My husband and I have been married for 2.5 years and living together for 3.5 years. He's 33, I'm 35. I have been married / divorced once before (divorced six years before marrying again, btw) but I was my husband's first serious relationship of any kind.
Things were okay for about a year after we were married, but then some pretty serious problems involving finances, substance abuse and lack of communication began to arise, resulting from both of our behavior patterns, not just one of us. These issues resulted in our being separated for a year (my idea), but we recently moved back in together to try and work things out. The aforementioned issues are still present, but he and I are both trying to work on them; it's simply going to take some time to resolve them, particularly in regard to the finances. Our relationship is still fairly tumultuous but isn't as bad as it was before we separated; I think things could work out in the long run.
I've already had a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but my husband still has something like $22,000 worth of credit card debt. Furthermore, we both have student loans that are in deferment (we're both part time students, looking to graduate within about 2.5 years). We share no credit card or bank accounts. We are trying to pay down the debt but with our meager income it will take years.
The issue is that my husband wants us to have children, and soon. Before I met him I never wanted children -- I never saw myself having a life conducive to family and my own family history is pretty dysfunctional to say the least -- mother married five times, father splitting when I was a baby, endless emotional strife at home, etc. My husband, though, is so warm and nurturing, the kind of person who would never abandon his family. I fell in love with the idea in a pipe-dream sort of way but I've always had serious practical questions. The romantic, sweet notion of having babies was nice while cuddling with my husband, but how could we pull it off while maintaining any sort of stable and secure lifestyle?
My husband is anxious to begin trying within a year. In terms of pure biology I can see his point but when viewed within the context of where we are in life it makes no sense to me. I would have to give up my job (daycare is far too expensive), curtail my schooling (career suicide for me) and assume pretty much sole responsibility for the house and offspring while my husband continues to work full time and go to school part time. Meanwhile, the credit card bills will continue to collect interest, the student loan companies will want their money and my husband's still meager salary couldn't possibly cover everything.
My husband dismisses my concerns as being overly negative and simply says things will work out somehow. Considering that I am expected to make the majority of the sacrifices, I'm having a hard time buying such cavalier statements. I love my husband but I don't think either of us (individually or as a couple) are ready to negotiate such an undertaking without an inevitably disastrous outcome. I'm afraid that if I suggest that we hold off for a few years that he will think that I'm cheating him out of something and will ask for a divorce.
Signed, Leery of Becoming a Mommy
I can't possibly come down unequivocally on one side or the other of your issue and say, "This is what I think you should do." It would be incredibly presumptuous of me to do so for such an important life decision. You obviously have concerns, however, and have asked me to provide an opinion on whether your concerns have merit. That I can certainly do.
I'd like to start with your last statement; you are afraid your husband might divorce you if you don't give in to his request. Worries over the tenuousness of your marriage might not be the best reason to consider having children. If the bond between the two of you is so weak that a disagreement like this would dissolve it, then you would likely be in danger of separating anyway when the extra stresses of raising children arrive. If your bond is strong, then the timing of when you have children should not be a make or break issue. Either way, the threat of divorce should not be enough to make you ignore all the other issues you mentioned; it should make you take them all the more seriously.
Let's assume you decide to have a baby within a year or two. Realistically, all the issues you mentioned will still be around; there is nothing to indicate you are on the verge of eradicating any of them from your life. Hopefully you are aware that adding an infant to the mix will not make any of those issues easier to deal with. Instead, you will have even more pressure:
- Your money situation will be worsened because of loss of your income plus considerable childcare expenses, even with you home full-time. Clothing, diapers, car seat, crib, toys, high chair, food -- they all cost money and plenty of it.
- Both you and your husband will be sleep deprived, even if you try to carry the bulk of the night-time responsibilities. If he thinks working full-time and studying part-time is a challenge, wait until he tries it with less sleep, an exhausted wife and a noisy child making it difficult to concentrate. And if things are tumultuous now, add in sleep deprivation and more stress -- the results are probably predictable.
- I am especially concerned about the substance abuse. I can't tell from your letter whether this is an issue for one or both of you, but either way the potential impacts on any child that enters your life are obvious, ominous and huge. I hope you would strongly consider dealing with this issue on its own before subjecting a child to its effects.
- You and your current husband have already separated once. Although you seem optimistic about the future, you must worry whether history will repeat itself, especially when the extra stresses I mentioned come into play. Where would that leave you? What would that mean for your child?
I have to wonder how much of your hesitation is actually fear based on your family history. You have been taught to expect instability and abandonment. You had always thought that you wouldn't be able to provide a stable lifestyle for children, even before your current husband came along. Without diminishing all those other concerns, you should ask yourself honestly how much these sorts of fears play into your decision making and whether you still believe them to be valid. I don't know the answers but I think you should ask the question.
Your age is also certainly a factor. You have a little wiggle room to wait but Mother Nature will shut the door before too many more years pass. If the two of you (and it should be both of you, not just one) truly yearn for tiny hugs in your life, I can understand how waiting much longer would be difficult for you.
In short, I agree that your concerns are valid. Many children are born into less than perfect life circumstances and manage to grow up despite their parents' struggles with life. Such families often face tremendous challenges, though, and that would almost certainly be true in your case. How much risk are the two of you willing to take? Only you and your husband can decide how to balance those factors. I hope you can reach a decision that works for both of you.
All the best,
If you haven't already done so, now is your chance to check out this week's Ask the Faithful Readers question. I will post my personal favorite response on Saturday with a link to the winner's blog.