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What It Means to Say “I am Not a Grandmother”

By Ann Richardson July 12, 2023 Family

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.

Not Being a Mother

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.

Not Being a Grandmother

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.

Are Your Children OK?

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.

Looking at the Longer Term

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.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

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.

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I am very happy with my decision not to have children. I am not optimistic about the future and would worry too much about their chances in an increasingly inhospitable world.


Yep. One of the missing options above is: “Just be happy you have no grandchildren to worry about as the world circles the drain.”

Marcia R Corenman

Being a Grandmother doesn’t define a person anymore than being a Mother. I am a Mother but I am not a Grandmother…that decision is NOT MINE to make. I love my children but having chosen to have them is only one of many aspects of my life and my character.


We knew long ago that our daughter didn’t want children. Fortunately we were that home where all the friends hung out and were very lucky to form long-term relationships with 2 of her friends whom she considers “sisters”. They gladly allow us to share grandparent relationships with their children because they do not have family to fill that role. We love these 5 kids (age 3-17) as if they were our own. And our daughter gladly fills the “auntie” role.


I never had children, which was a disappointment, so won’t have grandchildren either. This has been a point of hurt since people assume you didn’t want children and make negative remarks that aren’t really worth a response. But about a month ago, I read an article that focused on the life we DID have that others then didn’t. It was a great perspective.

Mary Fadel

My 33 year old daughter has told me that she doesn’t want children. It makes me sad but it’s her life so there’s nothing I can do.

The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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