Will Children Ruin the Relationship?

I spent last weekend in San Jose for my father’s funeral. I was surrounded by people with children. The younger the kids, the harder it was for me to talk to their parents because they were obsessed with childcare. I also noticed that for some couples, the children seem to come between the husband and wife (or unmarried partners). The main caregiver, usually the mother, becomes so involved with the children that she stops relating to her partner. His life is about work, and hers is about kids, and soon they rarely speak to each other beyond complaints and coordinating schedules. I can see how someone might be reluctant to have children for fear this will happen.

Children need a lot of attention, especially when they’re small. They’re also fascinating creatures. How do you not become all about the kids when you worry every second that something will happen to them? I was that way when I adopted puppies. Imagine if I had a little human.

We have all seen this happen with our friends. Trying to get their attention is like trying to jump into a double-dutch jump-rope game where we just can’t get the rhythm. What about the spouse?

This division doesn’t happen with everyone. My parents truly seemed to be a team, even though Mom spent most of her time with us while Dad was usually at work. Every night when he came home, they retired to the bedroom to chat—and we knew we were supposed to leave them alone. At night, I’d fall asleep to the sound of my parents talking. When conflicts arose, they always put each other above everyone else. It can be done.

On the airplane shuttle in Portland, I sat across from a couple with two little kids. All four of them seemed happy to have each other, and the parents were clearly in love. Maybe I just caught them at a good moment, but they gave me hope.

How does a couple counter that tendency to forget about each other and put all their attention on the children? Is the fear that the kids will come between them valid? When will the mom and dad have sex or even a private conversation when someone is always shouting, “Mommy! Mommy!” Is this fear part of your situation? Is it a logical reason not to have children? Let’s talk about it.

Here are some articles to consider.

https://www.salon.com/2018/02/15/have-children-heres-how-kids-ruin-your-romantic-relationship_partner/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-kids-call-the-shots/201808/is-parenting-burnout-destroying-your-marriage

https://www.today.com/parents/does-having-children-destroy-happy-marriage-t113028

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The funeral was beautiful. (See my Unleashed in Oregon blog for more about this.) My father would be pleased. The music, the flowers, the priest, the military honors, the barbecue that followed—all great. Not that there weren’t some tears. It’s hard. But he is at peace, and now we move on. Thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes. They mean a lot.

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Will You Regret Not Having Children?

A word that keeps coming up here at the Childless by Marriage blog is “regret.” Different dictionaries explain it in different words, but regret is basically a feeling of sorrow or disappointment for things you did in the past, decisions you made, or roads not taken. Readers trying to decide what to do about their situation worry about whether they will regret their choices later. If they agree not to have children, will they regret it? If they have children when they don’t want them, will they regret it? If they leave their partner in the hope of finding someone who wants children, will they regret it? If I knew the answers to these questions, I’d be a fortuneteller instead of a writer.

Regret. Suddenly I’m hearing Frank Sinatra sing, “Regrets I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention . . . I did it my way.”

Well, I guess I did. Maybe you did, too. Are there choices in my life I regret? You bet. Jobs I wish I hadn’t taken, things I wish I hadn’t said, guys I wish I hadn’t dated. But I don’t regret the big choices I made, even my first marriage, which wasn’t ideal. I loved the man, we had some wonderful experiences, and I cherish the good memories. If I had waited for somebody else, I might have a husband, kids, grandkids, and the perfect house now, but I don’t know that that would have happened. I might have been alone.

I don’t regret marrying Fred, even though we didn’t have children together. He was the nicest person I ever met, he loved me like every girl wants to be loved, and we had a great life together. In death, he left me with a home and steady income. I wish I had some kids, but I had a lot of other things, including my husband’s children.

The other big decision was moving to Oregon. I have been homesick for 19 years, but living here has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten if we had stayed in San Jose. Would I trade the books I’ve been written, the music I’ve played here, the friends I’ve met, or my life in the woods for a more conventional life in smoggy suburbia with husband and kids? I’m not sure I would.

Every decision brings both good and bad. In the end, I believe things turn out the way they’re supposed to, whether it’s God’s plan, the way of the Universe, or whatever you want to call it. With every choice, you gain something, but you also have to let something go.

You’re 20 or 30 or 40 now. When you’re 80, will you regret not having children? Will you wish with every fiber of your being that you had made a different choice? I don’t know. All you can do is make a decision based on what you know now and follow where it leads.

Here are a few things you can read. This article from Psychology Today, “Getting Past Your Regrets,” offers some very good advice to help us move on after choices we regret.

An article in Forbes lists “The 25 Biggest Regrets in Life.” Note that several of them have to do with the kids the writer assumes everybody has. Hello? Some of us don’t have children.

On the other hand, here are a bunch of great quotes about regret that most of us can relate to. I like this one from Queen Latifah: “I made decisions that I regret, and I took them as learning experiences . . . I’m human, not perfect, like anybody else.”

I do not regret visiting with you, my friends. Thank you for being here and for your comments.