A recent cover story for TIME magazine was “The Childfree Life.” A thorough exploration of this very personal and highly individual decision, it’s clear many people are opting out of parenthood. Their reasons for this path are as varied as the people themselves but one thing seems clear; each of these individuals had engaged in careful reflection before arriving at this life decision.
I appreciated how well researched this piece was. But I was also saddened by the apparent judgement people continue to experience if they decide parenthood is not for them. Silly me, I thought we had evolved a little more on this subject, because, really now, whose life is it anyhow?
This article has prompted a few of you to ask me to re-run a column I wrote early this year. (Most of you said you were going to cut it out and send it to your parents.) A woman had written to me, quite disheartened that her daughter and son-in-law had decided not to pursue parenthood. She had told her mother, “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.”
Her mother wrote that she felt she had been “stabbed in the heart” and wondered what I would suggest she say to get her daughter to “re-consider” this very profound decision.
Here was my reply to “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.