T is for Talk: Couples need to talk about whether or not they want children. Back in my parents’ day, having children was assumed. You got married, you got pregnant, and you made babies. But now there are so many ways to avoid having children. Here in the U.S., birth control is plentiful and easy to obtain, and abortion is legal. People are getting married later in life and putting off parenting until it’s almost too late. Men and women going into second or third marriages often find that at least one of them has already had children and doesn’t want any more.
But when and how do you talk about this stuff? It’s not like you can say on the first date, “Hi, I’m Sue and I want three kids.” Or, “Hi, I’m Peter, my teenagers from my first marriage are bleeding me dry, and I never want to have any more children.” Or, “Hi, I’m Jennifer, and I never really saw myself as a mother. I don’t want to be tied down.”
As a relationship progresses, when do you bring it up? Before you have sex? Before you move in together? Before the wedding? I don’t have the perfect answer, but I do know it needs to come up sooner rather than later. Day after day, I receive comments here from readers, mostly women, whose partners went along with the baby plans for a while, then dropped the bomb: I don’t want to have kids. Ever.They’re devastated. They don’t know whether to leave and look for someone who wants children or stay and give up their dreams of being parents. It hurts my heart to read these things. And then there are the ones who delayed childbirth for years, only to discover they have fertility problems.
All too often, once that bomb has been dropped, couples stop talking about it. They try to hide their hurt and anger from each other and from the other people in their lives. But it doesn’t go away. Dear friends, you have to talk about it. It will just fester and make you sick if you don’t. Talk with each other. Talk with your friends and family. Talk to your minister, your shrink, or your hairdresser. It is not something to be ashamed of. And don’t assume that your loved ones who have children won’t understand. They love you. They want to help.
It’s okay to talk about the fact that Mother’s Day makes you want to hide in a cave and never come out. It’s okay to say that watching a new mother cuddle her baby makes you want to sob. It’s okay to say, “We don’t have kids and I wish we did.” It’s also okay to say, “We never had children, and I’m happy.”
I feel like I’m giving a sermon here, but I wish I had talked more about it with Fred when I had the chance, instead of just crying in secret.
T is for talk.
Talk to me in the comments.