Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Dear Ellen, if he wants kids and I don't, should we marry?"

Baby feet

Hi Ellen, Saw your post. Question: if he wants kids and I don't, should we marry?

Man, that's a good one! Since the development of reliable birth control in the 1950s, some people have opted out of having children. I’m very grateful we have such choices. However, when couples are on opposite sides of this question, it’s a problem.

Women are often told that we have a mothering instinct that will somehow kick in when we need it. This leads people to say, "Just get married and you'll change your mind." You're Malaysian, so my bet is that this will be very familiar!

However, from what I see, parents don't always love their kids. There are plenty of women who have them because of social pressures and who then discover that they don't actually like them. Men find themselves in exactly the same position!

Parents who are less than enthusiastic about their offspring often do the decent thing and do their best to give their kids a good start in life. They might build good relationships too as the kids grow older. But some mums and dads walk away, which is why our orphanages shelter kids who have one or two living parents. That is a disaster for the kids.

You're thinking ahead so kudos for that! The bottom line is that the question of kids is a deal breaker. If one partner wants them and the other not, you both risk lifelong regret. 

Should you go off and search for someone who more closely shares your needs? I'd say that depends.

You say you don't want kids, and I think you should explore what exactly you mean by this.

If you don't like babies or children, and the idea of spending years living with them is just horrendous, then you're probably not going to be a good mum or much fun to be around if you cave and have them. I’ve seen people in this situation, and it’s unhappy to say the least.  Some of these situations have ended with the mums leaving the relationship and the fathers becoming single dads.

But if you actually quite like babies and kids, and you don't want them because you’d rather have a career, then you can do a deal with your man. It means you carrying the child and having it, and then it will be you earning the salary and working long hours while he takes a career break and rushes around with dirty nappies, cooking dinner, organising school busses and so on. I know of several families who have done this, and it’s worked out happily.

I suggest you have several long talks with your man and see where you both stand. Think it through from all perspectives, perhaps starting off with these basic viewpoints:

1. What happens if you have kids and you maintain the common social roles where you’re the primary caregiver? How do you feel? What will life be like for you individually and together?

2. What happens if you don't have kids? How do you feel? What will life be like for you individually and together?

3. What if you have them but he is the primary caregiver? How do you feel? What will life be like for you individually and together?

Once you have your needs worked out, you can both make an informed decision.

Thanks for writing in and hope this helps.

Have a question?  During November 2016 I'm offering a free agony aunt service. Email me!

Photo courtesy of Frank Beckerde on Pixabay