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Family Almanac

Dodging The Stork And Some Old Family Issues

By Marguerite Kelly
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page C08

Q. How can I convince my husband that I can't wait much longer to start our own family?

We met when I was 30 and he was 41. He had been married for 15 years, divorced for two, and had two daughters.

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When our relationship got serious, I asked him whether he wanted more children, as it was very important to me. He said he wouldn't mind but not for a few years, because he didn't want his daughters to feel like they were being "replaced."

That was five years ago. Now, after a year of marriage, I want to have a child of our own, but my husband thinks we should wait another year, at least.

A new baby, he says, might have a negative effect on his relationship with his children -- now 15 and 18 -- and his ex-wife.

I can see that she might object, because she did everything possible to turn the girls against him after the divorce and really made things hard for us in the beginning. She would tell the girls their father was wrong for "dating" and it wasn't what "good fathers" did.

She won't have anything to do with me or let me attend the children's birthday parties or school events. We've followed her rules to avoid unnecessary turmoil and she has mellowed a bit, perhaps because she is in a semi-serious relationship.

Thankfully, the children are well adjusted and mature, and we get along well.

They now realize that their father isn't a bad guy; they come over regularly. They get good grades, they're active at school, and they have nice friends.

I think my husband feels that the dust has finally settled and that another child would just stir things up. We haven't even told the girls or his ex that we are married for fear of "stirring things up."

The thought of postponing motherhood for another year is more than I can stand. I have sacrificed so much for the girls that I'm beginning to resent them and don't even want to be around when they come over.

How can I convince my husband that a new baby won't scar his children for life and that his ex-wife's feelings shouldn't matter so much?

A.Your husband is fighting fear. And he's losing.

Although he managed to live with a controlling woman for 15 years, her efforts to turn his daughters against him must have been devastating. Very few parents can bear to think of an estrangement from their children, even a temporary one.

This leaves the problem in your hands.

You can ask your husband to see a marriage counselor with you, so she can get his side of the story, too, or simply tell him that you're ready to announce your marriage to the girls and ask him to be with you when you do.

If he agrees, make it a lovely celebration in a fancy restaurant and give his daughters fine, identical rings to remind them that they are part of your marriage.

But if your husband doesn't agree to the announcement, remind him that marriage is a mutual commitment and that you have the right to tell the girls -- or anyone -- about it. And then do exactly that. Your stepchildren have the right to know that their dad has married again and that he kept this secret because he loves his daughters so much and was afraid that the news might make them pull away from him. He won't want you to tell them, but his girls are old enough and steady enough to understand and deal with this adult dilemma, as long as you explain it honestly.

Use either this occasion or a later one -- with or without your husband -- to give the girls those rings of commitment and to tell them that you're delighted to have such a good relationship with them. And then tell them you also want a relationship with a child of your own, but their dad thinks a baby might make them feel displaced.

Now ask them if he's right. Do they think a baby sister or brother would push them out of the picture? If so, how can you reassure them? And if they don't think they'll feel displaced, ask them to talk with their dad and make him understand that a new baby would really be okay with them. He'll believe his daughters long before he'll believe you or anyone else.

As for their mother, let the girls tell her about your marriage, since she won't have anything to do with you. She may accept you -- and a baby -- better when she knows you're not actually living in sin.

Questions? Send them to advice@margueritekelly.comor to Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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