Carolyn Hax: Fiance wants a big family. She says maybe two kids — max. – Lifotravel

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: How do you compromise on number of kids? And how important is it to straighten that out before getting married?

My future husband wants a large family, like his own. He’s one of six, but he says he would be happy with four. Two sounds like the max I could manage while attending to my other goals. As the person who will have to give birth to the kids, I know I will get the final say, but I do feel unsettled about not being in agreement on this in advance.

I also feel as if I’m being a little manipulative if I say, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” while knowing I’m not willing to have a third.

Unsettled: It’s not “manipulative”; it’s deceptive. Stand in and deal with it. “I know you want a big family and ‘would be happy with four.’ With me, though, it won’t be more than two. So: Can you be happy with two?

“As much as I love you — and us — I can’t be a party to a life you don’t want. So please really think about it, and let me know if two kids with me sounds like the life you want most in the world.”

However you phrase it, cross that bridge now. It is very important to straighten this out before getting married.

It bears repeating: Family plans and family realities don’t always match; you could agree on six and bear none. But this is a type of life you’re debating: big-family, kid-centric chaos vs. something more adult-centered. They’re so different, each is valid, and each of you deserves to get as close to your ideal as you can. That might just mean you don’t do it together. Face that head-on. Good luck.

Re: Kids: Also have big talks about how said family will work. Does he expect to be a true 50/50 partner, as in baths/feeding/rule-making/following up with teachers/bringing to doctor appointments/helping with homework? Or does he just think a big family will be “fun,” not thinking of logistics?

We know from studies that women still, unfortunately, take on the bulk of emotional and household labor for families. I know plenty of men personally who want more kids but do far less than 50 percent. Of course they want more! They get the fun parts!

Dear Carolyn: My husband’s brother married someone truly awful. For a few years, my mother-in-law and I really bonded over our shared dislike of this person and the way it reinforced our notions of ourselves and each other — i.e., “I’m so glad you’re not like that.” Then we came to the realization that we were being really ugly behind her back and agreed to stop.

A year later, I think we both still feel awkward about it and can’t figure out how to find the same intimacy with each other without returning to the well of gossip about my sister-in-law. It’s sort of straining my relationship with my mother-in-law and feels like a pleasure we’re denying ourselves. How do I grow up and get past that?

Gossip: Sounds like a great conversation to have with your mother-in-law. Seriously. You came to the cease-gossip together, so why not jointly rebuild on the earth you once scorched? That seems to encourage intimacy, too — something to work on together.

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