I already have three magnificent kids, but I know in my bones that I want another child. Here’s the problem: My husband is equally certain he doesn’t want another child. We go around and around, each of us with the same argument over and over. “How dare you take this away from me!” I say. “How dare you force this on me!” he retorts. But how do you reconcile this major life decision when you and your partner disagree, in such a fundamental way, when it’s truly an either-or question?
In the cocktail of my husband, emotion is the vodka, and practicality is the tonic — he’s all head and a little heart. Meanwhile, I’m the opposite. This can be problematic when making important life choices because I trust my emotions, and he relies solely on what is realistic and pragmatic. And they are rarely the same.
I grew up an only child. My experience was lonely and boring because it was just me. I’ve always wanted a big family, ideally five kids, and a house bustling with vitality and liveliness. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a relatively large family and was overwhelmed by it. Specifically, he has an aversion to loud, obnoxious noises, which we have in spades at my house.
Initially, we agreed that we would have a “reasonable” number of kids, which I now realize was a nebulous solution to a question that needed an explicit answer. I figured the problem would work itself out later. And by “work itself out,” I mean that I assumed my husband would come around to the idea of having five kids.
Fast forward, and he has not come around. I have reached the age where we no longer have the luxury of hemming and hawing over this decision; it’s now or never. So which is it?
We have three young boys, and life is akin to a three-ring circus. We are (barely) surviving with our sanity hanging in the balance. Adding another kid to the mix would certainly exacerbate the chaos, but I still cannot shake the feeling that our family is not complete. I’m utterly grateful for the three we have, but when I look at our family photo, I can’t help but wish there was one more precious little face in the picture. I often find myself thinking about baby names and imagining what the next one would be like.
My husband’s stance on the matter is unyielding. I ask him why and he gestures to our living room, where it looks like a WWE Wrestle Mania match just took place. Because it did. My toddler has fashioned a shank out of a Rubik’s Cube and is going after his oldest brother, who is defending himself by throwing all our earthly possessions at his brother’s head. Meanwhile, the middle boy is pouring a “magic potion” (Windex, anti-freeze, expensive face cream) into our goldfish’s bowl. The noise level sounds like we’re at an airfield. My husband gives me a smug look that says another kid is exactly what we need! Perhaps I picked the wrong time to discuss this.
Our current familial situation is mayhem, and I cannot refute that, but it won’t always be this tumultuous. Shouldn’t you base the number of kids you want on how many grown children you want in the future? I’m playing the long game here. For me, it’s not about right now; it’s about how I will feel in 15 years. At that point, the pandemonium will be over, and I will wish we had just powered through and had one more kid.
“Don’t people always regret what they didn’t do?” I ask him. “I am now kicking myself for not getting a PhD back when I was in grad school,” I offer. My husband laughs at this rationale and tells me there is a good reason I didn’t get a PhD: it was just too tedious and demanding. “A lot of things are more work and strain than we have the energy for. Like this,” he says.
“What specifically turns you off about having another kid?” I query. “EVERYTHING,” he answers, resolute. I continue to press him, and he cites the law of diminishing returns. At some point, adding additional kid(s) results in a less desirable life for all involved. That threshold is different for every family. He believes the havoc it would wreak is not worth the benefits gained. We’re thoroughly enjoying the three kids we have now but adding more might just push our stress level over the edge. He is afraid our current children and marriage will suffer.
He makes a valid point, and his logic is sound. But it still doesn’t cure my inexplicable ache to expand our family. When I bring up the topic, and he shuts me down, my blood begins to boil. If I don’t have another kid, I will feel like I am conceding, and I worry that I will resent him in the future.
My husband is an incredible father; he is engaged and helpful. But would he be as great of a dad to the next kiddo if his heart wasn’t in it? He might even resent me for adding additional turmoil to our lives when things were finally starting to become manageable.
We have arrived at a compromise of sorts. Our decision was the culmination of us considering many factors: finances, health, and family stability. We agree that we’re done biologically but will leave the door open to adopting a foster child after things have calmed down several years down the road. It’s difficult for me to see beyond my baby fever, but I finally had to admit that it’s likely not in the best interest of our family to add another member right now.
It’s not a perfect solution (for either of us), but it will have to work. Which is good, because I have to go resuscitate the goldfish now.
Christina Crawford is a Dallas-based writer, guacamole enthusiast, and mom to three feral little boys. She spends her days putting out fires (actual and metaphorical) and trying to keep goldfish alive. Her words have appeared in Newsweek, HuffPost, Health Magazine, Parents, Scary Mommy, Today Show Parents, and more. You can follow along on Twitter where she writes (questionably) funny anecdotes about her life at @Xtina_Crawford