In Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, the book I reviewed here last week, Tim Kreider, one of the few male authors in the book, says that he makes a point of telling the women he dates early on that he does not intend to have children and that he will not change his mind. “In my experience,” he writes, “people have a bottomless capacity to delude themselves that their partners will eventually change.”
I think this statement is so important to our Childless by Marriage discussion. We do delude ourselves. I know I did. With my first husband, I told myself we would have babies eventually. Maybe we would have if our marriage hadn’t died. My ex didn’t want kids, but he often buckled to pressure from his parents on other subjects, and his mother couldn’t wait to be a grandmother. So, maybe. But the evidence doesn’t support that. Now 66 years old, he has been married three times, and he never had any children. Surely at least one of those other wives wanted them, too. But no babies. Dogs yes, children no.
My second husband, Fred, told me he didn’t want any more children. He already had three kids, the oldest already in their late teens. He’d had a vasectomy after his youngest son was born. And yet for years, I did exactly what Tim Kreider said. I deluded myself that somehow something would change and at least one of his sperm would hook up with at least one of my eggs and we’d make babies. Hello, there’s only one Virgin Mary. It did not happen. I menopaused, he died, game over. I’m living alone with a dog.
If you read back through the comments for past posts, there are hundreds, mostly from women, that talk about partners who say they don’t want children. What should I do, they ask. Will he change his mind? He says he might be ready in a few years. He said we’d do it right after X, and now he says no. He won’t talk about it. Etc.
You can’t blame people for hoping. Sometimes their partners are not clear about what they want. Maybe they don’t even know. Sometimes things happen and people change their minds. But when a person says flat out that he or she does not want to have babies with you and they’re not going to change their minds, I think we have to believe that they mean it and that being with them means you will not have children. If that is not acceptable, don’t delude yourself into thinking things will change. Either accept it or move on.
It’s a harsh reality, but it’s the truth. What do you think about this? I welcome your comments.
6 thoughts on “Are you fooling yourself about the baby thing?”
My husband told me 25 years ago that he did not want children. His friends did not have them at the time, so I assumed that when they started their families, my sweetheart would change his mind. He did not, and by the time I was ready for a family, it was impossible to change his mind and impossible to leave him. I just loved him so deeply and could not leave. Also, Jesus did not leave me when I was blind to my sins and the beauty of children, so I could not leave my husband.I was blessed that my faith really kicked in at that point. Then great books and blogs like yours appeared, and numerous other books were written by childless women. I could pray and cry and share and that helped me grieve my loss.I am now happily childfree in a biological sense, and also happy to be a spiritual mother to children that the Lord has placed in my life. In the bible, there is a verse in scripture that says, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)” I think the key in understanding that wisdom is to focus on the words “for those who love God.” Loving God makes all the difference on how things will turn out when our spouse refuses to have children.
Thank you for sharing this, Dorothy. I too believe God had other jobs for me to do. May your life continue to be filled with blessings.
Thank you Dorothy – wise words from a wise woman!
I am 28 and my partner is 41. We have been together for almost two years. He has two children (8 and 10) from a previous marriage. I am lucky in that they are wonderful children, and both their father and mother support my relationship with them. I have always wanted children. I made this clear when I met my partner, and at the beginning, he said he was okay with having more children, although he has had a vasectomy, so we would have to go through a reversal. However, eightish months in, he came to me and told me he no longer wanted children. We split up briefly, but he changed his mind and said (again) that he would be open to the idea. We continued moving forward over the last year or so with the idea that we would have a child together. Now he has come to me to say that he, again, does not want children, and that this time it is a permanent decision. I am heartbroken. I don't know what to do. I love my partner deeply and value our relationship. I am happy and fulfilled in a way I have never felt in any other relationship I have had. I love his children and the family we have created together over the last year. I have been going back and forth over the last week since all this came out. Should I leave and pursue another relationship and have children in that new relationship, even though I don't want to be with anyone else? Can I live with giving up children? Will the amazing step-children I will have be fulfilling enough for me? I'm not sure. On the one hand, there are many things I like about the idea of not having children. I feel that I would still be able to be happy and feel fulfilled through other areas of my life, and I strongly believe that I will form an amazing stepparent/stepchild bond with my partner's children. I also feel that some of my urge to have children stems from the way I was raised- believing that a large part of the purpose of being a woman was to have children and that this is the most fulfilling thing you can do as a woman – which I don't agree with at this time in my life. However, there is still that desire, and a strong desire at that, to have children and experience pregnancy and the early years.It's hard to give up something amazing, fulfilling, and wonderful that I have now for a future baby that I may end up never having. Simply put, I'm conflicted.
Anonymous May 13, thank you for sharing your story with us. It does sound as if you have a good situation right now except for not having children of your own. Stepchildren are not the same, but they can create a family for you. Ultimately you'll have to decide whether that's enough. I hope you can find a good solution.
My husband said he wanted children with me. We'd get fertility treatment if necessary, we'd adopt… (His grown-up kids from his first marriage are both adopted.)
He lied. I stayed. Should have left the day he started swearing at me when my laparoscopy showed that all my bits were in working order.
I still love him, but I hate what he's done to me.