Talk About It
"A woman who really wants children needs to find out before marrying how her mate feels about this, and if he does want children, find out how many he wants," says Dr. Margaret Paul, a relationship expert and psychologist.
That shouldn't be all you discuss with your partner. Ideally, a woman should be asking when her prospective spouse wants children, because for some men, the desire to become a father enters the picture much later than their partners would like.
"We did discuss family size while we were dating and agreed that we wanted children," says Carry Wright* of Circleville, Ohio. "But, I wanted to start trying soon after we got married, and he was pretty ambivalent about that."
With determination and communication, motherhood did come to call for Wright, but not everyone is so lucky.
Lili LeClerc, a separated mother of one in New Zealand, thought she had found the man of her dreams. Once they moved in together, LeClerc decided she was ready for another child, but her dream man wasn't. "He gave me four options if I were ever to become pregnant," she says. "Tell him about the pregnancy, have the baby, and ruin his life. Tell him, have an abortion, and ruin his life. Don't tell him, have an abortion, and ruin my life. Don't tell him, leave him, and have the baby."
LeClerc tried to put this revelation out of her mind. "I was in love, so I put aside my feelings on the subject and got on with things," she says. "No matter how much I tried not to, I found myself raising the subject every couple of months."
Did the reminder help LeClerc get the child she wanted? Not exactly. "I no longer have any contact with the man in question; I moved out of town," she says. "I now have five children with a man who agreed straight away with me on the subject on whether to have children, when to have them and how many to have."
Trying to Resolve the Conflict
How do you overcome the conflict? How do you know when to push your point of view or end the relationship? "The maternal urge for more children doesn't disappear through will power," says LeClerc. "And if a couple has differing wants in this area, someone, somewhere is going to have to make a sacrifice."
Just don't be so sure that he should be the one to make the sacrifice. "Often, we kid ourselves into thinking that we can convince him," says Paul.
Joint counseling might help you determine the sacrifice that needs to be made. "[The couple] may need to get help with this issue," says Paul. "This is one of the issues that can make or break a relationship, so it is very important for it to be resolved early." The man may need to understand the underlying reasons the woman has for wanting children or wanting more children.
While it might seem like a choice between motherhood or marriage, it's really more about being comfortable with who you are as an individual. According to Paul, some of the reasons a woman wants to become a mother will have a negative impact on the relationship, particularly if her identity hinges on having children.