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Here's a background story to our marriage and our family (it plays a large role)...

We got married and had our first child when we were 23. We then had our 2nd child when we were 26. We are currently 30 years old and we still have only these two children. Something worth noting is that my wife never completed her college degree (assume that she hadn't done much or any of it, and it'd be a full credit workload from start to finish. Nothing carries over), and this has been a very significant goal and dream of hers since day 1 of me knowing her. And rightfully so, it's something I completely understand and have embraced as this will happen... eventually. In the beginning of our relationship, the money just wasn't there to send her to school. And then very shortly after, babies have been a show-stopper for her going to school (she is a stay-at-home mother).

Fast-forward to today, and our oldest child is now in school and our youngest will be going to school in 2017.

What I see

As the husband of my wife, I finally see us nearing the time for her to go back to school. We have money, and our youngest is going to be going to school full time starting next calendar year.

What she sees

... she wants to have a third child.

First off, this scares me. When I say that her going back to school asap has been a very significant thing, I mean very important. Not just a nice-to-do, but moreso a requirement. Let's say we get pregnant today, before the future 3rd child went off to school my wife would be 36 years old. It's one thing to have to wait 7 years, but it's another thing to have to wait a total of 13 years. Not to mention the additional financial burden of another child, realistically speaking.

Her response is that she is ok now with waiting that extra duration so that we can have another child. I believe she feels that way now (and has for the past year) but I don't see that as a lasting feeling when we are 33/34 and there is a 2 year old running around with another 3 years before he/she goes off to school. Her college degree has been that significant in our plans that it doesn't make sense to me.

Then there's another thing... I don't particularly want a 3rd child. I love my children more than anything in the world, but the truth is that they are a lot of work and I dont' have that same burning desire to have a 3rd child. It's just me, and it's how I feel. A little backstory, when we were first dating and newly wed we had plans of having 3+ children. My wife sometimes likes to remind me of that, but my response is always a resounding "things change" montra. It's easy to say you want 10 kids when you have none. You simply don't know what it's like. I am also a car person, and I used to want 3 old Chevies (a '57, an old '40s truck, and a '67 Chevelle). I currently own and turn wrenches on an old car. I love that car more than anything, but there's no way I want to have 2 more in the garage. When I was a kid, the thought of having 3 old cars was nice but there were many factors that weren't considered (not to mention just the changing tide of human desires). I'm using the car thing as an analogy, but I think it's as good reflection on desires-past to desires-present.

I feel like I'm at a fork in the road with my marriage over this. On one side, I'm having to try to decipher the future of her desires with an additional child vs. going back to school (sooner than later). And I'm also wrestling with my inclination/desire to not have a 3rd child. Don't get me wrong, my 2 children are the absolutely heart and soul of my happiness and life. They are everything to me. And I'd be doing a disservice to this question if I didn't say that, if my wife told me she was pregnant tomorrow I would have a fatherly instinct to be happy and excited about it. But that is different then actively trying to have another child.

These are things that, in my very limited experience, can break up a marriage. Maybe I'm just overly fearful, but things like not fulfilling desires of having more children or going to get a college degree can be detrimental.

I truly don't know what to do here, and I would greatly appreciate any advice you may have.

EDIT

This is a great example of a similar situation. It is worth noting that my wife absolutely sees herself as a stay-at-home mother. I don't doubt that the fear of our youngest going off to school has her doubting her busy-ness throughout the day. For what it is worth, I never pushed her to anything. I tell her that she is fortunate enough (given my single income) to be able to do whatever she wants, whether it is making money with a career, volunteering daily, or anything else. I tell her that when the kids are in school, that time is a blank canvas for her to paint any which way (school, work, volunteering, hobbies, etc.).

Another thing worth mentioning, my wife is relatively hard-headed (aren't we all?). She gets desires and they aren't easily transferred. Even with my objective output, she still falls back on "this is my internal drive". And she also has the fear of being a 38 year old woman still wanting another child and then biology starts to play a role.

  • Have you brought these things up with your wife? What did she say about them? – Becuzz Mar 2 '16 at 19:55
  • @Becuzz absolutely. Her response is that she can wait to go to school, and having a 3rd child is more significant now. She doesn't express a concrete reason for wanting a 3rd child, just the abstract stuff that it is her intrinsic desire. – user21143 Mar 2 '16 at 19:56
  • On a separate note, just because you have all your children in school may not mean your wife will have as much free time for school as you imagine. It may be worth it to wait and see how that really plays out before you can safely say school would be possible. – Becuzz Mar 2 '16 at 19:57
  • Also, what response did she give you for when you told her you didn't want another child (outside of reminding you that you wanted one at one point)? If she took a one time desire as a promise for more children, you may have to have a talk about that with her. That conversation will likely not be an easy one. – Becuzz Mar 2 '16 at 20:00
  • @Becuzz when I told her I didn't want another one, she appropriately was very disheartened. That's when the conversation of "when we first met you wanted more" came up. The fear is, for both of us, that down the road she will resent me for putting a hard-stop on not having a 3rd child. A founded fear, too. – user21143 Mar 2 '16 at 20:02
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From your question it is unclear whether your wife still wants a degree. You say her desire is to be a SAHM - does she really still want the degree at all?

In any case, iff her first priority is to be a SAHM, and a college degree is more along the purpose of self-fulfillment than a desire to have a career, it truly doesn't matter to wait another 5 years.

It seems like the crux of the issue is that you no longer agree on the size of your family. Remove the other things, and get to agreement here.

In the process, look at other things, of course- like the ability to go to school, but don't make it about that primarily.

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I strongly feel as though this question is seeking relationship advice more than parenting advice but, since others have answered and moderators have graciously allowed this question to stay, here are my thoughts:

First, the practical stuff:

The difference between 2 and 3 kids is, in my experience, huge. Being outnumbered is challenging. Kids have a tendency to 1) run in opposite directions and 2) take sides/gang up on each other. These two factors are difficult to cope with but, it can be done. This is something to consider, for both of you. Just remember though that it's not an impossible challenge.

You don't need a minivan to have three kids!! Gosh, if I had a dollar for every smirky minivan comment I've gotten since I've had 3 kids...There are these other vehicles called SUV's that also seat more than 4 people and all their stuff. You also do not need a bigger house. There are only two genders, so no matter what mix of each you've already got, there is always the option to share a room. In fact, the only thing you'll need more of is food and maybe some clothes. And diapers of course. But, in my experience, our expenses did but increase dramatically when our third came along, and we had plenty of room in our crossover SUV for the third kiddo.

Second, the less practical stuff:

Having kids in general is terrifying, overwhelming, stressful, wonderful, enriching, and entertaining (at least) With every kid we have, we learn more about the world and ourselves. Our capacity to love increases, as well as our opportunity to be loved. A person with x kids does not split love x ways, he has x times as much. To me, this is the most important factor to consider. When I look around the world and see true happiness, it is because of love, not because of college degrees, big houses, toys, cars, or other stuff.

I realize that the above paragraph is very warm and fuzzy, but it's true.

Here's a brief account of the journey I've been on for the last decade+ from which I hope you gain some insight:

I had my first child at 24, unmarried, with no intention of ever having kids at all. The father didn't want the baby and pushed for termination. I couldn't do it. He's now gone and I have an 11yo boy. I have no regrets.

I met a man a few years later (when my son was 2) who claimed to want 5 kids. I jokingly replied "I hope you and whoever she is that agrees to that much happiness." Because I didn't want anymore kids.

A year after we married I agreed to have another baby. My husband really wanted it, and I loved him so much I was willing to put my fears and apprehensions aside. (My first pregnancy nearly killed me-I had severe preeclampsia and developed a heart condition.)

When my 2nd boy was a little over a year old I got pregnant again by accident. At this point, I was pursuing my dream of going to law school by working on my undergrad degree while also working full time. I stayed in school right up until a month before delivery. However, I will admit, I was very unhappy about the timing of the pregnancy and felt a lot of resentment that my plans were being derailed. My husband had given up his 5 kid fantasy and was as dedicated to my goal as I was. I felt like the universe was conspiring against us, against me. In some ways our situation was very much like yours-in the sense that there is a goal that seems unachievable when another child is factored in. Btw- I am aware, and have been told, that my attitude was shameful. How could I resent a baby? I am not ashamed; I had my reasons. They were kind of selfish, but I'm only human. There is a lesson to be learned by my admission, so I'm willing to air "my dirty laundry."

After my 3rd son was born, I was very overwhelmed. My son was difficult-cried all the time and never slept for more than an hour. (He still doesn't sleep through the night regularly). But however much resentment I had felt during my pregnancy, it was transformed into fierce love for this miserable, wretched crying baby that was a gift from the universe; a gift I never asked for and at times (before he was born) felt was a curse. That is the lesson I learned. That in return for sacrifice we get more than we gave up...

Almost 4 years later, I regret nothing. I finished my undergrad degree (in the top 5% of my class, while working full time.) I came to the realization that I don't want to go to law school after all. I am happy with the career I have and the life I have. I love all my boys. I truly believe that the path I gave up-the fast lane to law school- was not right one any way. I believe I am much happier where I am than where I would have been.

I was counting down the months until I would get the half of my paycheck that goes towards childcare back until...

My husband confessed over the summer that he wanted another baby. I was not interested AT ALL because I was very happy with everything. I was surprised by his desire too, since he was also looking forward to the extra income we'd have once our nanny was reduced to part time (money being way more important/worrisome for him). I had such a hard time with our third (due to his personality, and in part to my being alone w/the three-my husband did not take ANY time off of work to help me get settled in the post partum time) that I had serious reservations about going down that road again. I am also past 30 now, and am at a point in my career where time off is more difficult to arrange and recover from. We had plans to start traveling. Despite all of this, despite my protests, my husband's feelings did not change, and for each obstacle of mine, he had a solution. I am currently pregnant with our 4th child because I realized, as I did with my second, that I love him so much that I am willing to do anything for him-make any sacrifice. I wouldn't be able to enjoy my career, my kids, my other half of my paycheck, without a happy husband by my side. And I know from experience that whatever reservations I have now (which I still have, believe me-I do not enjoy being inhabited by the parasite known as the human fetus) will disappear once I have the baby in my arms, the toddler on my knee, the kindergartener holding my hand...and that it will be replaced by love. I am sure that my sacrifice will not go unrewarded. And, right off the bat, I know we won't be having this situation again because in return for my agreeing to be pregnant again and give up a summer of driving my NEW Mustang (a graduation gift this time), he will get a vasectomy after the baby is born. He also agreed to take a full 4 week paternity leave this time.

The thing that stands out the most to me in your post is that you say you know you will love your child. You obviously care very much about your wife too since you have held onto her dream of going to school so closely as if it were your own. You have your answer right there: if you love your wife, and you know you'll love another child (even if it is not your plan/desire) then what's the harm? It appears as though the disagreement over the not having the child is more dangerous and heartbreaking than having it. What's the worst that could happen? Your wife is happy and you have one more kid to love?

My husband and I compromised when discussing our fourth baby. Have you and your wife discussed any compromises? What would alleviate your fears/concerns/reservations? If she is serious about this baby and your marriage she will want to make it work, not just get her way. And the same goes for you. What compromise would you be willing to make if she gives up her dream of a big family? In my opinion, compromise is the secret to a successful partnership. Also, patience. The answer to this question doesn't need to come this week. I DO understand that there is a clock ticking, since you are both over 30, but still, 6 months or a year won't hurt.

Think it over. Talk it over some more. Listen some more. Let your heart have a say. And, read some of the questions and answers on this site pertaining to life with three kids so you can gain some insight from "the trenches." It's not so bad down here. :-)

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I completely understand. My wife and I happen to both be on the same page now after having 2 kids that clearly 3 would just kill us. For one, that's the segue to a minivan and that's appealing to nobody. I got a vasectomy. Totally painless. Covered by insurance. Zero recovery time.

That being said, I think your situation may be different. Your wife has wanted to complete her degree as part of a personal goal. You may want her to do so, but ultimately is the degree really a critical component of a happy family? You say you have no money issues and even if she had a degree, it might not make the world of difference one assumes a degree does. Depends on the major, but you know what I mean. Relevance is pretty key too. If she has an interest in computer science, a 37 year old graduate has very little chance to compete in that market where as a librarian degree may actually ignore age or experience. We don't know what she's shooting for. Her career goals may be of the nature that can ignore timing. Even then, there are plenty of ways to make money as a stay at home parent to balance the income if that's partly the issue.

As for the kids though - Having a third is a huge decision nobody has the right to make for the whole family alone. It resets everything you may have finally been able to forget, like diapers, those kid safe fences, potty training, never getting any sleep at all, car seats, or the number of kids you can fit in the cars you currently have, preschool obligations, or even more grim, the possibilities of being born with disabilities or worse. When you love doing it all, those things may be of no concern, but if they put a toll on you like they did on me, having a third would have been a pretty selfish thing to decide upon. However, you know as well as I do that you would love the third same as the others and when they are there you would never change it. You may even feel awful that you didn't want to have a third. Your kids are awesome and you know you love them. You know they would love their siblings, and you know you would get through the financial things...

But would you get through letting something like this breaking you up? Not saying that's a possibility, but you know how extreme people can get. I can't really elaborate on that issue any more because I'd advise against entertaining such a notion over what ultimately should be a rationally approached subject for everyone.

Another thing to consider is that my wife was able to get her masters while working full time. We both worked full time, except I work from home half the time so I can deflect a little of the insanity. She did this when our first was a baby. It made it easier to manage because for the first 8 months or so they really don't do a whole lot. Given the age of your kids, you may be able to have another AND have her get her degree through correspondence courses. Don't forget that student loans tend to be deferred while you're still in school. I gather your kids ages are about 4 - 7 or 5 - 8. somewhere in that range. They're a lot easier and less demanding when they can talk to you (at least mine are) so she might have the ability to focus on school while they occupy themselves or while they're at school, even with a newborn around.

I can't say I have any official advise here but I post this because the same thing came up for us and we made a decision we're both very happy with. We factored in all the same things you seem to have, and my wife is pretty stubborn as well. But in the end, we determined that having 2 is better than 1. Having 3 might be too much to give full attention to everyone and it would limit the ability for us to give the 2 we have the best educations, fantastic vacations, holidays, birthday parties, play dates, cars later... hah... and even further down the road, property to inherit. We knew we would get by either way, but we didn't want to break up what appears to currently be a sure thing. So I got chopped and I no longer live in total panic that the gates will come back and diaper genies, minivans, and whatever else comes with the whole deal.

I'd breathe on it a little and talk it over. It's possible to do both technically. It may not be ideal, but it is possible.

By the way, our second was born with complications. They cost us thousands, but she's fine now. We came close, and knowing that now definitely helped us decide if we were willing to risk it not going so well the next time around.

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Firstly, remove the study factor from the equation. If this is no longer a priority for her, then that's up to her. If she wants to have another baby, you're not going to convince her that she really wants to go back to study instead. The real issue here is that you don't want another child.

It sounds as though she has always been upfront with you about how many children she wanted, and you had previously agreed to this. To simply say now, "things change" is quite unfair.

It is a big decision that you need to make as a couple, but just don't try to tell yourself that you're apposed to it out of concern for her study plans.

One further thing I want to add...

The apprehension and stress you're feeling now will vanish as soon as you look in your new baby's eyes. However if she wants another baby, and you don't allow it, this is a regret she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

I really believe in a situation like this, unless there is an extremely good reason not to, you should defer to her opinion.

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