My 27-year-old girlfriend has two kids (ages 10 and 5). She is financially stable and owns her own house. We began planning to get married, but then she said she didn’t want any more children. She cites the financial burden, the time a baby would take from “us,” how she’d be starting all over again, and not wanting to do that to her body again. I think she’s being selfish, seeing me as good enough to help raise her two girls but not good enough to have a child with. I want a child who’s genetically related to me, who I can raise and form from the start. I told her, if she won’t have a baby, I won’t take the next step and get married and purchase a house together. Am I in the wrong here, or is she?
— Feeling Used
It’s always so cute when a man announces “WE’RE having a baby!” — as if “WE” will be getting huge, bloated, and hormonal, and nuzzling the toilet bowl for nine months. And then there’s the really fun part, when WE get strapped to a table, legs spread, and we’re surrounded by strangers shouting “Push! Push!” (As if it’s sheer laziness that keeps a person from squeezing a Mack truck out a carport-sized opening.)
Your fiancée was a teen mother way back before you’d get a reality series for that and has now spent over a third of her life being somebody’s mommy. Not surprisingly, she isn’t into having yet another human being to be responsible for for the next 20-plus years — understanding all too well that “Hey, can we get a new person?!” isn’t like getting another kitten (as in, what’s one more once you’ve already got two shedding on the couch?).
Unfortunately, it seems you assumed there’d be some sort of kid pro quo here: You drive her kids to soccer and admire their crayonings, and she’d make you a kid of your own. You’re right to expect some really big hugs for doing the stand-in dad thing, but just because she has the womanparts doesn’t mean she owes it to you to fire up the assembly line and give you an heir. What you’re calling selfishness on her part is actually a sign of emotional health — not being so needy that she’d agree to be your baby vending machine, only to end up resentful and angry (“Here’s your lunchbox, you little snot!”).
You don’t get a kid out of her by acting like one — sniffling that you’re “not good enough to have a child with” and announcing, “No baby, no marry, no housie!” Instead of trying to pout and guilt her into more motherhood, discuss this like adults to see whether there’s any wiggle room here. (Don’t get your hopes up.) As for your question about which one of you is in the wrong, you’re probably just wrong for each other. Ultimately, this could be one of those unfortunate situations where love just isn’t enough. Two people also have to want the same major things: Must love dogs. Must want kids. Need to be horsewhipped daily.
Should this relationship crash and burn, try to learn from it: If you really, really want to be something’s dad, prudent family planning involves casually putting that out there as early as the first date. This isn’t foolproof, but it beats the other kind of family planning: planning to swap out the wife’s birth control pills for 30 days of Tic Tacs: “Gee, my Ortho-Novum tastes minty-fresh!”
Last week, my 25-year-old daughter’s ex-boyfriend said hi to me in a bar, and one thing led to another, and we ended up in bed. I felt absolutely terrible about what happened, and then my daughter, out of the blue, announced that she’s finally over him. In fact, she insisted she is. Is there any way I could keep seeing him, and if so, should I tell her?
— Don’t Want To Lose My Daughter
A mother doesn’t risk her relationship with her daughter for just anything. In your case, somebody has to say hi. (One wonders what you’d do for “Lovely weather we’re having” or “Have a nice day.”) If you care at all about your daughter, think hard about what creepy, narcissistic competitiveness led you to go home with her ex and how creepy you’re still being, wondering how you might snag her okay to go back for seconds. Sure, your daughter said she’s over the guy. And she could be — more than anybody has ever been over anybody — and still never get over hearing her mother say, “Oh, sweetie, I bumped into your ex … and then I ground into him for hours.”
Read Amy Alkon’s book: “I See Rude People: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).