“Honey, I changed my mind about having kids”

In Carolyn Hax’s July 20 advice column, a reader asks what a lot of folks ask here. She and her husband originally agreed not to have children. Now she’s having second thoughts. She has a whole script worked out to discuss this with her guy, hoping maybe he has changed his mind, too, but what if he says he still doesn’t want kids?

Hax asks the reader if she can accept it if her husband sticks to his no-kids decision. She offers comments from other readers who have experienced this situation. And one of them mentions this blog. Whoever you are, thank you. Tell your friends.

So, people do change their minds. They think they’re okay with not having children, but then everyone around them is having babies, they are aware that they’re running out of time, or they realize they agreed to a childless marriage just to keep the relationship going. Maybe they thought stepchildren would fill the space where their own children would be, but they don’t. Am I ringing any bells for people?

Maybe you’re not the one changing your mind. Maybe it’s your partner, who suddenly says he wants kids or that he (or she) has decided he does not want them. He/she cites money, freedom, jobs, age, bla bla bla.

Where once you thought you agreed on this huge decision, you don’t anymore. You had an agreement. You knew what you wanted and were living your life counting on that agreement staying the same. Now what do you do? Do you leave? Do you urge your partner to leave? Do you get counseling to help you accept the unacceptable? This is the heart of the whole childless by marriage concept.

As longtime readers know, this is what happened to me. I stayed. I didn’t have children. I cried where my husband couldn’t see me. I wrote a book about it. He didn’t change his mind. Now I’m a childless widow living with my dog. It’s not as tragic as it sounds. I have a good life, but I still wish I had found a way to become a mother and grandmother and great-grandmother.

I want to share some comments posted at my old Blogger site that you might not otherwise see:

On July 20, Anonymous said…

In my fourth year of marriage, during marriage counseling, my husband told me he never wanted me to have children because of my autoimmune disease. I divorced him because we had agreed on children, we had picked out names. One unsuccessful relationship after another led to me missing my window. I never did get to have a child. But I have a stepson who lost his mother at a young age. We love each other so much. Jumping in as a parent of a teenager is very hard. But to hear him wish me my first happy Mother’s Day was priceless, absolutely priceless. My ex has been married twice after me, and he plans on having children. Sometimes I hate him for what he did to me. But now I have my wonderful stepson whom I never would have met if it wasn’t for my ex. My husband now is pretty awesome, too. I love my boys like crazy. So, happy ending!

Yesterday, Anonymous commented:

I feel like I am the only woman in the world who started out not wanting children, grew to change my mind, and had my husband on several occasions scream at me that I can’t change my mind. He expects me to be around and support all of his friends’ families and every time, I die a little more inside. I am scared for my future, aging, lonely, and just sad I married someone like this.

On July 21, another Anonymous wrote:

I was lucky enough to fall in love in my mid-twenties with a man who, like me, was somewhat leaning against having children. I was pretty sure I didn’t want children, having had, since childhood, a feeling that motherhood probably wasn’t for me. But after we married, I wanted to wait a few years before making a final decision to see if my feelings, or his, would change. They didn’t. What happened next was a series of vivid dreams in which I would inexplicably find myself six or seven months pregnant, too late to change my mind, horrified and terrified, and trying desperately to convince myself that having a baby would be okay while knowing it would not. At least twice I woke up clutching my belly. Husband and self are now in our sixties, happily married and childless. I know that by not having children, we gave up some wonderful things. And I know my sisters will have the support of their children as they age, and I won’t have that special kind of support. But I remain convinced that I made the right decision for me, and my husband feels the same way. My childhood was happy, my mother is warm and wonderful, and I really can’t explain why I knew I didn’t want to become a mother while my sisters wanted to be, and are, great mothers. I do know that especially after those dreams, anyone who might have tried to persuade me to have a baby would not have been successful. To the list of reasons why some people don’t want children, I’d have to add “Unexplainable but extremely strong gut-level knowledge that having children would be a huge mistake.”

Everybody’s different. I thank you all for your comments. Keep them coming. This is one of the few places we can discuss this stuff without judgment, and I appreciate every one of you.

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I apologize for not posting yesterday, my usual day. I work as a music director at our local Catholic church, and we have a new pastor whose changes kept us occupied and mind-blown all day. Basically, he thinks this is a cathedral, not a little coastal church, and he thinks it’s 1950, not 2015. Think Gregorian chant. In Latin. Last Sunday, he gave a little speech on the importance of family that let me know he’s going to make it hard on us childless folks because we failed to reproduce. I can’t wait for Mother’s Day. (Don’t share this blog with him! I need my job. :-))