My wife is 40 and wants a third child – but I can’t go back there

22 Apr 2024

"My partner is 40 and wants a third child. Our youngest is starting school this September and I’m looking forward to moving onto the next stage of parenting. I thought she was too, but over the past month she’s been saying she’s feeling broody.

I don’t want to go back to the beginning again – I’m enjoying nights out and having more fun together again, reliable sleep, the toddler tantrums being over. It would be a real struggle financially to have another child: I work full-time and my partner works part-time running her own business, which is a help, but like everyone, we’re feeling the pinch.

For me, it would add strain to our relationship – which is usually strong and supportive. We’ve both become defensive about it – and in the heat of a row she suggested we might not have a future if I won’t consider her needs."

Marcus

What a transition, moving from very young children into the schooling years. I want to acknowledge the change you and your partner are about to go through. I wonder whether at some level there’s shock at both a phase in life – and a specific role of parents of pre-schoolers – coming to an end.

Many parents have mixed feelings as their parenting role evolves, which happens many times throughout their children’s lives: some feel relief that their children are moving to the next stage, pride and joy over the young people they’re developing into, a sense of loss and grief that something’s coming to an end. It’s likely that both you and your partner are experiencing a mix of emotions, and that they don’t currently mirror each other’s – which is perfectly normal, you’re both individuals.

 

It sounds as if your partner is feeling grief, and it’s likely that she will feel the impact of this more sharply than you: while you work full-time, she works part-time and has probably spent more weekdays with the children. It’s possible that she’s questioning who she is without her familiar role and what she will do in the hours that your children are at school.

I’d recommend that you diffuse the tension in this situation and take the time, together, to consider both of your needs. It sounds like she feels like she’s being shut down: while suggesting that your relationship might have no future might feel like an unhealthy way to shut down a conversation on her part, I wonder if it was said in frustration because she didn’t feel heard or acknowledged.

 

Is it part of your personality to consider her needs and the needs of others, or are you more inclined to fix things rather than sitting in the vulnerable chaos of emotions? Maybe you want to make it okay; maybe things are already okay, but she just needs to be heard. It’s a great sign of maturity to be able to witness the pain of others: your partner, mother, children. Part of the process of development is to learn to not take others’ emotions personally and accept your own vulnerability when others are emotional, supporting rather than stepping in.