The other night on my way home, I found myself behind a minivan with a license plate frame that read ‘Only the Best Moms Get Promoted to Grandma’. The implication that my choice to be child-free would reflect badly on my mom or her parenting skills really made me angry, and sad too.
Now really, the statement that only the best moms become grandmothers is ridiculous. I have plenty of friends with children whose moms were an absolute nightmare. There are plenty of parents out there who were raised by a single father, no mother around whatsoever. You can be a shitty mom and still end up having grandchildren. A narcissistic, controlling, angry, or crazy mom does not rise to sainthood just because her children decide to have kids of their own.
I had a great childhood. My parents loved my siblings and I fiercely and did everything they could to give us a good life. They gave up a lot for us and I have mad respect for them for it. I do know that just as I am interrogated about when my husband and I are having kids, my mom is asked on the regular when her kids are going to give her some grandbabies. Mom takes it in stride and replies that she has furry grandchildren, but I know she gets as tired of the questions as I do.
My parents have never pressured me to have kids or expressed anything but support for the kind of life I want to have. I am incredibly grateful to them for respecting my decision and not pushing me to make a different choice. My dad has even gone so far as to tell me that if he had known the world would be the way that it is today, he might have reconsidered having children himself. It is so much harder to make a decent living and build a comfortable life now than it was thirty years ago. When he said it, it made me feel so validated in my own choice to remain child-free. My mom has told me “I don’t like kids anymore!”, usually after being subjected to misbehaving kids in stores.
It does make me sad to think of my parents being put on the spot about my decision not to have children, a choice that has absolutely nothing to do with my relationship with them but that ultimately I realize does impact them. When an adult makes virtually any other decision in life, it falls on them and it’s generally considered unacceptable to ask their parents for justification – why is procreating an “open season” topic then?
I like to think that my parents are living a happy and fulfilled life, blissfully retired and free to enjoy their days. They worked hard for that. If there’s a hole in their lives because my siblings and I don’t have kids, they’ve never said as much.
I just hope the driver of that minivan was actually a good parent, and that her grandchildren are also being raised by good parents who wanted the responsibility rather than people who were pushed into parenthood by the woman now celebrating her life as grandma with bumper stickers.