Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Along for the ride: How much say does a husband actually have in family planning? My wife and I have two incredible and healthy children, but I am facing a blockade when it comes to the conversation about having a third. When I was young, I had my closest sibling die tragically. Ever since, I have always wanted a large family and have maintained from the beginning of our relationship that I could never be comfortable or happy with less than three children because of the lived fear in me of what happens if one dies and all our eggs are in one basket or our child loses their only sibling. I know it’s “primitive” thinking, but it is hard to deny the possibility when it happens to you.
So far, I have deferred completely to my wife in terms of timing and family planning. After our second was born, she informed me that it was too much anxiety to consider another child and placed an “embargo” on even discussing the possibility until she “felt ready.” Two years have passed now, and after trying to broach the conversation, I was told, essentially, that the embargo is still in place. I have worked tirelessly to make motherhood as small a burden as possible for my wife. I do vastly all of the child care, meals, bedtime baths, etc. She is very career-focused, and that plays a part in her general anxiety levels and why I carry the load of being the “primary” parent, and while I too have a career, I have never aspired to much more than being comfortable and being a good father/husband.
After our last abbreviated conversation, I told her I suspected that her plan was to freeze me out and wait out the clock, and I can only view that as a betrayal. But outside of the unlikely case that I pack my bags, am I just a passenger on wherever this ship is going?
A: You have every right to be frustrated with your wife for opting to wait out the clock instead of communicating with you.
But the person who has to carry the baby always gets to win if they don’t want another baby. And if one parent doesn’t want another baby, the other one should take that very, very seriously.
Sadly you come out on the “you don’t really get a say” side of these two rules that I just made up (but that feel logical and fair to me). So yes, you’re kind of just a passenger on this ship.
That doesn’t mean you have to be a miserable passenger who is terrified that one of his children will die. I really hope you will get some help to stop your awful childhood loss from interfering with your adult life. My biggest concern is that your kids are going to grow up fast, and I don’t want your fears about death and fixation on a third child to cause you to miss out on enjoying every minute of your time with the family you clearly love.