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?

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