Children or no children
May 19, 2014 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I want kids, but my husband doesn't know if he ever will.

I am 24 and so is my husband. We have been married 4 years and been together around 6 years.

A while back, I asked a question here in AskMeFi regarding some issues in our relationship. My husband has made some progress. Part of the issues we were having had to do with communication, and as part of his efforts to improve our marriage, he and I have had several serious talks about issues in our relationship.

One of these talks had to do with children. I like to plan ahead, and I thought right around now would be a good time to decide around which time we would have children (since I would like to have them around 30) and discuss financial and personal goals so we could feel ready for them. My husband dropped it on me that he is unsure he wants to have children and leans towards not having any. We had talked about this issue in admittedly less detail than we should have multiple times both prior to and after getting married, and his point of view was always that he wanted children, just not anytime soon. Now he doesn't think he will want any, but he said he can still change his mind in the next five years or so. His reasoning for not deciding now is that he doesn't think this is something we need to be thinking about or deciding right now. He has just graduated and does not yet have a job, and while I do have a stable job, I am still in school and have plans to continue on to a 2 year program. I sought advice from his mother (to whom I am relatively close) and she said that she is not surprised he doesn't want to have children, that she is more surprised that I feel so strongly about them, and that I should wait, since she had him at 30.

I've always wanted children, and do not see a future in which I do not have any. I come from a very family oriented culture; my husband is American. I think children should be wanted 100% by both parents, and there is no room for vacillation as it is a lifetime commitment, one which is unpleasant sometimes (most of the time at the beginning...) but rewarding all the same. I feel that we cannot compromise on this if he decides he does not want children--can't have 0.5 children--but it isn't as cut and dry as that. That he can still change his mind is what I am choosing to focus on, and I don't know if I'm grasping at straws. I do not want him to have children with me to keep me happy or because he feels he should. But I love him and he loves me; our relationship is very strong and we have worked hard on it, especially recently, and it would hurt to split over this when we love each other so much.

Am I being unreasonable on asking him to decide now?

maybekids1 at gmail dot com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're not the same person at 30 that you are at 24, and especially not at 18.

I wouldn't press him on it now, but as you get closer to that age, you may have to reconsider whether you want to stay with your husband.
posted by Oktober at 2:55 PM on May 19, 2014 [14 favorites]

Am I being unreasonable on asking him to decide now?

No, but you have to be prepared for him to answer in a way that you won't like. If not ever having children is enough for you to want out of the relationship, then that is perfectly fine. But he probably doesn't actually know whether he'll never want children. He knows that he doesn't want them now, but there's a good chance that he'll change his mind. But he might not, and you have to be prepared for that.

However, I have a couple of rules of thumb on "unanswerable" stuff like this:
1 -- Take every chance you get to be happy. Are you happy, now, with him? Then keep being happy with him.
2 -- The last thing you say is how you really feel: it would hurt to split over this when we love each other so much.
Sounds like you want to stay in this relationship.
posted by Etrigan at 2:58 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

At 24, I would have been similarly non-committal. By the time I was 30, I was pretty sure that kids were somewhere in my future. I met my wife when I was 32, and our first child was born when I was 35.

Whether or not you're going to have children is not something I feel you need make any plans or decisions about a long time in advance. Enjoy your 20s and don't worry about it.

I agree with Oktober. A lot changes in 5 or 10 years. Enjoy the now, and reassess your feelings about parenthood later.
posted by pipeski at 2:59 PM on May 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think that it's important to take seriously that he might never actually want them, but I think the fact that he's unemployed right now is relevant. He's feeling economically insecure, in a way that calls into question any future financial security for a lot of new grads, and college-educated people in the US typically do have an expectation that this financial security will happen before any children can happen. When he talks about not wanting to think about it right now, it suggests that he's already got stress from the current situation and he wants to resolve that first. I would work on that part first and see how everything feels once he's employed and settled.

Because of the nature of who generally has to take time off during the process, pushing kids as an issue now is sort of like saying, "I know you don't have a job now, but can we talk about the possibility that you're going to need to financially support at least two other human beings at some point?" So it's very possible this is permanent, but also very possible it's just a reaction to current circumstances. If he felt differently previously, I'd feel cautiously optimistic that this is likely to shift again once you guys are on more solid ground.
posted by Sequence at 3:00 PM on May 19, 2014 [14 favorites]

I would have answered similarly (and probably did) 14 years ago when I was 24. Now I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old. People change and so do their priorities.
posted by Big_B at 3:01 PM on May 19, 2014

Am I being unreasonable on asking him to decide now?


He has just graduated and does not yet have a job, and I am still in school and have plans to continue on to a 2 year program.

This is not a good time to decide about having kids 6 years in the future. Periods of un- or under employment are very often extraordinarily poor times to discuss the crushing financial commitment that having a child entails. He needs to find his feet as a working adult, which is a large enough transition for many people to consider.

I would leave it, for a good four years. At that point you can see where you guys are, matrimonially and financially, and begin to make a joint plan for what your future looks like re children.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:01 PM on May 19, 2014 [15 favorites]

None of the plans I made at age 24 were the same plans I had at 30.

He's at a major transition point at this moment and putting a commitment to have kids (or not) on top of that may be completely overwhelming to him. Focus on putting your other ducks in a row. There's still lots of time to make an unforced decision about kids.
posted by quince at 3:04 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think it's not a great idea to ask someone to commit to something that may or may not happen 6 years in the future. You may decide, at 30, that you aren't ready. On the other hand, a couple years down the road one or both of you may be ready.

I can understand not wanting to invest more in a relationship where you may not want the same thing and it is of great importance to one of you. He might not change his mind. But there's so much that can change in a month, a year, several years that I think it's probably premature to try to lock this decision down right now.

Also, not to be a pessimist, but ... You may not even still be married to each other at 30. Asking him to decide right now whether he wants kids has less bearing on whether you will actually have children with this man in the future than you may think.
posted by sm1tten at 3:07 PM on May 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree that a lot can change in 5-10 years. For me, I was someone who thought I wanted kids at 24. Now at 34, I feel pretty confident that I don't want to have children. Having spent more extensive time with kids of varying ages, I now have a greater understanding of the challenges and commitments involved - even though I love kids and (have been told) that I'm a natural with them. I'm an involved, hands-on auntie, which I find is the perfect balance.

You guys can re-assess every couple of years, but it's still good to talk about now - especially if there are any "accidents." Be open and honest with each other, and discuss possible options if you might get pregnant before you turn 30. Your husband may never want kids, and may never change his mind - but please do talk about the "what if" so you are clear with each other.
posted by raztaj at 3:12 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

That he can still change his mind is what I am choosing to focus on, and I don't know if I'm grasping at straws.

Maybe, maybe not. But don't focus on that if it keeps you from accepting the very real possibility that he won't change his mind.
posted by headnsouth at 3:14 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Am I being unreasonable on asking him to decide now?

I think stringing you along with the idea that he might change his mind on not wanting kids, someday, is what's unreasonable. Making long term life plans kind of goes along with the whole being an adult and getting married deal. If he's not willing to take your wishes into consideration and get on board with having kids at some point in the future, you should assume his answer won't change and consult your priorities accordingly.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:15 PM on May 19, 2014 [26 favorites]

When I was 26, I told my then-boyfriend flat out that if he wasn't going to be the father of my kids, then I needed to know that so I could go FIND the father of my kids. If you want to have kids when you're around 30 (I had my first at 31 and my second at 35), you can't wait until you're 30 to know if this is going to be the guy you're going to have them with. It's true that right now might not be the best time to press the point, what with the unemployment and the just having graduated etc., but I wouldn't let it wait more than a couple of years at the absolute most, and probably more like six months to a year.
posted by KathrynT at 3:19 PM on May 19, 2014 [67 favorites]

When I was 24, I didn't want kids. I'm 30 now, and I still don't want kids. I would be really surprised if I changed in another six years, but I could be wrong.

Your compromise is this: agree on a time to talk about it. He doesn't have to declare one way or another, but it's fair to say to him, "OK, let's talk about it in three years. If in three years you do not want children in any way, then I am going to divorce you and find someone who wants to have children with me." (Because three years from "Hi, how are you? to "It's a girl!" is about right.)

That sounds so stark, but really, what are the options here? Either you don't have kids and you're unhappy with simmering resentment. Or you have kids and then there are three unhappy people -- you as a single married parent, him and the kid.

Disabuse yourself of the notion of changing his mind and prepare to decide for yourself if you'd rather be married to him or have children. Hopefully, it won't come to that because he'll change his mind on his own (24-year-olds . . . . I'd almost rather be 15 again than 24!)
posted by mibo at 3:26 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you need to set a deadline. If he doesn't want kids by ... when you're age 28, say, then you get a divorce. You are the one that wants them and can't change your mind at any time and have to worry about age factor and finding another husband and babydaddy, so it's up to you to mind your time as to how long you are willing to wait and how much risk you want to take.

Now, you are 24, so you have a lot more bonus years than most people asking this question here do. You could theoretically give it at least 4 more years-ish of time if you like. But after awhile you probably will have to fish or cut bait if he doesn't change his mind.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:28 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am wondering if maybe you should examine exactly what your expectations are regarding what all "preparation for a child" entails, if you are thinking you want to begin that process six years in advance? I hadn't even met my husband six years ago, we're expecting a child in about three weeks, and I feel like we're pretty well prepared financially.
posted by trunk muffins at 3:34 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Am I being unreasonable on asking him to decide now?

Well, in a way, yes. He's already decided that he doesn't want kids NOW (and neither do you), so you're asking him to make a decision about what he'll want 5+ years from now, which is pretty difficult.

That said...

His reasoning for not deciding now is that he doesn't think this is something we need to be thinking about or deciding right now.

So okay, no-- he doesn't need to, and really can't, make a Final Decision right now about whether he wants children ever. Especially considering he's 24 years old and doesn't have a job. But he's wrong that he doesn't need to think about it, because he's married to a woman that wants children. This is a potential dealbreaker for your marriage, and I don't think that's something you can just brush aside or say, "we'll think about it later." He owes it to you to put thought into this issue, and be honest with you about his thoughts and feelings on it.
posted by Asparagus at 3:48 PM on May 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

My husband didn't want kids at 24 when we got together. I was 18 and on the fence. Eventually, at around age 28, I changed my mind and he did too. Now we have an adorable baby and are pretty happy. He's 36 now, for what it's worth.

I think having the flexbility to be open to changing your mind is a good thing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:57 PM on May 19, 2014

The commital response you can reasonably expect and accept right now is:

Yes, we will have kids eventually.


No, we will never have kids.

This is a deal breaker. It just is. You can't un-have kids and you can't re-have kids. You have kids. Or you don't. There is nothing in between this. There can be no compromise on the act of having children.

What happens if you reach 30 and he doesn't want kids still? As much as people say a lot changes in four or five years, a lot stays the same, too. I've been married 8 years. I was with my husband 6 years before we got married. We discussed having kids off and on and the answer was always, "Yes, we will have kids." Then we had them 8 years after we started dating, two years after getting married. But we always knew there would be children, even though the how many children was variable.

It's completely reasonable for you to ask if he wants kids and commit to that idea solidly one way or another. It is also reasonable for him to want time to think about it --- but not 6 years of your life you could use to find someone who will have kids with you if his mind will never change. And in all reality --- that's a risk that only you can decide is worth taking.
posted by zizzle at 3:59 PM on May 19, 2014 [13 favorites]

If it would hurt to split now, what will it feel like in 4 years, when you've been together for a total of 10 years, a huge percentage of your life? I don't think it's unreasonable for you to ask him to commit to EVENTUAL children. If he does not, you will need time to grieve the end of this relationship, even if it happens tomorrow. It could be a year before you're ready for serious dating again. The last half of your twenties is when time really starts to fly by. You'll be 30 so fast you won't know how it happened.
posted by peep at 4:06 PM on May 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

24? You're still babies. Enjoy your life together for a few more years before you take the kid plunge. My wife and I were 29 and 30 when we started, and have never regretted waiting. Hubby will do a lot of maturing in the intervening years and might just come around to wanting kids. Especially if your friends start having them. He'll become acclimated.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:13 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

This isn't a great time for him to make that decision, but that doesn't mean you should postpone the conversation for more than a year, or the five years he seems to be asking for. If you can't imagine a future without kids, then I would respect how deep your feelings are on the matter and not kick them to the side for too long.

I have a friend who insisted on getting her tubes tied in her twenties - she felt that certain about not wanting to have kids. And indeed more than a decade later that hasn't changed.

If you wait until you're thirty - or even wait until you're done with your immediate plans at school - to discuss this more seriously, it's going to be much more painful to break off the relationship if you realize that he is not willing to go on that journey with you.

You have to balance your certainty, and desire to plan in advance, with your husband's sense of insecurity and ambivalence. You also have to balance the fact that you may have an internal, or conscious clock - with the reality that a lot of men don't feel any kind of "ticking" about parenthood. Many dads (and not a few moms) genuinely were ambivalent, then as they got older, found that they wanted to have kids - that is a very real, true phenomenon.

But because of my own personal experience with infertility, I always caution people to understand that nothing is promised. People discover it's harder to have children than they thought. People discover that their partners don't grow out of certain viewpoints or needs.

I know someone who was broadsided by her partner leaving just as she was feeling emotionally and financially ready to have children. Was it wrong for her to wait? No, I don't think so - she never felt the way you described, that she couldn't imagine a future without kids. But for people who are more certain about these feelings, like my friend who never in a million years wanted to be a mommy? It absolutely is a deal-breaker and if two people want such vastly different things, it will always be an albatross in the relationship, no matter how happy.

Love your husband, enjoy your relationship - but respect your own needs.
posted by mitschlag at 4:15 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Before marrying four years ago your husband said he wanted to have children multiple times. Now you are talking *six years* in the future he is saying he doesn't think he wants children ever? I'd be concerned about what he really wanted and his commitment to follow through.

I can see how he may be feeling pressured due to his unemployment and recent graduation but his reaction to you does not seem to be part of a healthy relationship to me. Nor does you involving his mother (despite how close you are to her you should NOT be involving her in the dynamics and conflicts in your relationship - I have never seen this work out well).

It is good that you two are talking but maybe you should be involving a neutral third person (therapist, pastor) to untangle some of the issues that are coming up?
posted by saucysault at 4:30 PM on May 19, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm just a little concerned that perhaps he has already made up his mind about no kids even though he's told you otherwise. The reason I have suspicions is because you mention that before marriage he said he did want kids when you brought it up... now that you are married he says he doesn't want them... but you won't let up on it so he's saying- "I dunno let's not talk about it now.; Maybe I'll change my mind in a few years. " There is a good chance that he was never crazy about kids but he loved you and wanted you all to himself so he told you he wanted to be a daddy. Then when he figured he had you he went back on that and is now hoping to keep you dangling on the hope that he will change his mind. Perhaps this is a cynical thought, but I knew a man who did just this to his wife and she ended up never having kids for the sake of "the marriage." 25 yrs later he left her for a younger woman who he did have a child with. It is too late for his first wife to have them now. So she ended up giving up her dream of children to sustain a marriage that she ended up losing anyway. This is why shared goals are important.

It seems to me that you've already decided that kids are a MUST have for you. That no kids is a dealbreaker. If this is the case then there is no point in waiting many years on the hope that MAYBE your husband will change his mind. Not unless you're 100% ok with the possibility that he will say no. If you're not willing to accept that possibility then you're taking a huge gamble with years of your life that you will never get back. Years of your life that you could be using to find someone who does want kids. Since you know what you want you need to establish a deadline for yourself and discuss this deadline with him. It is perfectly valid if he doesn't feel you're both ready to have kids now, but if you know you want them eventually and he isn't sure then decide for example- ok I'm willing to wait 3 more years then let him know that that's how long you're willing to wait. This gives him also ample time to prepare financially and think about being a father. If after this time he's still not willing to have kids then you at least haven't wasted 6-7 years of your life on a dream that wasn't going to happen and you can achieve your dream with someone else who shares in it.
posted by manderin at 4:34 PM on May 19, 2014 [10 favorites]

24 is not to early to be deciding on and planning for children by 30 at all.
Him saying now that he's now unsure and leaning towards no after telling you he was on board before marriage is not cool. I'd be very upset.
I would reccomend setting yourself a personal deadline to leave if children are a deal breaker for you, in which time you both attend counseling to come to a final decision.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 4:45 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you are unreasonable to ask him to decide right now. But also, you've been together since you were children yourselves. It's not unreasonable that you would be different people at 24 than you were at 18, and maybe this is a symptom of some other incompatibility. Only you know that. But personally I'd give it another 4-5 years if you're already committed to spending your life with this person.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:55 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will say that at 23, when he got married, my father didn't want kids. He was absolutely dead certain of that. I was born 6 years later, and I have 2 younger siblings who were both adopted. I believe but am not sure that there was a miscarriage before I was born.

So it's entirely possible he will change his mind.

At 23, my uncle didn't want kids, and ended more than one relationship over this. He is in his late 60s now. He still does not want kids.

So it's entirely possible he won't.

I agree that this is a bad time to discuss it, but don't let every period of stress be a bad time, either -- there's always stress.
posted by jeather at 5:02 PM on May 19, 2014

I have a friend whose boyfriend strung her along like this about the kid thing for 7-8 years and by the time he finally said "no" it was basically too late for her to feel like she had any other options than to stay with him, childless. You have the advantage of time -- but that doesn't make it any more wise to wait around for somebody who is waffling on such an important thing. Plus, planning to have kids in your late 20s is a perfectly reasonable goal, and if that's your goal, you really don't have all the time in the world.
posted by yarly at 5:03 PM on May 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

My partner knew he wanted kids his whole life.

I was pretty sure I didn't, for a really long time, but by the time we got married (24) it was on the cards and we had our daughter at 27 - he would not have married me if I didn't want kids and he sure would not have waited in the relationship for another 5 or 6 years to see. My sister, on the other hand, was similarly negative on the kids front, thought she'd change her mind, and hasn't and it is a point of contention.

Changing minds does happen, and I adore my daughter, but gender makes a difference (pregnancy over the age of 30/35 is different to late 20s for example, not even taking into account things like higher risks or infertility) and he can afford to wait as long as he pleases - you can't.

Staying with someone and hoping they'll change on something so huge is a massive risk.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:50 PM on May 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe the issue isn't about whether you should leave your husband, but rather, whether you should be married. It may sound unorthodox, but have you considered getting a divorce but staying together while you two figure your lives out? Getting married so young works out for some people, but it also puts you in the tough position of having to define your future when you know very little about what you will want (or who you will be) several years down the road. People change a lot in their 20s.

I don't think your feelings are unreasonable. I'm not sure your husband is being unreasonable either. People change. He may have been genuine when he said he wanted kids in the past. He may want them again in the future. But what you might want to ask yourself is: If we don't agree on something this important -- why are we married? Why aren't we dating?
posted by Gray Skies at 6:06 PM on May 19, 2014

he can afford to wait as long as he pleases - you can't.

Yup. This is extremely important. 24 is not too young to decide, I think that's bizarre, honestly. I had a son at 25. Many, many people simply know that kids will be for them, and they plan for it. Some people want to extend pre-kid adulthood for a long time, and good for them, but they're not incapable of planning for and having kids. They just don't want to commit to it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:07 PM on May 19, 2014 [12 favorites]

I mean, there would be relationships that would be worth giving up your opportunity to have a family, but this just doesn't sound like one of them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:08 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your concerns are reasonable.
When I met and married my husband, neither of us wanted kids "now". We were newlyweds, doing the newlywed-being married-learning to live together-finding jobs thing. So NOW never entered into it. NOW was a third rail. But we both knew that we wanted to have children someday, and we were able to lay out our basic criteria (be married at least a year, have stable jobs, have health insurance). And we agreed on how many would be too many.

If he can't even talk about the idea of having children, or imagine what it might be like, or lay out some basic criteria for what he wants out of parenthood, well, that's a problem. He may never say yes to children and if that's a dealbraker for you, you need to know it now.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:32 PM on May 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't wait for him to change his mind. You need to spend time looking for a suitable partner who is worth raising kids with if your husband isn't going to want them.

Breakups hurt but they're for the best. You need to find someone who is worth having kids with and that will take awhile. Be brave and be on your side.
posted by discopolo at 6:48 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

He probably doesn't know.

It's not unreasonable to want someone to know. It's not unreasonable to require a partner who knows, especially of such a thing as kids. That's very serious business. But it's unreasonable to ask someone to know something when they do not.

In absence of him knowing, your next option is to decide when to give up waiting and separate. You should communicate your timetable for that, so he knows when he must decide. The risk with that is in pressuring him to say he wants something that he does not (or still does not know).

I knew I did not want kids, have known for over 20 years. I was married for over a decade to someone who did not want kids either. If either of us had changed our minds, we knew that would be the end of the marriage, and that it would be right for it to be the end of the marriage. It ended over less-serious things.

A single relationship that disagrees on whether to have kids is probably less good, over the long term, than a separation to pursue two separate relationships where that agreement can be found. Make sure neither of you fear separation more than raising unwanted kids.
posted by ead at 7:08 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your last paragraph where you set out what's important to you is very sensible.

Your husband earlier thought he wanted kids someday and now thinks maybe not. Not a good direction for his change of heart.

Next time--I suspect there will be a next time--settle this question earlier. It's the single most important life decision you can make, and you do have to be in accord with your life partner on it.

You can wait a little while, give him a deadline to make up his mind, but not too long. Certainly not until you are 30. It is not as if finding love and building trust with a new person is something you can just up and order from Amazon when you feel like it.

I would be a little concerned about your husband telling you one thing now and getting cold feet later. Maybe, if he says he wants kids after all, start your family earlier--that's not a bad thing, IMO.
posted by mattu at 7:30 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing. It's entirely likely that he DID want kids when you guys were younger, and now he does not. The things I wanted for my life before I hit 25 seemed so solid and sure... and then I hit my mid-20s and I suddenly realized I wanted something different for my life after all. I can't even begin to count how many other people I have seen hit the age of 24/25 and suddenly do a complete 180 on their adult plans. This is why so many people caution against getting married before you reach that critical age, because you may find the person you married isn't the person you're with anymore. You are still developing who you are, what adulthood is like, and what you can do with your future in your late teens and early 20s.

That doesn't mean he was deceptive in saying he wanted kids before or that changing his mind is a bad thing. It's actually very normal and it means his adult self is different than what he or you thought it would be. I'm sorry.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:58 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think a short timeline for re-discussion is a good idea. I can't imagine taking the tactic that some folks above are advocating and just forgetting about it for years. How would I be able to sit back and relax knowing that there was a pretty fair chance I was going to end up divorcing my husband? I feel like it would create an incredibly stressful dynamic in the meantime that would be poisonous to the relationship. It is quite different to be in a marriage that you feel quite confident is going to last until death do you part, than to be in a marriage where you're basically waiting for the other shoe to drop so you can split and find someone else. That's not the type of person I am, if that's not the type of person you are either, give strong consideration to having further discussion on this or couples' therapy in which you could bring up this issue, sooner rather than later.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:17 PM on May 19, 2014 [13 favorites]

I'd be honest, and tell him that kids are a really important part of my plans for the future, and that you'll bring it up again in a while. I would wait til he has a job and feels a little more stable, 6 months to a year, and I would bring t up again. I would not assume that he'll change his mind in 5 years or whatever; he's told you what he thinks, and that's worth respecting.

Whether to stay or go if he doesn't want kids? You could find out that you can't have kids for some reason, or life could surprise you in other big ways. Honestly, though, for me, having kid(s) was a requirement.
posted by theora55 at 8:23 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Different perspective:

Your husband and his mom are completely right. You've been with this guy since age 18. He is most likely your high school/college boyfriend, much moreso because he is still in "student mode" even now at age 24. You are most likely each other's first serious relationship.

I almost got married young, and I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with it in general- but I do think it's different to marry young/marry your first love. It's different in some uniquely challenging ways and that needs to be noted. And quite a lot of first marriages do not survive. That doesn't cheapen the ones that do. But a lot don't, and I think it's important to be aware of that and face it very honestly.

I think your husband is not really grown up yet. At 24, that's completely normal. At 24, it is very difficult to plan ahead to 28 and 30 and have your life all perfectly planned and perfectly timed and perfectly on target. For some, very rare, people that works- for most it really doesn't. He's probably one of them.

He has never had a job. Do you remember how much you learned about the world from your first job? He has not had that experience yet and hasn't grown in that way yet.

I am a fairly typical person in that in my early 20s I basically did not want to think about children and the whole idea seemed gross and far off and I wanted to explore the world and be famous and blah blah blah. In my mid 20s I started changing my mind, slowly.

But I've also been very close to flat broke sometimes, and that stress immediately made me go into survival mode and decide, "if things are going to be like this forever, I cannot bring a child into this. I cannot afford a child. That would be selfish and miserable and I just will not do it."

Of course, things got better and I thought, "Yes, if I am making good money/this continues, I can have a child at some point."

My point is that it is an emotional response to a bad situation, and not necessarily an illogical one. Your husband's point of view seems eminently sensible to me.

Are you willing to be the breadwinner while he is a stay-at-home-dad? Because that's the situation you have right now. And you're still in school!

Look, a lot of things go into having a child. The big ones are money and fertility. Most people achieve some sort of delicate balancing act between money and fertility. You don't seem to really be grasping that trade-off, while your husband does.

Men have more time to establish themselves; if you really want a child asap, the really sensible thing to do would be to divorce him and marry an older or more financially stable guy.

But my feeling is that he and his mom are closer to the "average American" mindset/situation than you are.
posted by quincunx at 8:51 PM on May 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm not saying this to scare you, but I think it's important to point out because I've seen several posts here saying that 24 is too young to be discussing children. This is not true at all. Women experience their highest fertility between the ages of 17-27. By age 27 most women go through a big fertility drop that they don't realize happens. We don't feel it happen, it's only something you see if you get the right tests done. Fertility continues to decline every year after age 27 and then by age 35 another even bigger fertility drop occurs. There are so many women who go around thinking they can put off having kids till their mid or late 30's Then they find out just how common it is for women in their mid 30's to have problems conceiving. Yes there are women who naturally have healthy kids at the age of 41- however that is not the norm. Most Gynocologists I know will start having "the talk"- are you planning on ever having kids talk- with any patient over the age of 28. You don't have all the time in the world to have kids. Your husband does. I can understand him not wanting kids right now and you've already mentioned that you agree with him so that's not the issue. The issue is whether you'll have kids eventually. You'll need about 2-3 years (if you're lucky) to find the right guy to marry and have kids with. So that means if you wait 5 years with your husband and find out after 5 years that he does not want any kids, you'll be about 32 or 33 before you have your first child IF you're lucky enough to find your second marriage in time. And that's a big if. You're not being unreasonable especially since you guys discussed this before marriage. Give him a definite time line to make up his mind. 2 or maybe 3 years at the most. Prepare yourself some savings in case he does not change his mind after that time and you end up having to leave.
posted by olivetree at 9:43 PM on May 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

I don't have actual advice for you, since I can see both sides argued by other posters, but wanted to direct you to this thread on the blue re. age and fertility, which seems to suggest that the situation is much more nuanced (and hopeful for older women) than is common wisdom.

This does not address your immediate relationship problem, but knowing that there is a good chance you will be biologically able to have children for many years* might alleviate some of the stress.

Good luck.

*However, it is also important to bear in mind that the data and its interpretation, whilst less dire than usually assumed, seems to be scant and doesn't guarantee anything re. individual fertility and ease of conception.
posted by miorita at 1:16 AM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Starting in your 30s is not the end of the world. Reduced fertility in the 30s in most cases means that you end up trying a little longer before it happens. Becomes more of a problem post-40, but even there, "reasonably likely to need medical intervention" does not mean "impossible" by any stretch of the imagination anymore. At age 40, without any medical intervention, 44% of women will conceive within one year. That's nearly half. Before you introduce any doctors at all. At 35, it's two-thirds. The numbers go up from there if given more than a year. Start taking care of your health now, of course--you don't want to hit "ready" and then get stuck in several years of trying to get something like PCOS under control--but while I don't think there's anything in particular wrong with having kids younger, the panic about declining fertility is not at all warranted if you live somewhere that you expect to have access to modern medical care.

Yes, fertility peaks quite young, but unless your end goal is a very large family of exclusively biological children, you don't need to hit anywhere near peak.
posted by Sequence at 1:21 AM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was married really young and got divorced when I was 27...

We loved each other a lot but had similar areas of incompatibility that he glossed over and placated me about- hoping that it would work itself out down the line... (ie- what religion our kids should be)

I just turned 33 and I still haven't met the right man yet. Looking back I have had to spend the last 5 years trying to figure out who I am as a single woman, since I spent so much of my 20's being in a stable marriage as a unit.

It is still painful that we had to split, but there was NO WAY around that issue. We would never have been happy in the long term.

So don't assume that you will be able to get divorced at 30 and immediately meet your ideal baby daddy soulmate. I wish I had gotten divorced sooner.
posted by misspony at 1:40 AM on May 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

24 is not at all too young to know whether or not you want kids. If he tells you he doesn't want them, you should take what he is saying at face value.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:46 AM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would be more hopeful for you if he said, "I don't feel like I can have kids *right now* because of being unemployed. However, my goal is to become employed and arrange our lives in such a way so that by the time you are 30, we are ready to welcome kids into our lives."

Take him at his word. If he's not ready, and you want kids, 24 is *absolutely not too young* to be seriously concerned about finding a partner to be your kids' father. I wasn't married at that age, but that was about the age when I started dating with purpose, e.g. I had deal-breakers (interest in having kids at some point in the next 5 years was one of them) and if the guy wasn't into the same goals as me, the relationship didn't last more than a few months.

When I finally find my husband at age 30, we went at lightning speed and I was pregnant by age 32. But I really do wish that I had found him when we were younger and had more time to have fun by ourselves. But the biological clock is real. Even if you start trying at age 30 you don't know if you'll have trouble conceiving.

Good luck.
posted by tk at 3:33 AM on May 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

He could change his mind and decide that he wants kids, but then again, he could not change his mind. The worst case scenario is him not changing his mind and you wind up at 30 with a husband who doesn't want to help you conceive. That sounds like a really bad scenario, for you, for you to be in.

Nobody knows what will happen in 5 years. But I think it's best to start out on the correct footing, which would be being with someone who is committed to having kids.
posted by Solomon at 3:51 AM on May 20, 2014

I just wanted to emphasise that while 24 is in no way too young to know you want kids, it's also in no way too old to be undecided. IE, neither of you is crazy to be situated in your current viewpoints.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:01 AM on May 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

He needs to be willing to introspect and talk about what he wants. You're not being unreasonable.
posted by brainwane at 6:31 AM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think children should be wanted 100% by both parents, and there is no room for vacillation

I feel that we cannot compromise on this if he decides he does not want children

I do not want him to have children with me to keep me happy.

You have expressed some very strict "rules" here for your husband's state of mind on the question of kids. (You're 24 years old, I get it - the world is still looking pretty black and white to you. It eventually gets grayer.)

Sounds like it wouldn't be sufficient for him to simply say "Yes, let's have a baby right now" - he's first got to first assuage your doubts that wants to be a father for all of the so-called "right" reasons, according to you. Is it at all possible the strict way you've framed this question is making it seem to you like he's less interested in kids eventually than he really is?

Plenty of people who turn out to be wonderful parents aren't "100% in it" at the moment of conception. My kids are now 6 and 4, and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't have met your 100% standard at age 24, or even at age 30. Nevertheless, when my first child was born I knew immediately it was the best decision I ever made. What I'm saying is that it can be perfectly ok to have kids even though you feel some ambivalence about it. Hardly anything in life needs to be a 100% certainty.

@Kathryn T's advice is on the money.
posted by hush at 7:56 AM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fertility is one of the all time YMMV experiences. While Twenge is correct about probabilities, it's cold comfort to those of us who end up being on the shitty side of the curve, or who will need ART to get pregnant in our twenties or thirties.

I had a PCP tell me at 29 that I was worrying too much and I had "plenty of time". Wrong. Only a fertility specialist can make that judgment for an individual - and they're still learning better ways to judge. If a person wants to wait until they're 30, or 35, or 40 - that's their prerogative, but I think it's wise to try to rule out conditions like PCOS and diminished ovarian reserve if you want to wait a while.
posted by mitschlag at 8:01 AM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gosh, you married young. I couldn't decide on a hairstyle at 24, let alone a life partner.

You've invested your entire adult romantic lifetime in this one person. You love each other, and you've known no one else romantically at all as an adult.

While it's great that you've found a wonderful man to share your life with, it's entirely possible that as the years go by, that you'll diverge on a lot of other issues, not just children, it's part of the maturation process. It's also possible that with age, he'll decide that he does want children, or he could know for sure that he doesn't and he'l hoping you'll change YOUR mind in a few more years. (I changed mine and am blissfully childless.)

Nothing is assured in this life. You may be in it for the long haul, but statistics say no. That's because you grow and change so much in your twenties.

You don't have to make any decisions right now. It may be that this is the right relationship for you, for right now. You need to communicate a lot with your husband, about everything. Money, jobs, retirement, where you live, and what your life looks like. But why would he be any more likely to change his mind about wanting kids, than you are about not wanting them?

All I can say is, work like crazy to partner with your husband, but children are really a deal-breaker, and it's entirely possible that he may not change his mind.

As long as you know he's not promising you anything, and as long as he knows that you're not promising to stay if he doesn't eventually want children...boy that's fucked up.

Clearly this bothers you, enough to ask the question, and it won't get better with time, it'll get worse. unless he changes his mind, or you change yours.

That's what it is. Can you live with it?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:31 AM on May 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

You don't seem to want to want him if he does not want kids. And you probably are getting it right for what you need.

As to the age thing, I would not let that be the decision maker I was not ready for kids until I was 30. Before that, not on the radar. Woke up one day and that changed.

I have friends who woke up at happens. But if you are not on that page with this guy, don't fight your gut. Tell him that. He can fish or cut bait but I suspect you see what the real answer is.
posted by OhSusannah at 11:35 AM on May 20, 2014

Another thing to consider is that you asked him, and got that response on that particular day. Maybe he was particularly pessimistic on that day.

My husband and I have each oscillated around the idea of "kids eventually". Hanging out with my cute baby cousin? Maybe kids sooner, like today! Hanging out with annoying kids? Reading terrifying metafilter posts about poison control? Taking a spur of the moment weekend trip? Eh, kids in a few years.

The point being, we're walking together towards a goal. Talking about it on the way. I expect that we'll continue to have moments of "I'M NOT READY" even after getting pregnant, or even having kids. And that'll be hard, especially when one is on the way up, and the other is on the way down.

In some ways "having kids in 6 years" is a kind of a lie you get to tell yourself. You're not ready today, so you're not ready today. Thats fine. What about in 2 years? Will you be 33% more ready? Does "ready" accrue in a linear rate? If you could push a button and be 6 years in the future, would you be ready? Or is an agreement to 6 years something you want to settle so you can stop worrying about it and plan around that? Less about the facts of the matter, and more about the feeling of being decided? I can get behind that, I'm a planner too. I would also be very worried to hear something like that from my husband. But there comes a point where shoehorning someone else into your plans is manipulative and without regard for them as an individual.

Not that there aren't very practical considerations. It can take a year to get pregnant even without fertility problems, not to mention miscarriages. As a woman there are lots more pressure about jobs, and maternity leave, and FMLA, and the fact that you will at some point become infertile. You need to get a better sense of if this is a "no, never" or a "no, not right now", and if you want to keep walking down this path with him.
posted by fontophilic at 1:37 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, don't press him now. He doesn't even have a job! He can't begin to think about supporting you and children right now. Once he is working full time and bringing in the big bucks then tell him that you have stopped taking birth control and you want to see what happens. I know it isn't a solid plan but, the first lesson you learn once you are a mom is that your plans are meaningless to a child.
posted by myselfasme at 4:43 PM on May 20, 2014

Planning six years in advance is pretty far, a lot can happen. That said, yes it is a reasonable thing to start assessing your relationship and priorities.

I'm on my second marriage, got divorced at 25 and remarried last summer at 30. It took a while to meet another mr. right, and navigate a new relationship all the way to marriage, all over again. I'm ready for babies, asap! We have lots of friends and family with children, almost entirely on his side. And I'm fully employed, we're well established, with a house, a reliable vehicle, and some savings. But my husband just changed careers and finally landed a new job. He's not comfortable with trying for babies until he's past the probationary period. And though he's always said he wants kids, it's never been something he would discuss readily.

I can't imagine your husband being willing to talk kids when he has many other things to worry about first - getting a job, getting established... Give him some time to think about it. Tell him that when he finds a job, he has a year from then to think about whether he truly doesn't want kids. And in that time you are going to decide whether staying with him or having kids is more important to you. Because you have to be prepared to make a choice if his answer is "no kids".
posted by lizbunny at 8:23 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's very possible that he knows he doesn't want kids but is afraid to lose you by telling you.

But it's fair to wait till he has a job first. Give him six months in the new job, then sit down and tell him this is not a trivial decision and you need him to stop putting it off, and to be honest. In the meantime, work out for yourself if you can live with him refusing or if that means your lives are incompatible. 24 is not too young for this decision. He owes you that honesty.
posted by emjaybee at 9:42 PM on May 20, 2014

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