When You and Your Partner Disagree About Kids

by Aurora Bordeaux

A common topic in the kingdom of childfree couples is the conflict that can arise when one person in a couple doesn’t want kids and the other person does. That’s a heck of a conundrum, and one that googling “help me God” alone can’t solve for you. So what do you do if you’re not both on the same page about one of the most life altering decisions you’ll ever make?

Lordy, honey. I have no idea.
If you’re reading this blog, I’ll assume that you’re the one who isn’t into kids. Let’s start there. I’m sure that if we view the situation objectively, stay calm, and break things up into pieces, we’ll have a solution by tea time.

Actually, I’m full of it. I don’t have any good advice for you. All I can really do is hand you a figurative wad of cookies to dull the pain and talk about the wonders of how peaceful tea time can be without sticky kids running around yanking on the tablecloths.

I’m sure that, since you found this wonderful blog, you’re very smart, and therefore I can’t tell you anything you haven’t already thought about. But just in case, here are a few things to throw out there:

  • How long have you been in this relationship?
  • How important is the relationship to you? (Be honest.)
  • What are your reasons for not having kids? List all of them, from big ones to tiny ones, most personal to most general.
  • What are your partner’s reasons for wanting them?

You could also try renting a baby for a weekend, or longer. This may seem hard, but it’s surprisingly easy to do. Chances are that you know people who have kids under a year old, and they’re probably desperate to unload them on someone else. They can do this under the pretense of trying to get you to come on board into the breeder club, but in reality, they’re hard up for sleep and relief. Borrow a baby and see how it goes.

If you do rent a baby, you can also lovingly sabotage your partner by not being very helpful. This may give them a fresh perspective on what life might be like if you made a kid but were forced to mentally check out all the time just to stay sane.

When choosing a baby to rent, be particular. Don’t get a really adorable, easy, fun baby with neat little outfits and cute miniature shoes. Find a cantankerous one, a loud one, one with boogers always in the nose whose parents are almost certain not to return to pick him up at the agreed upon time.

I have also found that people who are on the edge of a childmaking decision find church helpful. I’m not talking about preaching or prayer, but about the cat-herding hell of Sunday school. Each week, litters of babies scream their heads off in church basements as they sit propped like freshly sprung mushrooms with doodey in their pants. There is nothing, nothing like the stress of “teaching” Sunday school to a gaggle of babies who aren’t having any of it. Stroll through a few churches on Sundays and listen to the wails echoing off the walls. If that doesn’t shatter your partner’s nerves, you have a problem. It means they want kids–bad.

Above all, try to remember that when you are talking to your partner about “to have or not to have,” it isn’t about winning or losing. But I really hope that, if you truly don’t want kids, you win. Not because I’m mean, but because I’ve seen firsthand what can happen when both parties in a couple aren’t on board. It’s too big of a decision not to agree on.

You can always fall back on the “one more year” clause, which is inherent in most relationships. Just agree that you’ll both give it one more year. Maybe by then you’ll be joyously bit by the baby bug (and I wish you well!), or maybe you won’t. Either way, a year takes some of that pressure off and lets you both think about it some more. Just remember, once you have the baby, there are no returns–only other childfree couples to pawn the kid off on when you’re desperate for a break.

  • Leslie says:

    I literally LOLed. Good stuff!

    April 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm
  • me says:

    I am the one who doesn’t want kids but I categorically don’t agree with the way you think we should persuade the other not to have them. Everybody has the right to be a parent and everybody has the right not to. When two people are not in tune they have to split up.

    My partner realised that I didn’t want to have kids but we are still together. I am quite happy but I know deep down that he would have liked his life to be different. I used to blame myself for his occassional sadness but not anymore. When he made the decision to stick with ne he took responsibility of the consequences.


    April 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm
    • Aurora Bordeaux says:

      “Me”: I agree with you on most points, except the one where you say a couple should split over kids. That could be true if it’s a top priority to one or both, but as you said, and as you seem to be evidence of, it doesn’t have to break people up. I guess it all just depends on the couple and what they want most out of life. It sounds like you’ve created a relationship of balance, where there may be moments of sadness on your partner’s part, counteracted by you letting yourself off the hook for being who you are, and ultimately strengthened by your mutual ballast of loving each other. Sounds like it works.

      As for the way I proposed we should persuade each other, I hope it adequately comes across that I’m being sarcastic. Renting babies is all well and good, but decisions this big don’t always have clear cut answers. That’s where humor becomes a coping mechanism. Sometimes, in the midst of trials and tug of wars, it’s good to throw up your hands and just have a laugh about it.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm
  • Lisa says:

    If one partner wants kids and the other doesn’t they need to discuss if not having kids is a deal breaker. I read time and time again on other childfree sites that if one partner wants kids and the other doesn’t it is a deal breaker and they split up.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:41 am
  • Claire says:

    I was in a relationship with someone that wanted kids, and I did not. We were dating for almost a year and when neither of us changed our minds, we split up. A decision that big can’t be negotiated. It’s a shame and has led to the destruction of many partnerships.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:59 am
  • Artemis says:

    I consider myself lucky to have found a partner also CF from start. But I can sympathize with couples who are passing through that.

    I do not think it is wrong to try to “persuade” each others from their opinion (of course in healthy ways. There are – although we hate to admit, and it is bad for us – people who think they are childfree, but are just childless, insecure and unstable (financially, psychologically, etc). And there are people who just never thought that having babies is a CHOICE. They take that as a default of life, and assumed they will have babies, but when give it a second and deeper thought, they do not want it (Google is full of those cases).

    Sometimes we need to be there for our partners, make sure their decision is only theirs, not based on family and society´s pressure, make sure they are ready to take it (therefore the idea of renting a baby, imo, is awesome). Talk about the full costs – including moving out to more child-friendly zone neighborhood – also helps to wake people up from ideas that are, sometimes brainwashed and unreal. That should not be taken as a cold shower or pushing down on their choice, that is what partners should do to each others when a independent decision will change the whole relationship, like moving to another country, taking a big loan for something, buying a house, etc.

    If, in the end of all, both keep on with their opinion, you know you helped that person to be more aware of what really means to have a baby, you helped that person to grow. Splitting up is probably for the best (which would also be if one decide to move to another country and the other does not want it, etc).

    But, as it happens in some cases, you might be surprised^^ I would take the chance if it was a very important relationship.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:34 am
  • H. says:

    Hello! I think that “renting a baby”/longer-term babysitting isn’t a half-bad idea; it brings an often-needed reality-check to the situation.
    I’m CF, my boyfriend is sorta on the fence and has a “kodak-moment” view of parenthood, at least to a degree. My good friend who is a new mother came to visit me, along with her squirming, crying, biting 8 m/o.
    After babysitting the kid for an hour and spending the rest of the weekend with baby+mama, my boyfriend definitely came to understand that babies are WORK. That’s all I rationally can ask of the situation.
    This is a great blog. Keep posting!

    June 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm
  • Film Company Lawyer says:

    If my husband sprung that on me, we’d be finished. He’s the love of my life but that means he’d have married me under false pretenses. I always asked about that issue on the first date as well as if the person was pro-life or pro-choice (for me, it’s a waste of time to get attached to someone romantically if you don’t agree on major life points).

    I also think it’s the height of selfishness for a guy to demand children from a woman who doesn’t want to have them. The guy isn’t going to have to be pregnant or worry about his uterus drooping. HE won’t be getting fat or having his body permanently changed. Statistically speaking, he won’t even be doing the majority of the child rearing tasks.

    You could always volunteer & help kids who are already here and might want a big brother/sister or need some adult mentor in their lives. You could even babysit for small children & thereby do something nice for some stressed out parent. There are plenty of kids who are already here who could use help.

    Otherwise, I don’t see it not leading to serious resentment later on. Children aren’t toys & don’t ask to be born. If you can’t give them 100%, you have no business bringing one into the world & causing it torment through resentment, abuse, or whatever else gives that child psychological trauma that society has to deal with at some point. I may be childfree but I sure don’t hate children. I think they deserve to be wanted & not viewed as an inconvenience or a means to hurt the other parent.

    August 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm
  • Azza D says:

    My man of 4 years recently broke up with me on this very issue. I said from day 1 that I absolutely do not and will never want children. He tried to tell me that we could have them and my life would not change at all. We could hire nanny’s and send them to daycare and he could take paternity leave and we could still go on spontaneous holidays (it was not uncommon for us to book 2 week long trips overseas a week before we decided to leave) and his parents would watch the kids. He also had this kodak picture of having children though as well, dropping them off at school together and watching their sports matches and dance recitals etc.

    I work 70 hour weeks and usually leave the house by 8.30 in the morning and often don’t get home until 10 at night. It is not uncommon for me to wake up on a Saturday morning and say “Let’s go here this weekend” jump in the car and take off. I love him dearly and would do damn near anything for him, but he was asking the impossible of me. He kept hoping I would change my mind and when it didn’t happen after four years he decided to end it and frankly, my first question if a guy is interested from now on is going to be “Do you want children” and if the answer is “yes” or “maybe one day” I’m heading home. When it’s something that is so fundamental to someone’s life choices (he thinks if you don’t have children you are a failure at life) it’s not going to work out.

    October 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm

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