How to Talk About Having Kids With a Partner
On Sunday, Seth Rogen announced that the dog he shared with wife Lauren had died. The couple’s Cavalier King Charles spaniel was 13 years old.
This, however, isn’t an obituary for Zelda; Rogen did a great job of that already on Instagram.
Instead, the news reminded me of earlier this year when Rogen made headlines for publicly embracing his childfree lifestyle.
An aside: I’m going to go with “childfree” as opposed to “childless” here, but understand that both carry unintended connotations in terms of the weight of the word.
Not everyone who is childfree wants to be, and not everyone who calls themselves childless is upset about it.
Maybe you, like Seth Rogen, have found happiness and fulfillment with a partner, and if you’re lucky, a beloved pet.
Which is great!
There is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to choosing whether or not to bring kids into this world.
There’s only what’s right for you and your partner.
As someone who is toeing the line of being childfree by nature and not necessarily by choice, I selfishly want to hear more conversations around this topic.
Because by now we’ve all heard from celebrity parents (as well as friends, family, and strangers on the street) about the joys of having a kid. But we never talk about how being emphatically told that you never really know love until you have a child…kind of sucks for those of us who don’t?
So I just don’t know love? And we’re cool with that message going out into the world?
Which is why I love that Rogen has become a happy warrior for the alternative.
Speaking on The Diary of a CEO podcast, the actor and cannabis entrepreneur said:
“Now, more than anything, the conversation is honestly, ‘Thank God we don’t have children.’ We get to do whatever we want, we are in the prime of our lives, we are smarter than we’ve ever been, we understand ourselves more than we ever have, we have the capacity to achieve a level of work and a level of communication and care for one another, and a lifestyle we can live with one another that we’ve never been able to live before.”
That sounds pretty good!
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be on the same page with your partner about this big, big decision.
Rogen mentioned repeatedly in that interview and subsequent follow-ups that both he and his wife felt that having children wasn’t the right option for them.
Not sure where to start in having this conversation with your own significant other?
Here’s 5 tips for how to talk about having kids with a partner:
1) Start the conversation early
Whether you’re interested in a childfree lifestyle or you’re gung-ho on having kids, it’s best to discuss family planning choices with your partner early on in your relationship.
Don’t wait until you’re already married or in a long-term commitment to broach the subject.
The earlier you start talking about it, the easier it will be to have an open and honest dialogue about opting out of parenthood or choosing to become parents.
2) Be honest about your feelings
When it comes to such a sensitive topic as voluntary childlessness, it’s essential to be open and truthful with your partner about your feelings.
If you absolutely know that you don’t want kids, don’t say “Maybe…” or that you’re not sure simply to avoid conflict.
On the other hand, if you’re leaning towards having children, and you think your partner might feel differently, be clear about your stance! This will help to prevent misunderstandings and resentment later on.
And yes, it might also lead to the end of the relationship if you’re on totally different pages. Better to rip off the Band-Aid now.
3) Listen to your partner’s perspective
It’s crucial to give your partner a chance to express their thoughts and feelings about having kids.
Listen actively and empathetically to their point of view, and don’t dismiss or belittle their opinions, even if they differ from yours.
RELATED: How to Better Understand Your Own Feelings
Women face more scrutiny and criticism if they choose a childfree lifestyle or delay motherhood.
We also experience more blows to our career when we take time off for parental leave, and encounter more challenges in balancing work and family responsibilities when heading back to the office after a baby.
Men, on the other hand, generally face less pressure to have children and enjoy more freedom to pursue career and personal goals without as much scrutiny or criticism.
So don’t be surprised if she finds parenthood less appealing than you might be conditioned to expect.
Given all this, it’s important to remember that family planning choices are a joint decision and should be based on mutual respect, communication, and understanding.
Both partners need to have an equal say in the decision-making process, and both should be willing to compromise and find a solution that works for both of them.
4) Discuss your timeline
Timing is an important factor when it comes to becoming parents or living without children. Talk about your individual and collective goals, such as your careers, travel aspirations, and financial plans. Get into the nitty gritty of how having kids fits into them.
It’s also important to consider age-related factors, such as fertility and health, and how they may impact your decision to pursue a childfree lifestyle or start a family.
Because Mother Nature is a real bitch, women have a limited window of fertility and can face more challenges if they want kids but choose to delay motherhood.
Meaning? Don’t put off the conversation. Talk about it now.
5) Keep the conversation going
The decision to have or not have children is not a one-time conversation.
As your relationship progresses, your feelings and desires around starting a family may change, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and revisit the topic regularly.
This will help you both stay informed and attuned to each other’s changing needs and wants.
Keeping an open dialogue can also help to filter out unhelpful outside noise. Letting the voices of other people—even people who love you and mean well!—get louder than your own can poison the conversation.
Does that help? Make things harder? I don’t know. I think a lot about when Ben Affleck got in trouble for saying “Marriage is work” in his Oscar acceptance speech when Argo won Best Picture.
And sure, he and then-wife Jennifer Garner went on to split a few years later. But to paraphrase that one guy who got in a fight with his friend about Glinda the Good Witch, You’re going to look at me and tell me he’s wrong?!
Much like marriage, having kids seems like a ton of work!
I don’t know. It’s not the most provocative thesis to say, “Men and women are treated differently when it comes to lifestyle choices like having kids or not,” but I don’t think it hurts to remind you of it.
After all, sometimes it takes pointing at a thing to draw attention to it.
So, don’t go into a relationship assuming you know what she thinks about having kids, and don’t be afraid to bring the topic up earlier than you might otherwise feel comfortable with. It could save both of you time, energy, and heartache…or set you on the fast track towards a future you both want.