I dread a new baby coming between me and my husband
A woman wonders if she’s being selfish because she can’t imagine sharing her husband with a baby. Mariella Froustrup suggests that she give love a chance
The dilemma I am in a loving marriage and we both feel ready to have children – something we have discussed at length and are on the same page about. However I cannot bear the idea of my child coming between my partner and me. The idea that we will no longer be alone together, and that I will not have him all to myself, fills me with dread to the point of almost experiencing it as a grief. I know that I won’t feel fulfilled until we have children – and the abstract idea of us doing so is utterly pleasing to me. Why am I being so selfish?
Mariella replies Why indeed? Not that your fears aren’t grounded. Chances are once you are parents you’ll barely have a moment alone for the next two decades and most of your conversations will centre on your offspring. And sex, presently probably motivated by passion alone, will have to be diarised. I’d love to offer you enhanced encouragement, but I do occasionally wish someone had been as brutally honest with me as I’m going to be with you.
The fears you are gripped by may appear selfish and slightly obsessive, but there’s also a degree of realism there. The idyll you are currently enjoying, this marriage of magical moments and intense intimacy will come in handy during pregnancy, but hasn’t a hope in hell of surviving post birth. Once your child is a reality, the prospect of a movie night at the local multiplex will take on the excitement and allure of an invite to the Oscars. Snatched lunches will be laced with furtive romance as you count the minutes before you must return to your baby, the pleasure of nights out will be leavened by the terrifying cost of a babysitter and as for Sunday mornings, the sort of long, lazy, nothing to do but hang on the sofa with the papers (or your iPad) dressed only in your husband’s pyjama top… they’re over for good. I mention it because just the other day I was overcome by such a visceral jolt of nostalgia for pre-parenting weekends that I had to sit down and catch my breath.
Instead, your life together will shatter into a multi-pieced jigsaw of immeasurable complication as you try to arrange working life, social life and romantic life into the small time frame previously reserved for calls to your parents-in-law. Yes, verily I say unto you, your life will never be the same, which is why plenty of mature adults use their powers of reason and judgment in deciding to eschew procreation. I wasn’t one of them and there are occasions when I look at my childfree friends having lie-ins at the weekend, burbling on about the latest theatre, cinema, music, exhibition or even restaurant app and wonder what madness led me to embrace motherhood having reached my 40s solvent, fit and still having fun. The rest of the time I’m trapped in a love affair with two kids that’s inescapable, already becoming a touch one-sided (I’m the needy one) and without question the glue that’s held my husband and me together during any difficult times.
Far from diminishing my love for my husband, our children seem to me our greatest achievement and provide compelling reasons to remain united despite the daily frictions of a long partnership. You say you and your partner are on the same page, but I’m not sure that’s the case, unless he too is experiencing the same sense of panic at losing his monopoly on you?
Love trapped in a vacuum, feeding only on itself is likely to be an impoverished version of the much richer union possible between two people. That doesn’t mean having children necessarily, but contributing to the future, not just gobbling up the pleasure you can in the moment, is surely part of our purpose here? Whether it’s by doing generous things for others, rearing kids who you hope will do good things with their lives, or simply testing how far our small human heart can stretch in our embrace of wider humanity, there’s got to be more to life than simply coupling up and closing the blinds?
I’m not going to encourage you to have kids, because you might just not be cut out for it, but I’d certainly like to nudge you towards a less claustrophobic relationship, where the world and your place in it don’t come under threat the moment a third party enters the equation.
I’m thrilled you are so happy together, but what would happen if your husband decided to trek across Antarctica or became a golf obsessive? Could you even cope with hopes and hobbies that left you on the sidelines occasionally?
The miracle of mankind is that our capacity for love isn’t restricted by megabytes, but defined by its ability to eternally expand. Whatever you decide to do in the future, open the windows, take a chance and let some air into that currently locked-down partnership of yours. theguardian