Dear Prudence

Help! I Left My Ex Because He Didn’t Want Children. Now I’m Pregnant With His Baby.

I’m afraid he’ll suggest I did this on purpose.

A woman looks in disbelief at a pregnancy test with illustrated plus signs next to her.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

My relationship ended because although we were still in love, we were at an impasse where children were concerned: He had gone from “maybe” wanting them to 100 percent committed to living child-free. I have always wanted to be a mother, so we split amicably and I moved back to where I’m from on the other side of the world. I discovered I’m pregnant two weeks ago and am feeling conflicted. It’s definitely his as I haven’t been with anyone else in years. I want the baby, and I have a big community of family and friends around me to help. Am I obligated to inform him, knowing he doesn’t want children? What would co-parenting even look like with an ocean between us? It almost seems kinder not to tell him, but it seems immoral. I’m also afraid he will be angry or suggest I did it on purpose. Is there a way to tell him and also assure him that he need have no part in it, that he is under no obligation and I would even prefer he were not involved, without being a dick about it?

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It is, I think, a good idea to tell your ex you’re going to have a child. Even if he doesn’t like the information, and even if the conversation is profoundly uncomfortable, at the very least you will be practicing for the many uncomfortable conversations you will have to have as a parent. Sure, there’s a way to tell him you’re pregnant and you also don’t intend to turn to him for emotional or financial support, or require his services as a co-parent. You just told me beautifully, and I think when you inform him you should say exactly what you said to me. He may get angry, which is fine. Having reproductive-style sex generally allows for the possibility of pregnancy, even with birth control; he can’t exactly get mad at you without also blaming himself. (Well, he can, and people do all the time, but he shouldn’t.) The silver lining is that both of you appear to be on the same page—neither of you want or expect him to be involved in this baby’s life. It may be possible for you two to arrive at a mutually satisfactory custody agreement together that spells out his non-involvement in your child’s life, which would likely bring you no little piece of mind in the future. —Danny M. Lavery

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From: “Help! I Left My Child-Free Ex, but Found Out I’m Pregnant With His Child.” (May 30, 2017)

Dear Prudence,

My 6-year-old daughter has started … um … “playing with herself” rather frequently. She’s our only child, and we often commend her for amusing herself, but this isn’t what we had in mind. It started maybe a year ago, and at first we told her that that’s not something you do in the living room or in front of other people. So she started doing it when she thought we wouldn’t see her, but she’s not very discreet. Recently it seems have gotten more frequent, almost daily. Any suggestions for how to handle this? She’s a really happy kid with boundless enthusiasm for life and for learning, and in general we’re very conscious of not breaking her spirit by discouraging her, but this just seems age-inappropriate. Thanks for any suggestions.

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If you’d just discovered that you could rip off oh, 20 orgasms in a row, you’d probably find that more entertaining than Play-Doh. This revelation has got to come under the category of “boundless enthusiasm for life and learning.” What’s she’s doing is perfectly age-appropriate, and your response so far has also been appropriate, so keep it that way. You tell her what she’s doing is fine, but it’s really important to know this is something people do in private. You could say that it’s okay for her to do it in the house, but only when just the three of you are there. You explain that even if she thinks other people can’t tell, they can. (The panting and sweating in the absence of physical exertion is a good give-away.) If she slips (her hand in her panties) and does it at inappropriate times, you give her a look and a shake of the head. She likely won’t outgrow this desire, but in a few years she will take it to her room and out of your sight. In the meantime, you and your husband can laugh about what a honeymoon night your daughter will have. —E.Y.

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From: “Help! My 6-Year-Old Can’t Stop Playing With Herself.” (Feb. 4, 2013)

Dear Prudence,

I got married in September, and then in February I found out my husband had kept a longtime girlfriend from me. It was all very traumatic and awful. Now we are getting divorced, and all I am concerned about is staying afloat during this difficult time. His mother and my mother keep asking about the thank-you notes for our wedding gifts. I never finished them. But how can I possibly write thank-you notes for money that’s already gone, and gifts that we got as a couple?

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I’ll be honest, I’m anxious about answering this one after being so off the mark about thank-you notes last time. I’m so sorry your mother and mother-in-law, who presumably know you’re getting divorced due to your ex’s infidelity, are badgering you about thank-you cards. If there are any gifts you haven’t used, I believe it’s common practice to return them to the gift givers, although you might want to enlist a friend or relative’s help in doing so if you don’t have the time and energy to mail back a bunch of kitchen gadgets while navigating the sudden end of your marriage. For gifts you have used, a standard thank-you note is just fine: “Thanks for X product, which I’ve enjoyed using while committing Y task. Looking forward to seeing you during Z event.” There’s no need to reference your divorce. I also imagine, if your social circle is at all aware of the circumstances of your marriage’s bust-up, no one else is going to be hassling you over thank-you notes quite like your mother and mother-in-law. —D.L.

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From: “Help! We Got Married, Then He Dumped Me. Do I Have to Finish the Thank-You Notes?” (April 30, 2018)

Dear Prudence,

I’ve been dating “X” for about 6 months. We are both in our late 20s, settling into our careers and thinking about the future. I have never been great at choosing men, but he is everything I could ask for—he’s my match intellectually, he’s sensitive, funny, great in bed—and attractive. Very attractive. He is by far the most physically attractive man I’ve ever dated, let alone gotten serious with. My problem is: I’m not so attractive. I’ve been putting off his advances for commitment because I’m so self-conscious about our difference in the looks department. I wouldn’t be so hesitant if every girl he’s dated wasn’t a model, and if his parents weren’t so shallow (his father tells his mother she is fat on a daily basis—she looks like Christie Brinkley). Should I just end things now? I’m never going to be a model!

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Maybe he’s interested in you because of you. After dating a string of models, he might also find it deeply refreshing to go to dinner with someone who can actually eat a meal, or who can pass a mirror without being mesmerized by her reflection. I also bet you’re much more attractive than you’re giving yourself credit for. If his father is abusive to his mother, that does not mean he will do this to you. But that is something of concern you can mention. If you go to dinner with his parents and his father berates his mother for having dessert, afterward you can bring it up. Do it gently: “I was uncomfortable with what your father said to your mom. And she’s so thin and gorgeous, what is he even talking about?”—and gauge his reaction. I hope he’s able to recognize this destructive dynamic. In any case, you have found a great guy, so do not break it off because he’s everything you have been looking for! —E.Y.

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From: “Help! My Boyfriend Is Too Good-Looking for Me.” (Oct. 28, 2014)

More From Dear Prudence

I’ve been dating a fantastic man whom I love for about a year. We’re living together and everything has been ideal. Well, almost everything. After listening to a podcast together about a similar subject, he mentioned that he has a box of nude photos of various exes. He said that he doesn’t look at the photos but nonetheless refuses to get rid of them. He knows how uncomfortable it makes me to have these photos in our home but thinks this is a “slippery slope,” and that next I’ll be insisting he get rid of his wedding album and all other remnants of his former relationships. Am I just insecure, or is this unacceptable?

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