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No more kids — I’m tired!

What to do when you’ve been raising children for half your life but your husband is desperate for another?

Our elder counsels a mother whose heart is breaking.

Dear EWC

Hi, I’m 35 years old. I have an 18 year old and a 15 year child from my previous marriage. My husband and I have one child, a six year old. My husband has been hinting at wanting another child for quite a while now. We have had various discussions in the past, and I always felt like we came to the conclusion that having another child would cost too much, and be too much strain on all of us, not to mention my “not so young anymore” body. Just today I had my birth control replaced and it lasts three years. This evening my husband had an emotional breakdown telling me how sad he is that our son is almost in 1st grade already, and how he can’t stand to look at his baby pictures because it only reminds him that he’ll never have that experience again. He started crying and told me he desperately wants another child, and while he understands why I wouldn’t want to have another, it’s causing him enormous pain. He understand that I’ve had three kids and have every reason to be done, and to look towards the future. But he feels cheated and wants nothing more than a second child. I am scared to death that he is going to start resenting me. I have noticed that he has been more distant and moody these last few weeks leading up to my doctor appointment.

This man is absolutely the love of my life. He loves my kids like his own. He works as a correctional officer so we can have nice things, and in fact is currently delaying getting a second job so we can have even more nice things. He helped my oldest son with every step of his college process and without hesitation paid for his various tests and application fees and didn’t bat an eye when he needed a co-signer for his student loans. He makes sure that we are able to make the four hour trip to Chicago once a month where we spend the weekend so we can see him. He encourages my daughter and is planning her college visits right now. He’s amazing and deserves the world…. But I’m 35 years old. I have a kid in college. And I have no desire to go through another pregnancy. It’s also quite nice not having to pay for daycare. And I have been raising kids since I was 17. So what do I do? Is he going to end up resenting me? I would do anything for him, so why not this? And am I being selfish if I honestly can’t wait until my kids are all grown so I can have my own time and hobbies? Having another child is another 18 years before I finally get to figure out who I am. So what are your thoughts? My heart is currently breaking.

Folk replies

Your feelings about having another baby are very understandable… but so are your husband’s. You have been raising children for more than half your life and now that your oldest is in college and your youngest is in school, you are enjoying a little more flexibility in both your routine and your budget. From where you are standing now, you can just catch a glimpse of the day you will be childfree off in the distance, and you do not want to cause this horizon to recede by having another baby. I do not think that this is selfish of you at all. Even though you love your husband dearly, you are still a person with thoughts and dreams and future plans of your own — which do not always correspond with his. If your husband felt the same way as you do, there would be no problem. But even though he understands and appreciates your feelings on the matter, he desperately wants to have another child — and his feelings are just as strong as your own. The number of children a couple has is a highly personal matter, and it often takes some negotiating to come to an agreement. Sometimes it’s the wife who wants more children, sometimes the husband. But since every baby born deserves to be wanted by both parents, if the couple cannot agree, the default decision is usually not to have another child.

Your husband’s sadness is very understandable. Deciding to close a chapter in one’s life is always a little painful. No matter how many children one has, the decision to finally call it quits is almost always accompanied by a period of mourning. I have eight children and even after my eighth child was born, the baby cravings did not go away immediately. I mourned and was sad for a while and then moved on. It’s possible that given a little more time, your husband will move on too. If you do not want another child and have one to keep your husband from potentially resenting you, it’s possible that you might come to resent him instead — or you might even resent your new child. From your description of him, your husband sounds like an amazing man with a lot of love to give. Perhaps he might consider acting as a Big Brother to a fatherless child. It is not the same as having another child of his own of course, but being a mentor to a young child who needs a father figure in his life might help ease your husband’s sense of loss.

My second suggestion may sound a bit silly, but have you considered getting your husband a puppy? After my husband retired, he was lonely and at loose ends because yet another chapter in his life had closed. All our kids had left home and he missed all the commotion. He also missed the companionship of his colleagues at work. So I got him a ten week old puppy, and it changed his life. Having that puppy to tend to, train, and care for took his focus off his own sadness and gave him something to love that loves him back unconditionally. I know it is heart wrenching for you to see your wonderful husband so miserable. Especially when you know you have the power to end his suffering by giving him another child. I suggest you give the situation a little more time and see if it resolves itself. If your husband is still just as depressed about your decision not to have another child after three or four months have passed, you can always revisit it. I hope this helps. If you would like to talk more about this, I am always here.

Letter #: 419467
Category: Children

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