Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have been married 12 years and have no kids. Prior to getting married, my husband was aware that I did not want kids, and he expressed the same sentiment. Throughout our marriage we have had the conversation and agreed we do not want kids. That has not changed. We don’t want kids.
My husband has three nephews and one niece. My husband tries to attend all the nephews’ games. I have no interest in spending my weekends or weeknights attending children’s soccer matches, tennis matches or basketball games. If I did, I would have had kids.
My husband gets upset when I refuse to go. He thinks it looks bad and he has to constantly make excuses.
His niece is a few months old. Whenever I’m around her, her mother places her in my hands and then disappears. I get stuck holding the baby for long periods of time. I don’t mind a few minutes, but I don’t want to spend my whole visit holding the child or feeding her.
I know I sound horrible, and I probably am. But, should I just suck it up? Should I attend all the games and hold the baby with no complaint? Is there a good compromise?
Anonymous: Your down times aren’t just his, they’re yours, too. His family, though, has no ownership stake.
That’s the gist of it regardless of the nature of the events he’s trying to foist on you.
But — kids’ sports? Really?
You’re not horrible. Your husband doesn’t sound horrible, either, so please phrase it kindly when you tell him that I said he is completely deranged.
People routinely miss their own kids’ games. Coaches miss. And not just because having multiple little athletes/athlete-proxies forces them to, but because a team’s season can easily have games numbering in the dozens — and sometimes the operating instructions for having a multidimensional life state that next Sunday’s third-nephew Regional Elite Select Invitational Quarterfinal Shootout Showdown Pro Cup Qualifier is an unfortunate must-miss.
Some will note my reference to a “season” and be overcome with nostalgia.
I love watching my kids play. I go to lengths to get to their games that some might call contortionist. And my kids love it when their aunties come watch. But the idea that any adult is tethered to a youth schedule is an idea not bred to survive in the wild.
That the idea has taken root in your marriage says one of three things (or a bit of all of them): that your husband is okay with serving priorities outside the marriage; that his family insists on being his priority; that you aren’t comfortable standing up for your priorities.
This is the basic layout of what you and your husband really need to talk about. You are in this for each other, not you for him and him for his siblings’ kids.
Compromise is a fine impulse, but the kowtowing has me concerned and may warrant deeper attention for you both. “Make excuses” for your absence? What happened to, “Oh, she’s home — she says good luck”? And with the baby: some peekaboo, then placement in the next secure lap, then “I need to go stretch my legs.” These become doable the moment you trust that they are.