By: gunderCC BY 2.0
My partner and I have been together six years, and married for two. We are finally both in steady full time (dream) jobs. We have been desperate to start a family for years. We feel that we have the stability, as well as emotional and financial resilience to do so. We are lucky enough to live in Australia with access to high quality free health care, and I am fortunate to work in an extremely flexible and family-friendly work place.

However, we are finding it difficult to cope with the opinions of family members as to our readiness. They cannot understand our rush to be parents at 25, and have no problem conveying this with sometimes very personal criticism. I understand their concern, and respect their expertise, however it is a very personal choice which they at one time made with their own strong motivations. They did not share the challenges that we face to start a family (as a same-sex couple we started on this journey some time ago, and are only just at the stage where we could possibly conceive within six months).

My question is how to address this, and communicate our need for our decision to be respected and even supported. I work in an extremely challenging area of social work, and received solid training in counselling and communication at university. I’m good at this stuff. Yet like most people, I cannot challenge my own mother on her opinions of me without being reduced to an emotional mess, thus reenforcing her position.

How did you break through that divide between parent and child, to become a parent yourself? — Blossom

Comments on How do you cope when your family thinks you’re not ready to have a kid?

    • That was the first thing that I thought of too. Why do you have to change her mind? You don’t need her blessing to have a baby and, unless she’s threatened to completely cut off contact with you or something if you have one (which would be a whole different issue), I don’t think you *need* to have a discussion with her to convince her or change her mind. Honestly, the next time it comes up, just say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but we’ve made our decision and would appreciate it if you would support us.” And leave it at that. Don’t keep bringing it up if you know it’s just going to turn into an argument. You won’t gain anything by trying to win this fight against your mother.

      Heck, you could wait to tell her until after the pregnancy is a done deal. Plenty of couples go that route and it’s generally accepted as the norm. Obviously this is on a much smaller scale, but it reminds me of how my mother used to freak out anytime I mentioned that I was going to cut my hair. She’d tell me it was going to look terrible, that my then-boyfriend wouldn’t find me attractive anymore, all sorts of ridiculous weird anxieties. So I just stopped mentioning it beforehand. Once the haircut had already occurred, she’d just say, “Oh, you cut your hair. It looks nice,” and leave it at that.

      When people think they can still change your mind, they tend to be much more aggressive in their opinions than if they find out after the decision has already been irrevocably made.

      • We went this route, after making what turned out to be the mistake of telling even one family member we were planning to try to have a child. That went so badly that we decided to keep our pregnancy planning, early pregnancy, last name changes, legal marital status, and any possible baby names to ourselves. Heck, we joked about not telling certain family members until the baby was about 2 years old…and then we were so enjoying the privacy and peace and quiet that came with not seeking their judgement that we somehow actually forgot to tell them until I was 8 months pregnant. Some people just can’t be trusted to be supportive, and we figured we’d rather try to salvage the relationship rather than let their negative attitudes damage our bonds to them. (Some would argue that this approach lets them get away with not experiencing the consequences of their poor manners and behavior.) If there had been anything truly malevolent about their overall disapproval (regarding orientation, choice of partner, or some other identity-level thing) then we would have pushed them to be supportive or kicked them out of our lives. As it was, though, their concerns were basically grounded in the idea that we two should be millionaires, at least 40 years old, and with at least 3 graduate degrees apiece before being remotely ready to start a family. Nobody (well, nobody who could really wound us) was truly graceless when we finally did tell them about the impending baby and my on-hold graduate school plans, etc. I hope you’re able to find a solution that works for you and your wider family; this approach worked for us.

  1. My husband and I are currently in a similar predicament. We’ve been married for a little over a year, both have stable jobs, and are about to buy our first house. We’re planning to start trying for a baby shortly thereafter, but every time someone we know announces a pregnancy, every time I mention anything baby-related, anytime my mother even suspects I even want to have children ever, she hits me with, “I would be devastated if you got pregnant.”

    My mother has a history of depression and other “issues”, but that doesn’t make it any easier to hear. I get so upset sometimes just thinking about the things like this that she might say when I’m actually pregnant, but there’s also no way she’s going to stop me from doing things on my own schedule either.

    Hopefully, you’re dealing with people who will love you and be there for you no matter what, in which case a “We know if’s scary, and while we appreciate your advice, what we’d appreciate even more is your support.” might work.

    Otherwise, yeah, you might have to refrain from bringing it up when you know you are just going to be criticized and feel awful afterward. It sucks, but I’m sure once there’s already a baby on the way your family will shift gears into This-Is-So-Exciting mode and forget all about their initial fears and doubts about yours and your partner’s readiness to have a child.

    Best of luck!

  2. I’m always a fan of writing letters to people in these big moments. I know, seems schmaltzy, but it 1)helps you get out the hurt and frustration and 2) after you edit you’ll have something that will explain “You’re hurting me, not helping me.” without being inflammatory or too emotional.

  3. I agree with the letter writing, even if you may never give it to her, it will help you sort out your thoughts and emotions. In my experience, my folks had a hard time with my decision to have a child until the child arrived and they saw me in the role of mother. Do what’s right for you and your partner, your family will come around.

  4. My parents were supportive of our having a kid (actually THRILLED); his parents were skeptical-to-discouraging. We also have some friends who think it’s actually immoral to have children.

    Solution? We’ve only been telling the people who will be over the moon for us (I’m three months pregnant). The more happy vibes we soak up, the easier it’s going to be to deal with the naysayers.

    We’re pretty lucky in that neither his family nor our friends are rude people; they just think we shouldn’t have a kid. We’re both 99.99% sure that if we put on a happy face and say, “YAY! Exciting news!” they’ll at least smile and be polite.

  5. If you’re up for full-on polite confrontation that I usually prefer (because I’m confrontational with my family that way), I like to have a polite but firm talk about how this is my decision and how much I would love to be able to share this with them, but if they can’t be supportive they’ll just miss out on the excited positive test/ first ultrasound/ baby kicking phone calls. *Your* opinion is what matters, and they can get on board or they can be left out of the conversation.

    If you’re not up for that, I like the tag-team approach. Some people may find it easier to [respectfully, politely] stand up to their partner’s family than their own since there’s not all those past issues to contend with. I am pretty good at being supportive of my husband when his mom is complaining about his hair or clothes or eating habits, and I know that I like for my person to be the buffer between my family and I sometimes. It takes the sting away a bit if there’s just one person there who is ready to deflect and protect you from the well-meaning family members. It’s nice to get back in the car on the way home and look at your person and go, “You heard that, too, right? What in the world is their problem?!” That’s definitely one of my favorite benefits of having a person.

  6. This isn’t the same as the choice to have a kid, but right after college, I decided to live in India (by myself, as a single woman) for 6 months. My parents were SO WORRIED, and every time we talked about it they brought up all the horrible things that could happen. So I let them have ONE opportunity to get it all out. I sat down and they told me every thing they thought could go wrong. And then I told them, “after this, I want your support. I don’t want to hear one more ‘what if you get killed by bandits’ scenario. If you can’t talk to me about the positives, if you can’t get excited for me, then I won’t be including you in on the experience. You’ve voiced your fears, now it’s time to support me. I’ve made an educated decision.”

    There was no more negative talk after that, and they got on board and WERE supportive.

    • My mum is like this – she’s a worrier (and likes to be in control) and what she really wanted to know was that I’d thought of everything and had strategies for it. Even now she gives me a sheet with the numbers of my country’s embassy/consulate abroad if I’m going outside the EU 🙂

    • This is such a great idea. As a worrier who keeps most of her worries to herself, to keep my younger siblings from getting annoyed with me, I would love something like this. Let me freak out and tell you the 50 things I am worried you haven’t thought of yet in one go, and after that, I will be totally good.

  7. This is a very hard one because I have been there. My parents were disappointed in every choice I made (marriage, my fist child, where I went to college, my college major, where I chose to live) even years after the events/decisions. They vocalized their concerns at every opportunity and we fought, hard. I tried multiple times to tell them how their discouraging words and lack of support created a distance between us, how I wanted us to be close and how I wanted to share my major life events with them. Talking to them never solved the issue and actually caused my parents to start using the things I was upset about as passive-aggressive jabs and side comments when we talked or spent time together. It culminated with me making the decision to end my relationship with them (this is a very brief summary here).

    My point is, no matter what I said, I could not make my parents understand, and change, their views and their behavior toward me and the family I was creating. I made the decision that I would not tolerate and ignore the way they treated me. I decided I would try and discuss it and change it, and it did not work. I saw that their behavior affected me, to the point that it affected my family, and i made a choice that not everyone would make. I had to understand that, although my end goal in discussing my feelings with my parents was to have them accept me, my choices and my family happily, I could not control their emotions. I would not settle with having them in our lives while they continued to make comments and not be understanding and supportive because I felt like I was unable to put up that emotional wall, even for my kids, just to have family time with them.

    A good place to start before acting is assessing your goals and setting achievable ones, and understanding where you are willing to compromise to reach the end goal. Also, try to think through what might happen if you do put all your feelings out there in an attempt to achieve that close relationship, or what would happen if you gave a quick conversation ending answer that may create distance. It just has to feel right to you.

    And just to add a side note, I am very much at peace with my decision (now a few years out). I allow myself room to change my mind and maybe contact them in the future if I choose, but for right now, I have made the right decision for me. I have noticed a sadness in relation to feeling like I have roots, that feeling of someone from my early years rooting for me, but it has allowed me to make myself that cheerleader. It is a challenge, but I am much stronger now emotionally than I believe I would have been had I not ended the relationship. I feel more emotionally healthy. I also remind myself that my parents may not be active in my life, but I have a wonderful family I am making that I need to focus on and enjoy.

  8. I didn’t tell my family when we decided we wanted to start a family. I was 25, emotionally, and (mostly) financially stable, but I knew they wouldn’t be supportive. Which is a little strange because generally they are very supportive. When I told my mom I was pregnant she was not immediately excited, her response was along the lines of “Oh….” and my aunt and uncle who I am fairly close to also had very un-enthused responses. However, their attitudes changed dramatically the next few weeks after that, and they were fantastic to have for support, advice, commiseration, and so forth.

    At one point I told them how much it hurt my feelings that they weren’t immediately supportive and didn’t agree with our decision to have a baby. After thinking about it both my mom and my aunt decided it was because they both got pregnant so young (19), unintentionally, and they remembered how stressful it was for them. But they had been completely unprepared for parenthood at that age and were projecting their feelings onto me and thinking of me as younger than I am (as the youngest kid this happens to me a lot).

    Maybe you will want to do the same thing and hold off on telling them, hoping they will come around. Or just have a straightforward conversation with them where you can explain that you are hurt that they aren’t supportive, and maybe you can come to understand one another better.

  9. First of all, you can’t really win. You will always be too young, or too old, or too (insert objection). So to be honest, I would not discuss it with my family any further, until I was ready to announce that we were pregnant.

  10. I had my son at 25 and was married and in a stable position work wise (husband was in last year of uni). None of our parents were keen on us having a baby and wanted us to wait (I now sort of wish we had, having a baby especially a difficult one is brutal! But I don’t regret our gorgeous boy for a second!).
    I stopped talking it over with everyone else bar my husband as ultimately it was our decision. Once we announced the pregnancy everyone was ecstatic and no one mentioned waiting etc… Hopefully that will happen for you, there must be something about becoming a grandparent that makes them change their point of view! My mum is very very opinionated and has a habit of tearing into me so it was nice to see her actually excited after going through all the ‘waiting’ talk that sounds like what you’re experiencing now too!

  11. The only people who need to be confident about their choice in when to become parents are the parents themselves. Just wait until the baby is on the way. Then tell them.

  12. I’m in a similar situation. My partner and I are going to start trying after my next period (ohmygod that’s so sooooooon), and I’m fairly sure that if I tell my mom before it’s done she’ll try to talk me out of it.

    What’s really helped me is friends. Through my religious community I’m close with a lot of open-minded women, many of whom are mothers and grandmothers, and it’s been wonderful to talk to them about my plans and worries. They are supportive, and when I say, “There are reasons this looks like bad timing on paper, but I’ve taken all that into consideration and it really is time,” they believe me where I don’t think my mom would right away. I know that once I’m pregnant my mom will be supportive (or, failing that, when she has a grandbaby to gush over), so I’m not letting that distance worry me too much right now.

    Good luck!

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