One person wants kids, the other doesn’t. It isn’t hopeless but it will take some work to get through it. Here are your options.

In relationships, it’s often our differences that bring us together. A creative type might be drawn to someone with a blue collar background and a handyman skill set. A hardcore fantasy fan might be intrigued by a nonfiction lover. Even Yankees and Red Sox fans have been known to get along.

But there’s one difference that hardly ever jives with a healthy relationship: whether or not you want kids.

The need to have children is so hardwired in some people, it can be hard for them to grasp why anyone would forego the chance to pass on their genes. People on the other side of the spectrum might have trouble understanding the allure of changing diapers or going days without sleep.

It’s a contentious issue – so why do people wait so long to bring it up?

If you’re currently in this situation, it’s time to take action. Here’s what you need to do.

Discuss the issue.

It’s easy to bury your head in the sand about this topic. After all, who wants to talk about something as complicated as having children when you could debate what you think will happen on the next “Game of Thrones” episode?

Unfortunately, this is the kind of potential problem that needs to be discussed as soon as possible. If you’re a woman who wants kids and are married to or in a relationship with someone who doesn’t, you can’t wait forever. Female fertility goes down significantly after 35 and the chance of genetic disorders and other problems also increases. If you’re approaching 30, you can’t just ignore the problem for a few years.

Try talking about the question of children together and see where you both stand. If your partner mentioned a few years ago that he wants kids, it’s entirely possible he’s changed his mind since then. If you talk about your priorities early and often, there’s little chance you’ll be blindsided by a change of heart.

Couples who have been together a long time should consider seeing a therapist. They can help flesh out the issue, offer some perspective and lay out the best options for moving forward. For example, are you really averse to having a child because you’re scared that your partner won’t help shoulder the burden? Even if you’re sure you know the reasons why you don’t want kids, it might be easier to discuss the issue with a professional

For example, are you really averse to having a child because you’re scared that your partner won’t help shoulder the burden? Even if you’re sure you know the reasons why you don’t want kids, it might be easier to discuss the issue with a professional present.

Talk about other options.

If breaking up is not something you want to do, there might be a few ways to compromise. For example, you could look into temporarily fostering a child to see if it fulfills your partner’s parental instinct. Fostering is an intense process and a new home can have a permanent affect on a child, but placements are temporary and can let you both see what it’s like to be parents without making a permanent decision.

Fostering is an intense process and a new home can have a permanent affect on a child, but placements are temporary and can let you both see what it’s like to be parents without making a permanent decision.

You could also consider adopting an older child, if you’d rather skip the diapers-and-midnight-feedings stage of parenting.  If you want to start really slowly, try babysitting for a friend or relative to see how it feels before you decide to foster or adopt a child.

You can also talk to people you know who have children and aren’t afraid to share how it really feels to be a parent. These options should not be taken lightly, especially not as a direct replacement for having your own child.

Too much of what we see on TV and in film romanticizes the act of parenting and doesn’t prepare people for what being a mother or father actually means. Plenty of people want kids right up until the point where they actually have them, so make sure you’ve put real thought into the decision. Becoming a parent should be a conscious act, not a product of biological urges.

Take action.

The easiest decision to make is to maintain the status quo. Our comfort zone is soft and cozy, and disrupting it comes with challenges. Unfortunately, if you’ve discussed having a child and haven’t agreed on a decision you and your partner will be happy with, it might be time to say goodbye.

Everyone deserves to try for the life they want, whether it’s filled with babies and diapers or exotic vacations and late nights out. That’s not to say you can’t go along with your partner’s wishes for the good of the relationship, but make sure it’s a decision you buy into.

Don’t lie to yourself or your spouse if you truly can’t see yourself having kids and being happy, or vice versa. The longer you wait to reveal the truth, the worse the break-up will be.

How to prevent this.

It’s always hard to find someone you like, only to break things off because of a difference in priorities. Still, it’s a lot easier to break up with someone three months into the relationship than three years. Even if you’re worried the question will scare away potential mates, consider how much easier it will be to break up before you’ve moved in, met his parents and adopted a pet together.

Bring up your child-free status whenever you feel comfortable, but do it sooner rather than later. It never feels like the perfect time to discuss a sticky subject, so be prepared to feel awkward no matter how you approach the conversation.

Have you or someone you’ve known been in this situation? Let’s talk about it over in the #Adulting Facebook community!

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You either gave your child some genetic material or chose to adopt. That means you’re a parent. Time to act like it.

Parenting is difficult.

It’s rarely fun.

And it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be the “cool” parent or even of wanting your child to think of you as a “best friend.”

However, the reality is that your kid doesn’t need another friend. What s/he needs is a parent. Technically, that’s what you are. After all, you either gave some of your genetic material, or you chose to adopt. When that happened, you agreed to be a parent.

Now you need to act like one.

Stability is important for children.

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is provide a stable environment for your child.

Some research indicates that stability is more important than family structure. This is a huge relief to me since my son is now in a single-parent home.

In order to be a parent and provide stability, you need to have a schedule and rules. Children sometimes whine about rules and structure, but the reality is that they need it.

Structure, and a supportive environment that helps maintain that structure, are necessary for children to thrive.

Your child doesn’t understand why bedtime is important, or why you need to limit their screentime. You might feel mean for sending them to bed or making them eat dinner with you at the table, but the reality is that’s what it takes to be a parent.

My son chafes at the idea of going to bed between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. But if he doesn’t get to bed during those times, he turns into a monster when it’s time to get up between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

The structure and stability in my son’s life means he knows when it’s time to do homework, when he can hang out with his actual friends, and when it’s time to go to bed. He feels safe, and he has a sense of what’s next.

These are important things for children, and the research bears it out. That’s why, when I travel for business, I rely on my parents to keep some amount of structure in my son’s life.

The stability he experiences, whether I’m here or not (I’m mostly here, though), is good for him.

Your child isn’t your confidante.

When I took a court-mandated parenting class as part of the conditions of my divorce, one of the concepts they pressed home was this: your child isn’t your confidante.

We like to think that by telling our children how we really feel, we’re being honest and straightforward.

The reality, though, is that your kid isn’t emotionally prepared for you to hear about your problems with your parents. They aren’t ready to hear your deepest, darkest secrets.

If you’re looking for a buddy, look for an adult.

I have friends my own age that I can talk to about relationships issues, how much I dislike one of my son’s teachers, and the challenges associated living where I live. My son doesn’t need to be burdened with that shit.

The good news is that you can be open and invite your child’s confidence without trying to be their friend.

Establish a pattern early on of listening and engaging with your child. Be open and honest in an age-appropriate manner when they ask tough questions.

When my son complains about our least-favorite teacher, I empathize with him, but I don’t bad-mouth the teacher. “I know it’s hard sometimes. I had teachers that I didn’t get along with, too. But you still need to do your work and do a good job. You’re smart enough to get through this.”

What I’d really like to say is, “I know your teacher is being an asshat and that’s a dumb assignment. Let’s skip it and go do something fun instead.”

My son and I have talked about thorny issues, from politics to his friends to *gulp* sex. He knows I don’t shy away from the tough subjects, and I take him seriously. He knows I’ll be honest and straightforward, even if I won’t give him details I don’t think he’s ready for.

Invite your child’s confidence, but do it from a place of teaching and guidance, not from a place of peer-like friendship.

Your child needs you to be a parent. You can help and guide them in a way that is more likely to result in long-term success for life. But not if you’re more concerned about being your child’s best buddy.

You can still be “cool” and be a parent.

While your goal shouldn’t focus on being cool, you can still be an awesome person, and be a parent.

My son and I love a lot of the same geeky things. His friends know that when they come over here, I’ll make popcorn and play Rock Band with them if they invite. They also know that if they have a Batman question, I’ll have the answer.

While I still make them go to bed when they sleep over, and I won’t let them just roam the mall aimlessly for hours upon hours, they do think I’m cool — at least for now.

If you can provide a safe and comfortable environment for your children and their friends, and you make a little effort to get to know them, you’ll be considered cool, even during times you have to be a parent and say no.

Walking that line can be challenging, and you might have to experiment a bit to find it. But the important thing is that you be a parent by setting expectations for your child, teaching life lessons, and enforcing consequences.

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Parenting is one of the hardest jobs around. It’s not any easier with your ex. But your kids will be better off if you can suck it up and coparent effectively.

Parenting is a hard gig.

It’s even harder when you do it with your ex.

Even when you get along with your ex, it can be challenging to coparent successfully.

No matter how you feel, though, it’s vital that you work on your coparenting game so your children are better equipped to deal with the divorce and with life going forward.

1. Commit to coparenting.

The very first thing you both need to do is commit to coparenting. Coparenting successfully requires solid commitment from everyone involved.

Talk about how you plan to coparent in the best interest of your child. Then both of you commit to the process. Even if you need a mediator to help you hammer out a plan, the important thing is that you are both committed to making this work.

2. Create consistent rules.

One of the most important things for children is consistency. It’s true when kids live with both parents, and it’s especially true when children split their time between households.

Come up with rules that kids follow, regardless of where they are. This might include homework time, music practice, rules for electronics use, and bed time.

While there is wiggle room for special circumstances, it’s important to be consistent. My son knows that when he goes to stay with dad, he’s going to do schoolwork and go to bed at the same time. I know he might actually get a little more time to play video games when he’s with his dad, but that’s something we’ve agreed on.

3. Don’t trash talk your ex.

Avoid putting your issues with your ex on your child. It’s not fair to use your child as a pawn in games with your ex. You don’t want to be the toxic person in this scenario.

If your child complains about your ex, don’t immediately jump in and agree. Remain as neutral as possible. Unless there is actual abuse involved, most kids just need to let off steam. You can say, “I’m sorry you’re frustrated with the situation, but they are trying their best.”

I’m pretty sure my son sometimes complains about me to my ex. When he does, my ex moves on quickly, and then lets me know about potential issues. I don’t confront my son when he’s complained about me. Honestly, I want him to share these things. Then I know what I might need to improve on.

I do the same for my ex.

Kids complain about their parents. Don’t egg them on when it involves the ex. Not only do you risk a deterioration in that relationship, but you might be surprised to realize that trash talking your ex can encourage your child to resent you as well.

4. Maintain communication.

One of the reasons my ex and I coparent successfully is that we communicate regularly. We exchange texts several times a week. We talk at least twice a month. In fact, we sometimes just talk as friends and don’t talk about our son.

You might not have that level of friendship with your ex.

Even if all you do is communicate about the kids, that’s important. Be sure to immediately share when things change that will impact the plan. Whether it’s a trip to the emergency room or a problem at school, or just an update on positive progress, it’s important to communicate.

Don’t rely on your child to carry messages. You need keep the lines open so you don’t get garbled messages. When my son wants to make a major purchase (more than $50), or if he wants to change up his after-school schedule, I text my ex and we schedule a time to discuss the merits.

This way, our son can’t play us off each other. We present a united front because we communicate. My son is used to hearing, “Just wait. I need to talk to your dad about that.”

5. Confirm what your child says with the ex.

Yeah, this goes with regular communication. But it bears repeating. Get the story from your ex. If your child says your ex said they could do something, double check.

It’s a normal part of growing up for children to press boundaries and try to get away with stuff. You did it with your parents, and your kids will try it with you. Even if you aren’t divorced, there’s a good chance you’ll hear “But mom said I could…” or “Dad lets me…”

Before you say yes to something your child claims your ex is on board with, connect directly with your ex to verify.

6. Make time to keep it simple and boring.

Don’t always be trying to have fun — especially if you’re the less-seen parent. My ex is pretty good about stuff. When my son stays with him, they do “regular” things and not just fun stuff.

Try to avoid being the “fun” parent all the time. Both parents need to be a mixture of fun and “boring.”

Sometimes what your kids need is an ordinary day in with you. There’s nothing wrong with that. You need to be balanced in your approach to parenting.

Because my ex lives on the other side of the country, my son talks to him frequently using Facetime and he stays for between one week and three weeks at a time. I often stay part of that time, too (at my ex’s invitation), and that means there is a sense of normalcy and family, even if it’s not what we consider a “traditional” family.

7. Recognize your ex’s good qualities.

Don’t forget to talk about your ex’s good qualities with your child. It’s about more than just refraining from complaining about your ex. You should also point out the good things s/he does.

I regularly direct my son to my ex if he has a question about something that my ex is good at. I also make it a point to say nice things about him when I can, and get excited when it’s time for them to talk.

I think it makes sense to encourage my son to maintain a good relationship with his dad. If you want to coparent successfully, you need to make sure that you aren’t putting wedges between your children and your ex.

8. Don’t get upset if your child requests your ex.

Sometimes my son specifically asks if he can talk through an issue with his dad, rather than talk about it with me. I know that my ex is better equipped to handle some situations than I am. I don’t get upset about it.

It’s true that sometimes we feel hurt if a child wants to talk to someone else or prefers someone else’s help on a project. However, the reality is that we all have strengths and weaknesses. There are some things that my son prefers to do with me, and some he prefers to do with his dad. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Realize that your child has needs that your ex might be better at fulfilling. That in no way reduces your importance to your child. To coparent successfully, you need to bury jealousy and work together to ensure your child has the best possible outcome.

9. Know that it will be difficult.

Buckle up. It’s not easy to coparent successfully. It’s a little easier for me because my ex and I are on good terms and genuinely care about each other still.

Even then, it’s still challenging sometimes. There are times I don’t want to discuss things with him. It would be easier for me to just make all the decisions about our son without input from my ex.

However, that’s not fair to him or to our son.

It can be hard to bury feelings and put on a civil facade, especially if you had a hard breakup. However, it needs to be done. Think about the welfare of your child.

If you need to get mediation and/or counseling, do it. In some cases, you can benefit from family therapy, even if you aren’t a “traditional” family anymore.

Parenting is rarely easy, and doing it with your ex adds another layer of complexity. However, if you are both committed, you should be able to make it work.

Do you have to coparent with your ex? What challenges do you face? Even if you have a partner, do you run into parenting problems? How do you resolve them. Join us on the #Adulting community on Facebook and share your stories.

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Recently married? Here’s something you’re probably tired of hearing.

Last year, I had the bright idea of getting married on Cinco de Mayo; that’s the fifth of May for the uneducated. It was the culmination of a 20-year-long relationship that began in high school. It’s been almost a full year since us two crazy not-so-young-anymore kids tied the knot, and you know what’s happened in that year? 

I’ve come to the realization that just about everyone on Earth has apparently chipped in on the cost of my uterus.

Not one single month has passed by that someone hasn’t asked me, “When are you guys having a baby?” As if I had somehow promised at the altar to spit out progeny as soon as a ring hit my finger and we hit the marriage bed. Apparently, there’s some part of the marriage contract that I must have looked over when I signed the dotted line. People want to know “why don’t you have kids already?” the moment your honeymoon is over.

I never knew that my body housed a communal uterus but, since I’m the only one who apparently didn’t know, let me tell you why it’s been so long in coming, this second appearance of our apparent Messiah who will spring forth from my unyielding womb.

Related: Delayed parenthood.

Putting off marriage and kids: it’s not the end of the world.

Admittedly, I’m a little long in the tooth for marriage. Everyone has been keen to make me feel like 37 is the new 47, so, thank you for that. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the number of people (perfect strangers included) who have given us the third degree over this subject over and over again — always unsolicited.

I’ve sincerely thought that no one has ever wondered how I successfully made it to the ripe old age of 37 in my woefully childless state. I avoided teenage pregnancy, skirted pregnancy in my twenties, and successfully navigated my thirties in a childless manner without having, I don’t know, a fist full of birth control and an actual plan in place.

I always want to ask people what they’re thinking when they ask me, “Why don’t you have kids yet?” 

I plaster on a fake smile, all while mentally cursing out the nosey bastard in front of me, and think: What if I can’t have kids? What if we’re suffering from infertility?  What if, like countless other women and couples in their thirties we’ve tried and failed? What if we’re in the process of trying to have kids, but it just hasn’t worked yet? 

What if, every single time you or anyone for that matter, decides to stink up the joint with your verbal diarrhea by asking me that same stupid ass question, or if you decide to point out how old I am, or if you refer to my dog as the only kid I’ll ever have, or say, out loud, that our lifestyle is just not cut out for kids, you are slowly twisting a very painful dagger over and over and over and over again at the center of deeply-rooted pain for us?

What if, with your innocent, well-meaning question, you make me want to strangle you every time your eyeballs move towards my stomach region? What if, you insensitive bastard, it’s none of your goddamn business?

The next time one of you asks me that question, I might just tell you to shut the hell up or I might just turn the tables and ask you why you and your lovely significant don’t try to pop out another one of your own clones that you clearly enjoy having since you’re so eager for me to join the club.

Oh yeah, and we don’t have kids because we don’t want any right now. 

Thanks for asking.

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You can learn many lessons about being an adult from a teenager. This teen may even be a better adult than you are.

What makes an adult?

According to society and government, once you reach age 18 you are considered an adult. You can make your own decisions and sign legal documents. But just because you are a certain age, does that make you an adult?

While you might technically be an adult, the actual act of adulting is a little bit harder. Functioning as a successful adult requires more than just turning 18.

In fact, as I look at some of the things so-called adults do (or don’t do), I realize that there is a lot that 21-year-olds can learn from my 13-year-old son. Hell, there are probably some days that my son is actually a better adult than I am.

Here are some of the life skills that my 13-year-old excels at, and will help him when he becomes an actual adult.

Time management.

If you want to be a better adult and more successful in life, time management is key. We all have days when we don’t want to get something done wrong we have a hard time getting a handle on the clock. The idea, though, is to do our best to plan ahead so that we can manage our obligations.

A couple weeks ago, my son and I were talking about our after-school day. I reminded him that I had a meeting to go to and that he would be on his own after dinner. He mentioned that he knew that he would need help with his homework and suggested that we tackle the homework first, before he practiced saxophone. Rather then springing the homework on me after I returned from my meeting, he thought ahead to all of what he needed to do that afternoon and took the initiative to make sure he had time for all of his obligations.

Sometimes we just run out of that time and we have to choose between different activities. That’s just life. Adulting is recognizing that sometimes you do have control over your time, and making sure you prioritize what is most important.

Do you have to be told what needs to be done?

My 13-Year-Old Is a Better Adult Than You Are

We only need direction sometimes, especially when we’re learning something new. However, if you want to be a better an adult you need to recognize that sometimes you just need to do what needs to be done without being told.

My son comes home from school and knows he needs to take care of certain things. He has music practice, fencing practice, and homework. I don’t need to tell him to get started on these things; even on days he doesn’t necessarily want to get going, you still getting started even if I’m not home too tell him to do so.

After I broke my wrist my son really stepped up, keeping track of when he needed to start the laundry and paying attention to what time to start dinner. In many cases, he saw would need to be done and went ahead and did it.

Eat healthy meals.

We all like junk food. I’d rather eat cake than make a salad. However, I know that macaroni and cheese for dinner every day and over processed foods aren’t good for me. So I don’t make them very often.

My son is learning how to be a better adult by making better food choices. When he make dinner, he includes a fruit and vegetable in addition to whatever the entrée is. He helps with cooking, and is capable of reading a recipe. Thanks to Blue Apron, it’s possible for him to see you what we plan to have and get step-by-step instructions on making a nutritious dinner.

Track your spending.

Maybe it’s because I write about money, but my son is already learning habits that many 20-somethings I know don’t have down. I recently got him a debit card, and he is very good about tracking his spending.

He also takes the time to think about what he wants to buy with his money. He almost most never makes an impulse purchase because he had a clear idea of what he hopes to use his money for, and the knowledge that if he uses his money on something today he won’t be able to buy something else tomorrow.

He’s also learning to give money to charity and set aside money for the future. He follows the stock market because he is investing in an index fund with his long-term savings money.

Finally, he’s constantly thinking of other ways to make money. He works hard and his 4-H projects so that he can earn ribbon money, and he helps out with administrative duties in my home office. He also has big plans for a YouTube channel and other online ventures. We’ll see if he follows through with any of them.

Obviously my 13-year-old is not ready for many of the responsibilities associated with being an adult. But he’s got a pretty good handle on things.

What do you think makes an adult? Are there some things that you see so-called adults doing that aren’t very adult-like at all? How are you trying to be a better adult?

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