New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. Read some of the most popular Dear Wendy posts here. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), do a search in the search bar, or submit a question for advice at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
“My Husband Isn’t Ready to Have a Baby, But I’m Becoming Obsessed”
When we first got married, we agreed two children would be our ideal number. However, in 2014-2015 I had three miscarriages. It was traumatic, and I struggled with a lot of anxiety and self-blame. I felt like my whole life was on hold. George and I agreed we would try one more time and if the pregnancy did not work, we were done trying. Fortunately my fourth pregnancy ended with the healthy birth of my son. We agreed to wait a few years to try again because I felt like I had spent years trying to get pregnant, then being pregnant, then adjusting to motherhood. I wanted time to feel like myself again.
Now almost four years later, I feel strongly that I want to be a mom of one. While the baby and young toddler phase were overall enjoyable, I much prefer his age now as he is gaining independence. I love watching Ed develop his own interests and helping him learn about the world. He is fun to hang out with, and it is easy just to pick up and go with one. We live in a two-bedroom townhouse in a desirable area of our city with a lot to do in walking distance. Adding another child would most likely mean a move to a less desired area for more space. We have the extra finances to spend on activities and experiences for Ed, which we might not have if we had two children. George’s family lives nearby, and Ed sees his two male cousins who are close in age at least once per week, so he is growing up with family around. I feel like I have the energy to focus on my family and career while still having personal time for myself. George and I both work full-time, but he works more hours than I do with a longer commute. During the week most of the parenting is my responsibility with going to activities and pre-school (pre-pandemic). I love being a mom, but I do worry I’ll be stressed and overwhelmed if I add another child to the mix. Right now the balance is manageable.
“My Husband Isn’t Ready to Have a Baby, But I’m Becoming Obsessed”
After delaying and stalling, I finally had a conversation with George a few months ago about how I truly felt. He was hurt and truly can’t understand my perspective. While he said it is not a dealbreaker for him, he feels like this will be hard for him to get past and it will be his life’s biggest regret that he only has one child. George wants to give Ed a sibling as he can’t imagine life without his siblings. I, on the other hand, while one of four, do not have a close relationship with any of my siblings as we are spread throughout the country. I do not think having a sibling guarantees closeness.
I also strongly feel that with the current leadership in our country, a pandemic, and environmental concerns, now is not the time to bring a new child into my family. I feel this is the responsible choice for me. Am I selfish? I do wonder if I will regret my decision. Sometimes I think something is wrong with me because I do not know other women who feel the way I do. We are in our mid-late 30s so do not have the luxury to delay this decision for years. I worry George will resent me and it will hurt our marriage. I do not want Ed to resent me either when he is older. Most of my friends who have children around my son’s age already have more children or are pregnant. When I share my feelings with my friends, they do not get it and think I will have regrets. Wendy, what do you think? — One and Done?
There’s nothing wrong with you for not wanting a second child, and you shouldn’t allow anyone to make you feel like there is. There’s nothing wrong with only wanting one child, there’s nothing wrong with wanting no children, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with changing your mind about the number of children you want after you have one and see what the experience is actually like versus what you imagined it would be before you had kids. You’ve laid out so many valid reasons for not wanting a second child, but the best reason of all is that you just don’t want one. And when two people in a couple disagree about making a baby, the right answer is always not making a baby because for as much resentment as someone may feel over not getting a second child he wants, the resentment over feeling coerced into having and raising a child someone doesn’t want is worse and has far more damaging repercussions (like the effect of that resentment on the child).
If George is having difficulty accepting your decision about not having another baby, you can wait and see if time softens that resentment, you can continue communicating with him about why you feel the way you do, you can seek couples counseling, and you can even – when it’s safe to do so – go away for a week or two and let George experience the kind of parenting you typically do each day. For him, that may mean negotiating with his job to shorten his hours in the office, hiring some childcare help, or even taking a week off work to stay home. If anything were to ever happen to you, he’d be forced to navigate parenting on his own, so he should see what doing so with one child is like before he keeps pushing for a second. And experiencing what you do every day might allow him to better appreciate your perspective.
As for Ed, your son, growing up to resent you for not giving him a sibling, the risk of resentment is something every parent has to deal with no matter what decisions they make. Ed could just as easily resent you for having a baby you don’t have the bandwidth or interest in raising and for his having to sacrifice so much of the comfort and routine and attention he enjoys now. He could resent you for something else entirely. He could resent restrictions you impose, expectations you have, classes and activities you encourage him to take, even vacations you bring him on. In fact, the likelihood of Ed finding at least one thing to feel some resentment about over the course of your raising him are pretty high. I bet you can think of at least one thing you’ve felt some resentment about related to your parents. And if you’re like most people, that resentment hasn’t kept you from being a happy, well-adjusted adult, capable of having strong relationships with your parents and other people. As a parent, you can’t let the risk of resentment keep you from making decision you feel are in the best interest of your child. And, ultimately, maintaining a quality of life and a balance of joy and stress you’re satisfied with IS in the best interest of your child (and your marriage!). If the balance tips too far and for too long into the “stress” side of the equation, you aren’t going to have the reserves of energy and attention necessary for the kind of parent and partner you want to be.
Some stress in life is out of our control (hello, Covid!); fortunately, the decision to have a baby is in one’s control, and if you feel like the stress will outweigh the joy and the sacrifices in your quality of life won’t be worth the outcome, you are making the best choice for everyone in your family by quitting while you’re ahead.
Related: “I Desperately Want Another Baby But My Husband Does Not”
Vintage DW (this post was originally published on February 8, 2016)
My fiancé and I do not have children but do absolutely love kids; we have my nieces and nephews over nearly every weekend to stay the night although Julie’s child has never been allowed to join. Julie’s daughter has never had a babysitter outside the family, and any time she has been watched by us or by anyone else it has been for less than an hour. My question is: Am I being selfish by wanting to have a kids-free wedding? Or is she being selfish by refusing to use a babysitter for a few hours? — Hopefully Not a Selfish Bride
You can read my response here.
***************Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
brise June 29, 2020, 9:51 am
Well, this is change in your couple’s plan, but I understand your decision. Sure, your husband might resent you, it might damage (for a while) your marriage, but ultimately, it is something that you want or not. Eventually, I am pretty sure that your husband will understand it too. It is clear that you don’t want it. I wouldn’t argue so much, the only arguments which sound convincing to me are your reluctance – a very individual choice which is completely understandable – and the fact that you are the most impacted, as much for the pregnancy than for the education.
Anyway, that discussion is a bit theoretical, because if you are in your late 30s and you had many miscarriages, the chances for you to conceive now naturally are very low. For you both to have an other child would be a struggle and very probably, a path through IVF. So if you are not convinced to the root and willing in your gut to have an other child, then don’t, and explain that medical reason to your husband.
As for your child: frankly, he will have advantages in being a single child, and also disadvantages, the first being loneliness. I know it out of experience. So you have to own your decision: no situation is perfect, there are negatives to each choice. So far, you have a very good life as a single kid family, you are all happy, so I consider that your husband, even though disappointed in his expectation to repeat the happy pattern of his close siblings, can see that as well and put in perspective your choice, and ultimately to accept it. It is a process, so I would give him some time to let it skin in. You should all be fine.
brise June 29, 2020, 10:40 am
Additional note: if anyone judges you for your choice, as you had three miscarriages, wich is indeed traumatic, they are out of their mind. That is no selfishness at all.
veritek33 June 29, 2020, 11:17 am
So, I’m an only child and I don’t resent my parents for not giving me a sibling. As they’ve aged, it would have been nice to have a second person to help out with them, but that would not have been a guarantee. I had a great life and a close relationship with them that might not have happened if I’d had siblings.
I can understand his disappointment and I can understand why you don’t want a second child. I hope you’re able to talk more about it with your husband, but I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this. But no, you’re not selfish.
Helen June 29, 2020, 12:10 pm
I’m also an only child and have zero resentments about it. My 3 best friends growing up all had siblings & I was not envious of their lives. My house was serene & peaceful & there was always time for me. My friend’s homes were chaotic & full of fighting. I’ve never wished for siblings or thought i was missing out on something.
You don’t want another child and that’s ok! If a healthy pregnancy & child sound unappealing, imagine if you had a child with special needs? Or twins? Your husband might need time to accept his family’s size, but he’s definitely not alone in his disappointment. Most people I know (for a variety of reasons) don’t have their ideal family size.
ArtsyGirl June 29, 2020, 12:18 pm
LW you have multiple, compelling reasons why one child is best for your family. It is clear you have been thinking about this for years and have counterpoints for each argument such as “he will be lonely”- he has cousins he sees regularly. While you have grappled with this for years, your husband has not. He in now in mourning for his vision of the family. I am sure he agrees with you on your points regarding time, money, political climate, pandemic, etc but he still thought another child would be forthcoming. He probably needs some time and space to adjust to this. Good luck!
KWu June 29, 2020, 12:41 pm
Finding ways to make the parenting and household management work you do more visible to your partner is really helpful for keeping everyone more grateful than resentful. It’s just really easy for both people to fall into “well I do at least 60-70% all the time!” and yeah, there’s like 150% of work to do.
I would also suggest finding some groups of parents with one child. I don’t have any suggestions because I do have more than one myself, but I have a friend who was a only child and is considering staying with one child of her own and her posts have helped me realize how much pressure and rudeness people get around that family structure. So could be helpful to talk to some folks who would “get it” more directly.
courtney89 June 29, 2020, 1:47 pm
Such a personal decision that only you and your husband need to make. Personally, i have a cousin who has one son, her sister has six kids, and the one with no sibs always seemed to feel left out and quiet. I have truly never met an only child who loved being an only. But, it’s the parents decision, not the kids. I myself have two sibs (a brother and sister) and couldn’t imagine life without them. Try reminding your husband also that he has cousins around his same age very nearby for that social aspect.
Miss MJ June 29, 2020, 2:03 pm
I don’t think you’re being selfish. Imagining how many children you will have is far different than the reality of having them. Circumstances change, people change, wants, needs and desires change. I think Wendy’s advice is great, here. Do not have a child just because someone else wants you to. It’s a person, not a puppy.
Give your husband time and space to accept this new reality and keep the lines of communication open. I don’t think he will resent you forever, but he is in a way grieving the imaginary family in his head. Offer compassion and grace and understanding to his disappointment, but don’t be bullied or manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do.
As for your son, every only child I’ve ever met had been perfectly happy to stay that way. And most of the people I know with siblings are glad they have them, even if they’re aggravating. Basically, all other things in their lives being equal, when it comes to siblings, people seem to be mostly fine with what they know and don’t really miss what they don’t have.
Kate June 29, 2020, 3:46 pm
I think that’s largely true, but I’m one of those people that has a sibling and honestly wish I didn’t. He really messed up my childhood, can’t help care for my parents when they’re older, and needs care himself that I definitely can’t give him once they’re no longer able to.
ktfran June 29, 2020, 3:39 pm
I really like everything you said.
My husband is an only and he is perfectly happy with being an only. I have two younger sisters. I didn’t like them when we were growing up. I wanted to be an only child. I’m glad I have them now and we’re all close.
ktfran June 29, 2020, 3:42 pm
That was supposed to be to Miss MJ.
csp June 30, 2020, 9:46 am
LW, since most of the work is on you, you have to want this. Now, I Think that blaming Donald Trump or the Pandemic or whatever, cheapens your argument and gives holes to push through. It cheapens the whole argument. Realize your own personal reasons are valid.
Now , make sure your birth control is solid as a rock. Now for me, I had 5 miscarriages and adopted my son. I had a surprise baby this year at 38. My husband and I have been married for 13 years and thought we were infertile. Now, we were thrilled but it shocked the heck out of us. we were saving for another adoption when it happened. So just make sure you don’t get surprised into a late in life baby if you don’t want one.
Amy June 30, 2020, 5:10 pm
I just wanted to pipe in and let you know that you aren’t alone in changing your mind about the number of children you want after struggling with infertility. I always wanted three and then my life didn’t go exactly as I planned. I had pretty much given up on having a baby when I got pregnant and had a healthy baby at 38. Often I’m asked if I’d like another one, and people look at me with some sadness when I tell them that I’m so happy with one. It’s the truth though. Aside from feeling so happy with my little family, there is not one single part of me that would want to go through the heartache of trying to get pregnant, miscarriages, worrying about miscarriages, etc. People change their minds as life goes on and we get more experience living our lives.
I don’t have any suggestions for you. It’s not easy to have incompatible dreams or goals with your husband. It sounds like you’ve been happily married for a long time, I’m sure you have the skills that work in your relationship. I don’t really want to pipe in with this kind of advice, but did want to share some solidarity with you. 🙂
Jolie Moore June 30, 2020, 5:47 pm
I’m the only child of two only children. I also have a single child. It’s fine. It’s FINE.
I have no sibling envy. My parents didn’t either – I’ve asked more than once. One of my grandparents had eight siblings. That provided a huge group of family members (second cousins?) in my age range and for my mother (first cousins). Even without all of that family, there are many ways to build a family as an adult.
To be honest I have no understanding of the need people have to provide their child with siblings. It was (and continues to be) exhausting to watch parents pushing siblings together who don’t want to be close because ‘they’re going to need someone someday when we’re gone.’
Ange July 1, 2020, 6:49 pm
Speaking as someone who knows full well that when my parent go my relationship with my brothers will evaporate into nothing I don’t get why people insist on producing ‘friends’ for their kids either. Kids will do a much better job finding their own friends as they go through life.
Bittergaymark July 1, 2020, 10:20 am
Stick to your guns. At this point NOBODY should be having two kids. The world is fucking already doomed by overpopulation. Newsflash: nobody’s genes are THAT great. Stop breeding like fucking rats!
LW — I truly commend you.
Kate B. July 1, 2020, 10:27 am
LW1: I just want to say that having a siblling doesn’t guarantee closeness. My brother and I couldn’t be further apart if we’d been two different species.
Hazel July 1, 2020, 5:35 pm
I think you are right to stick at one if that is what you want, (the world is, as BGM points out, not short of kids) and it seems like you are in a happy place right now so why spoil it? You seem like a lovely responsible parent and I’m sure your family will thrive well with 3 of you; plus all the others you can add in to the mix. If in the future you did happen to feel able to give space to another child, as your partner wants, you might consider adoption of an older child of your own child’s age? Not something to be undertaken lightly, but if at any point you felt you could manage two, that could be a possible way to make a compromise .
spark July 7, 2020, 6:32 pm
“And when two people in a couple disagree about making a baby, the right answer is always not making a baby because for as much resentment as someone may feel over not getting a second child he wants, the resentment over feeling coerced into having and raising a child someone doesn’t want is worse and has far more damaging repercussions (like the effect of that resentment on the child).”
I strongly disagree with this when the rest of the circumstances would objectively accommodate another child: finances, etc., and when the “no” partner is on the fence, as is this LW. For the person who wants the second child, had always planned on a second child, had been told there would be a second child, etc., I think the resentment is much more likely to develop and sustain itself than the possible, hypothetical resentment of the other partner “feeling coerced into having or raising a child [s]he didn’t want.” I think very few people actually resent the child that they did have, even if they initially did not want it. Especially in a stable family, as is this one. If LW has another child, they might experience a few tough years in the beginning (as always happens in infancy and toddlerhood), but those years pass in the blink of an eye. I would encourage LW to imagine not just an infant, but another person in the family. Kids at ages 5 and 10. Kids at ages 15 and 20. Adult kids around the Thanksgiving table. The trying years of infancy and toddlerhood don’t last forever. Is LW really going to resent the child? Sure, it’s possible. But I would argue it’s not likely. What is more likely is that her husband will continue to resent her for the absence of the child they’d originally planned on. I’d argue that that could cause bigger fissures in the marriage than the other way around.
ktfran July 8, 2020, 7:47 am
I can’t disagree with you more. This woman went through three miscarriages before she had her baby. Asking a woman to possibly put her body through that again when she clearly doesn’t want to is cruel. And it’s not just her body. Her mental health too.
Circumstances change. Just because you discussed having a family of four doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be. There are no guarantees in life, except taxes and death.
ktfran July 8, 2020, 8:29 am
Also of note, they both work full time and on weekdays, she is the primary caretaker. So really, her husband is asking that the burden of having another child rest solely on her shoulders.
I think the toll having the first baby took on her body is enough of a reason to say no. But to even slightly consider having a second, he’d have to agree to some big changes in that he’d need to step up the care taking game by a lot.
anonymousse July 8, 2020, 8:38 am
I think everything you’ve written is really unfair to the LW.
Bittergaymark July 10, 2020, 9:28 am
Agreed. She is totally justified in NOT wanting another kid.
Sea Witch July 11, 2020, 10:27 pm
If this were a lesbian couple and it were possible to take turns at pregnancy, I might tentatively agree. But since SHE is the one who has to go through the pregnancy and experience miscarriages if it doesn’t go well, she gets to say no.
Kate B. July 10, 2020, 9:48 am
I have a friend who grew up well aware that he was not a wanted child. It messed with his head. I wouldn’t want to do that to a kid. Talk about unfair.
anonymousse July 10, 2020, 10:24 am
Yeah, my best friend has been reminded her entire life how unwanted she was, while her older siblings are showered with praise and can do no wrong. It’s been a hard road for her. It’s seriously fucked up to have a child you don’t want and then express that. Ugh.
Sea Witch July 11, 2020, 10:34 pm
Even if the LW did manage to get pregnant on the first try, their son would be 5 by the time the baby was born. A five year age gap means that they wouldn’t start to have anything in common until they were in their 20s.
The husband seems to have a rosy image of a passel of children all playing happily together, but the age gap would almost guarantee the the older child would have little interest in spending time with his sibling.
ktfran July 12, 2020, 10:39 am
My sister is barely two years younger than me and I wanted nothing to do with her. We weren’t friends until we were both in our early 20s and I moved away. We’re close now.
It’s not even age. There are no guarantees that siblings will get along with one another.
Sea Witch July 12, 2020, 12:11 pm
True, but a five year age gap makes it even more unlikely that the older boy will view his sibling as a playmate. What 10 year old wants to play with a 5 year old. There is such a huge gap in their development.
anonymousse July 12, 2020, 2:45 pm
My sister is eight years younger than me. I had to share a room with her growing up. She’s been my best friend and confidant for a very long time. We probably only got super close as she became a young teen, but kids are flexible with playmates.
I have a 4 and six year old and they adore babies and play with them any chance they get. Before covid, I was nannying a baby four days a week. Many of our “age appropriate” friends have older siblings who are ten or older and they can and do play and interact.
Fyodor July 13, 2020, 7:33 am
At the end of the day there’s no way to meaningfully predict how someone’s life will be better or worse if a new human comes in/out of existence. The parents have to do what they can handle and she (with good reason) does not sound like she can handle trying to have or having another kid.
howboutemapples October 24, 2022, 11:25 am
LW1: I feel like I can relate with your husband, although I’m the wife over here. I wanted a third kid, and he was originally open to a third too. But over the recent years finances and mental health considerations have all changed from our idealistic plans pre-children. It is really difficult, and sometimes I do resent my husband for being “the reason” I won’t have that third kid I wanted. But then I think about it a little more and see that we are in a lifetime partnership, and life will always change, and I need to adjust and accept the changes. I could hang onto that resentment, OR I could recognize that my husband is doing the best he can, and I made a commitment to doing life with him, and weathering the changes together. Accepting this change in our family plan is part of being a loving partner in life, I feel, and more important than even something I feel extremely strongly about (a third child). Try to discuss this change in plans as empathetically as possible with your husband, and make your feelings clear, but stress that you want to keep your marriage relationship strong, at the center of all decisions, and weather this change together.