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Choosing to be childfree, but my husband still wants children.

Greetings.

I hope all very well. I have been engaging all of my practice to work through my realization that it is not my path to have children. There is something about my journey which has paralyzed me and I think it is time to turn to a sangha and humbly share my story and request any wisdom.

I have never had a maternal instinct or pictured myself as a mother, and I had a very rough family/childhood, and it took a LOT of therapy and sheer will to upright my life. I met my now-husband when I was working on my PhD and at that point I was still in the fuzzy "yeah maybe someday" abstract possibility space. But once we married and I stopped the pill it was like a force field stopped me from being able to continue. And then I finished my PhD and started teaching as a professor of sociology and I have total clarity that this is what I was put on the earth to do: to teach young people about conflict, peace and liberation--to help them grasp the dynamics of oppression and transformation--and to help them articulate their own values and visions. I have so many books to write, so many documentary films to finish. I am exhausted but really happy.

And I'm 40. And my husband really wants a child. But the more I spelunk in my heart, I encounter so many reasons why being childfree is my path:

1) logistics/timing with my career
2) he is wonderful, but was very spoiled by his Italian mother and doesn't help around the house much, so it's pretty clear I'd take all the load
3) we have no money, very little savings
4) I have a moral complaint with bringing more people into this crowded terrible world--who am I to yank someone into this existence that it has been a life-or-death struggle for me to find peace in? Why not guide and nurture people who are already here?
5) I had an ambivalent mother who resented how motherhood held her back professionally and also was destroyed by guilt and shame for neglecting motherhood and for not having the right emotional makeup to raise a mentally healthy child. It would have been better for her to maximize her strengths and give what she was meant to give, but being a mother compromised BOTH of her paths and really damaged both of us. We are for the first time in more of a place of peace because I have forgiven her--she had her own wounds form an angry mother, and she definitely tried her best. I'm different from her, and I have the emotional resources she lacked, BUT we are very similar in our devotion to our careers, and I don't want to repeat history.
6) Pregnancy, Ugh, Childbirth, BAHHHH! Nursing, GAHHHHH. Sleeplessness, vomit, screaming, tantrums, BLARGHHHHHH
7) Babies and pregnant women gross me out--I still need to do some processing on my overwhelming feeling of disdain, like "you fell for it!"--BUT when I pass dogs or puppies I feel the deep heart-full full-throated longing and tenderness that I assume some women feel for children.
8) I'm finding the courage to understand I can't just have a child out of guilt and obligation for my lovely husband.
9) I just...don't want to have a child.

So, I've pretty much figured out what's right for me.
But. I'm really sad for my husband. He has always wanted it. He isn't actually very realistic about it and I think he wants it because he's maintained a pretty abstract fantasy, and because he is very unfulfilled in his work. But nevertheless, he's really devastated that I'm coming into clarity and we're not on the same page.

I really love him and want him to be happy. But I realized my brief window of willingness was more about wanting him to be happy and enjoying the fantasy of me being able to fulfill his dream or be that mother-earth type person we wanted me to be.

But I'm not. I've got other gifts. And that's okay. I am starting to accept that.

Still the idea of drawing this bright line and being the cause of the collapse of his dream is really tearing me apart. It's the very last piece of this puzzle before I can free myself into my power, into being who I was meant to be. We are in therapy together, and we are each in individual therapy, but I'm still paralyzed.

I thought I might drop this line and see if any of you have any wisdom to share on the particular topic of navigating the painful space of embracing my path and yet disappointing a beloved husband who is still caught in unexamined longing for children, who feels robbed and betrayed by my choice.

I'd really appreciate any thoughts you have.
Thank you so much.
Me

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Sadly, in this situation, there is no 'win-win' solution. And your first 8 justifications for not having a child, are by and large made entirely redundant by reason number 9: You just don't want a child.
    You don't have to justify yourself to us, or in all honesty, to your husband.
    The fact that you don't want one - and are now in your 40's - is all the justification needed.

    And, for what it's worth (though I would never presume OR assume to speak for anyone else here) I agree with you.

    I totally get the Italian angle, by the way. Being Italian myself, I see where you're coming from (although fair to say, Italian mammas do not have monopoly of the 'Mummy's Boy' application...).

    Sorry.
    I don't have an easy answer for you, save to support your stance, and be completely, unequivocally straight, up-front and honest with your husband and tell him that you are no prepared to have a child, because you don't want one.

    Full-stop, end of story.
    Make sure you use protection, and accept the consequences of your husband's reaction.
    It will be what it will be.

    As long as he maintains his part of the Marriage Contract, you will both come through this, but be prepared for reasonable resentment, and some ill-feeling from your H and possibly, his family.

    However, if he prolongs it unnecessarily - well... you know, not everyone stays compatible, no matter how long they've been together.

    Do what is best for you.
    Not in a selfish 'me me me' way. but for the good of your sanity, personal well-being, serenity and long-term contentment.

    Good luck.

    FWIW, we're here for you.

  • Sure he wants a child, OP, because you would be doing all the work! A child is something that, from his perspective, you would gift him with, and then you'd do all the childcare, just as you're doing all the housework, and his mom did everything for him, before that.

    The other thing that jumps out at me from your narrative, is that you two can't afford a child. For some mysterious reason, you can't even afford a savings, or a retirement plan, even though you both work, and you're a university professor. (Congratulations, by the way, on that accomplishment, and on finding a sense of purpose, there!). I think you two should work on your finances. For your own sakes, not for the sake of a hypothetical child.

    Have you explained to your husband, that you're too traumatized by the bad parenting you endured while growing up, to have any nurturing feelings or desire to be a parent, yourself? This is more common than you think. But I suppose it wouldn't matter to him. He wants what he wants. Congratulations on all your therapy, btw. You've done a ton of personal work! Sometimes, when one member of a couple does a lot of therapy and healing, as you have, they come out of the process a different person, than they were when they went in. If their partner isn't flexible and supportive of the outcome, the two may end up parting ways. I agree with Federica, there.

    Why does he hate his job? Could he get some training or education, to qualify for a different profession, or for a better position in his current one?

    I see you applying nurturance in the way you're dedicated to your students, and to fostering their personal and intellectual growth. You should like a great professor! Best wishes for you, come what may.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @prospecthearts -- On the one hand, you are absolutely right to fear like the fires of hell the fallout from having children. Never mind all the goody-two-shoes blather -- having kids is an exercise (like Buddhism) for those willing to pay attention and take responsibility. It is no damned joke.

    I for one was petrified at the parental prospect when Numero Uno was knocking at the door: What the hell did I know about parenting? Wouldn't it take me away from the things I cared for and was good at? The answers, respectively, were nothing and yes and yes again.

    It was, among other things, my Zen teacher who put things into perspective when I asked him how I was to proceed with Buddhist practice with what had become three kids. He said simply, "Take care of your family."

    And this brings up "the other hand." Every reference you make to a frazzled world seems to have a negative cast (why make things worse by contributing another poor sucker?) Is there no positive note? If you train your own children in kindness and decency, is this not a nourishing means to easing some of the frazzling pains? And train you into the bargain? The honest answer is "I don't know." But one thing is certain -- the torch you hold in your quest to mold young hearts will never light the scene in precisely the way you plan it. For example, the odds favor your own inadvertent creation of a suicide bomber along the way. It's the way of the world. Unintended consequences.

    I agree with @federica -- your "no" is entirely acceptable... just like your "yes." Choose what you choose. It's your life, after all.

    But perhaps it would be worth the price of admission to re-comb your carefully-combed arguments. Scared is OK. Ignorant is OK. Savvy is OK. Imagining you've got it all figured out is not so OK. Hell, that's why most of us became Buddhists in the first place ... the old "if I'm so damned smart, how come I'm not happy?" schtick. Anyway, before you put the topic to bed, I suggest you go through it one more time ... what, precisely, would you lose, if you lost everything?

    Sorry if this is disjointed. My three kids (now out the door) were my most profound Buddhist/life practice. But that's just me. Did I want to kill them along the way -- you bet I did. Am I glad I didn't? You bet I am.

    All best wishes to you and your husband. :)

    person
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    With the greatest of respect, @genkaku , first of all, I would presume (harshly perhaps, for which I earnestly apologise in advance) that the major part of care and upbringing was down to your wife; that's not to say you weren't - and aren't - a good dad. But I have to tell you, it's a whole different ball-game of emotions for guys.

    And let us not forget (point 2) that @prospecthearts has already mentioned a husband who is, shall we say, less than co-operative when it comes to household duties.

    Thirdly, he contributes - she commits. To act as an incubator to a child she clearly doesn't want, and the whole process leaves her stone cold.

    When a woman says she doesn't want a kid - believe her.

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    I think it is a perfect decision not to have children OP. It is an equally perfect decision to have children. You have put much thought into arriving at your decision , which many people don't. Good for you. ❤

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Hozan said:
    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

    It's a different ball game entirely. I did not imply that it was lesser or inferior. Just different.

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    @federica said:

    @Hozan said:
    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

    It's a different ball game entirely. I did not imply that it was lesser or inferior. Just different.

    I would say that it is not an entirely different ball game.

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    The unconditional love a parent has for a child is a love like no other. All that that involves knows no gender differences.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    If only all fathers were cast in the same mould as you.

    I am tempted to say a lot more, but I refrain as it would be veering the subject off-topic, and I don't think that as a new member, @prospecthearts deserves that.

    I would not be disagreeing with you, but there are several angles to consider...

    Suffice to say, I just think it might be accurate to say that while the love might be there, her husband would not be as involved, proactive or as supportive a dad, as you are. ('Father' is different to 'dad'....)

    Hozan
  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran

    Such an honest open clear-minded post. If you haven’t already, you should explain exactly the same to your husband. Regardless of his hopes and dreams he couldn’t fail to see that you have considered this well and have made your decision. There is no hope to cling to, there can only be acceptance of the situation.

    You have made your decision and now he must make his, you sound like you will do what you can to make it the least painfull you can for him. The only thought really in my mind is whether you want to stay together if he accepts your decision and chooses you over being a parent? Do you want him in your future and will you not feel guilt over him not being a parent if he makes that decision? Help him understand and make an informed choice, unless deep down you’ve already made that decision for him.

  • HozanHozan Veteran

    @federica said:
    If only all fathers were cast in the same mould as you.

    I am tempted to say a lot more, but I refrain as it would be veering the subject off-topic, and I don't think that as a new member, @prospecthearts deserves that.

    I would not be disagreeing with you, but there are several angles to consider...

    Suffice to say, I just think it might be accurate to say that while the love might be there, her husband would not be as involved, proactive or as supportive a dad, as you are. ('Father' is different to 'dad'....)

    I agree entirely @federica both parents need to be willing to give it 100% and share the work and responsibilities. No doubt about it.

    federica
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Hozan said:

    @federica said:

    @Hozan said:
    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

    It's a different ball game entirely. I did not imply that it was lesser or inferior. Just different.

    I would say that it is not an entirely different ball game.

    I have to disagree - it is different. I speak as both a single and coupled mother. Not for one minute is a father’s role lesser or inferior. But they are entirely different due to our very natures.

    My ex-husband (certainly NOT the example of the average dad),,, the less said the better. My fiancé, is an exceptional father and has raised three sons on his own till I moved in to help. And I say help because I am certainly not going to assume their mother’s role. They have a mother (again the less said the better). But his role as a single father is a very different role to mine as a single mother.

    At the end of the day OP, reason number 9 invalidates all the other reasons.
    🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    I have seen this with couples. It is never easy for them.
    Usually it is the woman who wants children and the husband who doesn't want them. And usually the wife gives up her dream and learns to invest her interests in other things, keeping the marriage.

    I am sorry for your dilemma. It would be a mistake to have a child when you yourself don't want one.

    Kundo
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    I just...don't want to have a child.

    In the long run it's you and your partner's dilemma, and no matter what answers any of us give ...at the end of the day you will do what you feel is the right thing to do...( for you )

    Having a baby is the right thing to do .... "Uncertainty"
    And...
    Not having a baby is (also) the right thing to do ....."Uncertainty"

    Such is life's conundrum.....

    I guess if we throw a Buddhist answer in then I would have to say....."Meditate"

    person
  • HozanHozan Veteran

    @Kundo said:

    @Hozan said:

    @federica said:

    @Hozan said:
    Its not a whole different ball game of emotions for guys. Dads are just as deeply connected to their children @federica

    It's a different ball game entirely. I did not imply that it was lesser or inferior. Just different.

    I would say that it is not an entirely different ball game.

    I have to disagree - it is different. I speak as both a single and coupled mother. Not for one minute is a father’s role lesser or inferior. But they are entirely different due to our very natures.

    My ex-husband (certainly NOT the example of the average dad),,, the less said the better. My fiancé, is an exceptional father and has raised three sons on his own till I moved in to help. And I say help because I am certainly not going to assume their mother’s role. They have a mother (again the less said the better). But his role as a single father is a very different role to mine as a single mother.

    At the end of the day OP, reason number 9 invalidates all the other reasons.
    🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

    Fundamentally its not different. We can agree to disagree

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    With the greatest of respect, @genkaku , first of all, I would presume (harshly perhaps, for which I earnestly apologise in advance) that the major part of care and upbringing was down to your wife;

    @federica -- There was when my kids were little and is to this day a sense of sadness: You are absolutely correct. Based on income needs, my wife carried much of the burden. Even today I marvel ... what the hell would I do with three children at supper time when all I wanted to do was kick back with a beer? ... yikes! So yes, you are right -- things are different.

    But over time it is interesting to observe the division of labor that nature seems to enforce. This is not to excuse my activities, but merely to point it out. One partner does X and the other does Y ... it just seems to work out that way.

    From where I sit, women are the potential living avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, the preserver. Men seem to hog up on Brahma (the creator) and Shiva (the destroyer). ... How's that for a sexist broad brush? :) Women clean up the pottery that men seem to destroy.

    I am truly sympathetic to anyone who doesn't want kids. Likewise, I am sick to death of what darling little buggers those 'blessings' might be or anyway be praised for being. Every blessing comes with a curse, so I guess there's little reason to exempt children and/or the having of them.

    As I said, I agree with the assessment that the OP should stick to her guns. And also, I see no reason not to make sure the I's are honestly dotted and the T's honestly crossed. Just my take.

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