My partner and I both come from big families and have always talked about wanting children. But recently, she’s been doing the math for IUI treatments (and even IVF) and has decided she doesn’t think we can afford it. (For the record, I disagree.) A few months ago, we were talking about baby names. Now she’s dead set against kids at all and is trying to convince me how much more we could do in life if we stay child-free. I’m not willing to give this up. Will she change her mind?
I won’t mince words: The decision to have kids (or not) is an issue that ends a lot of relationships. That said, I think there’s something else going on here, and you don’t need to throw in the towel just yet. Let’s put this all into perspective.
Yes, romantic relationships are challenging at times, especially if you’re adjusting to becoming one half of a partnership. But becoming a parent is a dramatically different life stage. It may be rewarding, but it’s decidedly not about you anymore, as you shift to placing your child’s needs ahead of your own. There’s less time. And there’s definitely less money.
Some people experience sticker shock before there’s a baby in the picture. Others don’t realize the cost until that first daycare bill hits. But either way, no matter your financial standing, you’re gonna feel the crunch.
But, as a wise woman once told me, “If everyone waited to have kids until they thought they were financially stable enough to do it, no one would ever have kids.” In short, I think it’s completely possible your partner is psyching herself out over whether or not she’s “ready,” instead of trusting in your dual ability to take on parenthood.
And while freaking out about this stuff is normal, I think you need to deduce whether her fears are surmountable jitters, or whether her wishes have actually changed.
How to figure this out? Schedule a conversation (nobody likes an ambush!), and when you talk, do the following:
- Thank her for her willingness to run the numbers on what having a child would look like. It’s a serious responsibility, and it’s always good to be more prepared rather than less.
- Ask her to detail when and how her feelings on children started to change. If you have a clear timeline, it will be easier to understand what exactly caused her to hesitate—and if it’s something you can help her address.
- Ask her if there are still things she wants to see, do and experience before having kids. Encourage her to do them and be open to the fact that this may compromise your timeline. (Just make sure you have a drop-dead date in mind. So maybe you can wait two years, but you can’t wait three.)
- Remind her of how wonderful your childhood was, and the joy kids can bring to a household. Remind her that you love her. Remind her that you want to have children with her, and you believe (with some adjustments) you both can do it.
- Understand that you might not hear what you want to hear.
Here are some things to avoid:
- Telling her that she’s being ridiculous about the costs.
- Getting defensive of your formerly shared point of view.
- Demanding that she change her mind immediately.
The best thing you can do is seek understanding about her point of view and what’s triggered the change. If it’s just fear of the unknown, that’s one thing. But if weeks or months pass and she is unmoved, then you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to forgo motherhood to be with her.
Keep encouraging her to be honest with you, honest with herself and to get out there and do all her pre-kid bucket list stuff. Over time, my guess is she’ll come around, probably on her own, as the idea of kids becomes less scary. But also because it’s so important to you, the person whom she loves.
Jenna Birch is a journalist, speaker and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women. To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.