Reporting Back: February 2010 On-the-Ground Question

Thanks to all who responded to February’s  On the Ground Question, ” Who has pressured you most to have kids?”  Women’s answers were similar to …

..what I learned from childfree women over the last 10 years.  Most common response: mother-in-laws (and guys’ mothers with cohabitating couples). Next: friends.

Why the pressure? Regarding parents, while there are a number of reasons, the ones that deserve more discussion (especially between the couple and the parent(s) who are pressuring) include:

  • Having grandkids will give them meaning in their lives in their senior years (embedded assumption: it is now somehow supposed to be up to us to provide them with meaning in their later years)
  • They feel threatened or uncomfortable with their child and their partner deviating from the norm (of having children)
  • They are uncomfortable deviating from the norm of becoming a grandparent, and that you are the reason they will be seen as “abnormal.”
  • They think your choice reflects badly on them–if they had been better parents, you would have wanted kids.

With friends, reasons why they pressure that get to the heart of the matter include:

  • They want to have this in common with you and share the experience of parenthood
  • Fear that if you don’t share this that you won’t have enough in common anymore and this will threaten the friendship
  • They want you to be like them–being different from them in such a “big” way feels threatening

No matter where the pressure is coming from, underneath these and other reasons lives our the pro-baby value system. If having children wasn’t what we were “supposed” to do, wasn’t such a strong value, would any of these reasons exist? Would there be the pressures at all?

If and when you are getting pressured, one of the most important things to do is be willing to broach the values by talking to loved ones about why they just don’t feel right for you and your life.  Have the courage to ask loved ones why they are pressuring you–to get them to express what is in it for them — once this is on the table, I’ve found that candid, mutual understanding nips the pressuring in the bud.

What have you found to be good ways to put the pressures to rest?

11 thoughts on “Reporting Back: February 2010 On-the-Ground Question

  1. Being single and male pretty much deflects a lot of pressure. I can’t say I was ever really pressured. Being an atheist helps, too, because there is no religious angle.

    Being raised by PNBs (Parents, Not Breeders) who respected the personal space and decisions by others was helpful. My mother passed away when I was 32 years old (in 1995) but it is not like she ever raised the topic at any time. My dad was never one to raise the topic, as I alluded to earlier.

    I do not know if my younger brother of 5 years was pressured, as he got married when he was 24 and did not have a kid until he was 36, 12 years later. His wife is an only child from a religious household although her dad died 8 years after they were married.

    Living a good life being childfree (retiring 15 months ago at age 45, doing volunteer work with kids, for example) is to me the best response to being childfree if I am ever asked about it.

    I guess I have led a charmed and sheltered life from all the pressures childfree people face.

    1. Hi Deegee,
      It is interesting that childfree guys can generally experience less pressure. The “blame” often goes to the wife no matter how strong of a united front the couple gives to inlaws, family, friends, etc. I like your distinction between parents and breeders. I have “parents” too–mine have never pressured my brother or me to have kids. They always wanted us to do what would make us happy in life, and did not feel the need to put what happy meant to them on us. Wish there was more of that! ~L

  2. Ironically, it’s my husband who gets the most pressure (he’s in the military, and they’re a fairly traditional bunch). It’s also his mom who pushes for grandkids; mine openly admits that children aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and strongly supports our decision not to have them. Part of the reason I don’t want children comes from watching her have to deal with my violent, drug abusing brother. My father, who, despite still being married to my mom, really didn’t help at all with my brother (even though my brother still lives with them) has mentioned grandkids once or twice, but there hasn’t been any real pressure about it. I guess I’m lucky–it’s only complete strangers that openly question our decision, and not much family.

    1. Amazing how strangers think it’s ok to ask us what most would consider a personal question! It would be like asking them as strangers — Why do you have kids? When I was on The Early Show I talked about a couple I interviewed who when asked by stangers, “Do you have kids” her response was — “And what color panties do You have on?” That got the point across with a chuckle… ~L

  3. (It also helps that my husband has been vocal about not wanting kids from an early age, so his mom can’t really blame the decision on me.)

  4. Today my gynecologist pressured me to have kids!!! I’ve heard this from other women too. There I was in the stirrups of the exam room, and he starts asking what my plans are for motherhood (he noted that I’m married and 35-years-old). I told him that my husband and I are probably not going to have children. Well, I could have told him that a snake was in the room. He exclaimed, “What?!? That’s un-American!” And I felt especially vulnerable because there I was, getting a PAP smear, and he’s questioning a very personal decision of mine. I could tell the nurse in the room felt a little uncomfortable too.

    Later, in his office while getting my presecription, he lectures me on the great things about kids and about being a grandparent. He’s in his 60’s I’d say, and has 9 grandchildren. He then acted like my husband and I needed to hurry up b/c my fertility is quickly dropping (since I’m 35). I really didn’t know what to say, so just sort of nervously laughed like the whole thing was a joke. Now I wish I had told him that my decision is personal, and that if my own parents aren’t presurring me to give them grandchildren, then he certainly shouldn’t be pressuring me to have children. Needless to say, I need to find a more sensitive gynecologist.

    1. Wow — what a pressure story –getting pressure while in the stirrups! Amazing. I am working on a new book and it will address the kinds of pressure childfree get to change their minds. Can I use your story, confidentially of course? It is right up there as one that takes the cake! His comment about having no kids as Un-American — yeah like us as the supersize me country where the mantra is “bigger is better” is a good thing?! On to a gyn that respects personal choices. You might go to the link “Looking for a childfree-friendly doc?” in the links section of this blog site–it will take you to a list that hopefully will have docs in your area. If not, when you shop, it can be a good idea on the first visit to tell the gyn you are childfree, why you left your last gyn, you’d prefer for the topic of children just not to come up and is that something s/he is comfortable with. Put it right out there from the beginning! ~L

  5. Thanks, Laura. 🙂 Good suggestions for finding a new gyn!

    Yes, you can use my story. This experience has upset me for days, so I’m glad to have it used as something potentially educational and positive. I’m still getting over the whole thing, really.

    1. It was upsetting to me too and your story will definitely be used to educate others about ways NOT to pressure folks to have kids!

  6. First time commenter here: I just have to agree how horrible I think that was of Sara’s gyn to do that to her. Perhaps I’m getting cynical, but if you think about it, he has a financial incentive to encourage having kids. Each pregnancy and birth means plenty of office visits, ultrasounds, delivery, follow-up, etc. More $ in his pocket versus an annual exam and pap smear. Which makes his behavior even more despicable.

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