I am a mid-thirties male who has been married for more than six years and have been with my wife for over a decade. The relationship is great. We love to travel to exotic places, see goofy movies, eat adventurous food, and all around have a wonderful life. So why am I writing, you ask? Well, as we are both now in our mid-thirties the question of having a child keeps coming up. We talk about it often and go back and forth about the issue. At any given moment I can be totally against having children (especially when we are out somewhere and there is a screaming child throwing a tantrum). But then I will see a couple with their young child playing in a park and the kid will run up and hug them and it melts my heart. To be totally honest I think I am slightly more on board then my wife is about having children (she calls it the big fade).
I have many concerns that I have expressed to my wife and we communicate openly. There are two major sides to the issue. The first in the negative camp is -- Will a child ruin the relationship we have now? I have been with my spouse for one third of my life and not to be corny, but she is perfect for me. We will have an issue from time to time but we are quick to resolve it through communication and respect for each other. What if we have a child and we start to fight more or she resents me because there is not nearly as much freedom as we used to have. What if we both resent the child for what it did to our relationship? Right now we can do what we want to do when we want to do it. Also, if we do not have a child we could most likely retire younger and just enjoy our lives together. But is that selfish?
That brings me to the pro side of the child debate. My wife is an intelligent caring person who I know would make a great mother. I hope that I could be a good father. I worry that we would be missing out on an essential part of human experience if we chose not to procreate. Would we look back in 30 years and wish that we had a child? I have always been a very content person. Before I met my wife I was happy. But after meeting her life was that much more fulfilling. A child might bring another level of enrichment to both of our lives. I love the idea of having a little piece of her and me to share my life with in a child.
I wanted to ask you and all the readers their thoughts on this conundrum. It would be useful to hear from both camps (pro/con) and how they live their lives. What are your thoughts, Meredith? Are you pro or con?
– To Child or Not to Child, Boston
Oh, TCONTC, I wish I could tell you what to do, but I can't. I give advice about love -- but I'm not a Magic 8 Ball. I can't tell you whether a child will make your life better or worse. I can't tell you whether a child will destroy what you have with your wife or enhance your relationship.
But I can tell you that there's always something to miss out on in life. We can't do everything. If you don't have a kid, you'll miss out on raising a child with your partner, which is huge. And if you do have a kid, you'll miss out on more travel, giggling in front of the television without interruption, sleeping in on Sundays, and other fun things that make a relationship beautiful. Also huge.
I can't say whether I'm "pro" or "con" when it comes to kids, but I can say this: Couples don't have to have kids to have a complex, meaningful relationship. And the word "selfish" isn't a part of this decision. I know many childless couples who are a part of a greater community of family and friends.
No matter what you do, you'll have a chance to give back to your world.
Please continue to have this conversation with your wife, but try not to frame it as FOMO (fear of missing out). It's not about which option deprives you of the most; it's about what you want to be doing in five years, how you define family, how you like to interact with each other, and what's important to you, in general. Don't make it about regret, because I promise you, both options have the potential to be very, very fantastic. Think of it as, "Which awesome and overwhelming life choice appeals to us most?"
Readers? How should a couple navigate this decision? Should it be about FOMO? Can people with/without kids speak up, please? Help.