Monday, March 2, 2015

The one with the mom who is 'stuck', but wants more kids

Dear Dad,

How do I make my husband realize that he is a great dad? We were high school sweethearts and got married shortly after graduating. He had told me that he didn't want to be a dad. His dad and his much older brother had both abandoned their families after divorce and have nothing to do with the kids from their previous marriages. He thinks that he will be the same, I think. I told him before we got married that I was going to be a mother and he needed to know that before he married me. I waited over 6 yrs and then told him that I was going off my birth control. It took 18 months but I finally got pregnant with our daughter. She is now 4. My husband is a great Dad. He is very active with her and he helps me out with dinner or her bath or whatever I ask for. They ride bikes together and play video games together and he is teaching her how to shoot. The problem is that they are exactly alike and both stubborn. She knows just what buttons to push and he gets frustrated with her. He is a little more strict than I am, so he gets her stubborn side a little more than I do, and she is very much a mommy's girl. She always wants to hold my hand and sit in my lap instead of his. He thinks that this makes him a bad dad. 

The biggest issue is that he refuses to agree to a second child because of his normal reactions to this child. He hates that he gets so angry with her. He always handles it well and does his best to teach her even when he is angry but sometimes he has to yell and then walk away. I've tried to tell him that this is part of being a parent and reassure him that he is great but it just doesn't stick. There are very few things that I want more than another child. My marriage is one. We are in a bit of a lose/lose situation right now and I am stuck. If he says OK and we have another child and he is stressed out more, I think he will end up resenting me for it, but if I give up and say never mind, am I going to resent him? I love him more than anything else and I hate that this is coming between us. Is there a good solution to this that I'm not seeing right now? I could use an outside opinion.

Dear 'Stuck',

I love synchronicity.  I just finished editing a chapter of the manuscript I've been working on in which I describe my first days as a stay-at-home dad with my oldest daughter literally moments before I read your question.  

In the chapter, I flash back to when my wife and I met at age 19, and how we both swore we were very anti-traditional and would never marry (not just each other, but anyone), and certainly would never have children. We are both the products of broken homes with marriages that did not end well, and found the concept of parenthood "limiting."  I recall within the chapter the extraordinary terror I felt taking care of a fragile and delicate human being, while completely clueless to what I was doing and endlessly searching for the "instructions on how to parent."  I remember the unimaginable self-critic I was regarding every single thing I did "wrong," or at less than 100%.  Your question made me re-conjure those images in my mind in my attempt to empathize and relate to where your husband is coming from.  

I realize, 'Stuck', that your husband is not in any position I've ever been in.  If you waited 6 years before having children, you are not a "young" couple as my wife and I were when we proclaimed our disdain for a traditional life.  If your child is four years old, your husband is a seasoned enough parent to not be wet behind the ears, and simply lacking confidence. My guess is that your husband feels he already compromised six years into your marriage, and in his opinion there is 'no room at the inn' for another child.  

My advice, 'Stuck', is to seek out marriage counseling.  The solution here is not to figure out a way to convince your husband to have another child, nor is it to just figure out how to get him to understand he is a good father.  I think he has made it clear where he stands.  I know more than one family that was in your situation, and the addition of another child did not fix anything, but led to the complete and utter destruction of the marriage and family.  

Your husband does need to understand that he is a good father and truly process that he is not his father nor his brother in order for him to truly enjoy his relationship with your daughter and not be endlessly worrying about failing her or letting her down.  Perhaps once he addresses this in a therapeutic setting he will, much down the road, change his mind about wanting another child.  I think you will benefit as well, because if having another child is of critical importance to you, you have a lot to explore for yourself regarding the issue of having more children and your husband's current stance. 

In a perfect world, my wife would not have had heart failure, we would not be in our early 40's already, and we would not be prone to multiple births.  I would love to have one more child.  Every time I talk about wanting one more child, my wife gives me the "no room at the inn" look.  Deep down, I know my wife is correct and that we are done having kids; but, the stay-at-home dad part of me wants this time in my life to keep going.  My children are aging me out of my chosen profession!  I can relate to how you feel, 'Stuck', and am sending you good thoughts and energy.  Please keep us updated.  

I know a lot of couples who planned exactly how many children they were going to have and were in agreement 100%.  I also know an equal number of couples who were blessed with multiples, who were barren, and who did not see eye to eye when it came to the issue of how many kids to have.  Do you think the issue of one wanting more children than his/her spouse is a deal breaker?  

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