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Dear Care and Feeding,
My ex-boyfriend and I were in an on-and-off relationship for six years. We’re both in our late 30s, and we both want kids. We’ve gotten to the point where we know that we can’t work in a relationship, even though we care about each other very deeply. I feel like it’s too late for me to find a partner to have kids with, and during our breakup conversation I told him I was devastated that I might lose the opportunity to have a child.
He called me this afternoon and suggested that we have a kid together, but just stay broken up. I told him I’d think about it. I know we can coparent effectively and have similar values. Our relationship doesn’t work for many reasons: We have wildly different sex drives and preferences; he feels like I don’t give him enough attention due to my busy career; and I’m much cleaner than him, and he isn’t willing to change that. It has nothing to do with our communication, and I know he’d be an amazing father, which is part of why I stuck around for so long. Is doing this as crazy as it sounds? My best friend used the word “unhinged” when I pitched it to her over text …
—Mom at Any Cost?
Dear Mom at Any Cost,
After the dissolution of a serious late-30s relationship, it’s natural to panic a bit about your pregnancy and parenting prospects. It’s OK to let yourself feel that sense of urgency and uncertainty about the future. But I assure you, uncertainty about whom you may or may not meet in the future is not a reason to tie yourself to parenting with someone after you’ve broken up.
You don’t know what the future holds, but you do know what the past has already taught you. You and your ex have fundamental differences of opinion on some pretty major issues. If he has a problem with how much attention you paid him during the relationship, who’s to say he won’t also resent the amount of attention you’ll pay to your child (or how much attention the child pays you)? He already seems to take issue with your priorities—that won’t change in coparenting.
It’s also noteworthy that having this child together was his suggestion, not yours. Is he using your worry about your pregnancy and parenting timeline as a way to extend the time he spends being a part of your life? Would having a child with someone you know you don’t get along with well enough to date be a codependent and unhappy situation? Try not to dismiss these questions out of hand. Really think about them before making any choices out of a sense of urgency or hopelessness.
There are several ways that you can become a parent, if you’re open to them. You can be a single parent by choice through adoption or surrogacy and parent in community with people with whom you have no complicated history or romantic past. You could meet and fall in love with someone who already has kids and become part of their parenting village. You have options.
More Advice From Slate
I’ve been divorced for five years, raised a wonderful daughter who is in her fourth year of college, and started dating a wonderful man one year ago. Things were going great for me, my daughter and my relationship with “Tim.” Tim and I were set up by a mutual friend who is a professor at the college my daughter attends. My daughter took a class from him last year on my suggestion. While in that class she met and started dating a fellow classmate who decided to take the class because of a suggestion from his father. … Yep you guessed it! My daughter and I are dating a father and son.