October 17, 2007

Been There, Done That

What do you do? Do you choose the man, or the baby?

What happens when the man you fall in love with is over the baby thing and you aren’t quite there yet? A woman named Candace posed this question to me in an email forwarded through my website:
Hello- As a childfree women, I am very interested in your project. I am also interested in doing some research on women who basically chose marriage over motherhood; ie, they wanted kids and thought they would have them, but then fell in love with a man who already had kids from a prior marriage and didn’t want or couldn’t have anymore. So, they had to choose between marriage and a child. What did they choose, how did they come to that choice, and are there any regrets?
I couldn’t offer a response. I haven’t met many women who have been in that situation. Most of the men and women I had interviewed for my project were childless…by choice. So what do you do? You anticipated children of your own and the man you love can’t, or won’t, sign up for the deal.
What now?

Flickr photo by Monceau (cc)
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Sara said...

A person should not kill or maim their identity for a spouse. It is just terrible, and as much as she loves him, there are other men out there who want babies. So she needs to do some self reflection, how much of her identity, how much of who she is, is tied into becoming and being a mother? If she decides that it is bigger than say 5% of her identity and is only getting smaller, than she can survive the cutting of that part of herself to be with this man. However, anymore than that and she will probably wonder what could of been so many times that resentment will kill the marriage anyways. I know that most of use Childfree women would not seek out a mate who wanted children, it would just be wrong. I really like how the man in an article I read here a few weeks back stated in his first date that he couldn't/wouldn't have children. This stuff has to come out up front so it doesn't go too long and hurt someone, bad.

frieda said...

Well, most of your posts describe me to a tee, but this one really hits the nail on the head, so I have to comment.

My husband had medical treatments that left him sterile, but beforehand he banked some sperm to leave us the option. We have always both been fencesitters.

We discussed having a child through other means (fertility treatments, adoption, etc.). I think the key for me was where you say "always anticipated" having a child. We did some serious soul searching, and I finally admitted to myself that although I had always "anticipated" having a child, I didn't really look forward to being a mother. In a way it felt like an obligation I had to go through, but I'd always dreaded that phase of life, and giving up my privacy, freedom, career goals, having to hire a sitter to get any time to myself, the worry and stress...everything that would have to change. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in a way it's a blessing for me to have an excuse to sidestep that whole can of worms, and maintain my simple, peaceful existence.

I know no one should need an "excuse" and not wanting to be a parent is a perfectly good excuse in itself, but the pressure from society was getting to me. Also, as an undecided person (a Libra...it's my nature) I may have had more need for an excuse than others who have a firm position on the subject.

The Married No Kids Bella online site, as well as this one and other CF sites (and true mom confessions!), have been crucial to me during this decision. It's been a HUGE relief to find others who understand how I feel and are more in alignment with my way of thinking than the general public.

The people in my life who seem to have this sense of urgency about MY reproductive status have made me suspicious and question their advice and motives. It was very eye-opening to learn that these "bingos" I was constantly subjected to are just platitudes that don't fit everyone, and maybe are misguided anyway.

I feel like it would be a lack of integrity for me to leave a husband I love for the nebulous pursuit of having children. I think loving him is as important as loving a potential person who doesn't even exist yet! I'm in my late 30's, so it would be ridiculous anyway to leave my husband and try and find a fertile turtle. If I wanted it so bad I would have done it 10 years ago, and since I didn't, that's a form of decision in itself.

I feel like I can live the rest of my life quite happily as is, as I've been doing up till now. I also feel like I can live true to my values this way, and not have to give up things that are really important to me.

Well, thanks for asking!

Tanya said...

We talked about this at length before marriage. I know he does not want kids. I do not want kids. If I ever changed my mind, as I know HE never would, then I would have to choose between him and a baby. I chose him once, I'll do it again.

Shannon said...

I like how the guy on the Today show answered when asked a similar question. The interviewer asked him 'What if you meet the girl of your dreams, but she wants kids?' He simply said that if she wanted kids so badly she probably wasn't the girl of his dreams...

Jennifer said...

From what I hear, people in that situation often dump the man and look for a babydaddy. I gather they love their imaginary children more.

Though really, if you feel that strongly about having children, I suppose they are better off leaving.

(Have not been in this situation myself. Did have an ex who wanted children, but I said no.)

LauraS said...

"Have not been in this situation myself. Did have an ex who wanted children, but I said no."

I'm thinking--I guess that's why he's your ex.

But I'm making assumptions, so forgive me. I'm imagining what I would do if my hubby decided he wanted kids. We have a 25 year history together, so it's hard to bend my brain around that senario. My good self wants to believe I would step aside and let him move on, but the real, ugly part of me says "what is he thinking?" and would try try to change his mind.

We all know how that turns out...

Feh23 said...

Firstly, I don't think it's good policy to enter into relationships with the hopes of "changing" someone into what you might want. I've seen this happen many times and it always ends badly.

Secondly, I think honesty is the best policy. If you are in a long-term relationship and you have no intention of ever having children, and your partner starts making noises about it, it's time to have a talk and re-evaluate the goals of the relationship. Same goes if you change your mind. Having a child is a MAJOR relationship change for both parties, and really something that should be discussed at length if either partner changes their minds on that. It's also quite perminant. Once the kids are had, they're your responsibility for life.

Thirdly, why is it so hard to deal with the potential for regret when it comes to children? Sure, maybe one day I will regret not having children, but it's up to me to not let that become so crippling that it ends my happiness. I've made lots of regretful life choices in my teens and 20's that have impacted my life today. However, it's up to me to make the best of my life as it is now, and not dwell on what "could have been" over and over.

Angry Grrl said...

I was always up-front with my husband about my childfree status; it was one of the first things we covered when we started dating, and as we approached our marriage, I reminded him again that I really didn't want kids. He seemed OK with it; we've been together for 12 years, married for seven, and no babies in sight -- not now, not ever. Again, honesty is the best policy.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy this site, all the women and how they just always knew and were up front about it and never seemed to have issue with their choice. I can identify with the question posted and to Frieda-the most. I always thought I would have children, I always dreamed of the day I would be a parent. I even had names picked out since I was a little girl. Everyone said my entire life I would make a great mom, more and what the average person seems to hear. Just got bingoed again yesterday about how I would be great- due to this trait or that of my personality. Ijust smile and say no thanks.
My husband did say before we got married he would have kids. But early in the marriage he changed his mind. Or rather became more aware of his true feelings. I thought about leaving- but that really was not want I wanted as I had waited until was 28 to find him, I wondered what motherhood really meant to me, and what did I want out of my life- ect... We have been married ten years and really it has just been the last 2 years that we were or I was not longer a fence sitter. We made the choice to get a Vaz. and I am happy with that now- very happy. But the early stages of the marriage there were many sleepless nights and big tears. I read every book on the subject, and found very few that addressed my situation, but was so grateful for all that were willing to share their story. I went back and forth and never could find what I really felt. But....
I feel now that my husband gave me one of the best gifts known to man. Choice--- I had to decide on my own why I wanted kids or if I really did. What was my motivation, was it the tribal call, was it my desire to mother, was it to be in fashion like all my friends, was it because everyone just did it? I had huge pressures from my family and really difficult time with my mom. But I found me, the real me and now look at my life as mine to live to the fullest. Not something to give away just because that is what is expected. I look at my sib's life with kids and feel sorry that they did not have the gift I was given. Childfree- fits me better than motherhood would have ever. The anger and resentment of my time giving to another child would have made me mad since I could not stay home and raise one. I get mad at my dog when she has to go potty at midnight and I have to work in the morning. What about a kid?
I would say to all women in the questioning phase-Find your heart, find your dream, and ask yourself. What would you regret more, never living your life, or never watching a kid live theirs at your expense?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear "it's a choice" being used here. If you don't have children people assume that you can't. If you tell them why they think that you're insane for not wanting to have such a "blessing". I have two "blessings" myself and I'm happy about that choice. I was never a fence sitter I knew that I wanted children. Not because I thought I had to have children but because of my Aunt who never did, by choice. She taught me a lot about being a woman and how to decide what was really right for me. For that I'm thankful.

Like I said I have two "blessing's" and I still have family members and friends petitioning me to have more "blessing's". I'm perfectly content with my little card board cutouts of myself who somehow turned out to love shopping a heck of a lot more than I can handle.

So those of you who chose to not have children ROCK ON! Do what is right for you! For those of us who have... geez what were we thinking... I'm just joking.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there is no compromise on whether or not to have a child. You either do or don't. I would NEVER give up my dream of having a child or children because of the desires of another, just as I would NEVER have children just to make someone else happy.

Judy said...

Glad I found this website to share with you all. I feel unique in the sense that I came through the "childfree door" through my husband, but eventually had to come through it on my own terms. I came to a crossroads that nearly "killed me". Not suicide but scary!! I had a feeling like I couldn't go on with my life but I also couldn't go back. This is a huge
psychological pain, if anyone has been there. It never occurred to me that I would someday not have children but my life did not seem to allow it by circumstances and choices I had made. I was and thankfully am forever in love with my husband. I came to realize I couldn't "unlove him" fast enough to try to love someone else whom I would primarily use to procreate with. This biological clock stuff for women is outrageous, especially if your career minded and maybe in and out of relationships like I was.
Today, I think its the single biggest decision I have ever made (no kids) in my whole life. I thank my parents for supporting me. This has helped me a great deal. Socially, I feel has been the hardest part of all - which is probably why I'm writing this. You do look for people who think like you or have been through similar experiences. Motherhood is glorified and it was difficult to take the road less traveled. I don't ever brag about my "status" but I could. In my own mind it's given me a lot of freedom. I don't recommend my way for everyone (obviously), but I know in my heart that I have made a good choice. I need to remind myself to stand tall. Being or not being a parent shouldn't define us, no matter how hard "society" pushes back. Today now more than ever it is an actual choice!! To me that is progress and something we (as a society) could benefit from.

sfgal said...

First let me say I found this Blog, and LOVE it. I'll be reading it often :-)

I've been through a lot when it comes to my Childfree stance. I got married when I was 23, and at the time he was 'on the fence' but leaning towards a future without kids. We discussed that our marriage was about love and a partnership...not about necessarily having kids. He knew I never wanted kids. But I assume he thought I would change my mind. Since I was only 23.

Fast forward 10 wonderful, happy years, and he decides he wants kids. He badgers me about it. Pressures me to no end. Even gets his mother and my mother involved. 'Everyone else is having them' he said. 'I feel left out' he says. Basically makes me feel worthless as a woman, and totally unwanted for who I am. After 2 years of arguing about it, I finally asked him point blank:

'Do you want to be with me and be Childfree, or do you want to be with anyone else and have a baby?'

He told me he wanted a baby over me. So I left.

We divorced shortly after. It was the hardest thing to go through because I really loved him. But now I realize it was for the best and I can go on with my life and feel confidant with my choice to not be a mom :-)

He still does has not found his babymommy.

Anonymous said...

Wow LauraS -- You really stirred the pot with this post!

This is such an important relationship question, and yes it can be a deal-breaker.

As our readers point out, even if you discuss children question in the beginning, when your spouse changes his mind, that spells trouble and heartache.

Thanks to all the Purple Women here for the generous sharing. I am truly amazed by the collective wisdom. I am really gratified that this blog is meaningful to some, and that we can stir such a relevant and thoughtful dialogue.

Thanks especially to my co-Contributing Editor, LauraS!

Anonymous said...

sfgal, it sucks that your husband of 10 years decided to stop being a fence sitter and choose having children over you. Especially if he decided that he'd bring other mothers involved, especially your mother (what I'd call "out of bounds"). My mother was disappointed when she found out that she was one of the reasons I decided that didn't want children ("if you've got children, you've got nothing else" - mostly true).