Question: I’m wondering whether it's normal for a woman not to want children because she's afraid her husband will transfer his feelings of love to them.
My fiance wants children but I refuse to have any because I want to be his one and only. I like kids but I'm conflicted because I don't want to lose his attention. He doesn't know I feel this way. I have low self-esteem and am very possessive of him. He loves me dearly and I want to make him happy.
Answer: It is normal to think about whether your mate might love the children more than you -- but it is not normal to fear it so much that you decide not to have children, or to deceive him about your feelings.
Certainly, people have loving feelings toward their children. This includes children they plan to have along with children they do have.
But I don’t believe there is a finite amount of love to go around. Love is not like a pie. It’s not that if someone else gets a slice, then you get a smaller slice. Love is like a balloon, with the capacity to constantly expand.
Certainly, children require time and attention. After having children, either or both spouses often feel some sense of longing for the days when it was just the two of them.
Men often feel encroached upon when a baby is new and his wife has no energy left for him. Women often feel it later in the game, when their husband is out doing sports and scouts and other fun stuff with the kids.
In fact, with today’s competition to be a great parent, parenting has become a blood sport. People can become more of a parent than a spouse, thereby unwittingly rocking the foundation of the family. In this case, I suggest redevoting yourselves to each other.
Negative feelings toward children, however, are nearly always countered by feelings of joy and fulfillment gained by nurturing children who are the product of your love for each other.
But the intensity of your feelings -- worrying that children will snatch your man’s love and attention from you -- is extreme. Your low self-esteem is the real problem, which all the love
If you don’t have children to compete for your husband’s attention, you will have something else to fret about -- work obligations, other relatives, a friend. Your husband might easily lose patience with your constant neediness and the demand that he prove his love for you every second of every minute of every hour.
Besides, if you and your spouse had no interest in anything but gazing into each other’s eyes and feeding each other bonbons, your lives would be very much one-dimensional and impoverished.
You also say you won’t have children but your fiance doesn’t know how you feel. Such deception is likely to sabotage the relationship more than any child ever could. At some point, the question of having children will arise. You either inform your spouse or you live a lie. If you cannot disclose your feelings about sensitive topics, you should think twice about whether this relationship is viable for the long haul.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Having children doesn’t mean your spouse will love them more than you. If this is your fear, you need instead to examine your own low feelings of self-worth, which is the real issue.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .