Carolyn Hax: Fiance wants a big family.  She says maybe two children – max.

Carolyn Hax: Fiance wants a big family. She says maybe two children – max.


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: How do you compromise on the number of children? And how important is it to get it right before getting married?

My future husband wants a big family, like his own. He is one of six, but he says he would be happy with four. Two sounds like the maximum I could manage while attending to my other goals. As the one who will give birth to the children, I know that I will have the final say, but I feel insecure about not agreeing on this in advance.

I also feel like I’m being a little manipulative if I say, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” when I know I’m not willing to have a third.

Unsettled: It’s not “manipulative”; it is misleading. Stand up and deal with it. “I know you want a big family and “would be happy with four.” With me, however, it won’t be more than two. So: Can you be happy with two?

“As much as I love you—and us “I can’t be a part of a life you don’t want.” So really think about it, and let me know if two kids with me sounds like the life you want most in the world.”

However you phrase it, cross that bridge now. It is very important to correct this before getting married.

It bears repeating: Family plans and family realities do not always match; you can agree on six and not tolerate any. But this is a type of life you’re debating: extended family, child-centered chaos versus something more adult-centered. They are so different, each is valid, and each of you deserves to get as close to the ideal as you can. It might just mean you two aren’t doing it together. Face it head on. Good luck.

Re: Children: Also have big conversations about how said family will function. Does he expect to be a true 50/50 partner, as in bathing/feeding/rules/following up with teachers/taking to doctor’s appointments/helping with homework? Or does he just think that a big family would be “fun” and doesn’t think about logistics?

We know from studies that women still, unfortunately, take on the majority of emotional and household work for families. I know many men personally who want more children, but who do far less than 50 percent. Of course they want more! They get the fun parts!

Dear Carolyn: My husband’s brother married a really terrible one. For a few years, my mother-in-law and I really bonded over our shared dislike of this person and the way it reinforced our perceptions of ourselves and each other—ie, “I’m so glad you’re not like that. ” Then we realized that we were very ugly behind her back and agreed to stop.

A year later, I think we both still feel awkward and can’t figure out how to find the same intimacy with each other without going back to the gossip well about my sister-in-law. It kind of strains my relationship with my mother-in-law and feels like a pleasure we’re denying ourselves. How do I grow up and get over it?

Gossip: Sounds like a great conversation to have with your mother-in-law. Seriously. You came to the cessation gossip together, so why not jointly rebuild on the land you once scorched? It seems to encourage intimacy too – something to work on together.

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