Carolyn Hax: The fiancé wants a big family.  She says maybe two kids – max.

Carolyn Hax: The fiancé wants a big family. She says maybe two kids – max.

Carolyn Hax: The fiancé wants a big family.  She says maybe two kids – max.


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Caroline: How do you compromise on the number of children? And how important is it to clarify that before the wedding?

My future husband wants a big family like his own. He’s one of six, but says he’d be happy with four. Two sounds like the maximum I could do while attending to my other goals. As the person who will have to deliver the children, I know I will have the final say, but I’m unsettled that I didn’t agree on this beforehand.

I also feel like I’m being a little manipulative when I say, “We’re going to cross that bridge when we get there,” even though I know I’m not ready to have a third one.

uneasy: It is not “manipulative”; it is deceptive. Get in and deal with it. “I know you want a big family and ‘would be happy with four.’ For me it won’t be more than two. So: Can you be happy for two?

“As much as I love you – and us — I can’t be part of a life you don’t want. So please really think about it and let me know if having kids with me sounds like the life you most want.

However you put it, cross that bridge now. It is very important to clarify this before marriage.

It must be repeated: family plans and family realities do not always coincide; They could agree on six and endure none. But this is the kind of life you’re debating: extended family, kid-centric chaos vs. something more adult-centric. You are so different, each is valid, and each of you deserves to be as close as possible to your ideal. This could mean that you don’t do it together. Face it head-on. Much luck.

Re: kids: Also have great conversations about how this family will work. Does he expect to be a true 50/50 partner like bathing/feeding/making rules/following with teachers/taking to doctor’s appointments/helping with homework? Or does he just think that having a big family is “fun” without thinking about logistics?

We know from studies that unfortunately women still do most of the psychological and domestic work for families. I personally know many men who want more children, but far less than 50 percent. Of course they want more! You get the fun parts!

Dear Caroline: My husband’s brother married someone who is really terrible. For a few years, my mother-in-law and I shared our mutual dislike of this person and the way she reinforced our beliefs about ourselves and each other – ie, “I’m so glad you’re not like that. ” Then we realized that we were really ugly behind her back and agreed to stop it.

A year later, I think we’re both still uncomfortable and can’t figure out how to find that same level of intimacy with each other without going back to gossip about my sister-in-law. It kind of strains my relationship with my mother-in-law and feels like a treat we’re denying ourselves. How do I grow up and get over it?

gossip: Sounds like a great conversation with your mother-in-law. Serious. You’ve come to the end of gossip together, so why not rebuild together on the earth you once burned? It also seems to encourage intimacy — something to work on together.

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