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The "Partner or Child" Question

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a blog by mikki morrissette, Mar. 15, 2010

It's increasingly common for the Choice Mom community to hear from women who are with a partner who's ambivalent about having children or flat out opposed to the idea.

Is this because more partners are finding the strength to say "no" to raising children? No, I suspect it’s simply because more women are finding a community where they can talk out loud as they grapple with this very difficult place.

Many people have always been less-than-enthralled with the idea of having children. And now that women, in particular, are increasingly finding family building options on their own, the choice is now more than simply, “yes, I win” or “no, you win.” A third option is emerging: “Should I leave this relationship and have a child on my own?”

It can be an extremely agonizing choice.

One 40-year-old woman recently shared her story. Five years ago, she started a relationship with someone who eventually told her he didn’t want to have children. A few years after that, she decided she wanted to have a baby and ended the relationship. Her partner said he would reverse his vasectomy. It took a year for him to make the attempt. It didn’t work. Now what should she do? She wondered whether she should pursue donor insemination and convince the man she loved to co-parent with her, when he seemed to not have both feet in. Should she move on and have a child on her own?

Having choices doesn’t always make the way clear.

Although for some women, it certainly does:

One woman suggested: "Set boundaries and be as clear as possible. I'm in a relationship now and that is what I had to do. I'll start in September this year. I basically had to say to my partner, ‘This is what I want and you are either on board or not.’ Although I love my partner very much, a live-in relationship is definitely something I would give up if we’re not on the same page. If I don’t see it, like a light switch, I’ll turn the relationship off. It’s just that simple for me. Good luck."

A 41-year-old woman shared her story. She felt she had been complacent in letting a long-term relationship linger: “Looking back, my relationship was enough of a distraction that it kept me from doing some really hard thinking and making some hard decisions in my mid-30s when it would have been much easier for me to conceive. Maybe the most revealing thing you could do is to ask yourself if you would still want to be with this man when you're 46 if you don't have the child you dreamed of. Would you be happier with a 5-year-old son or daughter without him, or would you be happier with no biological child, but with him in your life? If you stay together and you try on your own for a year but never conceive, will you resent him for the time he spent stalling? Could you forgive him enough to live a happy life with him?

Choices. We're better off with them, certainly, but are we more tested?

What do you think? Do you know someone who has faced the "partner or child" question? If it was you, how did you decide?

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Comments (2)

I'm lucky that I didn't wait any longer. At the age of 34, I had been in a relationship for 4 years that, up until that point, had been the best relationship of my life. But after 4 years, the guy, who was a little older than me, realized he didn't want any more kids (he already had 2, nearly grown, from his first marriage).

So I chose child. We broke up and I pursued the anonymous donor insemination path. Skip ahead to today, which is a year and a half later and I'm about 5 months pregnant and couldn't be happier! (Well, I could - and that will be after my little one is here)

I say I'm lucky that I didn't wait any longer because I had an easy time getting pregnant - who knows if that would have been the same when I was 37 or 38 or 40. This guy was not going to change his mind - I'm glad I didn't wait.

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