Wants a Third writes,
I am writing to ask for advice on how to accept that my husband doesn't want more children and I do. We are in our early 30's and have 2 healthy, beautiful children aged 2 and 6 months. He is a great dad and I think we are working well together as parents most of the time- I am very thankful for what we have together. Through our relationship of 7 years (3 married), we have discussed how many children we wanted and had agreed to 3. Both times I have been pregnant, he has hoped for twins, confirming in my mind that a third baby would be considered a blessing. He is in the military and we live far away from family and get posted around the country every few years. Right now, I have my dream job with a pension and benefits (including maternity pay) and in many ways dread the idea of having to quit when he gets posted next, although I do accept that it is a reality of the military family lifestyle and he does what he can to get postings that are in line with my career goals too.
When our first child was born, my husband was eager for me to get pregnant again as soon as I was willing, as we wanted our children to be close in age, so by the time our first baby was 6 months old, we were planning when to have another. I worked hard to get back in shape and return to work so we could save for education, pay for child care, and plan another pregnancy. Baby #2 came in April- I have gotten back in shape, and although our sex life isn't as fiery was it was pre-kids, I am still nursing and we have 2 very young children and we still have sex 1-2 times per week. I would love to have one more baby and it has been weighing on my mind a lot. I think one more kid would be the max for me.
Finally, we talked about it yesterday, and he says that he is almost certain that he is done having babies and clearly he had thought about it a lot because he had lots of good reasons for being happy with the number of kids we have: 1) he wants us to retire young and live very comfortably- therefore we save money aggressively, 2) he wants to maintain his identity outside of his role as a parent and feels that each additional child will leave less time for us and him as his own person, 3) paying for a third child will mean that we can afford to visit our extended family less often, meaning less quality of relationship for our kids with aunts, uncles, grandparents, 4) he worries about overburdening me if he gets deployed.
I feel the opposite- I am an only child and feel that 1) another child would give our kids a bigger family to love and be there for each other when the going gets tough (i.e.: getting posted, or when we get old and pass away- my dad died when I was pretty young and it was an extremely lonely experience as my mother was estranged from him my whole life and did not even attend his funeral, so to me it is a real concern for our kids to have a strong 'tribe'), 2) I grew up poor (he didn't), so what we have and provide to our kids is already way more than I ever had, so my definition of comfortable retirement is more modest than his, 3) I think we could still afford to visit family reasonably often and could offer to chip in for them to visit us instead of always paying for 5 plane tickets, and 4) I think it's also really easy to list off the tangible inconveniences of having another baby, it's harder to describe the benefits, but I think another child would further enrich our family. I don't want to look back on my life and wish that our family was bigger.
I really feel like I'd be giving up something that I really want in my life and it's very painful to consider that my family is not going to grow any bigger when I thought for sure it would. I feel like I'm already giving up a lot by moving around and putting my career second to his, so although I respect that he doesn't want to overburden me or himself, paradoxically I don't want to give up my dream of a larger family when I am giving up other things such as my job every time he gets posted. Neither of us wants resentment to build over this, he is a great husband and dad. Right now I feel strongly that I'm losing something very important, although I would rather have 2 kids and healthy marriage than 3 kids and a divorce.
Your thoughts on how to move forward? I feel kind of nuts for feeling such grief over a theoretical person who does not exist.
You are basically the same person as me, so I feel uniquely qualified to tell you that you are right and your husband is wrong. Just kidding, but we are very similar. I was also an only child who was lonely and yearned for siblings, and I also had my first two kids 1.5 years apart. My husband would have been fine stopping with two (or probably even one) and I pushed really hard for #3. Unlike you guys, though, before having kids and even after having two, I was still on the fence about #3, who is pictured above and who is the light of my life at age three right now. It wasn't till my second was about a year old before I started really wanting the third.
Your husband has always wanted a third, so this bodes well for you, but he may be in shell shock from having two kids in 1.5 years, which is hard on any marriage. Having a second kid is hard on marriages in general, and the closer the kids are, the more challenging your day to day life is. So, it may well be that your husband is stressed out and can't fathom adding to this stress right now, and since he's a logical type of guy, he comes out with one million fact-based reasons why he can never have another kid, rather than saying, "I'm so stressed out right now with two kids that I really can't even have a discussion about a third for another year at least." Note that he says "almost certain" and not "I would sever my own vas deferens with a rusty butter knife before having a third child."
First, you can try acceptance, and this perspective I shared with a woman who has two boys and also wants a girl. Consider seeing your own counselor, and working through your unresolved childhood grief and pain from loneliness, resentment, and sadness. I am like you, and sometimes I think no amount of babies would be enough to fill up that hole, which is why despite sometimes wanting #4, I am abstaining (for now. 99%.)
- Most people tend to think going from two to three kids is easier than one to two, since you're already dealing with multiple kids, and by #3, you're way more chillaxed
- If you feel fulfilled and happy by having a third kid and completing your family (from your perspective at least) you're likely to make a lot more money because you can really throw yourself into your career. Otherwise you're going to be noodling around, hoping he gives you the say so for another kid, or throwing yourself compulsively into overparenting your existing kids as an outlet for your baby yearning. This happened to me. With the first two, I was working ten hours a week and now after #3, my family is done in my mind so I am throwing myself into making money to pay for them.
- You're totally right with that moving all the time for his job thing. Incidentally, has the dynamic generally been that he ends up convincing you to do what he wants in life? If so, that may be something to discuss in couples counseling.
- WTF are you doing paying for five tickets every time anyone visits you? (Sorry, that wasn't a fact, just something to explore.)
- Empathizing that right now, things are very hectic with two kids and you would like to defer this discussion for six months until things with two kids feel more under control
- Instituting a "rule" that each of you gets a half day per weekend to do whatever you want, thereby addressing his "no non-parent identity" concern
- Making sure you're responding to whatever his love language is (I'm guessing sex just since it is for many guys) and directly address his concerns about not having enough time for sex with three kids running around.
- Expressing that you will continue to make the relationships with extended family a priority, and that, out of all people on earth, it appears that you with your childhood history of estrangement and loneliness would be the person who would be most likely to invest effort into all family relationships.
- Have a very concrete discussion in six months, possibly with a financial planner, about how much money you guys need for retirement if you retire at various different ages, how much should be invested in what ways, and a plan for how you can add to the family income when the third child, if you have one, is old enough to go to preschool or elementary school.
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