Carolyn Hax: Fiance wants a big family.  He says maybe two children – max.

Carolyn Hax: Fiance wants a big family. He says maybe two children – max.

Carolyn Hax: Fiance wants a big family.  He says maybe two children – max.


Adapted from an online discussion.

dear Caroline: How do you compromise on the number of children? And how important is it to get it straight before the wedding?

My future husband wants a big family like his own. He’s one of six, but says he’d be happy with four. Two sounds as the maximum I could afford while dealing with my other goals. As a person who will have to bear children, I know that I will have the last word, but I am concerned about the lack of agreement on this issue up front.

I also feel like I’m being a bit manipulative by saying, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” knowing I don’t want a third.

disturbed: It’s not “manipulating”; it’s deceptive. Get up and do it. “I know you want a big family and you’ll be happy with four.” But with me there will be no more than two. So: is it possible to be happy with two?

“As much as I love you – and us “I can’t be part of a life you don’t want.” So please really think about it and let me know if having two kids with me sounds like the life you want most in the world.”

However you word it, cross this bridge now. It is very important to get this straight before the wedding.

It is worth repeating: family plans and family realities do not always go hand in hand; you can agree to six and take none. But this is the kind of life you’re debating: large family, child-centered chaos vs. something more adult focused. They are so different, everyone is important, and each of you deserves to get as close to your ideal as possible. That might mean you’re not doing it together. Face it face to face. Good luck.

Re: Kids: Also talk about how this family will work. Does he expect to be a true 50/50 partner, such as bathing/feeding/setting rules/following with teachers/bringing to doctor appointments/helping with homework? Or maybe he just thinks a big family will be “fun” without thinking about the logistics?

We know from research that women still unfortunately do most of the emotional and domestic work for families. I personally know many men who want more children, but far less than 50 percent do. Of course they want more! They get the fun parts!

dear Caroline: My husband’s brother married someone really awful. For several years, my mother-in-law and I really had a common dislike of this person and the way he reinforced our ideas about ourselves and each other – like, “I’m so glad you’re not like that. Then we realized we were really ugly behind her back and agreed to stop.

I think a year later we both still feel awkward about it and can’t figure out how to find the same intimacy with each other without going back to the well of my sister-in-law’s gossip. This strains my relationship with my mother-in-law a bit and seems like a pleasure we deny ourselves. How do you grow up and get over it?

Gossip: Sounds like a great conversation with your mother-in-law. Seriously. Together you have come to an end to the rumors, so why not rebuild together on the ground you once burned? This also seems to encourage intimacy – it’s something that can be worked on together.

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