Care and Feeding

How Do I Tell My Mom I’m Not Having Kids?

She’s putting all her grandparent eggs in my basket, but I’m not interested.

A Black woman with her arms folded looking confident.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision via Getty Images.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am the younger of two children. Both my older sibling and I have strained relationships with our parents, in no small part due to our parents’ intolerance when each of us came out. My older sibling has explicitly told my mother that they have no intention of ever having biological children. My mother didn’t take it well and has since turned to me as her only hope for getting grandkids.

I also do not want children, biological or adopted, for many reasons (financial instability, fear of perpetuating the cycle of abuse, and just plain not wanting kids). Up to this point, I’ve just stayed quiet every time my mom has brought up “when you have kids” or “when I’m a grandma.” The statements aren’t pressuring me to have kids anytime soon. I’m in my early 20s, I’m still working on my education and establishing my career, and my mom supports me focusing on that. (She didn’t get married till she was 30 and had a stable job in her field.)

In the past year, at a doctor’s visit for routine preventative screening, I found out that I can’t have biological children without significant medical intervention. Even then, the path to reproducing would be labor-intensive, painful, and expensive. I consider myself to be sterile, because I have no interest in taking any of the steps that would be necessary to have a child. I am not in a relationship and don’t foresee one in the future, and the condition that causes my sterility doesn’t negatively affect my day-to-day life or my future health in any way.

Should I tell my mom that I’m sterile? Part of me hopes that I will be able to fully cut contact with her before I’m old enough for her to really start getting on me, but I don’t know if it would be more fair to her to give her the news now so she can start coming to terms with the fact that her biological lineage will end with my sibling and me. I don’t know if she’ll respond better to my announcement of not having children than she did to my sibling’s because mine has medical backing (although I wouldn’t have kids even if I could), but I’m also worried she’ll start giving my sibling even more grief about grandkids if I tell her I’m sterile.

—It Ain’t Happening

Dear IAH,

The thing about telling pushy people your medical business is that they will still be pushy, only now with printouts from the internet.

I don’t know your mother. I don’t know if she’s going to try to shove IVF money at you or start telling you about her made-up friends who were told They Could Never Have Children and Now Have Three. My personal advice is to say: “It’s not happening. I feel no desire to have children. I know you wanted biological grandchildren, and I wanted to tell you once I was sure so that you can grieve if you need to grieve.”

Have one (1) conversation about it, and then say you do not want to discuss it again and hold the line. There are so many ways for older people who want to connect with children to do so, whether that’s volunteering at children’s hospitals or reading to kids at the library, and she will be just fine.

If you think saying “I’m sterile” will shut her down, you can tell her. If you think it would just give her a “problem” she can “fix,” don’t.

Congratulations on knowing what you want. It’s a gift.

Dear Care and Feeding,

For about the past year and a half, my 4-year-old daughter has often bashed me on the head with either her own head or her hands or her feet. She flails around a lot and is a generally uncooperative kid, which can drive this, although often it happens when she is just sitting next to me or on my lap. It is usually a surprise head-butt from her just flailing her body around. I can’t really anticipate it.

I have wound up with dayslong headaches from this, and the minute I feel better it happens again. We constantly tell her to be gentle and careful, but she never is. She feels very bad when she hurts me but doesn’t seem capable of not doing it. We have a very close relationship, but I am worried that if I want to avoid further injury I need to stay away from her. I don’t know what to do.

—Rocky’s Mom

Dear Rocky’s Mom,

OK, in a 4-year-old, this is … a bit much? It’s a bit too much. I would talk to your pediatrician about the behavior. Pediatricians really see a million children and because they need to push you out the door in 20 minutes we forget that you can and should ask them about parenting questions that are not strictly medical. And this does honestly seem slightly developmentally strange to me. So, you know, run it up the flagpole.

In the meantime, I would encourage cuddle time and roughhousing time as separate events. Cuddle time is quiet and gentle; roughhousing time is wild and fun and maybe you wear a bike helmet for a while. We literally have a futon mattress in the basement for roughhousing, and it does help contain wild head-butting to a special time and place where flailing is encouraged. In general, tire her out like you’re raising a puppy, and that will help.

If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My son is a completely delightful 2½-year-old—funny, inquisitive, smart, curious—but there’s one thing he does that I don’t know how to deal with.

First, his mother insists that he’s past the diaper stage and that we’ll deal with any waste disasters as they happen. I think she’s wrong about that, but I’m tired of arguing so she wins by default. But whenever he wants to enter a room and the door is closed, he stands outside the door and pees on the floor. We usually don’t discover it until we leave the room and step in it. What’s worse, the times I’ve caught him in the act, he follows up his peeing by taking off his shoes and splashing around in it.

What do we do? (As I write this, I know the solution is “keep him in diapers for now.” But his mother is adamantly against that.) Are there any other solutions I’m not seeing?

—Not Singing in the Rain

Dear Not Singing,

You are right. Your wife is wrong. He’s not ready. You will have to have an argument about it. It’s OK! You’ll have lots of them. Get her to agree to wait six more months and then try again.

Dear Care and Feeding,

How do I balance my 10-year-old’s extrovert tendencies with my introverted ones? My 10-year-old is a very social butterfly who makes friends everywhere we go, while I generally dislike humans beyond those I absolutely have to deal with.

This wouldn’t be such an issue if we didn’t move around the country every few years for my work. My own parents moved every year throughout my entire educational life. While I never accept a new job unless it means she can at least finish the year, I understand how terribly hard it is to be the new kid and I see it taking a toll on my daughter. I set her up with Facebook and Instagram in an effort to alleviate some of the loss that moving 700 miles away can cause, but most of her friends are not able to socialize this way yet.

I don’t want her to feel like a lost ship or to lose some of the wonderful friends she has had, but I also don’t know how to open doors of communication any more than I did 20 years ago when I had to wave off yet another best friend. So how do I help her? Do I push for more info on her friend’s families or just keep supporting her emotionally when she is angry and sad during the next upcoming move?

—A Bert Raising an Ernie

Dear Bert,

I congratulate you on your self-knowledge, first and foremost. It’s OK to hate most people! My wonderful father also hates most people! I think, based on your description of your delightful daughter, that she will be able to start afresh in a new environment.

Just keep talking to her. Do some outreach to get phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses from her lost friends’ parents. I have said this before, but adults place far more emphasis on the distance you are moving than children do. Once a kid is switching schools and houses, it’s the same experience for them whether you’re moving a town over or moving 700 miles.

A lot of this is that you yourself are nervous about having to make small talk with a whole new set of parents. I know this will be a challenge for you, but really try to get some play dates happening as your daughter makes new friends. I think she’s going to be just fine.

Absolute best of luck, and do keep me posted on how she (and you!) settle in.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My adult daughter keeps pressuring me to let her show me Midsommar, but she pulled this “it’s not that scary” line with me two years ago for Get Out and I didn’t sleep for days. Can she be trusted?

—Suspicious

Dear Suspicious,

Mom, you used your actual email address to send this to Slate. Just watch Midsommar with me! It’s mostly atmospheric. Helps if you’re a woman. I was upbeat for days afterward.

—Nicole

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