I’m Ready For Kids. He’s Not Sure. Time To Go?

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Hi Meredith,

I’m 29, originally from the US, and have been living in Italy for about 10 years. Last fall, I moved with my Italian boyfriend (36) to Spain. We met four years ago. I fell quickly for his adventurous spirit and great sense of integrity. It took him about six months of dating and some “I’m not ready to be in a relationship” issues before we admitted we were couple. Perhaps this was foreshadowing of commitment issues to come.

From very early on in the relationship, I was clear about my desire to start a family and get married as young as possible, and we agreed that we would wait until after we had moved to Spain and he had found a stable job to start trying for kids. However, whereas we were a fairly giddy, problem-less couple before the move, things changed once we got to Spain. His struggle to find a new job made him quite stressed, and although I expected to handle the move much better myself, being experienced with international moves, I was super unsettled, and this caused a lot of fighting between us.

Eventually, my boyfriend found a job, and I thought, “Great! Things are going as planned, now we can look at starting a family this next year, while my work contract is still secure and I would have health insurance/maternity leave.” I tried to talk to him about babies and the future, and he would avoid giving me a straight answer until one day, during a heated discussion, he said that it wasn’t a good time because he didn’t feel ready – but that it was because he wanted to be sure he was having kids with the right person. This broke my heart. All along, I had thought we were on the same page. In my mind, he was my forever person and I saw our struggles as a bump in the road, but instead he’d started to question things.

When I realized this, I began to spit that same uncertainty right back at him and find every flaw I could. We continued fighting until it got to the point where we either needed to break up or calm down, and so calm down we did – without things really being resolved. We decided to put the baby discussion on hold until next year so that he could enjoy at least a year of living in Spain.

My dreams were again put on hold while we both worked on figuring out if this was the right relationship for us. I then began a series of travels, concluding in my returning home to the US for a month, and it just felt so good. To be home, close to my family, speaking my own language, going easily through my day in my own culture, not being a foreigner. Suddenly that whisper I’d had in my head for so long of maybe wanting to move back to the States was shouting at me, “This is the right thing to do! It’s time! What are you staying in Europe for anyway? You have much better career and personal growth opportunities here, and you don’t even have a stable/promising relationship over there anymore!” I discussed these feelings with my boyfriend when I came back, and while he was supportive and understanding, obviously this did not add any certainty to our situation. I have begun applying to jobs back in the US, and meanwhile, he and I carry on all lovey-dovey, avoiding the elephant in the room that is my probable return to the US.

What would you do, Meredith? Would you stick it out a little longer in Europe to see where things go with this person you’ve already invested four years in, who at the end of the day is a great guy and has said he wants kids but maybe needs a bit more time? Or would you give in to that voice – the one that will likely never go away if I don’t act on it – and leave the life of 10 years you’d built up for yourself in Europe to return home and be closer to your family, where you can pursue new jobs and hobbies more easily, but have to jump back into the dating pool which we all know is quite bad these days? I feel I have a lot to lose no matter what I choose.

– The homesick explorer


I think you answered your own question a bunch of times in that second to last paragraph. Often when someone tells me a “voice” or “whisper” is speaking to them, I know they’re hearing themselves.

With that in mind, some things to consider:

1. Going home to visit is different than living there. If you return to the US, expect that little voice in your head to scream, “What have you done?” You’ve been gone for a decade. Old friends have different lives now. Everyone who seemed beyond thrilled to see you during your stay will appear less ecstatic when you return for good because your presence will be expected. Also, our chocolate candy bars, for the most part, are not as tasty as the ones I’ve had in other countries, so there’s that problem. Prepare yourself.

2. Dating is hard, but so is having kids with someone who isn’t 100 percent on board. You’re going to have to get used to the idea that having kids with a partner ASAP might mean three years from now. We don’t always get the timeline we want, but it’s better to wait until it feels like less of a debate.

3. Your boyfriend didn’t try to stop you from applying to jobs at home. Meanwhile, you seem to have half broken up with him in your mind. I think you’ve accepted the end of this relationship – maybe even started grieving it – and that’s OK.

4. You ask what I’d do. I’ll answer, but remember, kids were not on my agenda at 29, 39, or last week. I would enjoy Spain, apply for jobs in the US (staying transparent with my boyfriend about my plans), do some more solo travel, and then have some tough conversations. I’d probably go where the voice told me to, where I have opportunities and can try something new. I’d go where I see the potential for community.

– Meredith

Readers? Maternity leave is probably better elsewhere. But is it time to come home? What would you do until then?

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