The clock is ticking

My girlfriend has decided she wants a baby, but I'm not ready. What should I do?

Published June 7, 2004 7:37PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I'm in a bit of a bind. My girlfriend of nearly two years has recently decided she really wants a baby. The urge seems to have kicked in with a vengeance over the last month or so. She brought it up recently and said to me that if I didn't share her feelings (or at least see the relationship heading in the same way) then she would have to "reassess" the relationship. Which I took to mean end it.

My problem is that I'm not ready. I'm 28, two years younger than my girlfriend, and am enjoying everything that being 28 with a good job, a girlfriend and a full social life entails. To be honest, I don't want to change that and after a long time being single and at times lonely in my early to mid-20s, I'm perfectly happy with what I've got.

A number of my friends have had kids in the last two or three years, and while all the kids are adorable, I've seen the changes they have forced on the parents. Social lives curtailed, sleepless nights -- you know the drill. I don't want that, at least not for a few years yet.

My problem is that my girlfriend tends to take any lukewarm responses from me as a definite no and so I'm in real danger of losing her. I love her and just want to be with her. But I'm afraid if I say yes I'm being forced into something. I should really want to do this, surely? Being forced into it can't be good. But how do I get my voice heard without ending up splitting up with my love?


Dear Confused,

I think you need to decide if you are going to have children in the future. Don't say you don't know. You don't have to know. But you do have to decide. There's a difference. Sometimes we have to make decisions without knowing. This is one of those cases. Here's why: If you can't tell your girlfriend whether or not you want kids, then you're asking her to take an unreasonable risk in waiting around to find out. If you're simply not ready yet, it's reasonable to ask your girlfriend to delay childbearing for a year or two. But if you're not willing to commit, and if you honestly don't think you'll ever be ready, you have to tell her that and let her decide whether she wants to take the risk of waiting.

If you're willing to have kids in the future, agree on how long you want to wait. Thirty is a nice round number, and it's the age at which she suddenly wanted kids. So maybe, if you're willing to commit, you could ask her to wait a couple of years, until you, too, are 30. Even if you reached that point and made the painful realization that you were wrong, that you are unable to commit, she would still be in prime childbearing age and so, even though she'd be royally pissed off at you, she could still go find a mate who wants to raise some kids.

You don't have to know now how you're going to feel about it in the future, but you do have to make a decision.

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