Author Topic: Navigating the decision about children, work mobility as young professionals  (Read 4477 times)

ethereality

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 208
My boyfriend (26, I'm 24) of 4 years and I are on the verge of splitting up for good. We have identical values when it comes to finances, religion, and most of what couples fight about. We've lived together for a year and worked together, and we were blissfully happy.

Now, he's pursuing graduate studies (full-ride, rare in his field) across the country in a 2 year, year-round program. Because I'm self-employed, I can probably squeeze out 8 weeks to be together. We've already survived a one year long distance, due to fellowship opportunities.

Long story short, we're facing two perhaps insurmountable challenge. He is afraid that his work (creative work), where there is little opportunity, will take him cross country, abroad, etc. He may not feel he can turn down those opportunities. My skillsets (in various disciplines across education and music, and tech skills) are much more flexible, and I'm actively pursuing a new business idea that could give me location independence (win-win situation). This seems like a lesser problem if we didn't also disagree about children.

The larger issue is children. At this point, facing another 2 year stretch of long distance, we need to know we're in it for the long haul. He doesn't think he will want children. I'm ambivalent, but I spend all day with kids, and am nurturing and may want them in my 30s. It's hard for me to even truly imagine having kids, so I'm having a hard time making this choice. Do I give up a fulfilling relationship for kids that I may or may not want one day? I think following MMM principles (having tons of savings!), and generally being able to shun traditional societal expectations makes it easier to negotiate having children. (For example, being FI, working on passion projects, and then having kids is a lot less stressful).

For what it's worth, I have a net worth of $103,000 and my partner (still in school) has around $30,000.

I would love general advice from anyone who's navigated this transition. Emotionally, it would be devastating to lose this relationship, but I know it will pass with time. What would/did you do?

humbleMouse

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 299
  • Location: Minneapolis
You have a few years to figure this stuff out before you get too infertile.  My biased opinion would be that you should stay in the relationship if you really like each other.  Good people you really like and are attracted to seem hard to come by.  Take my advice with a grain of salt as I am in my twenties.  I ended a relationship when it became long distance with a beautiful wonderful woman and have yet to meet anyone I like as much as I liked her. 

naners

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 172
  • Age: 38
If you differ on kids, or think you might, bail out now. You will have many, many other opportunities for fulfulling and blissful relationships: I say this as someone who was dumped at 32 after a great 6 year relationship. Sure, it hurt like hell for a while, but I just got married this past summer to someone who is actually a much better match for me. Waiting to see if he changes his mind is a bad idea: as the woman, your fertility has an expiry date, and you're wasting time with him that you could be spending on finding a partner who is a match for all of your needs (I didn't say all of your wants!). Right now time is very much on your side - enjoy yourself, work on your career and your friendships, meet some great people, and take your time finding the right partner. I highly recommend reading "Marry Him" by Lori Gottlib at some point. It upsets some people because of the idea that women can't wait forever, but at the core it's about focusing on what's really important in a partner (kindness, shared values, productive member of society, reasonable level of sexual attraction) rather than waiting for some Prince Charming who doesn't exist.

Good luck and take heart, fellow traveller, it can be done!

rockstache

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5896
  • Age: 2015
  • Location: Northeast
I don't know if I count as having "navigated this transition," but you can take what you like and disregard the rest.

I'm early to mid-thirties and nearing the time when having children naturally could start to get a lot harder with each passing year. When I was younger I just assumed I would be a mom at some point (isn't that what women do?) and didn't give it that much more thought. After a few boyfriends I finally ended up with my husband, who also wanted a family 'someday.' We've been married for almost 6 years now and that day hasn't come yet. He leans more towards no, and I am still solidly in the maybe column, but both of us would step up and be a full time engaged parent should we end up with an unplanned child. I think the most important thing here is that we just have never stopped talking about it.

You're still really young to be making a forever decision like that, especially if you're pretty sure you don't want a child today. If I were in your shoes, I think I would be inclined to hold onto the relationship and keep the conversation alive...say every 6 months or so. If one of you decides that they are 100% in one direction or the other and is honest about it, then you can reevaluate things at that point. A lot of people have strong feelings about kids one way or the other. I guess I just wanted to respond as an anecdotal female who just isn't sure and say....you don't necessarily have to know yet. Maybe just take things one step at a time. Do you want to be with him now?


norabird

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8193
  • Location: Brooklyn NY
Given that you are going to have to deal with long distance and don't know if you are aligned in the long term, I think it might make sense to end things. That's if he is really solidly 'no' on kids. If he is open to it (genuinely), you can certainly try to work to stay together, but since it's already going to be a lot of work managing the distance, I don't see the point of doing that if you are going to want different things.

charis

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1768
How would you feel if you put in all the time and long distance headaches to hit 29-30 year old, deciding that you DO want kids, and he says, nope, see you later? 

I was fairly ambivalent about having kids until I hit about 28 years old.  Before that I couldn't fathom how my life would look with children.  Then all of a sudden I wanted kids like yesterday.   

It sounds like you both are already having doubts about the longevity of your relationship, kids aside.  Unless you are both shouting "heck yes we will make this work, come hell or high water" from the rooftops, you are way too young to lose a decade to this relationship.

mturn

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 20
I am just another human and only you know what's best for you, but from an outside perspective looking in, I don't think you can allow children you may or may not even have dictate your relationship. So many things happen when you are with someone and dedicate your life to be with them. It's impossible to plan what Future You will want or what Future You will be like. You can have an idea on your values and wishes and desires, but life comes along and changes us, molds us, often matures us.
On the other hand, I can't imagine letting the child decision come between my relationship. I know lots of couples (myself included) who made a commitment to be together, even when they had different ideas about kids. Some people compromise, and yes, some people do break up over it.
Some people would probably contradict this, but I really believe your relationship with your spouse is #1, even before the kids or decision to have kids.

ReadySetMillionaire

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1171
  • Location: The Buckeye State
My SO and I went to the same high school and got re-acquainted over my 3L (third year of law school) Thanksgiving break. We then proceeded to date long distance until I was done with the bar exam (so approximately 9/10 months).

There's a novelty at first--facetiming before bed, texting your SO a thoughtful morning text that they wake up to, sending them a card, etc. But that wears off after a while. What keeps the spark going is (a) actually seeing each other and (b) having a long term plan to end the "long distance" preface to "relationship" (i.e., you need to have a plan to physically get back together).

You sound like you have a plan on seeing each other. That's really important. And you might think the time away from each other is hard--and it is--but it's also kind of freeing. You know that feeling when your SO goes away for the weekend? You don't wash your dishes in the morning, you watch some stupid TV show you know your SO hates, you get drinks with old friends, etc. If you're in an LDR, you get a lot of that time, and I took a lot of advantage of that. As a result, I'm very close with a lot of undergrad/law school friends as well as high school friends--and still happily dating my GF.

As for how my GF and I saw each other, I saw her over Christmas break, winter break (that four day weekend in February), spring break, other random weekends, and the break between finals and bar study; while she came to see me in between all those visits. And more importantly, the plan was always for me to come back home and get a job there (which luckily happened).

Meanwhile, my twin brother was in a relationship for 3 years before he and his SO went to the same undergrad on athletic scholarships. My brother got hurt freshman year and then transferred to a school four hours away. They tried to make things work but, after a while, it became apparent that she wanted to go to grad school in North Carolina and stay there after graduation. My brother had no interest in that and, even after really trying to make the LDR work, they eventually broke up. Note that neither of them were "selfish"--that's just life.

I use both those anecdotes to show what can happen if goals change while you are far apart. My GF and I stayed on the same page and it was awesome--it actually improved our relationship (you build a ton of trust when you are long distance). Meanwhile, my brother and his GF started to go down different paths and it was over pretty shortly.

So what would I recommend? Frankly I'm a stranger on the internet that knows nothing about you. But if you love your SO and think you want to spend the rest of your life with him, then I think you should try the LDR. There's a chance it will actually improve and solidify your relationship. Conversely, if you've just been dating for convenience (you live close and enjoy spending time with them, and there's no spark there that screams "I want to spend the rest of my life with him"), then that answers the question without even considering the LDR aspect.

Just my two cents.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2015, 02:32:02 PM by ReadySetMillionaire »

ReadySetMillionaire

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1171
  • Location: The Buckeye State
How would you feel if you put in all the time and long distance headaches to hit 29-30 year old, deciding that you DO want kids, and he says, nope, see you later? 

I was fairly ambivalent about having kids until I hit about 28 years old.  Before that I couldn't fathom how my life would look with children.  Then all of a sudden I wanted kids like yesterday.   

It sounds like you both are already having doubts about the longevity of your relationship, kids aside.  Unless you are both shouting "heck yes we will make this work, come hell or high water" from the rooftops, you are way too young to lose a decade to this relationship.
Like I kind of said in my post above, the long-distance part is almost irrelevant. A couple has to be on the same page for things to work. Just because he's moving across the country doesn't change anything about the foundation of your relationship, goals, wants, needs, etc.

Gray Matter

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3642
  • Location: Midwest
On the other hand, I can't imagine letting the child decision come between my relationship. I know lots of couples (myself included) who made a commitment to be together, even when they had different ideas about kids. Some people compromise, and yes, some people do break up over it.
Some people would probably contradict this, but I really believe your relationship with your spouse is #1, even before the kids or decision to have kids.

I am one who will contradict this (but clearly something you have to decide for yourself).  To me, having kids or not having kids is the single most important decision of my lifetime, and I absolutely would put this decision before a potential partner.  At age 24, I did not want kids, but thought I probably would someday, so I would not have stayed with a partner who wasn't open to that.  The distance thing would also be an issue for me--two years after one year apart already is just longer than I would want to spend apart.  Also, I don't know this to be true, but it sounds like you're setting things up to be the one who has to do the most compromising in your relationship (going where his job takes you, having kids or not depending on what he wants)--that may not actually be the case, but if it is, it's not a dynamic I would want in my relationship.

That said, you'll have to figure out what's most important to you, and where you're more likely to have regrets.  What if you stay together and he doesn't want kids and you do?  What if you break up over this and decide you don't want kids and want him back, but he's moved on?  What if you break up and then don't find another partner?  Which of those outcomes are you OK with and which ones are you less OK with?

Good luck with this--these are big decisions!  Mostly they can be reversed, though.  You can stay together for now, and break up later if you don't want the same things.  Or you can mutually decide to take a break, but stay in touch, and potentially come back together if you do want the same things.

Goldielocks

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6492
  • Location: BC
Given that you are going to have to deal with long distance and don't know if you are aligned in the long term, I think it might make sense to end things. That's if he is really solidly 'no' on kids. If he is open to it (genuinely), you can certainly try to work to stay together, but since it's already going to be a lot of work managing the distance, I don't see the point of doing that if you are going to want different things.

+1   Time to take an official break / end.   There is a good chance that the two of you will reconnect in a couple of years, but no harm in trying a fresh new start.  You know how much long distance relationships suck.  I, myself, would not want to do that twice.   I know three couples that chose this route, (myself included) and ended up married (to that same person) 3 years later anyway.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2015, 04:33:49 PM by goldielocks »

Kroaler

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 781
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Greenville, South Carolina

I was fairly ambivalent about having kids until I hit about 28 years old.  Before that I couldn't fathom how my life would look with children.  Then all of a sudden I wanted kids like yesterday.   



I hope this happens to me.   I can't see it, but I know my wife wants kids some day. 

okits

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9046
  • Location: Canada
More glaring than the kid question is it sounds like your partner's career is his top priority, which is fine, but by necessity that means you are #2, at best.  Are you okay with that, and will that ever change?  Some people are okay with it, some people aren't, and some people don't grasp the reality of their relationship until much later and then there's conflict or bitterness.

As for the kid question, I'll relay my own personal experience as a (perhaps interesting) anecdote.  I was always conflicted about having children until I fell in love with my husband. Then I saw ideal life partner + best father in the world and my mind changed to YES to kids with this person!  I never felt that way with anyone else, and as I got older I felt it was a bigger and bigger sacrifice to have children (career, money, lifestyle), so it was really incredible that being with the right person got me to 100% yes.  Perhaps your ambivalence is a sign that this relationship isn't for the long haul.

MayDay

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4029
At your age, I'd say you could try the LD thing, but after a few months you should know one way or the other- do you want to be with him or not? 

DO NOT ignore the kid thing.  There is a decent chance that if you think you might want kids now you will definitely want them in 5 or 10 years.   The biological clock thing is real.


Molzy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 36
I will add to the kids discussion. I never thought I wanted kids, until I met my (now) fiancÚ, combined with turning 27/28. He is fabulous with kids, and I can't imagine him not being a father. And that darn biological clock hit too.

We are both in the same field, and knew finding jobs in the same area would be tricky. After 2 years of dating, we lived apart for 18 months while we both focused on our careers - this was important to both of us, as we'd just completed graduate school and needed to establish ourselves. The time apart proved to both of us that being together was more important than our careers, and so we both started applying to jobs in the others city. He got an offer first, so moved back to me. So sometimes I think distance can be the test to see if someone is "the one".

All that said, long distance was terrible, and hard on us. I think it was hardest on me, because I moved to a small town (6000 people) where I didn't know anyone. He moved to a new town too, but was working at a university and was able to make a lot of friends. We've definitely become better communicators because of the distance, and after 6 months back in the same state we are still amazed at how much happier we are living together!

Good luck.

StacheInAFlash

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 137
  • Location: Midwest
Emotionally, it would be devastating to lose this relationship, but I know it will pass with time.

This is what is most telling to me. The fact that you can already see yourself past this relationship tells me it is time to jump ship. If this was the real deal, you would know that the pain of the loss would never pass with time.

Easye418

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 472

I was fairly ambivalent about having kids until I hit about 28 years old.  Before that I couldn't fathom how my life would look with children.  Then all of a sudden I wanted kids like yesterday.   



I hope this happens to me.   I can't see it, but I know my wife wants kids some day.

This is ,kinda sorta, what is happening now for us, but we feel big pressure because of time constraints.  We can technically have kids now and be completely fine, but it will take away what we truly want, which is a SAHM.  I want to feel completely secure going into that chapter of our lives.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6965
You've gotten a lot of good responses and anecdotes here, and I'm just going to say...it depends.

You are pretty young to be making decisions on staying together on the kid front, especially with one of you "leaning no" and the other "leaning maybe".  That's not too far off from each other.
The person (s)? who said "imagine yourself in 6 years after WASTING your time on an LDR, only to end it" has a good point.
The person (s)? who said that LDR's work and you should give it a chance, have a point.

I've seen every combination in real life.
I've got a friend whose boyfriend broke up with her at 30.  This wasn't even an LDR.  So man, she wasted her "best years", then it was hard to meet people, so there went her chance at having children.  (she married at 37 and had 3 kids, one at 38 and twins at 41).

I've got a friend who had a number of years in a relationship with an older man - she was mid-30's, he was 50 with two kids.  She eventually ended it (he was not good for her).  He was sure it was because she wanted children and he was "done").  Really, he was an asshole.  She's 37 and single, but dating.

I've got friends who are married and no kids.  The wife was mostly "no" and the husband was ambivalent.  They are insanely happy.

I've got a friend who married and divorced, then dated a divorced dad of two teenaged boys.  He was "done".  Oh, and technically not divorced because they couldn't agree on alimony, etc.  But separated.  Her parents and friends told her to "dump him" because she wanted children and he most certainly did not.  She was around 38 and he was 48 at the time.  Those of us "further" from the relationship said simply "it's your choice, you know where he stands."  Well, they had two boys (still not married) in her late 30's/ early 40's and his late 40's/ early 50's.  You know, he's not a very involved dad, which makes me sad, but again, it was her choice.  She's a good mom and the kids are adorable, if unruly.

My husband and I met in our 20s (right after college for me, we were in the Navy).  He moved cross country for grad school when I still had 2 years to go.  So: long distance.  He wanted kids, I did not.  We didn't really discuss it in depth in our 20's, or perhaps we would have not gotten married.  Those two years were HARD, because you kind of lose touch with the other person (there was no face-time or whatever back then, just the phone).

Marrying him was the best thing that I ever did.  We made it work, and we've compromised since.  The second best thing I ever did is have kids (he talked me into #1, and #1 talked me into #2).  I would probably still be blissfully happy without children, because I wouldn't know any different.

You say "I'm sure I'll be fine after it's over" - only you can know that.  I think it's a personality trait that lets people move on (I have that trait myself).  Honestly, I wouldn't dump a great relationship over distance or "possibly maybe someday kids".

(I did end a relationship with my college boyfriend right before he went into the Navy - it wasn't working, and mostly because he wanted me to "follow him" when I got out, instead of pursuing my own career.  That just wasn't going to happen to me at 22.)
« Last Edit: October 29, 2015, 09:15:03 AM by mm1970 »

Mrs. PoP

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 429
    • Planting Our Pennies
Personally, I wouldn't end a fabulous relationship over "maybe someday wanting" to have kids, especially because your partner doesn't seem adamantly opposed.  "Doesn't think will want " is a pretty weak statement and "maybe someday wanting" isn't all that strong, either.  When things start getting into "need", then we're talking strong statements...

I like to put things in numbers, so at different stages in our relationship, Mr PoP and I have had discussions where we've quantified our for/against kids.  What's interesting is that after having been together now for a little over 10 years (and married for 6 of them - married at 26yrs old), it's only recently that we seem to be at the same numbers.  There have been times where we were opposites, one 80/20 for and the other 20/80 and we've also flip flopped where at one stage of a relationship one of us was more "for" than the other and a few years later it was the other who was more "for".  Basically, as long as we weren't 100/0 and 0/100 (which I think of as "I can't go on living without my desired result" ratios), we could have rational discussions and never once did we think that potential children were worth ending our relationship. 

Maybe you guys should put some numbers on it and see where you stand?  Really, the person you need to be talking to about this is your SO, not a group of internet strangers. 

ethereality

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 208
Thank you all for your comments and perspectives. I am definitely talking with my boyfriend, and these comments give me starting points for discussion. I will also share these comments with him.

After talking last night, it seems like kids or no kids, we both need to get to a point where we're able to comfortably place our relationship first. That we'll support each other through major career opportunities. We both value our independence, and it's figuring out the transition from a more "selfish" dating perspective, to a marriage perspective that's giving us trouble.

As for the long distance, I think the first time around, my partner was traveling the world, while I moved home and had the hardest year of my life, building my business and working 80 hours a week. I was depressed, stressed, and overworked, while my partner was often unable to communicate (no phone or internet). This time around, we can talk daily, Skype, and my business is thriving. I feel less co-dependent, and actually appreciate time apart to better build my sense of identity and focus on my life outside of being in a couple.

Anyways, this issue will need time to work out, but thanks for the feedback - I know strangers can't make a decision for me, but it gives me food for thought.