Hello Captain & Community!
The short version of my problem is: I am never going to have children. My mother refuses to accept this.
The long version is as such: Since the age of eleven, I’ve had a mystery medical condition. My mother has never accepted its existence. While I’ve never been explicitly told “You CANNOT have children” because of the condition, multiple doctors have told me many variations of “It will be VERY DIFFICULT for you to SAFELY have children.” Even if I wanted kids, which I do not, I would be looking at adoption, considering the circumstances.
I am now 26. I have recently finished grad school and am just starting out; I am currently living with my parents. I have one sibling; she is 31. My nephew was born a little over a year ago. My mother has since gone grandbaby-crazy.
My mother has a habit of offering unsolicited advice on all subjects and getting angry and retaliating if it is not followed. At every available opportunity, she lectures me to make career decisions centered around giving birth to and raising children. She also criticizes my long-term boyfriend (behind his back) about his salary and social standing (“he doesn’t make enough for you to not work!”) while simultaneously pressuring me to settle down and procreate because “the clock is ticking.”
When in front of my (huge, nosy, omnipresent) extended family, I let these comments slide because I value my privacy and displaying anything but familial respect gets the whole family involved. (Spoiler alert: they’ll agree with her). In private, I try to address it with her. Whenever I explain my medical reasons for not having children, it’s like she’s never heard them before. She refuses to acknowledge any problems exist and accuses me of lying when I cite to her specifically which doctors have said what and when. On the rare occasion when she “humors me,” she tells me that I “should be doing everything possible, no matter the expense” to correct the problem immediately, which just isn’t possible. I’ve let the “even-if-I-could-I-wouldn’t” component alone so far since I suspect that would start a never-ending argument. I am afraid that if I keep standing my ground like I have been, she will retaliate. I am exhausted. What should I do?
Hi Enough Already!
You are already in a never-ending argument.
Here’s the plan:
A) Move out of your parents’ place as soon as humanly possible. Adults should respect other adults’ bodily autonomy, but in the hands of a domineering parent no script I suggest and no amount of “should” is gonna magically counteract their “my roof, my opinions, my rules” attitude. Put 95% of your energy into getting out of that house. The job market sucks? You might have to live with roommates? You might be poor for a while? I don’t know what to tell you, I wish it were different. I do know that things will not change between you as long as you are in that house and she has constant access to you.
B) Keep having only the children you want to, i.e., zero. Her opinions about what you should do don’t equal commands or rules and she has no actual power to override your decision. She can say whatever the fuck she wants to. It will change nothing.
C) One time, tell her exactly how you feel: “I’m most likely never having kids. I don’t think it’s biologically possible, and even if it were, it’s not a priority for me. If I change my mind you’ll be among the first to know. I need you to stop bringing it up. You are making me feel like I am not enough for you as a human being, that I have no value unless I reproduce. It hurts my feelings. It is also exhausting and makes me not want to spend time with you. I want to have a good relationship with you. In order for that to happen, you need to stop this constant advice-giving!”
If you don’t think you can safely have this talk, hold off until you’re out of the house.
D) After* that one time, be boring. Try out a script of “Okay, whatever Mom” when she orders you to have children. Make it boring for her to talk about. Let her think she’s winning if it will get her to calm down now. You can’t control her, but you can control making yourself less exhausted and refusing her the argument she is looking for. You want an honest relationship but she is making that impossible.
See also: “I’m not looking for advice right now but thanks, I’ll think about it.” (You will think about it and not do it).
*If you don’t feel safe having a direct talk with her, skip directly to this strategy.
E) “That’s a mean thing to say.” When she says critical stuff about your current partner, say what she would say to you when you were a little kid and you said something out of turn. “That’s rude.” “That’s a terrible thing to say.” “That’s not appropriate.” “Wow.” “Yikes.” Don’t argue with her about the merits of her criticisms of your partner, it just feeds the fire. Express disapproval of her words, but stay boring.
F) Lose your temper, selectively.
Say you’ve moved out. You’ve had the talk. She won’t let it go.
Try: “Shut the fuck up about grandbabies, mom. Go enjoy the one you have and leave me alone.” Does that seem rude? She is being SUPER RUDE. I personally wouldn’t lead with this but if she’s haranguing you and you lose your temper, um, fine? Lose it. Tell her how she’s making you feel. Don’t be diplomatic or reasonable or try to convince her. One time, make it super uncomfortable and unproductive and YELLING and BAD LANGUAGE for her to bring this up with you.
We’re always so focused on being well-behaved and taking the high ground and not making a scene. The thing is, scenes are super-memorable especially when you’re not generally a scene-maker. Maybe they don’t change minds, but a controlled detonation of anger can sometimes be cathartic and good for you. It can remind the people around you that you’re choosing to be nice and that you can make another choice any ol’ time.
G) Enforce the boundary. When she pressures you to have kids in the future, end the conversation. “Okay, welp, I’m not having this discussion again, time to go.” Leave. Go home to your home that is not also her home. Hang up the phone. Peace out of that conversation. Try again another day. Over time she’ll get the message that if she wants a relationship with you, this subject is not up for discussion.
She’ll tell you you’re ungrateful, you’re selfish, she’s your mother, she knows best, she raised you, she gets to tell you her opinions, she just wants what’s best for you, she knows you better than you know yourself, and all kinds of words. She’ll tell you you’re the one ruining your relationship, you’re the one creating this conflict. She’ll tell you that you’ll change your mind and that you’ll be sorry someday that you ever have kids.
Agree with her. “Yes, I’m selfish, and I also don’t want to talk about having kids with you. It’s not your decision or your business. Stop it.” “Maybe I will be sorry someday, but I’m mostly sorry now that another perfectly good day is being eaten by this pointless argument.” “Yes, I am the meanest daughter who was ever mean, also, I don’t want kids, so, can we eat or do I need to storm off again to prove a point?”