First off, sorry about yesterday’s post. It’s a good one that took me some time to write, and it’s probably about 90% fine to share publicly. Anyone who wants to read it can send me a PM and I’ll give you the password. Actually, it’s 100% fine to share publicly… and I probably will at some point. Just not right now.
Now, for today’s topic. This morning, I read Carolyn Hax’s advice column in the Washington Post. Today’s letter was written by a 33 year old man whose wife, aged 26, has decided that she would like to have a baby. The man, who signed himself “Baby Rabies” explains that he’s looking out for his wife’s best interests. He claims that although they both have good, stable jobs and health insurance, she doesn’t realize how much work babies are and how expensive they can be. He worries that she will regret having a baby so “young” (since when is 26 too young for a baby?) He wants her to enjoy being DINKs (double income, no kids) for a couple of years longer, since they’ve only been married two years. He says her friends will have settled down and started having babies and she won’t be so “isolated”.
Apparently, the letter writer tried to tell his wife that his thinking is for her own good. She is upset because she thinks he’s “infantilizing” her. But he insists that she hasn’t considered the long term consequences of having a baby and what that will mean for their marriage.
Carolyn points out that yes, of course, this guy is infantilizing his wife. I would take it a step further, though. I have written about projection a few times in this blog. Many people don’t know what it is. I think this is an obvious case of projection. Letter writer is apprehensive, immature, and not ready to be a dad, but instead of owning up to that, he’s claiming that his wife isn’t ready because she’s “too young” and his statements indicate that he also thinks she’s immature, since he assumes she hasn’t considered how much “drudgery” is involved with caring for babies.
When I read this guy’s letter– a letter that is all about his opinions about his wife’s emotional and mental states– I hear a man who doesn’t want to become a father yet. But instead of simply admitting that HE doesn’t want to be a dad yet (or maybe even ever), he’s putting it all on his wife. And yes, he’s insulting and infantilizing her, because instead of hearing and understanding his wife’s thoughts about how SHE feels, he’s claiming that his opinions and impressions of her feelings are more relevant and correct.
I sure hope the two of them discussed their feelings about having children before they got married. If they didn’t, this marriage may soon wind up on the rocks. If I were “Baby Rabies'” wife, I would be very pissed off and offended by this guy’s overbearing attitude, especially regarding decisions about MY body. Moreover, if they aren’t on the same page about having a family, this is sure to be an issue that will cause a serious rift in their marriage. No matter what happens, they will probably end up deeply resenting each other.
However– that being said– I also think that Baby Rabies must have a say in their family plans. Clearly HE is not ready to be a parent. And ideally, he should be ready to have a baby before his wife gets pregnant. Since he wants to wait a couple of years and she doesn’t, she may want to consider– 1. whether or not she wants to wait, and 2. how long she’s willing to wait– for her husband to get on board with a pregnancy. I think that would be the wise thing to do. Unfortunately, when it comes to having a family, a lot of people don’t take the other person’s wishes into account. But then, maybe she’s like me and doesn’t find willing partners all that easily. 😉
As I have written many times before, Bill married his ex wife after she had already had a son. Bill was committed to treating the ex’s son as if he were his own, which, frankly, was a mistake, since Ex obviously considers her children to be solely her possessions. In the earliest months of their marriage, she got pregnant, claiming that the birth control failed. Bill was happy to be a dad, but they were not financially ready. Moreover, it’s clear to me that Ex’s birth control didn’t fail. She just unilaterally decided that she wanted to get pregnant and quit taking it. Meanwhile, Bill didn’t wear a condom (which he definitely should have, if he truly wasn’t ready for fatherhood). She did the same thing two years later. Then, when she married number three– sure enough, pregnant within two months and again three years after that. These were ALL her decisions alone, and it was unfair to Bill, and their kids (and their other fathers), although they could have chosen to wear condoms or abstained (but you’d think a man should be able to trust his wife when she says she’s using birth control).
I do think that men– prospective fathers– must have a say when it comes to family planning. I think that both parents should be fully prepared for the responsibility of starting a family and, as much as possible, ready to take it on, especially in this day and age, when everything regarding child raising is so expensive and complicated. It sounds to me like Baby Rabies simply isn’t ready to be a father yet. But instead of just admitting that he’s not ready, he’s putting everything on his wife, and being very insulting to her by claiming she doesn’t know how she feels or what she’s doing. That attitude is bound to piss her off.
Frankly, I think that the fact that he’s projecting his apprehension about having a baby onto his wife is a huge red flag, especially since he’s already seven years older than she is and probably thinks that means he’s “older and wiser”. Some women do like that– but a lot of smart, independent, modern women don’t. This ain’t The Sound of Music— we’re not “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”, needing someone telling us what to do. (as an aside, I’ve always liked that song, even though the lyrics are incredibly sexist and insulting– the melody is nice.)
I think Carolyn Hax did a good job with her advice to Baby Rabies. I completely agree with what she wrote. But talking about this with Bill this morning reminded me of a truth that has served us well. When I married Bill, I knew there was a good chance we’d never be parents. He’d had a vasectomy when he was with his ex wife. And I am about to digress for a moment, so please excuse the next two paragraphs–
In retrospect, having a vasectomy was a very smart thing for Bill to do, since Ex uses her children as weapons and she clearly wasn’t done having them, as she had claimed before Bill had the surgery. She has had children with each of her three husbands, and when she divorces them, she forces them to take her side and denies them access to their dads. She did it with her first ex husband, and she did it with Bill. Number three is still married to her, but it’s reportedly not a very happy marriage. We’ve heard that Bill’s daughters were forced to call their stepfather “Dad” because he got jealous when Older Daughter once referred to Bill as “Daddy” in front of number three’s baby. Ex reportedly said that she didn’t want her third marriage to fail, so the kids were expected to latch on to number three, forgetting that they already have a father who loves them (which they evidently weren’t able to do, despite appearances to the contrary).
Now– I’m not sure if number three actually felt better when the kids started calling him “Dad”. My guess is that he knew it was bullshit, and he’s likely been unfavorably compared to Bill a lot. Ex probably told him many times that he doesn’t measure up to Bill. I only say this because this is what narcissists do to keep their victims in line. Once you’ve been around them, you realize that they all have the same playbook. They aren’t faithful; they constantly look for supply; and they always have to keep their victims just a little bit insecure so they’ll fight for their position. It takes awhile before the victims realize that the position they’re in is not worth fighting for. I did notice, some time back, that number three had a picture on social media of all of the kids and he referred to them as “All my kids”… but we later heard that it was mostly a sham, done only for optics, and a lot of that stuff was put out solely to punish Bill.
When I married Bill, I knew that I might not become a mom in the usual way. Yes, there are a lot of ways a person can become a parent. We could have adopted a child, although our nomadic lifestyle would have made adoption a challenge. Bill did undergo a vasectomy reversal, which did not result in my getting pregnant (and we aren’t sure why). We could have resorted to getting fertility assistance, which we couldn’t afford and I didn’t really want to do. Also– moves all the time made that prospect difficult.
Eventually, I mostly made peace with the idea that I won’t be a mother. What it came down to is that I decided I would rather be Bill’s wife than be a mother. I don’t think I could find anyone else who is quite as perfect for me. I wouldn’t want to try. I would not trade my marriage to Bill for a baby, although I know that not everyone feels that way. What I have for him is real love. I never saw him as simply someone to fertilize my eggs. I also deeply appreciated that he was willing to have the reversal surgery. He was fine with not having more children, although I know he would have loved to have had a baby with me. I was so grateful that he was willing to try, though. It meant a lot.
I don’t know Baby Rabies’ wife. It sounds like she’s ready to be a mother and has given a lot of thought to the prospect. It’s possible that having a baby is non-negotiable to her, and not having one, or at least trying to have one, will be a dealbreaker. She may have to decide if motherhood, right now, is more important than her marriage. If she does get pregnant and her husband isn’t ready, that could end up being bad for their relationship.
Or… maybe Baby Rabies will fall into line, kind of like the guy who insists he doesn’t want a pet, but then falls in love. It’s hard to tell based only on his letter, which frankly makes him out to be a bit of an overbearing and insensitive jerk. But that letter was probably heavily edited to give us the biggest bang for the buck. He may not have come across as so heavy-handed in the original letter. For all we know, he’s really more of a worry wart, rather than someone who’s boorish and controlling. I can understand a man worrying and being apprehensive about being a father. That’s understandable. I have much less understanding for men who think they know their partners’ minds better than their partner does.
Anyway… this is an academic situation for me. I am not going to have children. Instead, I will have dogs. I may, at some point, have livestock again, too… although that is looking more and more doubtful, the older I get. Fortunately, I am not one of those women who feels compelled to have a baby. I thought it was very important, but it turns out it wasn’t– at least to me. For all the shit we’ve been through in our marriage, I love Bill more every day. I count myself lucky. Hopefully, Baby Rabies and his wife will come to a consensus soon.