Baby Blues: You're Ready, He's Not!

Love, Family

He wants kids—just not yet. How to handle the question of when to start a family.

In place of an answer, I offer an observation. Among the couples we know, a distinct pattern prevails. The men are easygoing, messy, slightly underachieving. The women are disciplined, organized, successful at everything they do. When they have parties, it's the women who send out the Evites and whip up the fig-and-blue-cheese hors d'oeuvres, and the guys who make sure the music is loud enough and everybody has a drink in their hands.

I suspect this is, in part, a generational thing—a modern-day division of labor to replace the old "daddy works, mommy stays home" paradigm. Women create the structures of adult life (a pleasant home, a regular schedule); men try to preserve the energy and spontaneity of youth within those structures. There's tension involved in these divergent aims, but it's a positive tension: The couples upon whom I base my observation are mostly happy ones. Guys like me play for time, secure in the knowledge that the life we're deferring, full of grubby little fingers and juice boxes, will be waiting for us at the end. We're fighting a rearguard action, and we know it—but ultimately it's a fight we want to lose.

Riding home in a taxi at 9:30 on a Wednesday night, I knew I was in trouble when I heard a voicemail message from Emily saying she'd forgotten her keys and would be waiting for me at the Starbucks near our apartment. What I didn't know was how much trouble.

Sweeping into the coffee shop, I offered the breeziest of apologies. Emily was not charmed.

"I've been waiting here for two hours," she fumed.

"It's not my fault you forgot your keys," I retorted—reasonably enough, I thought.