Ambivalence about parenthood

When one of you doesn’t want to have children, ambivalence about making the leap into parenthood is incredibly common.

It goes without saying that deciding to have a baby together just isn’t in the same league as persuading a partner to buy a new car or a dishwasher. And while there are many areas of a relationship or a marriage on which you can and should compromise, children isn’t one of them. Parenthood needs commitment, time and energy from both of you. This decision is going to affect your lives forever. Even if you agreed in the past to have a child, one of you can change their mind, but it’s vital that you understand what’s at stake so that you can take responsibility for the decision and it’s consequence.

So, how do you break this stalemate? First off, you need to understand how important having a baby or not having a baby is to you each. Are you willing to give up your partner over this issue. Unless the relationship is in serious trouble, most people will say no and so if you can strengthen your commitment to being together, you can start to negotiate a solution.

It’s vital that you both understand each other’s hopes and fears and hesitations. Find out calmly what’s led the other person to feel the way they do. Really listen and try not to interrupt or set them right.
You will need to think about what you say beforehand. Talk about both the benefits and the downsides, so you each know that you’re taking this seriously.

If that conversation doesn’t shift things, agree to disagree for now and give the topic a rest. Make a pact not to discuss it for a month and make a date to talk about when that time has passed. Give yourselves tie and respect the other person’s feelings.

While talking things through is usually the best way to identify the problem, couples don’t necessarily have to approach every issue together. It might be helpful if the resistant partner finds their own safe and objective sounding board, such as a therapist or a non-judgemental friend, who will be able to offer valuable insight and advice.

A baby can make things real in a way that can feel very overwhelming. The ambivalent partner may be questioning their ability to stay in the relationship or parent a child. Equally, if one partner is desperate to have a child, it may be more to do with the relationship than a desire for a child. They might be eager to shore up a shaky relationship. On some level, there may be a hope that a baby will provide a level of intimacy that’s currently lacking.

Sometimes the most resistant spouses become doting parents and those who appeared gung-ho in their determination to be a mum or a dad can end up doubting themselves once baby arrives. It’s never as straight-forward as it seems.

Often you will just need to keep working through the ambivalence, sometimes while simultaneously trying to conceive. Anxiety before, during and after pregnancy is normal. But it’s quite rare to hold your baby in your arms and conclude that it was a mistake.

If this is a problem that you’re wrestling with, get in touch for a free 10-minute call at

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