Resources for a partner unsure about parenthood?
August 17, 2017 2:24 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are both in our thirties. When we first started dating (mid 20s), I didn't want to have a baby, but I slowly changed my mind over the years. I've been very open about my mind changing. My partner is still on the fence about parenthood but thinks about the possibility and promised to think more about it. Meanwhile, I'm now at the point where I think about having a baby a several times a day, and it's definitely something I want to do in my life. I'm deeply saddened and worried by the fact that my partner is still unsure, and I'm hoping for resources that might help those who are unsure about parenthood (not including therapy, which is an option we're working on). Anecdotes, stories, articles, podcasts, and books are all good. Anything will help.

Some more information:

I'm really want to remain in this relationship and parent with my partner. As mentioned, I think about having a baby many times a day. I think about practical things, like how we'd rearrange our house, how we'd save money in advance, whether I'd stay home or go back to work, and which of our parents would be around to help with the care. I think about baby names (all. time. time.), what our baby would look like, what my partner would be like as a parent.

I don't think I'm in a "hurry" per se, but I think we're in good shape to start this part of our lives, both financially and relationship-wise, aside from partner's unsureness, of course. Knowing that it will happen would help so much, but as part of the promise that my partner would think about parenthood, I promised that I wouldn't bring this up for a certain period of time. I'm hoping that these resources will help with this decision. throwaway email for things you'd prefer not to post here:

Please don't tell me that I need to split up with my partner. The possibility is all too real for me and if that needs to happen, so be it, but it's not helpful here.

Thank you very much!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
oh jeez.

i don't want to start you out with a downer post, but 'unsure' could mean a lot of things here, and i suspect that for both of you, the best move is to hash things out with a counsellor / some therapy.

in a previous relationship, i was in your partner's position, but for me, 'unsure' ended up meaning 'unsure how to let partner know that i still didn't want a child and unsure why {partner} has changed and now does.' that may not be where your partner is! but i feel like your desire to find 'resources' may be read, by your partner, as a way to get around your promise not to 'bring this up,' and might backfire on you. i think you have to respect your partner's process here -- i don't know how long the 'certain period of time' is, but i suggest waiting it out, having an open and very honest conversation at that time and, if your partner still says 'unsure,' suggesting a counsellor to mediate and help you both talk things out. i'd skip the podcasts, because applying pressure when you said you'd give space is a good way to get a person to dig their heels in or shut down entirely.
posted by halation at 2:48 PM on August 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

This thread from a previous AskMeFi might be helpful, specifically the second part of that OP's that addresses how to approach their partner. This is my response from that thread, updated w/current ages for this post:

Before we had our first child, I was convinced there will be a right time to do it and that it was not "now", for just about any definition of "now." My partner was of the strong opinion that she was not getting any younger and did not want to wait.

Our first child started 11th grade yesterday, and I would still be waiting for "the right time" if she hadn't sat me down one day and told me bluntly, "What is it going to take to make you understand how badly I want a child? I WANT A CHILD NOW. Waiting time is over, it's time to act. I have no idea how hard or easy it will be to get pregnant, but every month we wait I feel my window of optimum fertility closes a bit. I am not interested in waiting any longer. I do not want to squander any more of this precious time." my case, forcing me to make a decision was a good thing -- in retrospect, a truly wonderful thing. But until she spoke with me frankly and bluntly I was pretty clueless as to just how badly she wanted a child, and it was easy for me to find excuses to delay things. We talked about it, but it seemed very abstract, and I think because she was afraid of pushing me too hard she downplayed just how much this meant to her, and how eager she was to get started. Out of ignorance and selfishness I would have been content to wait a very long time, and I would have regretted it.

So...that was my experience. Happy to answer questions about it either here of via MeMail, but the tl;dr is: my wife said "I am tired of waiting and want to start trying to conceive NOW!", and after some brief reflection, I agreed w/her because I loved her and because I knew she was right. I don't know if that's helpful, but that was my experience.
posted by mosk at 3:01 PM on August 17, 2017 [14 favorites]

I agree with halation that it is not especially OK for you to offer resources right now. I was also (extremely) unsure about having kids, and my husband was Very Sure. It took me several years past when he wanted to start trying, but I'm pregnant with #2, so I did change my mind.

I sought out resources on my own because I cared about my husband and I meant it when I said I would seriously think about it. I read several books and blogs and made pro/con lists. I didn't talk to him about it. Him bringing stuff to me would not have been welcome. After I did some reading I recommended some couples therapy, which helped. I never got to being absolutely sure (I knew I wouldn't, that's not the type of decision maker I am) or doing the stuff you talk about above (at least not until I was in the middle of my pregnancy), but obviously I got far enough to decide I was ready.

If he cares about you enough to really think about it, then he will really think about it. If he doesn't, then that's its own issue. But you've promised to not bring it up for a while, and I think you need to respect that promise and assume he is respecting his.
posted by brainmouse at 3:01 PM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

My husband found this book (Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids) very helpful even though we didn't have any kids yet. First one is on the way!

Like mosk's partner, I also sat down with my husband and asked him "What are the steps we need to take for you to get comfortable and what are the conversations/decisions we need to have/make?" We talked about the biological facts around fertility. And I don't want to scare you, but I did end up having fertility issues so I'm glad we talked about how long it might take.

For my partner, he felt a strong need to be a good financial provider. He once told me that he didn't want to have kids until he was SURE he could provide them everything they needed. We talked about that and I asked him if he'd rather have more time with his parents or more stuff. It was blunt on my part, but sometimes that's the calculus. It was also good for me to hear where he was coming from and what some of his major fears were so I can be respectful of them in the future.
posted by CMcG at 3:27 PM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I can't speak to whether you should provide resources, but if you do want to suggest a podcast, one I have really enjoyed is Pregnant Pause with Zak and Shira. There are only about 8 short episodes, but the topic is pretty much exactly what you are dealing with here, a couple where the female partner is beyond ready to begin trying for a baby, and the male partner is unsure. The first several episodes are interviews with parents and non-parents around various reasons they did/did not want to become parents and also various experiences they've had either being parents or being childless. The last couple of episodes are very emotional and involve serious pregnancy complications/loss, so just be prepared for that going in (I listened to this podcast in early pregnancy just out of interest in the topic, not realizing what I was in for, do not recommend! But if you're not in that situation, it might not be so traumatic, and the podcast as a whole I think is great).

That said, if you have promised not to bring up this topic for a certain amount of time, I think sending links to resources about pregancy/kids is violating that agreement, so...

More generally, I can say I had some similar conflict with my partner (now husband, baby on the way), although on an earlier time scale (I was more in my late 20s at the time when I was sure kids should happen, and he was a little more hesitant, same story on the whole idea of marriage). What helped from my end was being very clear to myself about how long I was willing to wait. At the time, I was in school and knew that I would likely need to relocate after graduating in order to find a job. I knew I wasn't really going to be ready for kids/marriage while in school, but that I wanted to move forward at some point soon after graduating, and so internally I sort of had this as a point where we needed to make a decision as a couple -- either we would move forward as a couple and make plans to get married and then start trying for kids, or we would move forward separately and I would seek out those things in a different relationship. I did NOT set this up as an ultimatum to my partner, I just knew if we got to the point where I was considering moving out of the area to pursue job opportunities, I would not ask my partner to move with me if he wasn't at a place where he could make certain commitments to our life together. Obviously you are in a different life place than I was, but it may be useful for you to do some research on fertility (your age matters a lot more than his), and make a decision for yourself as to how long you can afford to wait. Knowing there is a definite end point to the indecision was very helpful to me for getting through that period.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:30 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Anecdote: A friend of mine went and got checked out by a doctor to see how many eggs she had left and things like that. It turned out she had tons of eggs for someone her age, so I think that helped put her mind at ease/make the waiting a bit easier. I find facts comforting. A big unknown lurking for you in this is your fertility and how time passing is affecting it. Maybe knowing what a doctor thinks about your fertility would help.
posted by purple_bird at 4:00 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Providing resources to your partner to help make a decision is the exact opposite of leaving him alone and not bringing it up. If you're going to give him space, give him space.

If you've decided you're not going to give him space, then have the full on no holds barred conversation about exactly what you need, when you need it, what it will take to get him on board and what you're prepared to do if he doesn't. Because unfortunately, if you're mid thirties and you're not in a hurry, well, you should be. And the consequences for you not getting a definitive answer very soon could be you missing out altogether.

If this person loves you at all, he should be able to understand that sitting on the fence while he burns through your fertile years is one of the most selfish things a man can ever do to his partner. Loving you doesn't mean he has to say yes. It means he has to give you an answer. The question is how long are you prepared to give him to come up with one.
posted by Jubey at 4:57 PM on August 17, 2017 [15 favorites]

Anecdotally: this was me, around age 34. Husband and I had been together 10+ years, with no intention of having kids. I said, "Hey, I'm kinda feeling that we should have a kid." He sort of shrugged, and said he didn't think that was a good idea.

About six months later, when the feeling wasn't going away, I said, "Hey, I'm kinda feeling a little bit stronger about the idea that we should have a kid." He shrugged again, and said, "Hmmm...not really feeling it."

Shortly after that, I said, "Hey, I would really like to have a child with you, now." He said, "Let me think about it."

About a week later, he woke up one morning and said, "Let's do it." About two months later, I was pregnant, and now the kid is 14 and it's the best thing that ever happened to us.

I didn't tell my husband until a few months later that my best friend, who'd had her first child (while in her early 40s) about three or four years ahead of me, had said "You have to decide if you really want a baby, and if you do and he doesn't, you're going to have to leave him." Now we laugh about it.

tl;dr: I gave him space, and we never had an extensive convo about it, and we're both super happy we had a kid.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:57 PM on August 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Agreed with the folks upthread that bringing him reading materials is reneging on any "give it time" agreement you have. You can do it but know it may have the opposite effect from what you intend.

The answer to your question depends very much on what is keeping him on the fence. I did research on genetic components of some mental illnesses and the costs of raising a child in our particular circumstances. That was the stuff I worried about. My husband read books on how to travel with children, because he worried about that. It is a difficult decision for those of us that don't feel broody and who have a large societal weight pushing us that way.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:59 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I once asked a psychoanalyst friend about the most heartbreaking, intractable problem he had dealt with in his practice. Answer: When one partner wanted a child and the other didn't, but they had a child anyway.

That said, a significant number of Mefites report falling in love with a child/children they were reluctant about initially then accepted the surprising, happy, messy, roller coaster family life that ensued. There's hesitation, there's fear of an unknowable life with or without children. Then there's: "I really don't want a kid." Where's your fella on that spectrum?
posted by Elsie at 6:19 PM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you send them stuff while you're in the period you promised them you wouldn't bring it up, well, that's breaking your promise.

Breaking your promise on something like this is not the end of the world. If you promised to wait for a month, it seems reasonable to stick to that. If you promised to wait for a year, well, that would have been a mistake, and you ought to tell them that you made a mistake in making that promise and that you really cannot wait a year for an answer on something this important and time-sensitive.

Good luck, I really hope it ends with them wanting what you want.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:40 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't think you should pressure your partner into having a kid they are ambivalent about. If you send them resources you should include honest ones about people who have less-than-ideal parenting experiences.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:06 PM on August 18, 2017

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