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What We’re Really Fighting About When We Fight Over Having Another Kid

News that mega-celebs Anna Faris and Chris Pratt are separating after eight years of marriage over — at least in part — whether or not to have more kids, shocked the sort of people who are genuinely upset when celebrity relationships end. But to anyone else who’s already faced down the debate over whether to have more kids, it was a wincing reminder of a dark, complicated truth about marriage that even we plebs deal with: The second-baby debate can wreck even the most stable relationships.

The couple already had one kid, 4-year-old son Jack, but according to a TMZ source, Faris wanted more and Pratt did not. Faris, that source said, was far more traditional, and wanted her family together all the time from a home base. Pratt, whose career has taken off in recent years and is now an in-demand actor who globe-trots for months at a time, said he couldn’t juggle both career and family, according to TMZ’s informer.

To be clear, these are not direct quotes from Pratt or Faris, who merely saidin a joint statement on social media that they were sad they were splitting after trying “hard for a long time,” with no indication as to why. But if it’s true, it’s an entirely relatable, understandable reason couples likely split all the time that we rarely consider — and it’s one all the money in the world can’t necessarily solve.

Relationships are hard, and you can do so much negotiating of the obstacles in advance. Most guides to marriage suggest talking over all the big issues in advance before ever walking down the aisle — religion, conflict resolution, careers, or how finances will be handled are all par for the course. Another biggie, of course, is whether to have kids at all. That’s highly divisive in itself, but it’s also pretty simple, all things considered: Either you both do or you both don’t, and there’s no real in between.

But just because you can jump that hurdle doesn’t mean another curveball won’t smack you in the mug later: Maybe you agree you want kids, but find out later one of you wants more and the other thinks the bus is full. Or you agree you want a big family, then have one kid, and waylaid by the commitment and drain, one person changes their mind. Maybe it’s logistical, but maybe it’s superstitious — you’re broke, or you have one perfect child and realize you don’t want to roll the dice again. Regardless, it’s precisely the sort of issue that sneaks up on you, and that’s anathema to our ideas about finding the one: Who you are today might not resemble who you are later at all when it comes to this stuff — and what are you supposed to do then?

“When we were first married, my husband and I talked about ‘the big stuff,’” Carinn Jade wrote for The New York Times about the second-baby debate. “We discussed religion and politics; we respected the differences in our opinions. We both wanted to raise children in New York City and remain united against the suburbs. With no red flags in sight, we began our union with confidence. Yet here we are, after eight years of marriage and two kids, going to war over whether or not to have more children.”

It’s a fraught issue because it’s the sort of situational big decision that is contingent on so many other factors you can’t predict until you’re too far in. One is, of course, money. One kid already costs nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise to age 18, according to MarketWatch, so adding a second kid may mean increased expenses in housing, education, more gear, and possibly even another car to haul them around.

Another issue is time. Raising one kid to elementary school means you get out of baby jail in about five years and at least have a semi-regular sleep schedule and a potty-trained human on your hands. But the second one means starting back at square one when you’ve typically only just crossed the first finish line. Now you’re older, but back to sleepless nights, nursing, diaper changing, preschool, and waiting out the end of the second sentence.

It also vastly changes your current family dynamic. Often people think it’s easy to just toss one more baby into the mix — after all, you’ve already done it once. The reality tends to be that it’s not just double the joy but double the work, as this Lifehacker piece points out. Other issues they highlight: Subsequent pregnancies can affect the health of the mother.

Then there’s the only-child debate: Are you raising a selfish monster who will resent you for never giving them a brother or sister, or a smart, autonomous kid who is really cool with adults? For all the ways we romanticize siblings, the reality is that you have no way of knowing if these two kids will love or despise each other. You also have no way of knowing if your second child will be the delightful, brilliant little genius the first one was (or wasn’t, for that matter).

You also have no idea how it will affect your career, or your relationship, to undergo the strain that raising a newborn has on a relationship. You may have already undergone a sexless spell with the first baby; now, just when it’s time to hit date nights and daytime sex — bam.

Such issues are no doubt a function of increasingly egalitarian marriages where two career-driven people navigate equal parts ambition where it hits the wall of gendered expectations about work and family life.

We may want to believe that two equally ambitious people can easily make a go of it these days if they have the best of intentions and the ability to simply negotiate. But if nothing else, Pratt and Faris demonstrate that celebrities, sometimes, really are like us: Just as unable to navigate the messy terrain of values, gender roles, biology, leisure time, lifestyle and an egalitarian marriage while also under the strain of dual-earning careerism. That sucks. But if it’s true, it’s the most relatable thing about them.