Stay or Go? No Easy Answers

 

Dear readers,

My life recently has been blessedly free of childless drama, so I’m going to let some of you talk today. Whenever I post about deciding whether or not to stay in a childless relationship, readers comment at length. (See Stay in a Relationship Without Kids or Go?)That’s the key question for so many. Do I stay or go? Do I accept a childless marriage with the person I love or take a chance on finding someone else? And sometimes the question comes from the other direction. The person writing is the one who doesn’t want to have children and worries about ruining the other person’s life. All the while, the biological clock is ticking. Listen here to Amanda, Kathy with a K and Cathy with a C. Their comments have been shortened a bit.

Amanda:

Dear Sue, I need help with my thought process and how I actually REALLY feel about the potential of being a parent. I’m very confused and quite honestly I could go either way with it but the fact that I won’t have forever to decide leaves me feeling a little anxious and maybe even feeling some sadness for what reason I have no idea why! I have been with my husband for six years and we just got married last year. He is quite literally my best friend, soulmate and partner in life. We have an amazing connection on so many levels in our relationship but I will say we have a lot of ups and downs. The passion and love is intense at times and I can’t imagine my life without him even when we are in the midst of a heated argument I know it will blow over and we will soon be back on the right page together in each other’s arms smiling and laughing once again.

When I first met my husband, I told him the idea of getting married and/or having kids was not appealing to me. Obviously when he proposed, two years later, I said yes, and we planned a beautiful dream-come-true wedding in Hawaii. My husband is 53, and I am approaching 30 (aka: biological clock-ticking age). I say this only because at 53 my husband is in no place with his age to want or need to be a new father. He has a son who is currently 20 and at the state university to become a pharmacist. Lee and his son are very close, he is a loving, caring and nurturing father, and his son is such a great “kid”.

Recently I noticed a sudden curiosity around motherhood. I think it began when I was 10 days late with my last period and a couple of the months prior it had been very light. I wondered if I was pregnant and I procrastinated taking a test because I was too afraid to find out. During that time of waiting I found myself thinking about what it might be like or could be like to have a mini-me/Lee running around, making us smile and laugh and bringing such joy and blessing to our lives. How my stepson would potentially love having a little brother/sister.

I cannot believe my thoughts have headed in this direction. One thing that recently hit me was the fact that my husband will likely be a grandfather someday very soon-maybe in the next 10 years. My stepson is with an amazing, beautiful, smart, energetic and good girl and I could see them getting married and having a beautiful family. I guess it freaks me out in a way because how would that feel being a step-grandma without ever having had any little ones of my own?

I still cannot fathom having kids of my own AT THIS POINT…. BUT WHAT IF in 3-5 years when I’m in my mid-30’s that urge kicks into full force?! What then? Start over? On my own. Single. Divorced. For what? The POSSIBILITY of meeting a great guy, who wants marriage and kids… And maybe doesn’t already have an ex, and kids already?! Shit. Seems like a lot to leave my husband- the loving, kind, devoted, beautiful soul of a man- to give him up for something that might not even happen, like you said, “the gamble”, not to mention AM I EVEN FERTILE? I know he will not change his mind. Even though he laughs and giggles when I tease him with “let’s make a baby” or “put a bun in my oven”, he laughs because he knows I am kidding about wanting to make love.

My husband is much older and could literally die first and leave me all alone with nothing and nobody! I feel so torn. I do NOT know what to do. The only thing I can do at this point is rely on the small tiny chance that somewhere down the road my husband will not pull out in time, and as a result we will be pregnant. He has already told me he clearly does NOT want more children (understandably so) and that he would understand if I did, and he would allow me to go on and pursue that dream. Of course he understands that if I got pregnant he would not leave me, he would stay by my side as husband and be the good father he already is, but he will not willingly give up his sperm to purposefully make a mother out of me.

It seems unfair that if the day ever came that I was truly willing, ready and able to procreate, that I would suddenly ditch and divorce such a loyal, faithful, devoted man, (especially because he wouldn’t divorce me if I got pregnant) but what I can’t wrap my head around is why he would be OK with me leaving him to go off and make a baby?! He told me that he knew that was a risk falling in love with & marrying a younger woman- that I might want to leave him for babies someday. I know I’ll never change his mind. So what the eff is my problem? Why am I worried about this now? Maybe I should not worry until IF the time actually ever does come THEN stress about this… Just worried it will be too late by then. I’ve always been the last to show up to the party, the chronic procrastinator, this is something you can’t really wait around on, right? HELP!

Kathy:

Amanda, I’m in a similar situation as you, only I’m 10 years older than you. My husband is 15 years older than I am. He has a 20-year-old from a previous marriage. We’ve been together for 14 years. We are the best of friends and still passionately in love. And I’m quite close to his daughter.

BUT… Before we got married, he always said he wanted more kids and then got cold feet after we got married. So slightly different situation than yours, but I was ambivalent about having kids just like you are, so I just kind of shrugged it off. But I will always regret letting someone else make a life-altering decision for me.

Now that I’m 43, I’m broken-hearted, and I feel like I wasted my life. And I keep thinking about the fact that my husband had a child with someone who was awful to him and then denied me the right to have children. Even though I’ve been nothing but good to him. This is a tough pill to swallow. This is the same pill you will eventually have to swallow. Take a second to make sure you can emotionally handle that.

My advice to you is to “talk” to future you. Look around and ask yourself if you’re completely OK with being alone as you age. Will you be able to find meaning in your life if you don’t have children? Only you can answer that.

In my situation, I just kept kind of living day to day – having a good time with my husband, but not planning for my emotional future. I had a real wake-up call a few months ago when I started skipping periods and realized it’s the start of menopause – even though I’m an athlete who is still in top shape, my fertile years are over just like that.

Now when I look in the mirror, I see someone who wasted her life needlessly. I didn’t examine whether I really wanted children because I wanted to be with my husband. Now I look back at the person I was and want to scream “RUN” to her. Even though I love my husband. Even though my life is perfect in every other way. I still feel like I am not a whole person. And being a step parent or step grandparent is not the same – even in the best of scenarios, like mine.

My advice is that only you know yourself, but if you have even the slightest fear that you’ll end up like I feel, RUN. You can learn to love someone else, but you can’t go back in time to have children when you’re older. My cousin found himself in a marriage with someone who realized she didn’t want kids, and he left. That was 25 years ago. He now has a wonderful family with three happy, successful kids. So it can happen for you if that’s what you want.

I can’t tell you if you’ll be filled with regret. Some people aren’t. You might be perfectly fine with not having kids, and that’s a very valid choice. I’m not you. But I desperately hope you’ll make a decision that sits well with future you. Because once it’s over, it’s over.

I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear. It’s not what 29-year-old me would have wanted to hear. But nobody took the time to tell me this might be a possible outcome, so I’m taking the time to tell you.

Cathy:

Wow. I’m on the opposite side of the coin. I had my son at 20, I’m now 36. I met my husband at 21 and have been with him ever since. He has wanted kids since we got married in 2008. I don’t want any more kids.

When I was in my early 20’s, I was able to go to school, work and raise a baby. At 36 I can barely stay awake past 10. My son is going to graduate high school next year (a year ahead) and we’ll be free to travel and enjoy life- no diapers, formula, sleepless nights, teething, crankiness, etc. etc. We can spend money on luxury items whereas most of our friends spend all they earn on daycare and the baby.

I’m one of the lucky ones- no stretch marks, veins, weight gain, no gray hairs (my sis had gray hair right after birth at 28) etc., I bounced right back within 4 months ( I didn’t breast feed though so I calorie restricted). I feel like if I had a baby at 36 I would never be that lucky, it would destroy my body.

My husband doesn’t agree, having his own kid means everything to him. I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to lose him but I don’t want to resent the baby or my husband either. It’s not easy on either side.

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Now it’s your turn. Feel free to join the conversation.

 

 

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