Having another baby is, without question, one of the biggest and most life-changing decisions parents can make. It’s rare that two people are ready at precisely the same moment. It can be frustrating—and maybe terrifying—when you’re ready to take that leap and he is not.
Here are 7 strategies that can help the two of you navigate this challenging scenario together.
1. Listen with an open heart
This is actually a vital component of working your way through any marital dispute, or, for that matter, conflict with anyone else in your life. Most of us are so busy trying to get the other person to see how right we are that we fail to take into account the other person’s reasons, emotions, perspective.
Ask him why he wants to delay, what his hesitation or concern is about. Try to set aside your own views temporarily (which is really hard to do!) and just listen—pretend he’s your best friend talking to you about a spouse who isn’t you. Reflect back to him what you’ve heard him say, and ask if you’ve accurately captured his perspective. For most people, feeling heard will immediately lower the tension level, and make them more open to hearing your viewpoint.
2. Acknowledge your own concerns about becoming a parent again
Many people are reluctant to acknowledge any ambivalence—it’s somehow not considered socially acceptable. But as I always remind clients, it’s really the only non-reversible decision that we make in life. You can always change your career path, sell your house, or divorce. But how often do you make a life-long commitment to someone that you’ve never met?
Parenthood brings with it a loss of sleep, loss of personal or free time, a shift in marital dynamics and financial pressure as well as joy. It’s far too great of an undertaking not to have at least a few flickering doubts about jumping in again. Maybe he’d feel better if he knew he wasn’t the only one with some ambivalence lurking in the shadows.
3. Explore family legacy issues and other concerns
People who have been raised in an intact family where there was a lot of happiness, fun, and love might feel ready to embark on parenthood without a lot of exploration. People who had less than ideal circumstances might have some baggage they need to sort through before feeling ready.
Maybe there’s a fear of repeating negative patterns of emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Or maybe your partner is watching friends grow their families and is worried that your relationship will end up like what he sees around him. Whatever the concerns, they’re worth exploring, whether that’s in conversation with each other, in a journal, with each of you reflecting quietly on your own, or in counseling.
4. List the obstacles, and then brain storm possible solutions
Define the criteria. “We don’t have enough money for another baby” is different than “I want to have X in our savings account before we conceive again.” Is it important that you live close to extended family for support and help with childcare, and you currently don’t? Does one or the other of you need a job with better benefits or more job security? Maybe it’s a trip he wants the two of you to be able to take that wouldn’t be feasible with more kids, or some changes to the house.
It can help to be specific about goals or criteria that you both agree to meet before conceiving, while also remembering that life is full of the unexpected, and there is never a perfect time to have a baby.
5. Take breaks from hashing it out all the time
Endless protracted conversations—especially if each of you is just reiterating the same points over and over again without any progress in compromising or understanding each other—are counterproductive, with each person tending to just dig their heels in more firmly.
You might agree to table the issue for a given period of time and revisit it again at agreed upon time intervals. Some internal shifts are likely to occur during those “break” periods.
6. Enlist the help of a therapist if need be
If the two of you are both entrenched in your positions, having trouble hearing each other, or if the issue is beginning to cause real tension and unhappiness in your marriage, a neutral third party can be very helpful in sorting out the issues and developing a plan with you.
7. Remember the places where you are aligned
Perhaps it’s on the very concept that you do both, in fact, want to have children at some point. Maybe you agree on the way in which you want to parent your children, the values and beliefs that are important to you about how you raise your children. Remind yourself about the big picture. Having another baby is important, yes, but so is making sure that your marriage is on solid ground before you take the plunge.
In the long run, you will be on much more solid ground because you waited until both of you were feeling ready—or as ready as anyone can be for such a momentous change.