DR. WALLACE: I’m 21 years old, and my girlfriend recently told me that she doesn’t ever want to have kids. We’ve been dating for a little over a year now, and things have been going great, but I didn’t know until this came up recently that she doesn’t intend to start a family of her own one day.
Family is very important to me, and so her feelings on this topic worry me, as I’ve always dreamed of being a dad and having a couple of kids I could love, raise and guide through their lives.
We haven’t talked about getting married yet or anything, but I guess a part of me imagined that could have been a possibility for us down the line. Now I’m currently feeling crushed and am wondering if I should even continue to date her if we have such different views about having kids.
I don’t plan to get married or have kids any time soon, but is there any point of staying in a relationship with someone when you know that your hopes and plans for the future look very different? — Uncertain With This, via email
UNCERTAIN WITH THIS: Indeed, this is a very big topic and any young couple that is in a relationship that could eventually lead to marriage should cover this issue and many other important ones as well.
Only you know what your life plan is and how you plan to get there. You mentioned that this relationship has been going great, so think about what it is that makes you say this. Her traits, personality and style obviously mesh well with yours, outside of the issue of not having children even inside a marriage.
I recommend that you don’t do anything rash right now. Keep dating her but find a good, casual and comfortable time to ask her the reasons why she does not see herself having children someday.
You did not mention her age, but I’ll assume she is likely within a few years of your age up or down. Keep in mind that her current perspective could change over time, as long as she does not have any physical limitations that would preclude her from being able to bear children. Also ask her if she would be open to adopting a child or if she simply does not wish to have children under any circumstances.
Some individuals are childless by choice and do not ever see themselves being parents. This is an individual choice and preference that is more common than most people would think.
Take some time with her to earnestly cover this topic in detail via open discussions over time. I commend her for sharing this with you now, so listen carefully as to why she feels this way now. She may always feel this way, or she may eventually change her mind. You might feel differently yourself in a few years depending on your personal situation and the development of this relationship. Communicate and give it some more time. You both deserve that as individuals and as a couple.
DR. WALLACE: My parents’ plan for my future is not what I actually want, and I’m kind of uncomfortable with this. I’ve always performed well in my science classes, and so they think that I should study to become a doctor!
While I know that I probably would be a good doctor if I apply myself and am fortunate enough to be able to qualify for this profession by passing all of the exams required to become a medical professional, I don’t think that I would ultimately find that career to be very fulfilling. I’m a creative person at heart, and I aspire to be a writer someday. I’m not exactly sure what I would want to write about yet, but I believe that if I came across a good idea, I would be successful. My parents, however, are very skeptical of me pursuing writing as a career, and they are constantly reminding me of the possibility that I won’t make very much money as a writer.
I’ve considered getting a standard part-time job after college and working on writing in my spare time, but my parents are right that I will not be able to generate very much income living that kind of lifestyle. I’m not trying to get rich, but I need to at least be able to provide for myself, and I’d like to eventually start a family one day in the future. Is going against my parents’ will for my future and hoping to make it in life as a writer an unrealistic idea? I graduate high school next month and will be a new college student this fall. — Not a Doctor at Heart, via email
NOT A DOCTOR AT HEART: I’m sure your parents mean well, but after all, we are talking about your life and your future, not theirs. You mention being a creative person, so writing could be one possibility for you. There are also many other possible careers that benefit from creativity as well. Entrepreneurs and inventors are often highly creative.
I’d advise that you begin college by sampling several different types of classes. Take some standard ones and mix in some creative ones as well. If there is a writing class or journalism class, by all means take it to see how you like it.
The decision to set a career path should be an exploratory journey, not an ironclad decision that gives an individual pause early on. And in saying this, I am not excluding a medical career of some sort for you. I’m simply suggesting that you sample, test and explore many topics and possible paths for your life.
This is what college is for: an opportunity to learn about topics you find interesting and to learn about yourself. No matter how you feel today, it’s a certainty that you’ll evolve and feel differently a few years into your future. This evolution of your mindset may be slight or vast, and that’s the beauty and wonder of being ready to go out into the world to find your place.
And specifically to the subject of writing, always remember that there is a demand for good content. A writer who can make the mundane seem interesting and the complicated seem simple often connects with a wide audience.
Think about whom you wish to reach and what your audience is likely to be. Find a niche that you’re comfortable with and write about topics that you have a passion for or that you find interesting. Network as much as you can and seek to be published whenever or wherever possible — as long as those venues are ethical and respected. Over time your passion for writing may rise or wane, and either is fine, or in fact, good. Those who enjoy it to a point and move on benefit from the experience in the field and those that become truly passionate increase their odds of finding a way to achieve a career somewhere in the field.
Dr. Robert Wallace will answer questions from readers in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.