Changing Her Mind About Not Having Children

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Hey Whit,

When my husband, “Brian”, and I got married (well, actually before we got married) we decided that we didn’t want to have kids. Now five years later, I’m 31 and he’s 32 and I’ve changed my mind after a variety of experiences.

For example, I often see friends with their children and how much they love them. And sometimes these are couples that said they didn’t want to have kids anytime soon, or at all. Other times I will feel kind of jealous when friends get together with other friends who have kids, and they talk while their kids play together. It just looks like what a family should be.

All of these experiences have got me thinking that I want to have kids now, and it’s not only is it a possibility, it’s a certainty—I know that I want to have a kid(or kids). But every time that I’ve broached the subject with my husband, he shuts it down by saying, “We agreed before we got married that we were not going to have any children.” What really bothers me even more than the fact that he doesn’t want to discuss it is the way that he acts like he can just decide, and that’s that.

Am I stuck because of what I said before we got married? Can’t a person change her mind? I don’t want to leave my husband, but I’m feeling kind of desperate about doing something. What do you think?

Wants to be a Mom

Dear Wants:

What I think is that even if you had signed a No-Progeny-Ever- contract, you could still void the agreement if you changed or change your mind. But even that kind of intent only has force as long as both parties agree. The fact is that you changed your mind, no matter how adamant Brian is that you are not allowed to.

You say you don’t want to leave Brian, but from the desperation you convey, I sense that you aren’t willing to drop the matter in the interest of staying with him either. That being the case, you need to talk to Brian in a way that keeps him from dismissing your hopes and desires peremptorily. Ask yourself if you want to even be married to someone (children or not) who confronts complications by denying their existence, let alone their legitimacy.

You are going to have to legitimize your wishes directly and forcefully. For example, preface the subject of your wanting to have children like this: “Brian, I really don’t want us to break up over this, but what really bothers me about the whole issue of having a child is that you won’t even consider what I have to say.” Then see what he has to say. If he repeats his objection, then the rigidity he displays is even more crucial to your decision than how he feels about producing offspring.

If nothing else, you will get his attention when you let him know that the marriage is in jeopardy if you two don’t talk. Don’t back down or hedge or let him browbeat you. If you do, I think you might shock him into an awareness of how he is squashing your future, which includes him–or not.



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  1. First, let me applaud Whit (per usual), who has handled a sensitive situation with kindness and a supportive and positive attitude. I think he has given “Wants to be a Mom” very calm and sound advice.

    At the risk of sounding harsh, however, I’d like to throw out another thought or two as well. I worry the tiniest bit about the “variety of experiences” that have caused “Wants” to change her mind, and I also feel a need to speak for her husband, who may feel a bit blind-sided about her new desires. For “Wants” to say that she is envious of friends who have children, because of “how much they (the parents) love them (the children)” or because “they (the parents) talk while their kids play together [and] it just looks like what a family should be” are risky and naive premises for starting a family. I assume she has more concrete reasons for changing her mind, but I could understand why the husband might not agree with her somewhat vague reasoning at this point.

    Also, it sounds like these two got married with the express intention of not procreating, so for “Wants” to go back on that agreement could be a bit of a deal breaker for BOTH of them. Anyone who has raised children knows that those magical moments when you are able to be a “grown up,” WHILE your children play happily with each other are indeed magical and RARE. Raising children is the toughest job you’ll ever love, and it will wreak havoc on the best marriage, if the parents are not working hard together all the time. (My bona fides are four twenty-something kids, two biological and two step, who I’m sure blame me for most of their problems…sigh.)

    So, I support “Wants,” if she decides that her desire for children trumps her desire to continue her current marriage. And I wholeheartedly support Whit for suggesting that she MUST have an honest talk with her husband about this dramastic decision she wants to make (yes, I made that up — it is dramatic and drastic at the same time). I will offer only one plea to “Wants” — please do not just unilaterally decide to get pregnant, hoping that your husband will change his mind once he finds out you are having a baby. That is not the same thing as when my husband came home to find a “surprise” kitten in our bathroom. A baby is permanent, and deserves to have both parents on board with the decision to bring him or her into this world.

  2. Thanks for your insightful and expansive comments, Millicent (also for drawing the distinction between envious and jealous–one that has been on life-support for too long and will soon be unplugged before being dumped in a pauper’s grave). My take is that her emotions have now started the process that will benefit from rational consideration, which is necessary because of her husband’s opposition.

    Also, I will do my bit to help “dramastic” get a running start.

  3. What I notice is missing from the writer’s letter is any mention of how things are between Brian and her otherwise than about becoming parents. Usually letters writers are at great pains to say first how “wonderful” or “terrific” the person they then proceed to complain about is. But emotional connection in this case is MIA from any picture I can draw of what it’s like to be in this union. If everything with Brian and her were fantabulous, there might be an argument for making a choice to stay childless. But the marriage sounds like an emotional vacuum to start with. What is she getting out of this marriage? I think it would be better for her to have children as a single mother (if she can swing it) than to raise a child with a father who didn’t want him or her and seems to be absent even when present.

    • Thanks, In the Mix, you could be right about the absence of superlatives for Wants to Be a Mom’s husband. My sense is that she left it out because she has become so desperate that nothing else, including his strong points, matters to her. But I did get the same impression from his imperious dismissal of her hopes for motherhood.

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