You want a baby...badly. But there may be another woman who wants your baby almost as much: your mother or mother-in-law. Here’s how to handle it when your parents are driving you crazy about when you’re going to get pregnant and give them a grandchild.
Theresa Kim [not her real name] was shocked by how intensely her new in-laws pressured her to have a baby. “They started asking about grandchildren right after we got married,” says Kim, 33. “Even though they were only in their early 60s, they kept telling us to hurry and have grandchildren so they could see them before they died.”
Kim and her husband had always planned to begin a family soon after getting married, and they started trying to conceive a few months after their wedding. But after time, two surgeries, two Clomid cycles, and one IVF (in vitro fertilization), Kim still wasn’t pregnant. And through it all, her in-laws kept nagging. Finally, after a second IVF, Kim got pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy.
“I thought it would satisfy them,” Kim says. “But as soon as my son was born, their question was, “‘When are you going to have another one?’”
If Kim’s in-laws remind you of your parents or your partner’s parents, you’re not alone. Just about everyone feels some kind of pressure from their parents to reproduce. “Grandchildren are the gift you get for spending all those years raising your own kids,” says Jane Isay, author of Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents (Anchor, 2008). “There is nothing more important to them than getting grandchildren. They are dying for it.”
Most couples don’t mind an occasional “when are you going to make me a grandparent?” But when parents get so carried away with their dreams of becoming grandparents that they start to put unwelcome pressure on their children, it can damage their relationship and drive a wedge between a couple and their parents.
Many parents loved raising their own kids, and they’re impatient to have children in the family again. Some are concerned about perpetuating the family line. Others want bragging rights. “They want to keep up with the Joneses. All their friends are having grandchildren,” says Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in San Francisco and author of When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Parents Don’t Get Along (Collins Living, 2008).
For some families, it’s a matter of culture: “There are cultural backgrounds where it’s assumed that parents have a right to continue to influence their children’s families as much as they want,” says Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of the forthcoming You Were Always Mom’s Favorite: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives (Random House, 2009). Parents may also view a lack of grandchildren as a sign of failure or rejection, Tannen says.