Do We Need to Decide About Kids NOW?

AAPW: I feel like I have to pick between my partner and my future children

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Q: I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years (living together for one year). We love each other deeply and envision a long future together. However, he doesn’t want to get married until we sort out the kid question: I am almost positive I want to have children, while he is very uncertain. I love him and want to be with him. His current financial and job situation is very uncertain so part of his unwillingness to think about kids comes from that present instability (as well as the fact that his parents were recently divorced). I am praying that he becomes more open to the idea of having children as we get older. Then again, I also don’t want to get five or ten years into the future (and five or ten years more invested in this relationship) and still not be married to him and still have him feeling uncertain about children, or worse, feeling certain that he doesn’t want them. What happens then? We break up and I hunt for the father of my children? That seems wrong.

We’re still young (mid-twenties), so I know this isn’t a decision that needs to be made immediately, but I’m struggling with how to proceed. I’m a very future-oriented, planning-type person. Do I just need to calm down and not worry about making this decision yet? Or will I need to, at some point, pick between the love of my life and having children?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

Yep, figure it out now. Sorting out the big picture things is just a plain smart idea. Where do you want to live, what are your long-term goals, and yeah, the kids question are all pretty significant choices that will impact your relationship. It only makes sense to figure out if you’re aligned, and prepare yourself if you’re not.

You’re right that he may change his mind eventually. But you can’t bank on that. All that you can do is make a smart choice with the information in front of you. He says he doesn’t want to have kids, so assume that means he won’t have kids. Can you live with the idea of never having kids?

But you’re not necessarily setting that choice in stone. He may change his mind… but you may also. Or maybe one of you will face some kind of infertility issue. Or maybe something tragic happens, and you end up raising the kids of a loved one. Make the smartest, most informed decision you can about where you both stand, if you’re aligned about the big things. But it really comes down to, “Do I want to be with this guy, kids or not?” and “Do I want to be with this guy no matter what happens?”

Same goes for all the rest of the big questions that come with steps toward marriage. Sort out where you stand, come to some agreements about the plan moving forward, but always be prepared for the unexpected. You’re not building a life with a static, unchanging person. Minds change, people change, and circumstances definitely change.

Being prepared for the swerving unpredictability of life isn’t the same as closing your eyes and hoping a point of discord magically goes away. Do what you can now to get on the same page about the future, while asking yourself, “Do I want to be with this guy, kids or not?” If the answer’s “no,” it’s time to move on.

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