So you know you’re going to stay childfree… but how do you break it to mom and dad?
Just as it’s assumed that women will have babies, it’s also assumed that parents will become grandparents. How many times in TV, movies, and day-to-day life have you heard the parent of an adult say, “I want grandbabies”? But as you know by this point, you do not owe anyone a baby.
Still, there’s the problem of disappointing your (well-meaning) parents. If you’re concerned with how you can tell your folks that you’re never having kids, without breaking their hearts and dashing their dreams, you’re in luck.
Step 1: Preparation
1. First you need to understand and be able to explain your reasons for being childfree.
I suggest jotting down a list of all your main reasons for your decision. For example:
I don’t feel called to be a parent.
I can do more good in the world without having kids.
I’m not cut out to be a good parent.
I don’t like kids.
“I have no maternal instinct. I ovulate sand.”*
This list is for you, so don’t worry about how it might sound to your parents. That’s the next step…
2. Rewrite the above list for your parents’ ears.
You know your parents, so you probably already have a good idea of what their objections will be. Go back over your reasons and add in their most likely objections.
“Who feels called to be a parent? It’s everyone’s job to have kids.”
“That’s crazy. You could raise 3 good people – how does that not help the world?”
“You’d be a great parent, what are you talking about?”
“You’ll love them when they’re you’re own.”
“Stop listening to Margaret Cho.”
3. Now revise your list so your parents will be able to understand your reasons better.
I think parenting should be a vocation, and I don’t feel called to it.
I know I can do a lot of good in the world without creating another person.
I know I could probably be a decent parent if I really worked at it, but that’s not where my strengths are.
I don’t like kids, and it’s really not different when they’re your own.
I would be the same kind of terrible mother as Margaret Cho.
Remember that your parents may need a bit of time to adjust. So if they had their hearts set on granbabies, no matter how well you phrase it they might still take the news pretty hard.
Step 2: Getting them to like the idea.
I promise it’s possible to get your parents to not just accept, but actually like that you’re childfree. But there is a process. First, allow your folks to go through the stages of grief.
1. Denial: They insist you’ll change your mind.
2. Anger: “After all we did for her!”
3. Bargaining: They try to convince themselves you’ll change your mind.
4. Depression: They grow despondent whenever the topic comes up.
5. Acceptance: They accept that they will have to be sad old people with no grandkids ever because their child is cold-hearted and selfish.
Once this has been accomplished, you can help them – not just feel okay with your decision – but actually see its benefits and feel glad about it.
How? By understanding why they want grandchildren, and helping to meet their needs.
Alternative Ways to Meet Your Parents’ Desires
Parents tend to want grandkids for 3 main reasons:
to return to child care giving (remember they’ve spent most or all of their adult lives being a parent and change is uncomfortable)
to see the family line continue
to play with, fawn over, and brag about a young ‘un
The good news is there are other ways to meet the emotional needs contained in these wants.
Child Care Giving
Help your parents adjust to being parents of a grown woman instead of a child. (This one is fairly easy and can be very rewarding for you.) When you grew up, our society told your parents that your role was to give them new kids and that their role was to be like parents again, but without the responsibilities of an actual parent. It would be their reward for parenting.
But you know what can be equally (and probably more) rewarding? Allowing their relationship with their grown child (you) to continue to evolve, and learning how to have a happy life outside of care giving. There are a couple of good ways to do this.
Get your parents involved in your passions.
Help your parents understand what you do, and allow them to stay involved in your life. Talk to them about your career, your hobbies, and anything else that makes your childfree life amazing. Not only will this give them the opportunity to connect with you as an adult, it will give them something to brag about to their friends.
Help them discover their own passions.
Your parents could be having the same kind of awe-inspiring childfree (or… post-child?) life in their golden years that you’re having now. Ask them about what sparks their passion and encourage them to take up a hobby or volunteer job that lets them experience that. And be sure to stay involved, letting them share their enthusiasm for their new footloose and fancy-free life.
Continuing The Family Line
Though I’ve been unable to find any significant studies on this, when talking with individuals I’ve found that the feeling of seeing the family name live on doesn’t necessarily have to involve creating a new human. As we age, we want to know that our name and memory will live on, and our society tells us the best/only way to do this is to have kids. But it’s not.
If you have your own business or brand, make your parents aware of the impact that it’s having on people. Help them to see that even though you haven’t popped out a kid, you have created something that has real value.
Also, encourage them to write that book of memoirs they’ve always wanted to, or to build something (physical, digital, or emotional) that will live on after they’ve gone.
Playing with and bragging on a young ‘un
While there is absolutely no shortage of new babies or children to fawn over, if you’ve spent any time at all around grandparent hopefuls, you’ll have noticed that any period of ooing and ahhing over someone else’s baby is typically followed by, “I want a grandbaby!” Humans seem to have a real desire for a sense of ownership or relationship to a baby or child. Hopefully what we’ve already talked about will help inspire your parents to live a fulfilling life without (grand) kids, but sometimes that desire is particularly deep-rooted.
So if you parents really and truly don’t seem like they’ll be happy without being able to care about a child that they have a connection to, try getting them to join a mentoring organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters. If they do, they’ll be assigned a “Little” that they can take on day trips, buy gifts for, and brag about to their friends. The best part is that the Littles are children in need of a good role model in their lives. Most Littles are from single parent homes, lack a strong support system, or have parents who are unable to give them the attention and education they need. Your parents will be happy to have a child in their life that they can help, and their Little will benefit from their loving kindness.
To Sum It All Up
So in conclusion, remember that your parents have been just as brainwashed by our current culture as anyone else. Movies, TV, and our culture at large have told them that they need grandkids to be happy, so it’s now your job to help them see past that. The Buddha once stated that there is no act of kindness and compassion on earth great enough to repay your parents’ love, except bringing them to enlightenment. Therefore, consider the challenge of explaining why you’re childfree as your chance to help your parents live their best lives too.
Want some extra help preparing for this discussion with your parents? We’ve create three handy workbook pages to guide you through the process!
How do your parents feel about your decision not to have children? Did this guide help? Let me know in the comments below!