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My boyfriend wants to have a baby, but I don't think he's ready for one. He claims he wants to be the main caregiver but he is often emotionally unavailable, either playing video games or focused on his own projects. (As a self-identified hypochondriac, I can seriously see him trying to bathe the baby in the sink only to drown it since some stupid social media or Slack chat of interest took his 10 minutes away.)

Tonight, he turned on the Babies show on Netflix, for us to both watch. But during the middle, he turned up the volume on a dumb Android ad on his phone. I asked him to please turn it off so that we can continue watching this Babies show, but he completely ignored me.

I really don't think he is ready to have a baby and it's really hard for me to communicate this. I would love to have a baby with someone who is actually ready to have a baby, in the fullest sense. But, I'm not going to push it or ruin a relationship demanding a baby. I have my own life and career I can stay focused on.

He seems to believe that a relationship is meaningless without a baby and says that we would likely break up in a few years if we did not have a baby. I had just about grown out of the dream of having a baby when I got into this relationship when I was 32 - 3 years ago. Maybe my standards of care for a baby are too high, but having suffered the trauma of growing up in a family that was sporadically emotionally unavailable, I feel responsible to make sure that this won't happen again.

For me, being 35F, I already have the potential fear that it might be too late for me... And, in the flip case, if I were to have a baby... to find out that I would actually be alone (bf actually not ready) in the whole thing...

I dunno, I googled up my dilemma, but everything that came up is one partner being ready, the other not. There doesn't seem to be advice available about a partner demanding a baby, but despite such a demand, isn't actually ready to have a baby!

He really wants a baby, but I don't think he's ready.

How do I communicate this to him?

  • You want a baby and he doesn't : what would your thoughts and arguments be? – OldPadawan Feb 23 at 8:48
  • i don't want a baby if he doesn't want one. he is the one who wants to break up if we don't have a baby. i don't think he's ready. – ina Feb 23 at 8:52
  • @puck, please don't write answers in comments, they can't be edited and voted on like actual answer posts can for instance. – Em C Feb 23 at 14:29
  • I made an answer but I'm not fully satisfied with it because I can't exactly be sure of what you want, and what are acceptable compromises. Feel free to add these details and I will edit accordingly. – Arthur Havlicek Feb 23 at 15:51
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    Do you want a baby? Forget about him, think about you. After that answer we can start to talk whether he is the dad for your babies that you expect. – Santiago Feb 25 at 15:46
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When your boyfriend says

we would likely break up in a few years if we did not have a baby

he's saying that you need to have a baby to preserve your relationship. That is a really, really, really bad reason for bringing another human being into the world. It's generally accepted that having a child is not going to preserve a relationship. For a quick summary of why, see Can a Baby Save Your Struggling Relationship?. The bottom line is that having a baby adds stress to relationship, which isn't likely to help preserve it.

One thing to remember is that you don't have to come up with a reason to convince him. If you are uncomfortable with having a child in this relationship, you can just repeat your reasons as often as your boyfriend repeats his demands. If you feel like you are being pressured or blackmailed into having a baby, it may be useful to read the book "Emotional Blackmail" by Susan Forward, which gives strategies for dealing with people you are close to who try to manipulate you into doing things that you don't want to do, or know are a bad idea.

Bottom line is that you shouldn't bring a new person into the world until you are sure you and your partner really want that life and are ready to handle it.

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  • This is true for the western world. I don't know if this answer fits any culture. I've seen people from all over the world here. This is less of an answer and more advice and if you believe you understand the relationship well enough from the post to give it, fine, but I'd be careful assuming certain cultural norms – Raditz_35 Feb 24 at 6:01
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    @Raditz_35 everything that I've ever seen says that having a baby to preserve a relationship is a bad idea. If you have data that shows otherwise I'd love to see it. – DaveG Feb 24 at 13:43
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    @DaveG OP didn't state exactly her boyfriend would do it to preserve the relationship, nor that she would. I understand that what he primarily wants is the baby, and that this need is above the relationship. What you relate is wanting to save the relationship, and using a baby for that. – Arthur Havlicek Feb 25 at 10:16
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    While I agree that having a baby to save the relationship is a really bad idea; can the boyfriend's statement not be interpreted as wanting children and not wanting to stay in a childless relationship? Because that interpretation would be fair - provided it's his genuine belief and not a form of coercion. – Flater Feb 29 at 20:37
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You question the stability of your relationship. After reading your story, I share your concern. I suggest that instead of talking to him about reasons for not having a baby, you talk to him about a divorce or whatever legal separation is required for the setup you currently have.

Here are a few things that indicate your relationship is not a healthy one:

  1. Twice you call his hobbies dumb or stupid. People who respect each other do not speak like that of each other's activities.

  2. You consider him to be "emotionally distant." Since this is a shortcoming you also attribute to your family of origin, it is difficult to know whether he actually is emotionally distant or whether this is a trigger for you that drives him away, so to speak.

  3. You overtly distrust him to be the father of your child. You believe he would neglect his own child to the point of allowing it to drown. You believe this despite his fervent desire to have a baby.

These are not the characteristics of a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship is built on trust and respect for each other. Since these are seriously lacking, bringing a child into the equation will not fix things. Thus, to answer your question, I stand by what I said above to talk to him about splitting up. That will end conversation of having a baby with you.

I am not convinced that he is unfit to be a father with the right woman. As you also state, you might want to have a baby with the right man, but it appears that the two of you are not the right match. Since you are thirty-five, now would be a good time to put "the next step" into motion. Best wishes to both of you.

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    “Twice you call his hobbies dumb or stupid. People who respect each other...” Don’t take this as meaning you can’t call his hobbies stupid. Take it as evidence that you don’t respect him. Not a good idea to have a child with a man whom you don’t respect. – gnasher729 Feb 28 at 14:19
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    Can you clarify your point? Because I think I clearly stated exactly that. – Sarah Bowman Feb 28 at 14:33
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I'll be honest it doesn't sound like you want a baby or at the very least a baby with him, at all. My OH is very similar, plays video games all day (easily 6-10 hours if he's not working.) Plays on his phone obnoxiously loud and generally tends to be quiet and quite distant emotionally. I always frequently joke that he looses concentration so much that if we had a child and he was doing chores he'd end up accidentally mixing up the laundry and the baby.

However, when we are babysitting he's fantastic and blew away my presumptions. He may not always be interacting or even seem 'all there' but he's certainly watching which amazes me due to the contrast from his day-to-day personality/lifestyle.

What I'm trying to say is that you can't judge a person's current habits and hold that against them prior to having a baby. A baby is a huge deal and a life changing commitment. It may seem that he couldn't handle that but you can't judge him before anything's happened. Nobody is ever fully prepared for a baby.

What would I suggest?

  • Babysitting. Ask around some friends (or family members) and see if you can babysit their children/babies for some time. Chances are they'll be thankful for a break (date night.) and you can both get some 'experience' with how your relationship would work around a baby/children.
  • AI baby I'm not sure where you can find one of these readily available but I know they use them in health & social classes in colleges. These are designed specifically to try and ready people for parenthood,
  • Pet fostering Try fostering a dog or cat. This means you're doing something nice for the animal but also teaching your OH about responisbilities and seeing if they will be able to cope with the added stress. Plus you're not 'stuck' with a fulltime pet as this can cause more issues about stress and responsibilities when talking about babies.

Some red flags are:

  • Him saying you would likely break up in a few years without a baby

  • Your complete lack of confidence in your partner

I would not suggest getting a permanent pet. Purely because this adds extra stress for when/if you do want a baby.

However, if I'm being truthful I would say that the issue here is your own thoughts. You don't want to fail the baby so you won't or don't want to try. I'm not blaming you here I feel the same way, I was emotionally abused by both parents and refuse to put another being through what I did. However, the parenting is done by both parties. If you're there you would most likely not be emotionally unavailable for the a baby as you're petrified of repeating your family's past mistake.

As for worries of bringing up a baby alone, yes it's difficult. Especially without family members but it's certainly not impossible. There are more facilities around today to help cope with these matters. Not to mention that worrying about splitting up or anything that hasn't happened yet is useless as you can't predict the future. You don't wake up every morning and think or panic about "what if I get hit by a bus today." all you'll do by acknowledging this is fuel your insecurities. As for feeling it's too late my OH's parents had their last child at 45 so don't let that worry you. In fact worrying without trying is futile!

If you want the baby, have the baby. If you don't want a baby, don't have the baby.

How do I communicate this to him?

Sit him down with no distractions, maybe at dinner or a similar setting and explain.

I'm nervous and don't feel we are quite ready to have a baby as it's a big commitment and I'm concerned about our lifestyle/careers. Would you consider (choose one or all of the suggestions mentioned above.) as practice? I would like to see if we can cope with the added stress and responsibilities before trying for a baby.

Do not have this conversation with him if you do not want a baby. Be honest with yourself. If you're scared he's going to end the relationship if you say no then everyone is better off if you end it now.

The reason I voiced the concern from your point of view instead of specifically saying things such as "I'm concerned you're not emotionally ready for the dedication a baby needs." is because people become quite defensive when it's about them. It also shows you have no confidence in him, which may be true but will do nobody any favours by telling him that. This way he should realise that you are concerned, with good reason and if he's really dead set on having this baby should then agree to these terms as they are more than reasonable and should put your mind at rest.

I think you are slightly influenced by the whole premise of being a perfect parent. After all, who/what would you consider "ready for a baby," look at or even ask some people you know who have babies to see if they ever felt prepared. I can guarantee you most of them didn't and that their partners also displayed or still display similar traits.

If there's anything I've interpreted wrong or missed, let me know and I'll ammend accordingly.

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Nonviolent Communication would argue what you identify as what you want to communicate (the fact you believe he's not ready) is a judgement. Communicating negative judgements is risking negative reception and even more so when the way to make it positive again (how to be ready to have a baby) is unclear.

I have all sorts of negative experiences regarding judgement. I once tried to communicate one, I believed someone needed therapy. Communicating them that belief happened to only provoke defensive reactions and didn't help me get anything of what I really wanted. On being judged, I often as a child got pictured as difficult. This affected me negatively and never helped me behaving any better.

There are many other things that could benefit from being communicated to him in another shape or form, though. As I understand it, the main feeling you have is fear that the baby you would have may not get education that fit your standards. This is an unarguable and non-judgemental thing you can share and explain.

I grew up in a family where people were emotionally unavailable. I suffered from this. When you left during Babies show it left me thinking you are not always available. I fear the baby would suffer if we have one.

Because your boyfriend doesn't have access to your feelings you could be more easily reassured if you also communicated what he could do to improve the situation. Ultimately if there isn't anything he can do, it's also your choice to have a baby or not and you can always refuse having one until you feel more reassured on this.

I also believe something in your relationship isn't very clear cut. When he says he would likely break up in case you wouldn't have a baby, it feels a bit like blackmail. Someone already told me that and I felt insecure about it. This does not seem to be your concern here, but I would also question my role in a relationship with someone that's only interested in having something that I'm not sure I want.

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I have known somebody who wanted to undergo a surgery, and the lifestyle of the patient needed to change in a way that was not possible for that patient. So overall, not doing the surgery was the better alternative. Instead of going judgemental, I provided the patient with two alternatives:

  1. Go have surgery, face the array of problems after, when the lifestyle would not change.
  2. Implement the lifestyle changes for a relevant amount of time, and if everything is OK, then surgery might be a good option.

The patient was wise and did not undergo the surgery, knowing that they did not want to change their lifestyle.


In your case, find out which are the details which are the most likely to anger the BF, but really "in the package" with the baby. Starting with the crying and diaper changes, ending with singing songs, driving through the city at night with the baby to keep him quiet, vomiting, etc. The list is quite long.

Then ask the boyfriend to undergo the test of coping with these. Get recordings of babies crying, play them "loud enough" while he sleeps. Throw food on his clothes. Ask him to clean a dirty toilet / bathroom. Wake him during the night and ask him to mildly shake a vase - soothing the baby back to sleep.

All these need to be done as if they are actually related to growing a baby.

Even more, especially interrupt him while he is playing and when he is involved with his project.


Based on the results, you will be able to make a better decision. Maybe he plays games out of boredom.


Another example, my own life. I am currently alone. No wife, no children, no relatives anywhere close. Of course I get bored. Of course I played games, and I watch movies. And occasionally go out. But I want to get married, and I want children. I would gladly give up games and movies for having living beings around me. If a girl would apply me that test I explained above, I will be happy to take it. I would probably apply other tests to her also.

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As some others have mentioned, you should also consider whether you want a baby or not, rather than just make your decision based on your partner's desires/ability. Based on what you've said, it seems like you would want a baby given that it will be taken care of properly. I see 3 possible scenarios here:

  1. You value a baby more than your current relationship: In this case you should seek to end your relationship, as Sarah Bowman suggested.
  2. You value your current relationship more than a baby: In this case your currently phrased question makes the most sense. Straight up telling him that he's not responsible, when he wants to be the primary caregiver is probably not going to be effective. Have a thoughtful conversation with him about why he wants to have a baby so badly, and discuss whether it would be a good idea based on your current status (combined income, relationship stability, age, time commitment). It doesn't seem like he has explained why he wants one so badly, but it's very important for you to agree with his motivations if he considers it a requirement for the relationship. Perhaps he will realize that the time commitment is not reasonable for the two of you, as you have a career and he has many hobbies/personal projects.
  3. You value both equally: You seem to both agree that you want a baby, but you worry about his caretaking ability and he is aware of your hesitation to have the baby with him. In that case, below are some suggestions for how to prepare yourselves and to convince yourself that he will be a responsible parent. Worrying a little is healthy, but worrying too much will just cause you stress in your relationship. It's exceedingly rare for a parent to let their baby drown in the sink, even though many seemingly irresponsible people become parents.

Some suggestions for how to teach him responsiblity and "evaluate" his parenting ability:

  • Robot baby (I think this was suggested in the comments, but has since been deleted). Supposedly they are fairly advanced in demanding attention, detecting correct handling, etc. Here is an example: https://www.realityworks.com/product/realcare-baby-3-infant-simulator/. Unfortunately, this may be expensive and has a limited time use (because I assume you don't want to keep a robot baby for several months).
  • Get a pet, something a little more high maintenance and emotionally attached, perhaps a puppy or kitten. Baby animals are a lot of work too! Of course you can't neglect a living thing like you could a robot, but they grow up way faster than humans and if it really doesn't work, you can rehome your pet.
  • Put him in charge of all/most of the housework. Not sure what your current distribution of chores is, but if he doesn't pull his weight now he probably won't when he has a baby. It will get him used to the routine of menial tasks, plus he will gain skills that might help in caring for the baby (washing dishes, washing baby, same difference)

Unfortunately, if you do decide to have a baby with anyone, you can't completely depend on their claim to be the "primary caregiver". The baby needs to be taken care of regardless, so if he does end up shirking his duties you need to be prepared to pick up the slack (or hire help). A strong foundation for a relationship, communication, and preparation will most likely prevent this, but it's something to keep in mind when deciding whether you want a baby at all.

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