By Lee Shou Yin
You’re financially set, mentally prepared and physically geared up to have a baby of your own. There’s just one thing that’s not baby-ready. Your spouse. Here are some tips to help you get started on the baby discussion.
Rule 1: Work on your marriage
As much as you want a child, there’s nothing more toxic to a marriage than forcing childbearing on an unwilling spouse. Instead, focus on making your relationship stronger and work on your marriage first before you consider becoming parents. This is especially so if you are newlyweds and are still adjusting to living together.
If you are constantly bickering or are not able to get along amicably as a couple, you will not be able to handle the additional stress of dealing with a newborn. Bear in mind that a strong marriage is the foundation of a successful parenthood.
Work on your relationship as a couple first. Once you have resolved the issues between you and your spouse, you are now ready to discuss the possibility of adding a new member to the family.
Rule 2: Take your time
Fertility declines with age. So if you are still in your early 20s, you have a little more time to think about the baby issue. But if you are in your late 20s or in your 30s, you will need to seriously consider whether to have a child before it becomes too late to conceive.
Remember tough not to rush bringing children into a relationship. Just because your biological clock is ticking or everyone is rushing you to have a baby, doesn’t mean you should hurry up and have one, especially when one of you is not ready to be a parent.
Don’t start a discussion after a long and tiring day at work or during a particularly stressful time for your spouse. Find an appropriate time to casually raise the topic without pressurising your spouse into making a decision. Some people may not feel that they are ready for parenthood now but may change their mind later, with age and changes in life circumstances.
If you find yourself fighting every time you raise the baby issue, take a break and shift the focus back to your relationship. Just because your other half said no this time, does not mean there’s no hope for the future. Be patient and raise the issue again when the opportunity arises further down the road.
Rule 3: Listen
One way to ease your spouse into talking about the baby issue is not to dive straight into the ‘baby or no baby debate’, but to discuss related topics instead. Share your thoughts and feelings about your own families and your childhoods.
Maybe your spouse has had a difficult time as a kid. Or had little parental guidance or care when he or she was young. Whatever the issues, these discussions are helpful for finding out why he or she is not keen on having children.
Understand and uncover the reasons why your other half is reluctant to have children. Don’t start pinning the blame to your partner for his or her uncertainty about embarking on parenthood. The key is to be flexible and learn to make decisions as a team.
Rule 4: Be honest with each other
You’ve seen it in TV shows or movies. When one spouse is bent on having a baby while the other isn’t, the enthusiastic spouse sabotages their birth control plan, thinking that the partner will come round to the idea of having children when they ‘accidentally’ conceive.
So what happens if your spouse discovers you had ‘tricked’ him or her into having children? Would it still be a happily ever after story for you, just like the shows you see in the reel world?
The converse is true as well. If you pretend that you are okay with not having children just because you respect your spouse’s decision not to have one, you will continue to feel unfulfilled and unhappy about your relationship.
The important thing is to be honest with yourself and with one other about your feelings and insecurities about having children. How important is having children to you and your spouse? If the thought of never having any children is unthinkable or unbearable to you, then you will need to resolve the issue instead of avoiding it. Or hoping that your partner will come round to the idea magically?
Having children is not a decision based on logic but a commitment from the heart and soul. While it is important for you to discuss the practicalities of having children or not, don’t forget to also to also share your true feelings – your yearning for a child versus his or her fear of having one.
Rule 5: Agree on a decision and move on
Parenthood is a team effort. After sharing your thoughts and feelings on having a baby, you and your spouse will need to decide how to move on from there. Does he or she still feel that it’s not the right time? If so, you may need to decide on a reasonable timeline to discuss the issue again. Until the timeline is up, keep to your agreement not to push him or her for a decision.
In the meantime, you can start exposing your spouse to children without giving him or her pressure. For instance, you can bring your spouse to visit friends or relatives with young children. A social setting such as a birthday party or an outing to the zoo, would allow your spouse to observe interactions between parents and children and an opportunity to talk to parents to learn more about parenthood.
Allowing him or her observe firsthand the joys and challenges of being a parent is a much better way of helping him or her to make an informed decision. No one likes to hear constant preaching of advice that you may not want to hear, so let things take its natural course.
If despite all your coaxing, talking, discussing, exploring and waiting for the right timing and your other half is still bent on not having children for whatever reasons he or she feels very strongly about, then perhaps you may need to think about your parental inclinations again.
When one partner wants to have a baby and the other does not, one of them would have to make a sacrifice in the end. Remind yourself that marriage comes before children. Just because your partner does not want children is no reason to end the relationship. If the issue of children is driving you and your spouse apart, consider speaking to a marriage counsellor.
At the end of the day, be mindful that the idea of having children may not be for everyone – including you and your spouse. Some couples can be as happy caring for a pet dog or splurge on other people’s children as if they were their own.
Be clear about your priorities. Ultimately, your children will grow up and start their own families but the person who will be there for you until the end, will be your spouse.