Quick relationship backstory (aka, all the important bits you should know going into this story): I started dating the most recent ex-girlfriend (aka Hello Nurse, or HN from here on out) in late January of this year. We didn’t have the relationship talk until April. It had been almost five years — longer than I’ve been on Tumblr — since I’d been 100% off the market.)
We broke up in mid-June and I covered some of the reasons back then, but left out the biggest reason she gave because at the time I wasn’t sure where I stood on the issue. My draft folder even has a relic of a post idea from that time period called “What’s The Matter With Not Wanting Kids Today?” She wanted kids someday, and I didn’t, and that was a dealbreaker. Only, it’s more complicated than that.
OK, first, while my default post-relationship setting is “it was my fault it didn’t work out” (because I can control what I do, and in theory fix those mistakes/shortcomings before my next relationship), the kid discussion came semi-out of nowhere for me. We had one major talk about kids back in February (it was either the first or second time she’d stayed at my place and we weren’t exclusively dating.) She’d asked me to put a percentage on the chance I’d someday want kids, and I said “maybe 10%” because I really didn’t want kids at the time and, while I wasn’t fully aware of it, had a real problem thinking about a happier and more financially stable future that didn’t involve fantasies of winning the lottery. Also we were naked and I was distracted.
But we didn’t stop dating, and unless it came up over St. Patty’s Day weekend or the Saturday night we went out with her brother an sister-in-law (the two drunkest times for me with her) and the discussion happened when I was blackout drunk, I don’t remember it coming up again until the breakup. So when she lamented that we wound up being more honest with each other and communicating better post-breakup, I agreed. But didn’t actually bring this one point up.
Because it is nitpicking at best, right? Plus, I’d half-jokingly talked about getting a vasectomy (this predating dating her). The problem with dating someone with actual medical knowledge? They’ll point out that reversing a vasectomy is not as easy as cheap jokes on Scrubs and Seinfeld make it seem. What I wanted was some serious male contraception that wasn’t a condom, that could be safely reversed if I and the woman who decided I wasn’t a total pain-in-the-ass were ready for kids. I even looked up the cost of the procedure (naturally my shitty insurance would not cover it), and more importantly, the failure rate of reversals and decided I didn’t want to risk it. And at no point did I mention any of this to my girlfriend at the time.
Partly for no good reason, partly because being a couple was still quite new (and a big adjustment, after several years of not having to plan my Saturday nights in advance if I didn’t feel like it), and partly because some stupid voice in my head thought telling her “I do want kids someday” would result in her wanting to get pregnant and married right then and there. Even though she was already using an IUD. My fervent hope is that I don’t lose several IQ points and half my common sense every time I’m in a relationship.
The other reason for the breakup was a mutual fear that neither of us would stick around GA much longer, and I can blame myself safely there: I had serious issues really opening up to her when we were dating because while I was patting myself on the back with one hand for not doubting why a beautiful, successful, smart, and funny woman like HN would be interested in me (something I was incapable of 5-6 years ago), another part of me was convinced it’d never last almost from the get-go. She was going to take a trip to Europe for two weeks after graduation, and that was my big fear for getting seriously involved (her response: “I’m not going to Europe to fuck some foreign guys.”) Looking back, there was also a bit of an irrational basis for me being nervous about her going on a long trip: a year before, I’d met someone and hit it off who was about to take a lengthy vacation, and whatever chemistry we had was totally gone when she returned. And going from really clicking with someone to nothing with no clear reason for why it happened is quite the shitty feeling.
After that, the fear was that she’d either not find a job in the Atlanta area, or that she really did want to move to NC (no offense to Raleigh, but I do not wish to move there).
But again, the big fuck up was I didn’t raise my concern at the time.
So we broke up, and there were good reasons for it, and we kept in touch (and had a one-night backslide, as you do), and getting over her sucked, but there was always the “if things change, maybe” hanging out in the background.
And then things did change.
I spent the summer thinking about kids, which led to thinking about how I used to want kids, and then sometime around 2009-2010 I started saying “no” to the idea. Which led to asking “why did that happen?” The short answer is that it was something like depression, but trickier, because it kept itself hidden for a few years before I was fully aware of it. My mental approach to almost everything was to not get my hopes up. And sure, managing expectations and being realistic is one thing, but serious pessimism? That’s what led me to sticking around in a job I was miserable doing for years without applying to better jobs (“they just hire someone else”), caused me to put off grad school applications (“it won’t help at all in this economy”), and probably wasn’t helping my dating life any either. So the first big change was realizing just how damned pessimistic my outlook was, and taking steps to change it (including applying to grad school, so get your “you’re ignoring all our ‘don’t go to grad school’ tags!” comments in now). The second was admitting that yes, I really don’t want kids right now, but that’s almost 90% the result of knowing I’m not in a financially stable enough place to really give the kid an advantage (and also while I could 100% do my job from home if I had remote access, that is not an option when upper management thinks not forcing us to wear suits to work is being forward and progressive as a workplace) it does not mean I never want kids. I wouldn’t feel like a failure if it never happens (and given some recent studies, if it turns out that I’m stuck not finding someone to marry for several years, I’m not trying to father kids in my 40s — barring reversal of those studies, or pre-natal cures for those “diseases common to older-dude sperm-spawned kids”). But…
I think I’d be a pretty kick-ass dad. Based on my second cousins, I’ve got pretty good “dad muscles” already. I love horrible puns, which are one of the highest forms of “dad jokes.” Sandy Cohen and Red Foreman were two of my favorite TV characters of the past 15 years (and were damn good dads). The part of me that worried that a kid would mean no travel? Realized it was dead wrong because all four of my second cousins have been to Europe (with their parents) more than I have. I’m still very, very, very skeptical of ever having more than two kids (once you hit three they outnumber you, and that Buffalo Wild Wing commercial about the couple with 4 kids under let’s say 2 living in shit-stained squalor who can’t even enjoy football gives me the howling fantods) I feel really good about my odds of being a damned good dad to one or two.
They’d get raised on kick-ass music (well, once they started learning to talk there’d be a lot of instrumentals, classic rock, and classical music, so we don’t wind up having “the talk” when they’re in 1st grade.) And they’d likely rebel and blast dubstep to spite me.
Anyway, it’s something I was thinking about a lot, and HN kept popping up too. At the very least, I needed to tell her, right? But how do you say all that without it sounding like bullshit designed to get her back? If our roles were reversed, I would’ve been skeptical.
And then she did get a job in Atlanta, and was moving closer to Midtown to boot. I needed to say something, but how to say it kept holding me back. I wanted to email her before my birthday party, but the blank white space in my Gmail window mocked me each time. I thought I’d simply tell her at said party (at the bar we met in back in January) but she didn’t show. I thought I could wait until I honestly didn’t want to get back together, where it could be a legit “thank you” letter, and that maybe I’d meet someone else: that didn’t happen either (I did meet someone at the birthday party, but she either didn’t want a relationship, or was pissed off that I got too drunk to follow up on a booty-text that night). Then the excuse for September became “I’ll do it after the grad school paperwork is done.” And what happened was I did finally open up, thank her, and tell her what had changed for me…in late October.
My timing wasn’t great.