I had the most upsetting phone call from my daughter last night. I woke up this morning with such a heavy heart. I hope you can tell me how to handle her decision.
She and her husband of five years have decided to not have children. They live in Chicago and have very demanding careers that they love. They travel whenever they can, share a busy social life, and have time consuming hobbies. My daughter put it to me this way, “We love our lives and know that we weren’t cut out to be parents. We’d have to give up too much. It wouldn’t be fair to a child and it would not bring us happiness.”
I feel like she has stabbed me in the heart. Maybe it’s because I was always a stay-at-home mom and now she is saying that isn’t good enough for her. I can’t imagine my life without grandchildren. My husband and I have been looking forward to being grandparents for a long time. Neither of us came from very big families and our daughter is an only child. It just seemed wonderful to one day have a bigger family.
They are both smart people. Naturally they’re enjoying their current lives but don’t you think that as time goes by they might change their minds? (She is thirty-one and he is thirty-five.) I think if I could just get her to consider her future she might have a better understanding of the joy children bring their parents.
What can I say to her to get her to re-consider?
Waiting to be Grandma
Clearly, this decision your daughter and her husband have made has hit you hard. It sounds as though it was the last thing you ever expected. Worse than that, it completely violates your vision of the future, one that you have held dear for a number of years. What a blow. I can understand why you are so shocked.
However, we have to clarify some issues here. As difficult as this is for you to understand, as sad as it makes you feel, this decision is actually not about you at all.
Your daughter and her husband are mature adults with a considerable amount of life experience under their belts.They have obviously made a very conscious decision about what works best for them. This is about their lives and what makes them happy.
I respect them for taking a good hard look at who they are and what they want. It takes real guts to look the parenting issue in the eye and decide against going with our culture’s conventions. (I only wish more people were able to be this responsible. Sad are the families where parents have had children for the wrong reasons.)
Bottom line? For you to campaign for grandchildren would be a huge mistake for everyone involved.
Your energy would be better spent coming to terms with their decision. I ask you to re-consider the assumption you are making about your daughter’s rejection of motherhood; specifically your belief that motherhood “isn’t good enough for her.” While I can understand you feel your worth has been diminished, my guess is that this decision is a reflection of how different your daughter is from you, not a judgement on the choices you made.
Naturally, you and your husband are disappointed. You had set your sights on a very different future, one that appealed to you, one you both wanted, and now you’ve learned that this dream is not going to come true. I understand this is a terrible loss, pure and simple. It is very difficult not to get what we have wanted for a long time.
You need time to work your way through this reality – the disappointment and the sadness. Don’t be surprised if anger pops up too. It would be a natural response under these circumstances. In time, you two will also need to re-write your own futures, something you never considered.
But please, focusing on your lives is where you should be putting your energy, not trying to talk your daughter into meeting your expectations.