The Right To Choose

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Dear Dr. Darcy,

I don't want children, [I] have no maternal desire and [I] have been open with my mother about this. The problem is I'm an only child and therefore her only chance of being a grandmother. At first she said although she was a little disappointed she accepted my decision but she brings up the topic almost every day, one day she will say she's fine with me not having children and the next she will say I've robbed her of the opportunity of being a grandparent. When we are out together she also frequently points out children whom she believes to be cute and says things like "Aren't they adorable, this will change your mind!"

A few months ago I broke down in public because I was so upset at her constant attempts to guilt-trip me into having children and told her that if she wanted grandchildren she should have had more than one child of her own so it was more likely and said I could also be annoyed at the fact I have no siblings or will never be an aunt because of her decision to only have one child (I'm not actually bothered about this, I was just using her logic on her). My question is, the next time she broaches this subject, how should I handle it? We are close and have quite a good relationship. It's just her refusal to accept that I don't want children that's driving a wedge between us. I find it incredibly selfish that she thinks I should bring a child that isn't wanted into the world purely for her amusement.

ANSWER

I feel like I’m missing information in here…like I need to dig around a little more. Your mother sounds either very passive-aggressive (she’s actually upset over something that she can’t directly express and so she’s picked on this baby thing as an outlet for her angst) or narcissistic (she’s so self-absorbed that it’s pathological).  The thing is, in either case her behavior (which would span beyond the baby issue) would be negatively impacting your relationship, which contradicts your impression of it being a good relationship.  That’s why ideally I’d want to dig around, because something’s not adding up.

Your decision to have a child or not to have a child is your own – good for you for not succumbing to your mother’s pressure to breed. That said, your mother is allowed to have a wish.  So what do you do?

You set some a boundary telling her that moving forward, discussions of having a baby are off the table and that when she mentions this subject, you’ll end the conversation, either in person or on the phone. What this means for you is that you need to be prepared to immediately get off the phone or end a visit when this subject is broached, and as you well know, it will be broached. She will test you to see if you mean what you say when you set the boundary and you must be prepared to follow through (without any negative emotions or drama). You’ll say something like this:  “OK Mom, I’m going to need to end this [conversation….visit] now. We’ll pick up when you’re able to respect my wishes.” And that’s it. That’s where it ends. You hang up the phone or walk out the door.

Your mother can channel some of her desire to be a grandmother through working with children.  Perhaps she can volunteer to be a hospital infant hugger (sometimes called baby cuddlers). Regardless, this is not your problem to fix. It’s hers. Just set your boundary and mean what you say when you do it and, if her grandchild need isn’t fueled by something deeper (which again, I question), it should go away.

Writer’s stats: Female, lesbian.