My Partner Doesn’t Want Kids And I…. Might?

What if I decide I want them?

Q: I love my mother more than life itself. I am an only child in a small family, and I’m getting married to a man my family absolutely adores. With wedding planning in full swing, my mother is over-the-moon excited for my and my fiancé’s future. So excited, she can’t stop talking about her future grandchildren. The thing is—my boo and I are not entirely sure we want to have kids. We’re in our mid-twenties and loving life as it is now! But my mother’s near constant baby-talk is starting to mess with my head.

I’ve always assumed I’d eventually be a mother, because well… my mom’s a mom, I love my mom, and I’m her daughter…. so that’s that. I never really felt a desire to be a mother, just a certainty that it’d be my path and it would be awesome because that’s what having kids is about—loving your weird baby. Until now, I’d never given parenthood much thought.

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But my fiancé grew up with a much more turbulent relationship with his family, so his thoughts on kids lean in the other direction. He’s always just assumed he wouldn’t have kids. Besides residual baggage from growing up with alcoholic parents, he’s one of three and always knew his siblings would take the more traditional path and give his folks the grandkids they want. He too never gave it much thought.

Before this whole engagement thing, I thought I was fine with this situation—both of us not being sure, both of us leaning different directions, and both of us knowing that we have time to develop as people and as a partnership. We have talked openly about the future, about the big fuzzy kid question, and both decided that whatever happens we’d do it together. Life is big and exciting, and we’ve spent our lives developing meaningful relationships outside of family, so we know there’s love to be had beyond biological ties.

But with my mom begging me to give her and my dad a grandbaby (literally telling me it is my father’s destiny to be a grandfather), I’m feeling stressed out about a decision and life choice that is easily ten years down the line.

I love my fiancé more than I even knew was possible. I know that whatever comes our way, he’s my partner in crime. I know I want to be with him no matter what. But I’m scared my mom is right (as she often is), and that I will want kids. I’m scared I will want kids and my fiancé won’t.

My brain is fried with all this, and I just want some clarity. Do me and my fiancé have to decide whether we want kids ten years from now? How do I get my mom to understand that we’re not sure without crushing her hopes and dreams? And how can I get the focus off of these imaginary babies and back to the very real (and awesome) wedding we have coming up?

Imaginary Baby Problems

A:Dear IBP,

Your mom needs to stop. Seriously. Sit this woman down and let her know that grandkids aren’t happening at least for another decade, if at all. If you’re feeling generous, you can acknowledge that this is probably disappointing to her, and maybe you even feel sorry about that.

You’re right. This may crush her hopes, but honestly? As much as it’s normal and natural for parents to have specific dreams vested in their children, it’s just as normal and natural for those dreams to go completely unfulfilled. You can’t make your most personal life decisions based on what your mom wants (and frankly, her using words like destiny only makes it easier for me to say it).

Right now, you can’t even think clearly enough to figure out what it is you want because she keeps blabbing in your ear. Your mom may be right about many things, but in this case, I think it’s safe to say that her own hopes are clouding what she thinks you want. Let her know that the conversation is closed indefinitely, and that you won’t be entertaining any conversations about grandkids for right now. You need to get away from this noise.

In your letter, you say, “I know that I want to be with him no matter what.” Once you put some work into tuning mom out, really think about what you’re saying there. Is that the truth? If you think about a life without him, does it seem like a fate worse than life without kids? Both of you might change your minds. Something wild and unforeseen might happen and make the kid decision for you. You can’t totally predict what will happen, how feelings or situations may change. But you can take what he’s telling you at face value and make a decision based on that. He’s saying, “No kids.” Can you still live a happy and fulfilling life without this piece that you always took as a given? You can’t predict how you’ll feel later, or try to make a decision based on that. You can only take where you both are right now and decide: Right now, can I say that I’m happy to plan to never have kids?

You don’t have to decide if you guys are going to have kids right now. But you do need to decide, “If we never have kids, will I still be happy?” And to do it, you’ll need mom to shhhh.

—Liz Moorhead


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