Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Believe boyfriend when he says that he's willing to be a father
Kids? My boyfriend of two years and I, both mid-to-late 30s, have been discussing trying to have kids. I've always wanted kids. He has always figured he could be happy with or without kids. But he also assumed he would probably end up with someone who wanted kids and have kids.
A few of his co-workers have kids under 2 and are having a hard time of it. As related to me, one said that he understands why people walk out on their families sometimes. Another said that dating was okay, living together was okay, marriage was okay, but that having kids (stinks).
Now, my boyfriend keeps asking me if I'm sure I want kids. (I am.) We've discussed this, and he says he's still willing to have a child, but with more hesitations than I have. Can I take this at face value, or should I be inferring that he really doesn't want kids?
Carolyn: Unless he has a habit of saying things just to make you happy even though he doesn't mean them, you owe it to him to take him at his word. It's actually strangely disrespectful to decide he means something entirely different from what he said (again, unless there's precedent — in which case, not the guy to be with more than casually . . . ?).
Now, if you're wary of taking on this huge responsibility with someone who is, at face value, hesitant, then that's something else — something that's entirely your place to decide. In that case, it's worth taking a look at the way he has followed through on past decisions, especially the big ones where you know he wrestled with doubts.
For what it's worth, though, few people go into child-rearing with zero doubts, fears or second-guesses — and for good reason, because the early years really can (stink). You're tired, you're never off duty completely, your house is loud and messy and sometimes it smells. (And everyone has opinions on what you're doing wrong, and playing with babies is boring, and caring for them is numbingly repetitive, blah blah.)
But people do it anyway not just because they're blackmailed into it or forget to use birth control; some people actually enjoy the baby chaos, and many are just fine with it knowing there's a long-term benefit to it all.
As in: kids! Kids who learn to take themselves to the bathroom and who tell you bad jokes and hug you like no one else will. Kids who give you a whole new way to look at the world, as long as you aren't overly consumed by instilling your worldview into them. For people willing to put their hearts into it and keep me-centric expectations out, kids are an adventure they never regret. (Nothing wrong with the unwilling; they just need not to have kids.)
If this is the guy you want at your side through this, then take him at his word and acknowledge the possibility that things will get bad before they get great, and that the bad, the great and everything in between will come as somewhat of a surprise. That's because your experience, as with anything else, will reflect not what you planned to have, but how receptive you are to what you get.