We do not usually identify ourselves by what we are not. We do not say, “I am not blonde,” or “I am not good at knitting,” or “I do not come from a large family.” Nor do other people think about these things when they think of us.
But there is one aspect of our lives where what we are not does arise from time to time – our involvement with children.
Younger women experience this when they are asked if they are a mother and must reply, “No, I never had children.” It starts a lot of conversations, many of which will be unwanted.
And then it crops up again amongst many in the Sixty and Me community – “No,” you must say, “No, I am not a grandmother.” I know well that it can cause a lot of pain. Indeed, some of you have called attention to this problem directly in comments on these posts.
Perhaps you always loved children and love being surrounded by them. Your friends are excited by the births of their grandchildren and various milestones (first birthday, first day of school) and you cannot share your experience with them.
You long to hold a new baby or talk to young children again. You want to buy those gorgeous baby clothes or fun toys for children. You may do so for a niece or nephew, but it is not the same. Some of you know that you will never do so. It can be very painful.
You may worry for your son or daughter. Is a lack of children the sign of an unhappy relationship or no relationship at all? If they are postponing the decision, will they end up disappointed? We all want what’s best for our children, and it is hard to leave the joys of parenting out of the equation.
There are, of course, many reasons not to be a grandmother. You may never have had children yourself, whether by choice or bad luck. You may have had a child who died, making the lack of future generations particularly poignant.
Some adult children have not yet found the right partner. Or your children might be married or in a relationship but are experiencing serious illness or other problems. Couples will delay having a baby for all sorts of financial and career reasons. And some may be gay and not wish to expand into a family.
Some of these circumstances may be temporary, and the hope of becoming a grandmother one day is not unreasonable. Children who have no close partner may suddenly find one. The carefully planned delay to parenthood may come to an end with a series of healthy babies. Gay couples increasingly choose to have children by one means or another.
And yet, there are some of you who know you will never be a grandmother. Or the chances are becoming increasingly slight. You may not be bothered, but if you are, you are not alone.
And what can you do? You can, of course, get involved in the lives of other children, perhaps those of your siblings or friends. Many do so with such enthusiasm that they gain many of the benefits of being a grandmother directly.
Or you can consider the possibility of becoming a surrogate grandmother to someone living nearby. There are many organisations devoted to making this an easy choice. This helps young mothers with no one to help in a grandmotherly capacity and much fulfilment to the woman acting in this role. Do give it some thought.
Are you suffering from the lack of grandchildren? How do you respond to uncomfortable questions? Have you found something positive to do about this? Please share with the community.