Care and Feeding

My Mom Doesn’t Pressure Me to Have Kids

So why do I feel like I’m disappointing her?

A mother in her 60s hugs her adult daughter.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a single woman in my late 30s, and I have finally decided I don’t want kids (after being on the fence for a while). My mom knows this and doesn’t pressure me (she never has), but I know she is disappointed, and I also know that she would make an amazing grandmother.

My sister was never going to have kids, so I was her only hope. So I feel guilty. Do you have any ideas about how I can stop feeling guilty and just get on with my life?

—Guilty Non-grandma Maker

Dear Guilty,

No one is “entitled” to be a grandparent (no matter what some overeager potential grandparents may insist). When we have kids, we roll the dice, we take our chances—about all kinds of things. Our children are not vessels for our hopes and dreams, our mini-me’s, or our conduits to grandchildren. If someone who would enjoy being a grandparent doesn’t end up with any grandchildren, they find other ways to be involved in the lives of children: they become an exceptionally devoted aunt or great-aunt (whether to children they are actually related to or the children/grandchildren or friends—or through volunteer work with children in need). You don’t owe your mother grandchildren. You have nothing to feel guilty about. And while guilt itself guilt can be a useful emotion when we’ve done something wrong, motivating us to apologize and to make things right, it is maladaptive when we experience it over something that is not our “fault.” I can’t tell you how to get over it (you might try therapy, though, if it is seriously troubling and causing you anxiety or affecting your relationships), but I can tell you have got to find a way to let it go. You have a life to live, so get on with it.

—Michelle

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