Friday, October 06, 2006

Chicago Tribune's "Dear Amy" (updated)

Couple's choice to remain childless grieves in-laws

Dear Amy: My husband, "Steve," and I have been happily together for nearly 15 years, and we have enjoyed a close relationship with his parents.

We agreed early on that we didn't want children. Unfortunately, his parents had been suppressing a strong desire for grandchildren and are very sad now that it looks as if they won't have any (Steve is an only child). Steve is upset by how badly his parents are handling their disappointment. He is starting to feel that he has failed them.

I am concerned that my choice to not have children may ultimately come up against his slow weakening in the face of this deep sorrow his parents are experiencing.

Amy, they don't even want to spend time with us because it reminds them that they will never have grandchildren. What is the best way for us to interact with them if/when they finally come back into our lives?

I Was Happy a Minute Ago

Dear Was Happy: One challenge of adulthood (and elderhood) is the management of one's expectations and disappointments.

The saddest aspect of this scenario is that your in-laws may be pushing away the family they do have for want of the family they don't have.

You and your husband should sit down with them and restate your decision, acknowledging how difficult this is for them. Say that you hope they can find a way to accept your choice.

Many people get "broody" as they get older; one remedy for broodiness is to spend time with children -- your in-laws could volunteer at a local day care, offer to tutor children, or visit and play with kids who are in extended hospital stays.

Finding a way to satisfy their desire to have grandchildren is their job -- not yours.


Readers Respond

Apparently, most readers of the column pointed out that the parents should have had more children if they really wanted grandkids. I'm not sure about this (neither is Amy) but at least the readers agree that it is not Steve's responsibility to breed to assuage his mom's loneliness.

I should also note that even having multiple children will not guarantee grandkids.

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