"Your desire to be grandparents does not trumph my desire to not be a mother!"
April 5, 2010 12:36 PM   Subscribe

My family has (fairly) recently been blessed with two tiny baby girls. Everyone is overjoyed, and fawning nonstop. As is expected. Except me - who is strongly of the childfree mentality for various reasons. Now that my family's gleeful comments have turned into "You're next!" more and more often, I'm finding myself resenting them and wanting to avoid any and all gatherings. It doesn't help that they refuse to even acknowledge my stance as anything but unnatural and (thanks, mom!) psychotic. How do I get better at diffusing this?

I'm still in my early twenties, so no one is putting immediate pressure on my reproduction just yet. And I'm incredibly lucky to be getting married to a guy who shares my stance. (We're petitioning for a K-1 visa, so he's not around 24/7 yet to help me relax in these situations.)

I guess my main problem is that I can't seem to communicate how I feel to my family, without everyone freaking out and claiming to know better. Last time I attempted a calm conversation over the phone with my mom, she began crying and hung up on me. To make amends, I told her that "it's still too early anyway and we'll see," which made her feel better - but it wasn't honest, and I think while she knows it deep inside, it's easier to look forward to imaginary grandkids that bring happiness to everyone. No one seems to notice that when I ask people to stop telling me I need to give them babies next, I really mean it. It's driving me up the wall, and not being a very patient person to begin with makes this a terrible recipe for family events.

What are my options for not alienating everyone, but still making myself heard? It should be possible, right? If you've ever had to deal with something similar, please share your wisdom..! If I need to just smile and nod, are there tips for keeping cool and collected and ignoring all the hurt that comes from this kind of disregard? Is there a best way to have a serious conversation with my parents about what I want for my life? How do I survive this? If this Easter weekend is what all gatherings for the next 2-3 years are going to be like, I need help!
posted by Tequila Mockingbird to Human Relations (46 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Just don't have kids. They will eventually get the message. You don't have to discuss this with people. REALLY. It's your uterus. Next time it comes up you can even say, "I don't believe discussions about my uterus or what I intend to do with my uterus are any of your business."

I'm 37 now and my mom has just finally gotten the message that I'm really not having kids in the past couple of years. Just to give you warning on how long it might take for the message to sink in.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 12:40 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Keep your head down, enjoy the nieces and nephews (so the family doesn't think you're some sort of baby-hating monster), and if they bring it up say, "You know where that kind of conversation goes. Let's not, ok?"

My sisters are taking up the "slack" for my wife and me. I use that line to defuse things, too.
posted by notsnot at 12:41 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like when you engage with them (psychotic? thanks mom) everyone gets upset. So don't engage. I think a lot of people associate wedding planning with kids, so when I was planning my wedding people asked me about us having children a lot. I just deflected them with meaningless phrases like "oh we'll see" or "let's get through the wedding first."
posted by pinky at 12:46 PM on April 5, 2010

I'd say you can honestly acknowledge that the future is unknown. You might maintain your childfree stance, but in 5 or 10 years, you might change your mind. I say that as a person who's waffled back and forth on this issue over the years.

It's certainly good and appropriate to say something like,"Right now we're not really interested in kids, but in 5 years, it's possible that we'll change our minds."

To me, this is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. If you ever get to the point where you're absolutely positively certain that you never ever want to have kids, then you can address that familial conflict. This has the benefit of appeasing the pro-child factions of your family while still being honest.

Never mind how unbelievably creepy it is that family members are obsessing about your potential children(which is ultimately a personal decision) before you have even gotten married. That behavior has always bothered me at a visceral level, but the average family member is completely unable to understand how this is none of their business.

Good luck! We're all pulling for you. :)
posted by specialnobodie at 12:48 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You are being heard. That's why they're reacting so badly. They're hearing you say something they don't want to hear you say. If you're being calm and rational and clear, that's as much as you can do.

The problem lies with the fact that you can't control other people's reactions. They react badly to the news, and this is quite understandably upsetting. However, you are not responsible for their reactions. They are making the choice themselves to behave in a certain way.

They will choose to behave in whatever way they see fit irrespective of how you give them the news. Your only responsibility is to be cool, calm and collected.

If someone reacts badly to the news, that's on them. If they make the temperature in the room plummet, that's on them. If they make things awkward, that's on them. It's not your responsibility to pander to them. You could just say that you plan to have lots of kids to keep them happy and quiet, but that brings up the issue of you lying to them and you not asserting your own stance.

Try asking someone who is pressuring you, "why are you asking me to have kids? I've already said that I don't want any" and then wait for them to answer. They'll very probably just waffle on about how wonderful kids are. That doesn't answer the question. Respond with something along the lines of "why aren't you answering the question? I've already said I don't want kids". Repeat the question until they actually answer it, because that's the only way you're going to get an answer. When they actually tell you why they're still pressuring you, then you can work on that.

Be prepared for drama when you do this. But if you're already getting drama, you're in exactly the same position you're in now. And you have the bonus of actually getting to the bottom of the question of why these people are disregarding your feelings. Or they might just walk off or change the subject. Either way, you've communicated to them that you don't want kids. How they handle that is their affair.
posted by Solomon at 12:48 PM on April 5, 2010 [13 favorites]

You might want to check out this thread. It's a different question, but same problem and there were a lot of good answers in there.
posted by Kimberly at 12:51 PM on April 5, 2010

Your mother will never be happy until you pop out a child.

So either pop out a child or become used to her being unhappy.

But she will never, ever be happy with you being childless. Learn to deal with it.
posted by GuyZero at 12:52 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Last time I attempted a calm conversation over the phone with my mom, she began crying and hung up on me.

Sharing genes isn't a license to be rude. If my mother hung up on me, that would be our last conversation.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:53 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she really loves small children, tell her to adopt one of her own or join a foster care program.
posted by mikeh at 12:56 PM on April 5, 2010

Best answer: Just don't have kids. They will eventually get the message.

My mom's the same way as TM's, and she gets confused because I'm in a great relationship and I work with kids, so she thinks the next logical step is to pop a baby out. After her millionth comment about how I'll have to move near home soon so she can babysit, I just asked, "Babysit who? The cats?" And then we had a frank conversation about how IF I have kids, it'll be several years away and even longer if she keeps pushing me. She cried a lot, and reminded me that she's getting older, and I had to calmly reminded her many times that I would be super unhappy if I had a baby right now. She finally reconciled herself to the reality that the joys of her grandparenthood were outweighed by my enormous fucking misery of having a kid at 26.

A lot of parents use "helpful" comments about your impending parenthood as a way to passive aggressively nudge you into considering babies as a part of adulthood. More than this, many adults from our parents' era just assume everyone is going to have kids eventually. You're going to have to flat-out tell her, again and again, that having children wouldn't make you happy. She's being pretty unparental by valuing her desires over yours. Remind her that she taught you to live your life according to your own desires, and this is how you envision being happy.

As for your family, you can respond to "You're next!" with "Ha, these two babies are quite enough for us" or "How could I want my own kid when I have this niece to take care of?" or "I prefer the fun duties of being an aunt: all the hugs, none of the private school fees."
posted by zoomorphic at 12:57 PM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

Don't wrestle with a pig. You'll both get dirty. And the pig likes it.

OK, I'll give you another analogy...

This is like complaining about the weather. You're not going to change it, and you getting a really, really awesome raincoat (i.e. making yourself heard) is not going to make the water stop falling from the sky.

So, you either move to a place where there's no rain (i.e. you diminish contact) or you learn to accept rain for what it is -- water falling from the sky, or a mother's not-really-joking cries of "you're next" -- and realize that you have skin to keep your heart and your brain from getting all wet and soggy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:57 PM on April 5, 2010

You are not obligated to discuss this with anyone. They can't make you have kids, they can't even make you talk about it, but you are choosing to do so, so the conversation continues. If someone is being rude, call them on it. If someone is just making conversation, say "I don't know." It IS an honest answer for pretty much every question involving the future, unless you have an actual, working crystal ball.
posted by sageleaf at 12:58 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

My equivalent of this is people who can't believe homeschooling is really working out for us, or is going to in the long run. I don't try to argue with them or stop them from saying things, I just say over and over, "Well, we'll see!" and "Time will tell!" and "I'm not really worrying about [high school, getting into college, whatever] right now."

Your version of this might be to say over and over and over, "We'll see," and "time will tell," and "I'm not really thinking about that right now."

This approach has the benefit of being non-confrontational, and face-saving if at some point we do decide--as impossible as it seems right now--that one or more of our kids would be better off in school, or if you do find yourself, as my happily-childfree-for-life sister-in-law did recently, with a baby.

I also like the "why would you ask that?" response to various rude questions, though I haven't really had much chance to use it since I first saw it suggested. It asks people to think about their actions and motivation, and if they say something like, "I just want you to be happy," you can use that as an opening to say, "but I am happy! So, mission accomplished!"
posted by not that girl at 12:59 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Whenever my mother brings up things she thinks I'm supposed to do or wants me to do, without any consideration for what I want, I just say absolutely nothing.

Mom: I think you should be a flight attendant instead of going to grad school.
Me: [nothing]
Mom: I just don't understand why you would want to go to grad school for [subject].
Me: [nothing]
Mom: I mean, being a flight attendant, you can travel and it's good money! My friend's daughter does it and loves it!
Me: [nothing]
Mom: [pause, sigh]. So how's the weather where you are?

So yeah, you've already stated your case. You don't need to repeat it. Don't engage, because that gives your mom a chance to argue and state her case, which you've also already heard. If she won't accept the non-response, you can say "I've already told you how I feel. If I change my mind it won't be because you changed it for me. I'll be sure to let you know if I change my mind in the future, so we can stop talking about it until then."
posted by greta simone at 12:59 PM on April 5, 2010 [10 favorites]

Not very drama-free or calm, but probably effective as a last-ditch effort:

Them: You're next!

You: [burst into tears, run away and lock yourself into the bathroom for a half hour]
posted by mikepop at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

With your mom or anyone else who is literally accusing you of having a mental problem because of your preference regarding your future reproduction, it makes sense to avoid the topic outright (or change the subject, or hang up the phone), but others may just be getting swept up in their excitement over the two new little ones. Can you muster some enthusiasm for the new babies? You might try deflecting the "You're next!" comments with something like "Nah, I'm having too much fun being the aunt/cousin/whatever to these two cuties--look at them, have you ever seen such perfect little faces?" It's not appropriate or polite to speculate about someone's reproductive choices, but it isn't always malicious, either.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:05 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, I was going to add: if these conversations are really persistent and painful for you, tell you family the next time they bring it up, you're going to leave. Twenty years ago I broke my dad of making hateful comments about my weight with this technique. I only had to actually leave once. He did it, I said, "Dad, I told you that if you did that again, I'd leave." And I left. And he never did it again.
posted by not that girl at 1:06 PM on April 5, 2010 [10 favorites]

Last time I attempted a calm conversation over the phone with my mom, she began crying and hung up on me.

Unacceptable. I know it's frustrating because it really would be nice if your mother accepted you on your own terms but she's not doing that. Sucks. However, you have the choice to accept her on her terms [being a whiny pain in the ass about this] or not. And you should make that decision as independently as you can from her weird behavior and then stick to it. You really may not ever get to a place where your mom is happy with your decision. Oh well.

You know what you want and are confident and happy with that decision and you have a partner that shares your views. That's great. Try to bring some of that calm satisfaction to bear and help calm your mind when other people are being unpleasant to you. Try to also make your peace with taking a less-travelled road [I'm 41, no kids, no kid plans, no kid desires, I feel your pain] and other people having a hard time getting their heads around that.

I generally let people make their comments, tell them once that I'm not having children, and if they persist or are rude or push me tell them [somewhat truthfully] that I actually CAN'T have children and that their comments are [not really truthfully] hurtful. Really you have to take a dispassionate stance that I like to call the broken record, not at all different from what greta simone says above. Do not let these conversations escalate. Stop them either directly "let's talk about something else" or forcefully [hang up the phone] but just let them end. This is not a choice that your mother gets a say in.

Also, different people do these things in different ways but I stopped going to most of the Cultural Baby Celebrations I was invited to [except those of friends who I felt sort of understood my general story and respected it] so I wasn't the non-participant in the "you're next" teasing that seems to be built into a lot of that stuff. People can think I'm a pill if they want, and some do, but at least they're not mad at me for "wrecking" their baby shower. You may choose differently, but not having kids gives you a lot of free cycles to make choices with. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 1:09 PM on April 5, 2010

I agree completely with not that girl. "We'll see!" might be exactly what you need here. As freeing as it would be to state your various opinions of why being childless is appropriate for your lifestyle and may continue to be forever, your family is hearing "blah blah blah no kids ever blah blah never babies blah my genes stop here". There is no possible way that you are convince them that your uterine state is less than 0% of their business. Ever. So rather than engage, disarm with the "we'll see!". Perky, upbeat, then move the conversation the fuck on and continue with life.

I suppose future impolite queries could be followed up with "I'll let you know when the time is right!". Still bright, still perky, still not technically lying.

If my mom ever tried to pressure me like that I'd probably just spin it back and say something like "I had no idea you were pining to babysit so badly! You should look into foster programs, you'd be great at it! Hold on, let me find the website for you.... okay! I emailed you contact information for the state to look into foster applications. What do you mean, you don't want a kid yourself? But you love kids! What about your two nieces? Oh, you want ME to have the kids, so you could stop by some time? Well... we'll see".
posted by amicamentis at 1:13 PM on April 5, 2010

Since you're married, you can say what I used to say: "We haven't figured out what causes them yet."
posted by JanetLand at 1:15 PM on April 5, 2010 [14 favorites]

My shrink would totally second the burst into tears and run away method. Apparently it freaks people right out.

Realistically, you can't do jack about this. THEY WANT BABIES FROM YOU, DAMMIT, and they can't acknowledge to themselves when you say no because it feels like they're being stabbed in the heart. They do not want to acknowledge/accept this out of you. Unfortunately, (a) new babies in the family, plus (b) your being a future newlywed is only gonna exacerbate this, along with the billions who "changed their minds," so they think they've got a reasonable shot of you doing so.

In short, I don't think there is anything you can do to get these people to back off, given their unreasonable reactions to your saying no. (I'd say to claim that one of you is infertile, but then you'll only get medical/adoption bingos.) You're gonna have to put up with this crap until you're 50 years old, most likely, because GuyZero is correct.

Sorry. I'd just say to avoid your family as much as you can get away with, because nothing else is going to help.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:22 PM on April 5, 2010

I was firmly in the childfree camp for many years and all my family members at one time or another - or constantly, in the case of my mother - pestered me about when I would procreate already. I tried arguing, but of course everyone's position remained unchanged. Looking back, I realise that they really thought they meant well, that they were trying to point out to me that I would regret it if I waited too long, that I may not be able to just change my mind later when I do finally see how wrong I'd been. But all I saw was them trying to control my life.

You should develop a thick skin on this topic because it's not the last you've heard from them. "We'll see" or "When I'm ready" is what I used to say and it seemed the least painful approach.

For what it's worth, I did end up having kids when I was ready, but it was well after the family had given up on me.
posted by Dragonness at 1:38 PM on April 5, 2010

I heartily recommend the Miss Manners answer to "So, when are you going to have kids?", which is (acting completely surprised) "When do you need to know?"

That said, I will point out that the people who are saying this are people who are used to having some degree of authority over you and probably still aren't used to you being a rational, self-directed adult who can choose to accept or not accept opinion from them. In addition, you've spent the largest part of your life taking direction from these same people. It's hard to get out of that pattern. I don't know if I can offer practical advice for that since a personal relationship like this is usually requires a unique solution. In my own case, I distance myself from my parents, listened carefully and chose whether to accept what they said or not.

Another thing to keep in mind, which I have discovered (and this is a secret so mums the word) is that the entire suite of parents (mine and Mrs. Plinth) have forgotten what it takes to be a parent of a baby/toddler. Not completely - they remember the fun stuff. They do NOT remember the pain and challenges. Not by a long shot.
posted by plinth at 1:40 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

You could tell them that either you or the future Mr Tequila Mockingbird have been sterilized....that may stop the nagging to have children but you'd probably still never hear the end of how you've ruined your life.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:55 PM on April 5, 2010

"If you'll forgive me for not answering, I'll forgive you for asking."

So useful for so many rude questions.

With some pushy people, "The more you bring it up, the less attractive it seems," sometimes works, but people know I'm stubborn and contrary so they know it's true.

Also worth trying: "When are you having kids?" "Well, we've been working on it, but we can't exactly figure out how it works -- can you explain it?" And then for anyone brave enough to start explaining sex to you at a family gathering, just ask more and more explicit questions until they give in or some horrified older relative shuts down the entire conversation.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:00 PM on April 5, 2010 [18 favorites]

Mod note: Wisecracks about anal sex don't help people find answers. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:06 PM on April 5, 2010

My grandmother went to her grave believing I was going to grow up to read the weather on the television news.

Sometimes there's really nothing you can do but refuse to engage with such shenanigans.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:07 PM on April 5, 2010

Also, yes, getting surgical sterilization and making that fact known stops these arguments cold. Really. Mr. F got the snip, my mother was briefly horrified, and that was it. This may well not be an option for you-- really, even if you don't want kids, permanently altering the functionality can be a drastic move-- but if it ever is, expect the commentary to de-escalate rapidly.

And if it doesn't, "Well, there'd be a urologist/ GYN surgeon with some hell to pay if that happened!" shuts people down pretty well.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:10 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I always read these questions with interest because I'm so BAD at responding to rude questions. I can never manage to sound graceful when deflecting.

But one thing that's helped me a lot is not addressing anything that's not a question. So, "[When] Are you going to have another baby?" is tough for me, and how I answer depends on the asker.

But statements like, "You're next!" or "Soon you'll have one of these precious creatures!" are left to hang in the air. They aren't questions so I don't answer. I just kind of act like the person is thinking out loud. Ignore ignore ignore.

(Just the other day, a relative said to me, at a public gathering, "Isn't it nice not having to use birth control anymore?" Like because I have one child, I'm officially a baby making machine and of course I quit using birth control? WTF.)
posted by peep at 2:11 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your life is your own. If your father was dead-set on you being a football player, and you had no interest, at some point in your life you start saying "I'm not interested in being a football player. I have other interests." If he keeps buying you equipment and pushing you, you sit him down one day and say "Dad, I love you, and I know you think playing football will make me happy. I don't agree with you. I may be wrong, I may be right, but it's my mistake to make if I'm making a mistake. Stop buying me things, stop bringing it up." If he keeps bringing it up, leave the room. Every time.

Ultimately, demanding that your children fulfill your desires is a bad idea, and comes from a place of selfishness. The next time someone brings it up, simply say "I don't have any interest in raising kids, but you never know, I might change my mind someday." In short, you respond to the comment with a statement that clearly articulates your current and projected future leanings. If someone responds with prodding, just prod them back: "You should really shave your head. Really, it'd look great. You'd be so much happier. You never know, maybe you'll want to shave your head when you get older. Everyone should shave their head." Smile the whole time. And if they persist, walk away.
posted by davejay at 2:24 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

As someone who is delightfully certain I don't want children, I hate saying this, but here I go: The fact is, most people do end up having children. Including those who seem gung-ho anti-parenthood.

Why do the supposedly childfree end up with kids? A lot of reasons. Some of them impregnate a woman accidentally, and lose say in the matter. Some of them are accidentally impregnated, and aren't comfortable with abortion. Some were just trying to attach themselves to a group identity when they declared themselves childfree. Some of them weren't able to differentiate their lack of interest in having children right now with a lack of interest in having children ever. My useless anecdotal experience is that those last two scenarios are most common.

Let's assume for your continued sanity, that you aren't like any of those people. You're smarter, more self-aware, and better at contraception. It doesn't matter. Your family knows that when very young people declare they're childfree, they usually "change their minds". Your family also knows that most people don't plan for children. Most people figure they'll have them on some nebulous Someday, and then all of the sudden, Someday is today. Your family counting on you screwing up your plans and accidentally getting pregnant, and counting on the notion that abortion would be unthinkable to you. They aren't trying to be assholes, they just occupy an entirely different universe than you do, and probably can't fathom the difference in your priorities.

So you shouldn't count on your family ever deciding they're all right with your decision. But they don't have to be all right with it. They just have to come to terms with it.

I have been able to deal with the issue with my family so far, by refusing to mention it. This works well with some families -- you create a big, deadly silence around the issue, and everyone tiptoes around it forever. And then everyone talks about it when you aren't there! But that's fine. Better than them hassling you with it.

When the issue comes up directly, I divert, divert, divert attention away. Miss Manners really has the best style, here, but it's hard to be as smooth as she is. If only I had a record of how many times I vaguely smiled and murmured, "Oh, I don't know..." before moving the conversational focus onto my interrogator.

I also shut down a coworker/boss hardcore once, when he took his "all women want kids" shit to a brand-new level, and started a public discussion of my impertinent refusal to have children. I was pretty rude. But then again, he included me in a petulantly sexist conversation with a coworker, by telling him, "ALL women want children. Including HER" and pointing at me. That kind of rudeness entitles you to a harsh response if you're up to it, and you shouldn't feel bad about it. Nor should you feel bad about walking away.

Your family will learn their limits with you eventually, but you have to be consistent here. For that reason, I don't recommend implying you may ever change your mind, or stridently declaring your childfreedom unto the ends of the earth. I recommend refusing to discuss this, at the extreme penalty of getting your ass up and leaving.
posted by Coatlicue at 2:43 PM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

"I mean, I like children. But I couldn't eat a whole one."
posted by lizbunny at 2:53 PM on April 5, 2010 [20 favorites]

You know how when someone says they are camera shy suddenly everyone gangs up and tries to take pictures of them?

It is best not to discuss your views on childbearing unless it is absolutely necessary. A half hearted laugh and non-committal comment like "I dunno!" or "Maybe" works wonders in keeping everyone off your back. I've found that stating you never want to have kids is basically inviting everyone to argue the point with you daily.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 3:06 PM on April 5, 2010

She cried a lot, and reminded me that she's getting older, and I had to calmly reminded her many times that I would be super unhappy if I had a baby right now. She finally reconciled herself to the reality that the joys of her grandparenthood were outweighed by my enormous fucking misery of having a kid at 26.

One thing zoomorphic's answer touches on is that often times, the nagging is about more than just you. In the case of parents and other older relatives, it's a fear of getting older and missing precious time with their children. I'm getting it from my father already, and it's not at all because he loves babies. He's just nervous about getting older (particularly since his mother died very young and his father after years of being ill). In situations like this, I think it's important to keep the spirit of what they're asking in mind and to be kind- not that girl's advice is very good.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:28 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

"We've been trying and the doctor said the less pressure and stress are on us, the better chance we have, so we would prefer you did not keep asking or joking about it. We'll let you know if anything changes."
posted by meepmeow at 3:52 PM on April 5, 2010

Take Mom aside next time and say: I think Lee and Jo's babies are adorable, but all the pressure for me to reproduce is spoiling it for me.

It's also possible to address the feeling, not the words. "Dad, I know you love grandkids, and I'm sure happy that Terry and Chris took care of that."
posted by theora55 at 4:26 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Childfree, here. Your family seem to be locked into The Life Scriptâ„¢, against which no rational person dare go. Except you and your fiance; you're both rational and smart. I used to answer such rude inquiries from my in-laws with an unenthusiastic "you think so?" in as bored a tone as I could muster. Finally, word of my mini-laparoscopy got around, and the rest was (horrified) silence.
I have never understood the Cult of the Grandparent in this country.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:38 PM on April 5, 2010

Mod note: comment removed, sorry foks but this thread needs to really not be a "have kids or not?" discussion
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:24 PM on April 5, 2010

It's too bad that this has been so hard on you. I'm one of those folks who never planned to be a parent (I did not plan not to be a parent, though). And now that I do have my own kids, I see how much my parents and in-laws are enjoying those children. Your mom may be saying it badly, but you could choose to see her perspective this way: She loves you, loved raising you, and the thought of watching you raise your own children is a hopeful and loving one for her.
posted by ES Mom at 7:40 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have never understood the Cult of the Grandparent in this country.

Well, I think it's understandable -- for one thing, little kids are super-fun if you don't have to take care of them all the time, so being a grandparent or aunt/uncle etc is a sweet gig. Also, for many people of grandparenty age, all their friends and siblings etc -- all their peers -- are becoming grandparents. So their get-togethers revolve to some extent around stories about grandkids, pictures of grandkids, etc. To be left out of that aspect of constant social exchange must be sort of hard. Neither of these motivations is related to her plans for you per se, they're related to her enjoyment (which is fair, she wants things that are enjoyable for her -- she doesn't get to control whether she gets what she wants in this case, but it's understandable that she wants them). So considerations of "but I don't want to" won't quell her desire for grandkids. In this sense her desire doesn't have to do with you at all.

She may have other reasons that do have to do with you - she may think that you would enjoy being a parent, or that it would be "good for you" in some other way (building character, maybe, or qualifying you as a real adult or a normal upstanding member of society, or who knows). This is what your reasons have to do with -- you don't think you would enjoy it and you don't think it would be good for you. But as I said above, even if you managed to convince her of your reasons, convince her that it wouldn't be good for you, she will probably still want grandkids for the reasons in my previous paragraph.

All of which is a long way of saying, it's tough, there's no easy way to defuse this.

You can try "The more you hassle me about this, the less likely I am ever to have kids, because you're putting me in a position where I can't change my mind without losing face", but I haven't had much success with that.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:52 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

My plan has just been to tell them that I'm infertile or that I don't want to pass on my genes. For one, neither of these are a stretch for me. The former has never been proven, but I know that I have a much higher chance to pass along traits I don't want any child to suffer from and I think that most folks would understand that after having seen what it can put a family through. I'm sure the gossip will soar and adoption talk will come and go, but a little white lie that might make people like this think twice about asking another couple this sort of thing again seems worth it to me.

Maybe I'm in the minority.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:56 PM on April 5, 2010

The older relatives who kept insisting "You're next!" whenever I attended baby or wedding-related functions all stopped when I started saying it to them at funerals.
posted by Sallyfur at 2:53 AM on April 6, 2010 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: This thread has been immensely helpful, and I appreciate all the suggestions offered, whether serious or hilarious. I'll try to remain calm and polite!
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2010

I don't know if it would be useful when dealing with family, but the canned phrase I have ready to use is "We're not having children for a number of reasons, some of them medical and all of them personal."

Patience and fortitude to you!
posted by Lexica at 3:02 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I often tell people that I refuse to even consider it until I can give them the best life that I can possibly give them.

If they offer to help, I tell them that I need more money before I will even consider it. Other things (I don't have time, I don't want to stay home, etc) just lead to arguments and pressure.

You can drag this out for years.

I don't know if it's the best approach for you because it's not too honest. For me it is quite honest.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:26 AM on April 7, 2010

Childfree and over 40 woman here. I married oldish, so when I was your age I didn't get much pressure to have kids (in fact, quite the opposite). But when the subject came up, I would be honest. I would answer the question by saying I didn't have any maternal instincts and that it wouldn't be fair to a child to be born for any reason other than being strongly wanted. I looked right in their eyes while saying that. They simply couldn't argue.

And when I did marry, my Mom suddenly went grandma-gaga and sent my husband a Father's Day card as a hint. (Usually she's really cool and she always raised me to believe having children was my choice, so I think this was temporary insanity). I told her that her grandkitten had appreciated the card and there were no hard feelings. She reverted to her liberal, supportive views soon after.

Now my sister has a son so the pressure is off me! Yay! You may find your sibs' reproducing eventually takes the pressure off you too.
posted by xenophile at 9:35 AM on April 7, 2010

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