A post over at Becky’s place about television stereotypes spun off into a discussion between AndiePandie and I about children, marriage, and decisions. I take the position that the decision to have a child ought to be made before one gets married and should be made with a degree of certainty that your mind will not change later.

It’s an ironic position for me to take because neither my wife nor I are sure about the subject. We have both decided, however, that we can go either way and that if either of us doesn’t want them, we won’t have them. I could go on and on about it the factors in our personal decision, but right now I’m thinking more about the decision in general and the decision-making process.

Of the three Truman boys, the middle brother Mitch has the makings of the best father. He is also the one of the three of us that – absent a divorce – is certain not to be a father. His wife announced that she didn’t want kids and he accepted it with such grace that it surprised all of us (he had the kids named!).

Of all the issues that a couple faces, I think that the two most uncompromisable ones are marriage and children. If they don’t agree as to whether or not marriage is a sacred vow or a piece of paper, that’s not something that’s going to go away. But even bigger than that is the issue of children. If you have always or never seriously pictured yourself with children, then you really should think twice before “compromising” on that. Even more important, though, is that if someone has made their view to you on the matter clear, listen to what they’re telling you because not only is their mind unlikely to change, but even if it does do you really want to raise children with someone that doesn’t want them or feel the resentment of someone that sacrificed them to be with you?

But the question of whether or not to procreate is a serious one and I’m rather surprised at those that d0n’t take it very strongly in to consideration when choosing a partner. Someone (Mitch, I think, actually) told me that the four pillars to any marriage are money, family, religion, and sex. There has to be some harmony on all four or the relationship will collapse in due time. Of the four, family is the only one that a compromise cannot be reached on. It is, in my mind, the most important.

Yet a surprising number of people I know are willing to jettisen their instincts on the matter for the right person. Usually in some sort of very strange “But I’m in love” kind of way that defies logic, common sense, and long-term happiness. But if the composition of your future family (if you have feelings predominantly one way or the other, of course) isn’t something you’re willing to take a stand on, what is?

The more controversial view that I have here, I suppose, is that I believe that once you make a decision, you are making a commitment on the child issue just as surely as you are on the spouse issue. If you get married saying you want children and change your mind, you’re agreeing to father or bear children. If you get married to someone that doesn’t want kids, you’re committing to spending the rest of your life without children. Things like illness or infertility/sterility happen, of course, but barring that if you change your mind on that subject, the fallout (not including anything criminal, of course) falls more-or-less on your head.

When I think of Mitch and my sis-in-law, I can’t help but really, really hope he meant it when he said that not having children was a sacrifice he truly is happy to make. Cause if he changes his mind on that (or worse, thinks he can change hers), he won’t really have anyone to blame but himself.

Category: Coffeehouse

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