The question I want to wrestle with is, "How early is too early to think or talk about kids?"
Most of us have all seen a sitcom or a movie which portrays some blind date in which one of the parties brings up the conversation of children. We laugh at the ridiculous notion of bringing that
topic up on a first date and then enjoy watching the date tank on screen and thank God we have never been in a situation like that.
On the opposite extreme, I couldn't imagine being in a situation that played out on the final two episodes of the past season of the Hills between America's favorite couple, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt. (I promise I don't actually watch the show...Melissa does and told me about it).
The long and short of the story: Heidi wants kids even though they have only been married for a short time. Spencer responded to her saying that he never wants to have kids. So, as the mature couple they are, Heidi decided to try to deceive Spencer by going off birth control and then Spencer decided to refuse to have sex and then threaten to divorce her if she got pregnant. Fun stuff...
When asked why they didn't talk about this issue before they got married, Heidi said Spencer "joked" about not wanting kids but she didn't know he meant it. (Source)
Wow! What a mess...
So, how early is too early to bring this heavy topic into play? I think the answer to that question is when ever you start to consider the other person as marriage material, you have to tackle this issue and figure out each other expectations. And I think that moment is different for each person and couple.
For some who look at the purpose of dating as a sole means to a spouse, this question is going to come up earlier rather than later. Why waste your time if you can't even agree early on? For others it might come later in a relationship as it started casual and grew more serious over time. Either way, every relationship heading towards marriage MUST have a serious conversation about kids before taking the final plunge.
Here are what I think the important questions are:
1) Do you want kids? Ok...should be a no-brainer but make sure you take time to ask this question and at least find out what your significant other's serious response is.
2) How many kids do you want? For Melissa and I, this conversation was pretty easy because we were in the same ballpark. Melissa always said she wanted 2 or 3 kids and even though I always joked about wanting to field my own baseball team, realistically I agreed with 2 or 3. For others this can be more difficult. What if she wants a big family and he only wants one, or vice versa?
3) When do you want kids? This conversation was a bit more difficult for us. I wanted kids pretty quickly, give or take two years into marriage. Melissa at first wanted to wait like seven or eight years. We had a handful of conversations about this and both felt that neither of us were hard and fast about our time frames and could be flexible. After we got married, Melissa's time frame slowly dropped and mine got a bit longer until we kind of fell in the middle. Also, as many can relate on both perspectives this question often is handled by God's timing whether you get pregnant earlier or later than you planned.
As you think about these three questions and talk about them before you get engaged, make sure you take time to listen to each other. Ask why your spouse is answering in the ways they are and try to understand where they are coming from. I think often times, the responses to these questions are usually connected to a person's upbringing in either positive or negative ways. Then you need to figure out if there is a compromise that can be met or not.
The last thing I would warn is to not go forward with a marriage and assume that you can change your spouses response to any of those questions or that they will change on their own. The chances of that going well won't be good. It's never fun to break up but it would be better to face some hurt while your dating and move on rather than realizing you're stuck in a marriage where you and your spouse are on such separate pages about such a major issue.