Q: I am a 34-year-old woman and I have been married for 10 months. I am from India, but have lived in the United States for about 15 years. My husband is Caucasian and was born in the United States. Recently, I told my husband that I want to have a child. He replied that he wasn’t ready for kids and he is not sure if he wants them at all. In previous conversations, he has always been ambivalent, but I just trusted that he would change his mind after marriage. To me marriage and children are one thing. I feel angry and confused about his response.
A: You are bringing up three issues in your question: 1) Each of your individual timing regarding having a child; 2) Your assumptions (although commonly made by spouses) about his changing his mind after marriage; and, 3) Your different views about marriage and family, based on personal preferences and some cultural differences.
Given that your model of marriage leads to having a child, I find it interesting that you didn’t marry a man with a similar, traditional model. Do you know why that is? Does it give you more freedom or control, if he doesn’t place the demand of having children on you? Have you thought about this? You probably fell in love with him and trusted everything would work out. Marriage isn’t necessarily about getting what we want, even something as natural as children. The marriage you have chosen is about knowing and understanding each other’s individual preferences and finding ways to make it work for both of you enough of the time.
Now is the time to honestly, gently, and respectfully talk to each other about this issue. What are your concerns and dreams about a child? And what are his? Go into these discussions with the interest of deeply sharing and understanding yourself and the other, not only to make a decision about a child. This kind of open inquiry, even when differences become more salient, actually leads to more intimacy. This is the gift of a relationship that is unbounded by instinctual and cultural imperatives. Creative solutions emerge out of such deep contact.
Q: I am a single man in my early 40s who is thinking of adopting a child. I dreamt of doing this with a partner one day, but that day hasn’t arrived. I really want a child, but wonder about the psychological concerns of a child being raised by a single dad.
A: The most important qualities of a parent are love and commitment. This can exist or not exist in a two-parent family or a one-parent family. Adopting a child is challenging, gratifying, and a service to a child in need of a parent. First, ask yourself why you want this child. Second, are you up to being the sole parent to him or her?
Give yourself time to bond with the child. A younger child needs more skin-to-skin holding, which can be provided by a man or a woman. Developing a trusting relationship takes time with plenty of non-verbal and spoken communication. If you tune into the child’s needs and personality, you will be more present and available to his or her various experiences of being a child. There are many ways of creating a healthy family. A child raised with numerous adults receives ample nurturing from men and women. Create a community around you of friends and relatives, adults and children, who enjoy being part of your new family.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in Palo Alto and San Francisco. (415) 205-4666. www.wholenesstherapy.com