Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE
Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE

February 20, 2024

April 26, 2023

Working Through Conflict About Growing Your Family: What to Do When Only One Partner Wants Another Baby

E:
170
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Marriage and Family Therapist

What You'll Learn

  • Reasons Why Couples Disagree on Growing the Family
  • How to Engage in Conversations Around Growing the Family
  • Understanding Our Motivations for Wanting or Not Wanting More Kids
  • How to Cooperate Through the Conflict
  • Why Taking Some Time Away From the Conversation Can Help
  • Creating a Life that Aligns with You and Your Partner’s Values
  • What Happens if We Change Our Mind About Having More Children

Deciding whether you are done growing your family is a tough choice—but what do you do if you and your partner aren’t on the same page? How can you work through a different viewpoint on such a big life decision? 

Today, I’m joined by marriage and family therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw, founder of Liz Listens, to talk about how to navigate different desires about growing your family. 

Letting Go of the Idea of Having a Daughter

After having three boys, people often ask my husband and me if we’re going to try for a girl. While I understand where people are coming from, asking questions like this can often bring up gender disappointment or sadness for those who struggle to accept they are done growing their family. I did want to have a girl, and I have had to let go of that possibility and accept the wonderful reality that my family brings me. 

I’m happy and confident in our decision to stop growing our family. Still…there are moments when I wonder if we should try for another. Fortunately, my husband always reminds me of the many rational and emotional reasons we chose to be done. 

The decision about whether to have another baby or not is always complicated. For many of us, this choice has been taken away due to infertility or medical reasons. That situation comes with its own emotional turmoil, heartache, and struggles. 

But even if we do have the choice, we might find that we aren’t on the same page about the decision as our partner. This can be extremely difficult to tackle—growing your family feels like such a high-stakes decision that it can be jarring to find yourself on opposing ground from your partner. 

When I polled my community on the topic, I heard from a lot of moms who are in this position—some who are the ones who want to have more children, and some who aren’t. Many of them had questions about how to work through this conflict. 

I knew that Elizabeth would have great insight on this topic and couldn’t wait to unpack this with her. 

Reasons Why Couples Disagree on Growing the Family

Both Elizabeth and I have worked with many clients who find themselves struggling with different viewpoints on growing their family. 

There are many reasons why one partner might not want to have another baby, including finances, practicalities, lifestyle changes, difficult postpartum experiences, infertility struggles, and birth trauma. 

Perhaps postpartum depression took a toll on the family, or the relationship now has more conflict, or one partner is traumatized by the experience and doesn’t want to repeat it. There are many valid reasons for wanting another baby, but there are also many for not wanting to grow a family. 

Sometimes we find that we want something different than we originally thought we would. This can leave our partner feeling confused, lost, and angry. 

When partners disagree on this topic, it can be hard to navigate. Our family is very important, and it can feel like an insurmountable difference. But with healthy communication, it is possible to work through it together. 

How to Engage in Conversations Around Growing the Family

Elizabeth pointed out that when couples don’t see eye-to-eye about growing the family, the conversations are often tough. Many times, there is a shutdown from one partner who puts their foot down and refuses to engage. 

Sometimes we sweep the issue under the rug or just hope the other person will change their mind. But in the long run, if we don’t talk about it, resentment and anger can build. 

In the long run, if we don’t talk about it, resentment and anger can build.

It’s important to approach these conversations the right way, regardless of whether you are the partner that wants another baby or not. 

Elizabeth said that we have to enter the conversation with the goal of actually listening to the other person’s perspective—to understand their experience as a parent, their hopes for the future, their fears, and why they feel differently than us. 

Listen to your partner’s input and think about their expectations, beliefs, and values. For example, they might want more children because they believe that a big family offers more support and closeness. Or perhaps they don’t want more children because they want to have more resources available for the kids. 

When we listen to our partner and understand their viewpoint, we can empathize and start to think of how to solve the problem together. 

Understanding Our Motivations for Wanting or Not Wanting More Kids

It’s important to listen to our partner’s perspective, but it’s also important to unpack our own beliefs and expectations. Elizabeth encourages parents to think and talk about what having another baby does for them. 

Does it bring a sense of completion? Or peace? Or adventure? Or, on the other hand, does it bring chaos and uncertainty? 

Talk about what reasons would make you want to have another baby and what reasons would make you not want to have any more. Elizabeth said that it’s valuable for both partners to answer both sides—not just give input on the side they want. 

If you can logically step into the argument against your perspective, it can help you see your partner’s position and help them feel heard. 

If you can logically step into the argument against your perspective, it can help you see your partner’s position and help them feel heard. 

Sometimes there are big emotional underlying motivations. It’s important to unpack those and get at the heart of why we want or don’t want another baby. 

For example, if you have experienced birth trauma, you might want another child to have a “do-over,” or you might be adamantly against it because of fear and avoidance. Getting to the root of your own motivations for growing your family is important. 

It’s important to understand where your partner is coming from. Elizabeth pointed out that if we feel like our partner doesn’t understand us, we just get into a battle of being heard, rather than working together on problem-solving. In this situation, we often just repeat conflicts and reiterate our viewpoints without productively moving forward. 

How to Cooperate Through the Conflict

When we feel strongly about whether we should grow our family, it can be hard to remember that there are valid reasons for the other choice. But it’s important to remember that our partner has real reasons for feeling the way they do. 

It’s important to remember that our partner has real reasons for feeling the way they do. 

Elizabeth said that it can’t be a unilateral decision—or if it is there are going to be real impacts on your partnership and your marriage. 

You might feel that the choice to have another baby or not should be yours if it involves your body. But you are still in a partnership—and that means that you need to talk through the problem together. There might be ways to alleviate concerns and still move forward with a decision.

For example, if your partner saw you work through postpartum depression and remembers how hard it was for everyone, they might not want another baby. Your knee-jerk reaction might be to say that it’s your decision and you are willing to go through it. 

But you have to consider what your partner is saying and hear their concerns. In this example, you might acknowledge that it was horrible and that you don’t want to go through it again, and discuss what postpartum support plans could be put in place that might make the period easier if you were to have another baby. 

Instead of just dismissing their concerns, you can validate them and use them as a basis for the conversation. 

Why Taking Some Time Away From the Conversation Can Help

It can feel like there is no middle ground when you are on opposite sides of the fence about growing your family. But there is often a gray area in between. It might make sense to say right now it doesn’t make sense to have another baby, but we can revisit this later. Circumstances, lifestyle situations, and minds might change that impact the decision. 

Elizabeth herself experienced this. After she had her son, she told her husband she didn’t want any more children. Four years later, she changed her mind, but her husband was not on board. She had just started a new job and they were both working long hours, and they enjoyed the flexibility of being able to travel or go out spontaneously. 

Ultimately, they decided that while their lifestyle looked like it did, the answer was no. But over time, Elizabeth’s work began to look different. Meanwhile, she continued to have conversations with her husband about what it might look like if they did change their minds, addressing the logical and emotional reasons why he didn’t want to grow the family. 

Eventually, their lifestyle had changed enough that they both felt like they could happily welcome another baby. She is currently pregnant with her second child. 

Things might not align so happily for everyone. But ongoing communication is vital. When one person bulldozes the decision and the other one bends, without having conversations or cooperating together, it can lead to resentment and regret. 

Creating a Life that Aligns with You and Your Partner’s Values

If you and your partner can’t seem to align, it can also be helpful to explore what life might look like if you don’t have another baby. How can you create a life together that still aligns with the values of the person who wants more children? 

If they want your child to have siblings because they want them to socialize or not be lonely, are there ways you can fulfill that need that doesn’t involve growing the family? Can you join a community or connect with friends with children? 

This is something that I think about a lot. When I began having children, I wanted a girl so that I could form this deep, sweet, emotional bond. But I can talk about feelings, encourage kindness, and foster that same relationship with my sons. Or perhaps someday I’ll have a granddaughter. 

Elizabeth pointed out that I could also take on an “auntie” role to a friend with a daughter, buying the cute outfits that tug at my heartstrings now and then and having that connection in a different way. 

There are often alternatives to fulfilling our expectations and wants for our family—but they require creative problem-solving and open, honest communication. 

What Happens if We Change Our Mind About Having More Children

Oftentimes, we thought we were on the same page about how many children to have, but later one partner feels differently. We might feel betrayed if our partner changes their mind about having more children. If you always said you would have a big family but one of you now feels differently, it’s understandable to be hurt and confused. 

But readjusting expectations based on circumstances isn’t a bad thing. Our minds can change over time, because of shifts in values, because of relationships, and because of life circumstances. 

We all grow and change over time. It’s healthy to reevaluate our goals as we do. 

We all grow and change over time. It’s healthy to reevaluate our goals as we do. 

Elizabeth finds it sad when partners hold each other to promises they made years before and never allow any new information to change their views. 

Instead, we can take a breath, accept our sadness or frustration, and adapt, understanding that circumstances change. 

Ultimately, there might be situations where we can’t get in sync with our partner, and that can be very difficult. But for many of us, having honest and open communication about our goals, our values, our desires, and our needs over time can help us navigate the difference of opinion in growing our family. 

If you are struggling with the decision to have another baby or feeling like you and your partner aren’t on the same page, working with a therapist can help. We offer virtual relationship support for couples and individuals to help navigate the conflict and changes that come after having a baby. Book your FREE 15 minute consult today!

NEWSLETTER

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Tags:

Relationships, Conflict

Stage:

Trying to Conceive, Postpartum, Motherhood

Share Now:

OUR GUEST

Elizabeth Earnshaw
Marriage and Family Therapist

Elizabeth Earnshaw is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Clinical Fellow, and Certified Gottman Therapist. With over a decade of experience helping thousands of couples, Elizabeth founded A Better Life Therapy, a practice focused on relational and individual well being and co founded OURS Wellness, a Relationship Health Company. Elizabeth is the author of I Want This To Work and is a host on Good Risings. She has been featured in The New York Times, Mind Body Green, Well + Good, and Oprah Daily. Most importantly, she is a wife and mom.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
RELATED ARTICLES
March 18, 2024
February 21, 2024
Understanding Postpartum Depression in Dads and Non-Birthing Partners
E:
213
with
Mark Williams
International Advocate for Perinatal Mental Health and Author
March 11, 2024
February 14, 2024
Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby: Communication Is Key
E:
212
with
Vanessa & Xander Marin
bestselling authors & hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks
February 20, 2024
December 6, 2023
Navigating Different Sex Drives in Parenthood: What Impacts Libido and How to Reconnect
E:
202
with
Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy & Dr. Jennifer Vencill
Licensed Psychologists and Authors
February 20, 2024
November 22, 2023
Erica’s Husband Reflects on Sharing the Invisible Load
E:
200
with
Frenel Djossa
Erica’s Husband & Co-Founder of Momwell
February 20, 2024
November 15, 2023
Breaking Generational Trauma Cycles: Healing Our Past and Moving Forward in Motherhood
E:
199
with
Dr. Mariel Buqué
Psychologist and the author of the book Break the Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma
February 20, 2024
November 1, 2023
Breaking Out of the Default Parent Role: How to Communicate with Your Partner and Change Patterns
E:
197
with
Erin & Stephen Mitchell
Founders of Couples Counseling for Parents
February 20, 2024
October 18, 2023
Rebuilding Connection and Intimacy After Baby: How Family Systems Can Help Us Navigate Relationship Challenges
E:
195
with
Aaron Steinberg
Co-Founder of Babyproofing Your Relationship
February 20, 2024
September 27, 2023
Understanding Overfunctioning in Relationships: How to Change Dynamics After Baby
E:
192
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert
February 20, 2024
August 2, 2023
Establishing Family Values: How to Identify What Matters and Avoid Comparison
E:
184
with
Mell & Joe Hashey
Founders of Strong Family Co.
February 20, 2024
July 26, 2023
The Journey of a Bereaved Parent: Stefania Thomson’s Story of Navigating Grief and Loss
E:
183
with
Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate
February 20, 2024
April 26, 2023
Working Through Conflict About Growing Your Family: What to Do When Only One Partner Wants Another Baby
E:
170
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
March 15, 2023
Real Self-Care for Moms: Why Mindset Matters More Than Massages
E:
164
with
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin
Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
January 18, 2023
Resolving Conflict in Your Relationship After Baby
E:
156
with
Sheina Schochet
Mental Health Counselor
February 20, 2024
January 4, 2023
Reestablishing Sex After Baby: Why Communication Matters and How to Create a New Normal
E:
154
with
Travis Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
December 28, 2022
Coping During Postpartum with No Family Support: When Reality Clashes with Expectations
E:
153
with
Emmalee Bierly and Jennifer Chaiken
Founders of ShrinkChicks
February 20, 2024
November 2, 2022
How To Deal With Toxic Positivity As a Mom: What To Do When Someone Invalidates Your Feelings
E:
145
with
Whitney Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
September 14, 2022
Dividing Labour Fairly in the Home: Redistributing the Mental Load of Motherhood
E:
138
with
Dr. Darcy Lockman
Author and Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 8, 2021
Learning to Fight Fair
E:
98
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
November 3, 2021
Setting Boundaries With Moms & Mothers-In-Law
E:
93
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
October 27, 2021
Co-Parenting and Blending Families
E:
92
with
Abbey Williams
Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 20, 2021
Social Justice Parenting
E:
91
with
Dr. Traci Baxley
Author
February 20, 2024
September 15, 2021
Babyproofing Our Relationships
E:
86
with
Kameela Osman
Social Worker and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
July 14, 2021
Modeling Consent in Parenthood
E:
77
with
Jess VanderWier
Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
June 30, 2021
Sex As a Mother
E:
75
with
Dr. Sara Reardon
Physical Therapist
February 20, 2024
April 28, 2021
A Deeper Look into the Mother Wound
E:
66
with
Bethany Webster
Author
February 20, 2024
April 21, 2021
Making—And Keeping—Mommy Friends
E:
65
with
Dr. Miriam Kirmayer
Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
April 14, 2021
Breaking Cycles And Interdependence
E:
64
with
Sian Crossley
Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
March 17, 2021
Replay of Navigating Intimacy After Children
E:
60
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
March 10, 2021
Respectful Parenting as a Team
E:
59
with
Janet Lansbury
Author
February 20, 2024
March 3, 2021
Overcoming Resentment in Our Relationships
E:
58
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
February 24, 2021
Understanding the Mother Wound
E:
57
with
Bethany Webster
Author
February 20, 2024
November 25, 2020
Conscious Boundary Setting
E:
47
with
Ashleigh Warner
Family Psychologist
February 20, 2024
September 16, 2020
Celebrating 1 Year - A Look Back at the Top 5 Episodes
E:
42
with
Erica Djossa
Founder of Momwell
February 20, 2024
November 20, 2019
Navigating Intimacy After Children
E:
14
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 27, 2019
Loneliness and Isolation In Motherhood
E:
15
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
October 30, 2019
Navigating Boundaries in Motherhood
E:
11
with
Nedra Tawwab
Therapist