DEAR AMY: My husband and I have two children — a girl and boy. They are 3 and 4 years old. I would like to have a third child, but my husband does not want to. He has a demanding job and so has limited time for hobbies, spending time with our children, and seeing his friends. The two of us don't get enough time together, kids are expensive, money is tight and having another will further delay our freedom and ability to travel. He is a wonderful father and a hard worker, so I completely understand his concerns. I have always wanted to have a bigger family. I feel incomplete with two children. Sure, the early years are busy, but kids grow up. He sees this current phase of our lives as restricting, whereas I see it as a busy season in life that will pass. I would be incredibly sad to stop growing our family now. The last time we talked, he said he could maybe see us having another child in a couple of years. We're in our mid-30s, so we don't really have a lot of time to wait. I don't want to have a baby past 35. We're at a standstill and I'm not sure how we go about figuring this out. I'm not going to pressure him; I want to make a decision we will both be happy with. It seems like what usually happens is the person who doesn't want another kid trumps the other. It feels a bit unfair, but I know you can't make someone want another child. How do we figure this out? If we don't have more, how do I get over this?
DEAR WANTING MORE: Parenting as you see it — a few years of craziness followed by calm, freedom, and financial stability — isn't how many of us experience it. As the mother and stepmother to five daughters, I'm here to tell you that the many phases of a typical family's life blend and morph, one into another. I won't say that parenting gets easier as you go, because — just as you've mastered one skill set, the particular challenges seem to change.
It sounds as if you have a partner who is at capacity. He doesn't seem equipped (or willing) to embrace the messy chaos of life with young children. (For clues to understanding both of your core values and orientations, look to your own childhoods.)
The reason the person who wants fewer children might prevail is because parents who are feeling overwhelmed, pressured or powerless tend to find ways to exit, either actually (by leaving) or virtually (through neglect).
In order to be in a family with you, your husband must now tolerate some things that seem to really bother him: the lack of freedom, time and money.
In order to be in a family with him, you might need to learn to tolerate that ache you feel for more children.
In the absence of a happy compromise, you could work on your own personal capacity to be happy, anyway.
DEAR AMY: I live with my spouse in her parents' home. We rent from them, and they live elsewhere. Her mom always wants to come to the house. It seems that every weekend, she finds a reason to come over. Also, she is a very controlling person. If we tell her it doesn't work out for her to visit, she gets very angry. Do you have any advice for us?
DEAR ENCROACHED: When dealing with controlling in-laws, boundaries must be drawn. This is especially challenging because you are living in a house owned by your spouse's parents. Your mother-in-law likely feels entitled to visit the property she owns, even if the people in it haven't invited her.
Rather than merely react to these pop ins, your spouse is going to have to find a way to convey to their mother — in advance — that every single weekend is too much.
In order to draw this boundary and keep it strong, you and your partner are also going to have to learn to tolerate an occasional outburst or temper tantrum. Don't let this woman run your show. If this becomes untenable, you should consider moving.
DEAR AMY: For people vexed by the perennial question: "What do you do?" people should respond, "About what?" It's a better conversation starter. This was passed along to me by my boss, a psychiatrist.
DEAR M: Genius.