigger problem then you seem to realize) before you consider having children, but since you won't be having children until this is solved as your lack of communication is part of why you are not having kids at this moment, or at least aren't understanding why you are not having kids, ... well.

Counselling to learn how to communicate with each other is strongly suggested.
posted by Dynex at 11:00 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

-- I really know exactly what having a baby means for a women and for a marriage -- I was 18 when my mother born my younger sister, and since she was single at that time I was per force surrogate father (who changed diapers, feed, bathe etc.).;

I hate to break it to you, OP, but no, no you do not know what this means for a woman. I was in the same situation as you, more or less, when my mother had my youngest sister. My dad was working three jobs and my mum wound up in a car accident, so teenage me did all those things - bathing, nappies, night feeds, that sort of business.

I'm currently 34 weeks pregnant with my first, and I can tell you with all certainty that I was not prepared for the physical demands on the body that being pregnant causes. I am younger than your wife by only a handful of years, but it's been that rough on my body that I wound up on early maternity leave and am basically housebound at the moment. I've had a fairly easy time of it in terms of mood swings and emotional disruption and it's still been pretty rough.

Caring for someone else's child is not at all the same as bearing one yourself. Not even close. I've done explodo nappies, I've done midnight fevers, I've done tantrums and toilet training and I am still way out of my depth and I still have a full six weeks of pregnancy to go.

-- Having a baby now won't affect her career. She has decided to pursue career in another field. For this she needs to attend university on weekends. She is considering quitting current highly paid governmental job and start work as a shop clerk or receptionist at the gym just to be able to attend university.

You are being unrealistically optimistic here. Seriously. If the baby is breastfed she won't be able to be away from it for any more than a few hours. A two hour lecture is going to involve a break to pump and she's going to miss material. The sleep deprivation from night feeds - and even if it's not her turn, your baby will still wake her up - will impact her ability to do coursework. You'll be looking at a year at least before she's in a place physically and mentally to make the best of her studies. I spent most of high school raising my sister, and I failed assessments because of it. High school. With lots of support. Not university, with fuckall backup from lecturers and tutors. I made it through because I had good support from my teachers who knew what was happening at home and who were able to make accommodations for me, the sort of accommodations that are rare at the tertiary level. And this is without any of the physical aspects to take into account, things that you couldn't have experienced with your sister, either.

You also need to go and Google "mommy track" which is where she'll be, after she graduates, depending largely on what she's studying, but it's a real consideration.

-- I talked about this with my wife many times. When asked why she doesn't want kids her answer is "I'm not ready yet." She isn't raising any specific problems;

This is your problem. She has maybe another three years before things get really, really hairy as far as making babies go. You need to have a solid NON ADVERSARIAL discussion with her about WHY she isn't ready. Get a trusted person - a pastor, therapist, an impartial third party - to mediate. She may be worried about everything I've mentioned above and delaying out of worry. She may well be stalling. but you won't find out by asking us.

You have a window to have a child with this particular woman. You have a few advantages as a dad - one of them is your window is much bigger. If you love your wife above your desire to be a father, then you need to work this out. You don't have much time left to do this with her. If she has decided it's not happening, you may need to move on. But I re-interate: you are not going to learn this from us.
posted by Jilder at 11:49 PM on May 5, 2013 [18 favorites]

When you married you were on common ground and happy, but now, two years later, your wife is backing away from the idea of having children just as you're becoming obsessed with it. It strikes me that maybe she's wise enough to step way back from the idea of having a child with you because you've become completely obsessed about it and she no longer feels totally comfortable with the marriage itself. Anyone with half a grain of sense would hold off on having children if they weren't pretty darn certain that their marriage was solid and secure for the foreseeable future. Frankly, it seems to me you're thinking of your marriage in terms of a business contract, which it is not. What if she was physically incapable of having children? How would you handle that? Would you leave her for someone else who could make a child for you? In other words, does she mean more to you than as a baby maker? I don't mean to insult you at all, but are you focusing on the rest of your life together, or is the baby thing overshadowing everything else right now? Maybe that's turning her off.
posted by aryma at 1:16 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

I thought that we have an agreement, but I was mistaken.

A person can't promise they will feel a certain way about something in the future. Maybe she anticipated that she would desire to have a child at this point back when you initially discussed this, but her feeling may be different now.
posted by yohko at 3:47 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't hate her or resent her or in any way make her feel guilty for not being ready to have kids yet.

I'm a dad to an 18 month old boy, who is pretty great. But back before he was born, I wasn't sure I wanted kids. Like, ever. But my wife really wanted kids. We had an agreement that one day I'd be ready, and we'd try, but when we started "trying" I was only really trying because I felt guilty that I was standing in the way of her dreams. I remember her crying once because I was delaying getting a sperm test and saying "you don't want to have kids , do you?" and I assured her I did, even though I knew in my heart I wasn't sure. In retrospect, I probably was delaying because I didn't want kids. So I definitely wasn't ready yet and when the news came that she was pregnant, it hit me pretty hard.

The next 9 months, and many of the months that followed, were particularly hard on both of us, mostly because I just didn't want to be in the situation I was in. There was a lot of resentment on my part (there still is) but luckily we have a pretty great marriage and eventually we got through it. But if I had it to do over again, I'd have told her I don't want kids, maybe not ever, and gone from there. Sure, we wouldn't have this awesome kid now, but I still know that given a do-over, I wouldn't have said I was ready when I wasn't.

All of which is to say pressuring her or making her feel guilty may make her start trying for your sake before she's actually ready. And make no mistake, she needs to be ready because there is SO MUCH that goes into raising a kid that goes way beyond helping raise someone else's kid could ever encompass.

Our son was born with a heart condition, which required pretty serious surgery. Dealing with that revelation, the intensive care visits, while working and both of us dealing with mental baggage (my aforementioned resentment and her post natal depression) is stuff you don't need to deal with if you're helping out with someone else's kid. And while our son is OK now, what if he had had more serious issues? What if your child is born with a disability? Are you guys ready to deal with a special needs child for the rest of your lives? Because when you roll the pregnancy dice, these are the things you need to consider beyond just midnight feedings, poo explosions, colic, juggling work commitments etc.

As others have said, agreement or not, you need to consider if this is a deal breaker for you or not. But given I was once in your wife's situation, I would hope it wasn't a deal breaker. I would hate to think my wife married me just to be some sort of glorified sperm donor, and I'm sure your wife hopes you married her for more than just her womb. And a divorce won't necessarily solve your problems. Your next wife might make the same agreement and then come to feel the same as your wife currently does. And theoretically, any hypothetical future wife and associated hypothetical future children are much farther away than sticking it out with your current wife who may actually feel the same way about kids as you do any time now (possibly).

In short, it's great that you're willing to be an active dad, but I don't think you really appreciate how much work kids really are and I think you need to make sure you don't make your wife feel guilty about not being ready (now or ever) because if she caves in and give you kids before she's actually ready, the resulting situation could be highly toxic and won't be fair to you, her and your kids.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:32 AM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

It sounds like having kids is more important to you than being married to her. This is a good reason to leave regardless. You should find someone who cares about kids more than anything else too.

It is possible she will change her mind and you won't have to leave her. But if you're already thinking like this, why stay?

It does sound like she doesn't want kids and is stalling. If you stay together, one of you is going to have to do something you don't want to do.
posted by spaltavian at 8:01 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need to have several serious talks with your wife, discussing whether she thinks she's going to wants a child or children. I'm female, my ex- dragged out his decision to not have more than 1 child, was not honest, and it was very painful. It's her body, and not having babies is a fair choice for her, at which point it's up to you to decide if you want to stay in the marriage.
posted by theora55 at 8:54 AM on May 6, 2013

I've seen this go virtually every way: The couple stays together or breaks up over the issue, they change their mind or they don't. (One member of a couple I know realized after their divorce that it wasn't children they were opposed to, it was children with that partner. The childfree ex-partner became a parent first, in the end.) No way of guessing which way you and your partner will go.

People who do not have a strong parenting urge but who have them for a partner don't often speak of feeling resentment, because that seems entirely unfair to the child. But we do feel it, sometimes, setting aside the existence of the child who is of course perfect. If having a child is important to you than your relationship, then it might be worth going with the assumption that she will never be ready, or that if she is, that she will not be the 100% smitten mother you wish her to be.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:16 AM on May 6, 2013

I know that you helped take care of your sister when she was a baby but I think that it might be helpful for you to demonstrate to your wife that you really want to have a kid by preparing to become a father. What is your lifestyle like now? How would it change if you were a father? Can you start making some of those changes now? Are there books about parenting that interest you? Perhaps you could check out some different perspectives on child-rearing to figure out which interests you most? Do you know whether you receive paternity leave from your work? Can you start saving more aggressively for the various items children will need? Researching the best strollers, cribs, child care arrangements, schools, etc.?

Some could argue that this move is passive-aggressive but I think it would be productive for you to show your wife that you want to have a kid in addition to telling her because talk is cheap. It might force the issue with your wife when she sees you paging through Dr. Spock, for example, but the worst case there is that she says that she doesn't want to have a kid ever, in which case you know where you stand. Another worst case scenario is that you find out that you two have completely different ideas about how you would like to parent a kid but again, then you know where you stand. Best case scenario, she sees you reading Dr. Spock and you start talking about different parenting styles, which can segue into a conversation about when you would want to have kids. And bonus - you get to read Dr. Spock and study up on parenting so you're more prepared if/when you do become a father.

Don't bash her over the head with this stuff if you go this route but I think that if I was in your wife's position and I saw you doing research on how to be the best parent you can be and putting aside money so we would be in a good position financially if I got pregnant, I would be more likely to talk to you about it. She might say, look, dude, I'm sorry but I've completely changed my mind and don't see myself ever becoming a mother, or cool, I think that I will be ready to start trying at about this time next year, or something in between.
posted by kat518 at 11:23 AM on May 6, 2013

Everything Jilder is saying, 1.5 bajillion times, OP. Also, you're not even trying to understand your wife's POV by truly contemplating what she thinks, and Im guessing (given how you are reacting to the advice in the thread) that she can't feel like she can be honest with you without you dismissing her fears. You've dismissed all the good advice in this thread by being defensive in your update and refusing to listen to people here. Now I'm worried about your wife. How can she possibly trust you to take care of her during pregnancy and after if you're so obsessed about getting her to sacrifice her health and career so you can have a baby?
posted by discopolo at 1:10 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Without your wife's perspective, there's really no way we can know how to resolve this problem or if it's resolvable at all -- she might be unfairly stalling and uncommunicative, or you might have huge blinders on as to why she's being reticent to discuss this with you. We have no way of knowing. Regardless, you should probably start thinking about what you'll want to do if it turns out your wife doesn't want to have children. Please go see a marriage counselor.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:47 PM on May 6, 2013

For me, one of the reasons I find myself siding with your wife without knowing either of you is your absolute certainty regarding issues that are not nearly so black and white. "Having a baby now won't affect her career," "I really know exactly what having a baby means for a women and for a marriage," etc. Everybody is different, every pregnancy is different, so the presumption that you are an expert on all of the things is really abrasive to me as an outsider so I can't imagine what it is like for your wife. Put yourself in her shoes.

I think it would be great if you could sit down with her with a bottle of wine and say something like, look, I am sorry for pressuring you about getting pregnant. I love you and I want you to be happy and I don't want you to do anything that you don't want to do. But I also really want to be a dad. Can we talk, as a team, about how that makes you feel and where we go from here? If not right here and now, sometime soon? I don't want you to resent me for pressuring you but I was under the impression that we were going to start getting serious about starting a family soon and I just want to be sure that we're on the same page going forward because this is important to me." Then sit back and listen. Don't talk about how you know what it's like to raise a kid or tell her that her career won't be affected. Just listen.
posted by kat518 at 3:43 PM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't see any reason to think it is somehow your fault that your wife doesn't want kids, and I don't think you should assume that there is some thing you can do that will somehow persuade your wife that she does want kids.

I think it is most likely that she has simply realized she doesn't really want kids. You have as much right to want a future life with kids as she does to not want them. Like I said above, painful decisions ahead.

That said, if you have not really talked this out, you should. "Shut up and listen" is good advice. It would be shame to overlook a chance at common ground if it exists.
posted by mattu at 4:49 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I suppose this isn't a popular opinion, but I think that wanting to have kids and not getting to do it is a true tragedy, and it doesn't seem like everyone agrees with that. It's absolutely worth ending a marriage over, if she can't tell you precisely when she will be ready to start, and as a woman in her mid 30s, she doesn't have forever.

The good news for you in the sad case that this ends up being your future (and I hope it doesn't), is that the number of women over 30 who'd love a serious partner who's looking for children, and soon, is immensely high.

I wouldn't want to live my full life knowing I didn't get to become a parent. I think we can have several great lovers in our lives, so a marriage is replaceable, but having children is not.
posted by namesarehard at 9:04 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Many responders on this thread are making parenthood sound like some huge life-ruining event that needs years of consideration before following through on. I disagree with that point of view, at least in regards to my own life. I am a woman, and I had my kids at age 32 an 34.

Pregnancy was not a huge big deal for me--and honestly--besides on this thread I know only a few women who really suffered during pregnancy. Sure, the first year or two are a PITA with crying, diapers, childcare expense etc but being a parent is more than worth it. Like a million times worth it. I just don't get what all the whinging is about. I maintained my pre-children friendships and some hobbies, and having kids brought me and my husband closer together. We love our family.

I think this is what you were (are) looking forward to with your wife, and you are seeing her critical childbearing years pass her by with no real explanation. I think you should get divorced and find someone who is clear from the outset that they want to have kids as soon as is practically I know many women in their early, mid, and late 30s who are 100% certain they want kids and would love to have a partner who also has that same goal.
posted by tk at 2:12 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

What really creeps me out here is people saying "get a divorce" because anon's wife isn't yet ready to have kids. It suggests that marriage as a commitment is only there to serve the procreation process and is just as easily disposable if someone's husband or wife doesn't want to be a sperm donor or rent-a-womb.

I got married to my wife because i love her and want to spend and share my life with her. If kids happened at some point (and they did) then so be it. But I'd hate to think she married me just for my sperm. It would be juvenile on her part and frankly offensive if she had.

Anon, I think you should ignore people like tk and namesarehard and not get a divorce. I say this because when you married your wife, you agreed to do so for life, for better or for worse. Talk about it at length, together and with a counsellor, and work through your issues. But if you just married her for her womb, not because you love her and she loves you, then yeah, sure, get divorced. Because if procreation is the only reason you got married, then your marriage is doomed, whether or not you ever have kids.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:14 PM on May 8, 2013


I think you are getting a lot of good advice in this thread, but some of it has come wrapped up in unfair and sexist judgment.

My wife and I struggled with infertility for a long time before our kids came along. There was a long while where it looked like we might never be able to have kids, and during that time, it could be intensely painful to be with our friends who did have children. The people who are telling you to ignore that feeling and spend MORE time around kids are well-meaning, but I'm guessing they've never experienced it themselves. They're basically telling a starving person, "You should spend more time with your face pressed up against a restaurant window, watching people stuff themselves. It will help you understand what it would be like if you weren't starving!"

It's true that, during pregnancy and breast-feeding, the mother is the one dealing with the intense physical demands. Unfortunately, it's also true that, in our society, mothers are more likely to end up shouldering an unfair burden even after those physical demands aren't an issue. But some of the responses you're getting seem to buy into the old sexist notion that raising children is inherently the mother's responsibility, and that the father automatically is going to contribute less.

When you say your wife's career won't suffer through parenthood -- if that's because you don't understand how much work parenthood is, then, yes, obviously, you really need to educate yourself. On the other hand, if it's because you and she have talked through exactly who will make what sacrifices, and you are willing to sacrifice your own career and take on the role of primary carer so that she can advance her career-- that is, if you are willing to fulfill the stereotypical 1950s roles of stay-at-home mom and dad-who-goes-to-work, only with the genders reversed -- then it's another matter. My guess is that the truth is somewhere in between, as it often is in life -- that you have expressed a genuine and good faith desire to help her balance parenthood and her career, but that you won't truly appreciate how difficult that is until you are actually experiencing it.

That said, the challenges of parenthood are not limited to career sacrifices. Even with a totally committed spouse, parenthood is incredibly hard. If your wife goes into it without really really wanting it, I think you are setting her, and yourself, and your child, up for unhappiness.

I don't think your wife is stringing you along or stalling. I think she's wrestling with an intensely difficult and personal decision, made more challenging by the fact that her perfectly valid needs may conflict with your perfectly valid needs. I suspect she truly and in good faith thought she would want children after a year of marriage, and was surprised to discover how unpredictable human emotions can be.

And just as she couldn't predict where she would be now, nobody can predict where she will be in the future. She might well want children in two years or she might not. She might want kids in ten years but by then be unable to have them. (Yes, lots of people have kids in their 40s. Lots of other people want to but can't. I'm not trying to be alarmist, and my own story of infertility ended happily with two children... but as somebody who has struggled with infertility, I don't think it's helpful to pretend it doesn't exist.)

However, the more open communication the two of you have, the better a sense you will have of where she is most likely to be. And, in fact, a helpful and non-judgmental conversation with somebody she loves and trusts might help her understand her own feelings better. So I agree with the advice you've been given most often: talk to her about it.

I know you said you already did. But... with complete respect... I want to point out to you that many people in this thread have been taken aback by the way you expressed yourself. I wish they had given you the benefit of the doubt, but the fact that they were so taken aback may be a warning to you. You might well express yourself much better in a face-to-face discussion with your wife than in a brief text-based exchange with strangers! But it's worth thinking about whether, when you discuss it with her, you are clearly expressing your love for her, and your respect for her own perfectly valid needs, and your understanding of how difficult this is. It may also be worth going to counseling, just so you can have a neutral third party present who can help you communicate as effectively as possible.

Finally... Out of all the basic human needs, the desire for children seems to be the most variable from person to person. Everybody needs to eat and sleep. Not everybody wants children. If, for you, parenthood is as irresistible a need as food, and if your wife simply doesn't want children, then (sadly) it may not be possible to have a happy marriage. This does not make either of you bad or superficial people. It just means you want different things out of a marriage. (But, like I said, I would STRONGLY advise giving counseling a try before you take the drastic step of ending a marriage. A counselor can't convince your wife she wants kids, or convince you that you don't -- but, again, they might help you have these difficult discussions in as productive a way as possible.)
posted by yankeefog at 2:52 AM on May 9, 2013

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