Carolyn Hax: When it comes to parenthood, ignore the calendar and heed the concerns

Carolyn Hax
Columnist April 27

Adapted from a recent online discussion .

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Dear Carolyn:

When my husband and I first started talking about having a baby, he confessed that he is terrified and needed time to get used to the idea. Together, he and I picked a date on the calendar and agreed that would be the day I stopped taking my birth control pills, but that I wouldn’t make a huge deal about it because we had discussed it beforehand.

At the time, that date was 1.5 years in the future. Now it’s tomorrow! I feel exhilarated, hopeful, excited and impatient for pregnancy. I can tell my husband has been thinking about it and still feels uneasy.


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

Given that we agreed on this ahead of time, can I still go through with it despite knowing my husband still has a lot of the same fears?

Impatientville

You mean, quietly stop using birth control? No, not even when you agreed to do so.

There are no bigger deals in this world than giving and taking life. Tell him you haven’t forgotten the agreement — you’ve merely thought better of forging ahead on a technicality.

Plenty of people, if not most of them, agree to try for children while also harboring varying degrees of terror at the idea. Remind him of that, if it helps. As I’ve said before, it’s the ones without any doubts who surprise me.

Re: Consenting Yet Terrified:

I get what you’re saying, but I’d never want to reproduce with someone like that. How do you know he’s not going to end up resenting his wife and the kid he never wanted? It’s too great of a risk.

Anonymous

Not really, not if you’ve chosen your partner well. A mature and decent person will put his (or her, but using “his” for simplicity) full heart into his choice, and both accept and expect that it’s not always going to be rosy-dozy and that even the 100-percent-certain people will occasionally long for the days when they could sleep in and not have to tend constantly to others’ needs. Grownups don’t resent others for their own decisions, and having a child despite fears of what that involves is solely one’s own decision.

So, short version, don’t make babies with babies.

Re: Fear:

I, likewise, needed some time to get used to the idea. It’s like skydiving for the first time — you can watch others do it, talk to those who’ve done it, read up on the various options ... but you’re STILL alarmed as all Hades when you’re perched in the doorway of the aircraft.

This isn’t to say that any real obstacles shouldn’t be given their due consideration: Can I adequately support this child financially? Can I adequately defer my own needs to a child who isn’t in the position to fend for itself? Can I deal with the inevitable frustrations better than my own father, who beat me?!? Sure, ask yourself all the relevant questions. But if you wait to feel completely ready to be a dad, you’ll most likely be waiting forever. And by the way . . . I love being a dad.

D

You can switch out “dad” for “parent” and still be on point. I’m also sorry you got a father who made you pay so dearly for his frailties.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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