It’s a question all couples face sooner or later: How many kids will we have? While you and your partner might have already discussed this, your answers could change dramatically once baby no. 1 arrives on the scene.
Dreaming together about your family’s future can be exhilarating unless you begin bickering about how many littles you can handle. If you and your partner disagree about growing your family, you’re not alone. It’s an issue that comes up for so many parents, says Dr. Gary Brown, a marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles, who provided insights for this story.
No matter which camp you fall into – Team All the Babies or No Mas (I’ve Suffered Enough!) – we have tips to help you navigate those difficult conversations as a couple.
Honestly assess your stance on this issue
Take stock of your feelings on your family’s size by jotting them down in your journal or in the notes section of your phone. Encourage your partner to do the same. Some questions to consider: Why do you feel your family is complete as is? Alternatively, what are your motivations for growing your family? (If it’s to repair your relationship, know that a child will not do much to strengthen marital discord, Brown notes.) Whatever your reasons, identifying them individually will help you better articulate them to each other.
Carve out quality time to talk
The bedrock of a strong marriage is strong communication. If you’ve been avoiding conversation about growing your family, know this: “You and your partner absolutely have to talk about this,” Brown says. When you do talk, it’s best to find a one-on-one time that won’t be interrupted by your kiddo or work deadlines or your weekly watch date with “This Is Us.” Because you disagree, this likely isn’t going to be solved in just one sitting.
Set some ground rules for your discussions
Family size is a tricky issue, but the only way out of this conflict is to confront it. And that starts with creating safe space in which to talk, says Brown. “In your conversations about this, try to seek understanding each other first before you attempt to see if you can agree about whether or not to grow your family,” he added. Seek to listen first before jumping in to state your points.
Identify the problem
Maybe you feel as though you’ve talked this issue to death. From a neutral space, team up with your partner to identify the main problem(s) causing you to disagree about your family size. In his practice, Brown has seen it helpful to address the following questions:
- Why now? “Is the debate more about whether or not to grow your family or more about when to grow your family?” Brown asks. There’s a big difference between jumping into TTC (trying to conceive) when you have a 6-month-old versus waiting until your child reaches 2.5 years and is more self-sufficient.
- How would you do it? If you plan to give birth, what are the potential benefits and risks factors? Same question if you’re considering adoption. Plus, you must consider as a couple how you will care for the new baby given work and other circumstances.
- What are the costs? Kids are expensive. Can you afford another child? What lifestyle changes will you need to make to support them? Have you prepared yourself emotionally?
Once you’ve identified the problem, it will be easier to assess if you can reach a resolution. It’s highly possible you could come to an agreement on “not right now.”
Think about your current (or future) child
Here’s a helpful question from Brown to frame discussion: How will adding another child to your family affect not just you but your current child(ren)? For families with two children, one concern about adding a third might relate to “middle child syndrome.” If you have one child, what might they gain or lose if you gave them a brother/sister? Do any of your children have special needs – how could this affect their care? A shift in perspective may help you gain new understanding.
Practice safe sex
If you’re both undecided when it comes to family growth, take extra precautions with birth control. It’s absolutely not OK to lie to your partner about birth control just because you want to grow your family.
Hit a wall?
There is a point when healthy conflict moves into the realm of diminishing returns. If you and your partner find yourselves arguing over the same points again and again, ask for help. “If the conflict is becoming chronic, and your attempts to resolve it are not working out, it may be time to talk to family, friends, and a couples’ counselor,” Brown says.