“Help! I don’t want kids and my boyfriend has a six-year-old”

Dear Sarah,

I found my Prince Charming. He’s a wonderful, romantic, classy guy who happens to have a six-year-old-son.

Although his child is pretty well behaved, and we don’t have him that often, I feel incredibly guilty because I’m not someone who wants children and would like to avoid that whole issue in my otherwise “happily-ever-after.” But now, Prince Charming and I are looking to buy a house together, and my repeated attempts to have a productive conversation about it end up making us both feel guilty and awful. I even went to a psychiatrist for a few sessions without much relief on my end.

I know this is a big moment for us, and how we choose to manage this could ultimately make or break our relationship and our personal sanity. Any thoughts on how I can approach this subject in a way that’s productive? How can we move forward and keep everyone happy?


—Puppies Over Babies in Minnesota

Dear Puppies,

While I sympathize with the fact you have these uncomfortable feelings around children, you definitely do not want a partner who would give his up for you.

I met my husband in my free-spirited mid-twenties and part of the package was two young children and a still-miffed ex-wife. Was that challenging? Did I sometimes want him all to myself when we were playing interminable rounds of Monopoly? Did it sometimes create conflict? Yes, on all fronts. But, what kind of person would he be if he had neglected his them? Feeling unloved or abandoned by a parent is at the wounded heart so many people’s life-long struggles with unhappiness and dysfunction.

Your partner can’t change his past and having a child is nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, most people who have kids with the wrong person come away from it with the feeling, “Well, that relationship was terrible, but if it hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have this beautiful child.” Parents are bonded to their children on a cellular level. If you manage to drive a wedge between your boyfriend and his son, he’ll ultimately regret it down to his bones and resent you.

So, dear young lady, you are going to have to make peace with your aversion to having children in your life—or at least this one sweet child—if you want this relationship to work. You don’t have to be Mary Poppins, but you do have to be kind. You and your boyfriend will need to learn to communicate about the issue without it breaking down into a festival of mutual guilt-tripping. I wouldn’t open with, “I don’t want kids,” —that’s a non-starter. How about instead, “I love you and I want to make this work with you and your son.” If you find you just can’t talk about it productively, a couples’ counselor might be more helpful than a personal therapist.

Try to see his son as a valuable, interesting person not as someone else’s kid. If you can’t cultivate love, at least try curiosity. Are there books, movies, activities, or topics that you are both interested in? Find out. Kids’ brains are pretty fascinating.

Let go of the desire to have this relationship with “Prince Charming” be a your perfect fairy tale—life is much more complicated than that. It’s out of the challenges that we grow and become bigger people with a greater capacity to love.

Love, Sarah

Have an issue that could use a mom’s-eye-view? Our advice column features a real live mother of three who is ready to discuss any of your burning questions judgment—and baggage—free. Email [email protected] with the subject line “Dear Mom.” Please include your first name or nickname and where you are from. Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

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