May 17, 2007

When Did You First Have "The Kid Conversation?"

When I began interviewing the childfree by choice this was one of the questions I would ask couples. Some would say this conversation happened very early in the relationship. Others would say that they assumed they would be parents until a point, years after their marriage, when they began to challenge that assumption and talk seriously about whether or not they would have children.

the Episcopal Church in North America, acknowledges "child-free monogamy" and encourages couples to have the "kid conversation"
I also heard stories from parents who told me that their children’s marriages were at risk because one spouse wanted children and the other didn’t. In these cases, I wondered: If we encouraged young couples to have the kid conversation before marriage, could we lower divorce rates?

Back when we were counseled before our marriage (by my uncle, a protestant minister), children in marriage were presumed by most faith communities. That was in the late eighties. But today, when close to 20 percent of women in the United States may never have children, can we continue to make this assumption? I don’t think so.

Which is why I went looking for guidelines for counseling couples before marriage. Many of the guidelines I found assumed parenthood, encouraging couples to discuss how they might choose to raise children and handle their faith education and how they might manage disagreements and manage money.

I was only able to find a few guidelines that encouraged couples to discuss to what degree children were important to their lives. One set of guidelines, excerpted from Nolan and Kirkpatrick, Living Issues in Ethics and used by the Episcopal Church in North America, acknowledges "child-free monogamy" and encourages couples to have the "kid conversation" but, as I would find, guidelines that do so remain scarce in our faith communities.

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7 comments:

emeraldwednesday said...

I agree that this is a very important thing to discuss before marriage. My husband and I started the conversation once our relationship started to get serious, and intensified it after we got engaged (along with discussion of some other topics like money, expectations, etc). We've now been married about 8 months and I can't imagine not having had that conversation until now!

Adri said...

I went into marriage assuming we would have kids- kind of like how i assumed i would go to college after high school. I think we were married for almost a year when we realized that, with all we wanted to do together, kids would really not fit in anywhere. I'm lucky we both agree, but I can see it being a big problem for a couple that never discussed the possibility of not having children in the first place.

Kate said...

In the few serious relationships I've had post college, the issue came up when the other big, serious life topics came up. Since then, it's come up before things got serious. I don't see much of a point in seriously dating a man who really wants to have children in his family, as I don't. It's not fair to either of us to get "serious" if we don't want the same things.

twiga92 said...

Jono and I kind of stumbled into the "kid conversation" by going through a book with pre-marital questions meant to bring about discussion. It probably was the "how many kids do you want?" type question and we both realized that neither of us really wanted them. We were engaged at the time, but not married yet. This is such a crucial conversation to have before marriage.

Robin said...

Given that I was already very open about not wanting children Erik was already very aware when he met me. After going through 3 years of his custody battle I think he realized how much he didn't want another kid as well.

Teri said...

My husband and I were dating; I forced the issue early on as I felt it important to reveal that I had already had a permanent solution done for health reasons. I was never going going to give any man his namesake.

I was terrified, as I feared rejection. I think my future husband was flattered in a way that I felt he was worthy of the conversation. He certainly was. And he was the right man for me. This conversation was the true litmus test.

He handled the news with the casualness and grace I know and love him for. He made it no big deal. He said, "If that were really important to me, I would already have a family by now," and sealed it with a kiss. I was 30 he was 38.

Anonymous said...

I always bring up the childfree issue immediately. I don't want to waste my time or anyone else's. I met my ex-boyfriend through No Kidding so it was a given. In the future, I'll be just as direct. I believe it's an issue of respect and self-knowledge.

RMS