Q: My wife and I have been married for a little over three years. Before getting married we talked about kids & family and decided that just wasn’t what we were about or what we wanted but lately she has been dropping a lot of comments abo...ut wanting to have kids. This wasn’t our agreement but I love my wife dearly. What do I do?
A: Okay, first of all, I must confess that this question cut to the front of the line simply because I just recently had a brief but very similar discussion about this with someone and so I thought it just uncanny when this question came in. So I’m cheating a bit, but couldn’t resist as it’s so fresh on my mind. I’m not sure how old you and your wife were when you got married, but as people, we all grow, change and develop with each passing year. Assuming that our personal evolution is in a positive direction, I think this is a wonderful part of our human nature. I also think it is a wonderful part of great relationships. That ability to not just watch your spouse mature, but to encourage them to become in all ways, the most amazing version of themselves they are capable of being. It isn’t just normal to want to grow and discover ourselves, but would be a vast disappointment if who we were at 25 was exactly the same person looking back at us in the mirror at 35. Greg has changed in a multitude of ways since I met him and we were married. Homes, life, career focus, town we live in, you name it. It would be much easier for me to list what hasn’t changed in our life rather than what has. But one thing in particular that hasn’t changed and never will is that I love him. And part of loving him is wanting him to be happy and having few parameters on what that needs to look like. Many of you know of my deep aversion to carrying regret in my life and I cannot imagine the sense of regret that would weigh on my soul if I didn’t support Greg in what made him feel the most happy, fulfilled, challenged, productive and alive. And I can say this all with ease of mind and heart because I know he feels and does the very same for me in a hundred different ways.
Having said that, kids are a game changer in every way imaginable. There isn’t one aspect of life that remains unaffected when we add children to our heart and life equation. For most people those changes are not just endured, but rather embraced. They become the most unimaginably magical stuff of life. Our smiles become bigger, our joy becomes greater, our memories become richer and our love touches on something we never imagined to be real or possible. But is this everybody’s experience? No. And for those couples who make the conscious choice to not have children I have to respect that. Most especially because the thought of someone bringing a child into this world swaddled in resentment and obligation in a thought that makes my heart ache. And if this would be the sentiment that an innocent baby was brought into…I can imagine little that would carry more devastating consequences. I have actually found that most people who choose to not have kids are well aware of the fact that it is a somewhat “selfish” agenda on their part. They want to go where they want to go, do what they want to do, travel when and where the mood strikes and remain largely unencumbered by the responsibility of little ones. Children would throw an unwelcome wrench into their lifestyle and personal program. And once again, I have to respect that sort of core honesty they seem to have with themselves and others.
But while I know many people that are “childless by choice” and I love them dearly, I will admit that my fondness for them does create a pang inside of me where I wish they knew. I wish they knew what they were missing. I wish they knew what it felt like to hold your child in your arms and know that you are “the one.” The one given the unimaginable gift of being there to nurture, protect, and love them with a strength that is so deep and fierce it defies explanation. I wish they knew the feeling of having your heart so consumed with love that you literally ache inside because you never imagined something so precious, so pure and so desperately dear would ever be part of your life. I wish they knew what laughter and joy and moments felt like when you see the world through the eyes of your child. It’s as though you’ve been watching this amazing movie in black and white and never noticed how brilliant and full and rich it could be when you added color…when you added kids. I wish they knew how profoundly deep your love and respect for your spouse goes when see you them not just as a person, but as a parent. I wish they knew all that I could never find the words to say. Words that would describe, express, or even remotely convey feelings that are connected to parts of your heart and soul that aren’t bound by the confines and limitations of language. I wish I could help them feel, for just a single precious second, what this sort of life, love, joy and laughter feels not just in for the moment, but in a way that feeds your soul endlessly.
But alas I cannot. And as the responsibility of kids would be theirs, so must the choice be as well. But I think that the greatest tragedy of all is when I meet or talk to people that had such horrendous childhoods themselves that they swear off the idea and desire of every being parents themselves. And in my own mind I fight against the rage that the actions of their own miserable parents have not just taken their childhood from them, but made them desperately afraid of the joy that could be theirs for the taking. They haven’t just denied them the past they should have had, but the future they deserve as well.
So after all that, I’m not sure how to answer your question. Everest, our oldest child was a “surprise.” And I remember well after she came the almost panicked feeling that set in of, “oh my God, what if we had never done this!” The love and joy were so overwhelming that the awareness that I might have missed this scared me to death. So, while I will always respect people making conscious, heart-felt decisions for their lives, I will also encourage you to really take some time to consider this. Because I can imagine few tragedies greater than looking back, when it’s too late and saying “I wish…”