How do you drop the “no more grandkids” bomb to your grandkid-hungry mom? Photo by DVIDSHUBCC BY 2.0
My husband and I recently tied the knot, and here’s the thing: I love my mother-in-law. She is a super sweet woman… but she also wants more grandchildren. She has one, but she wants more. More, more, more. Odds are, my husband’s older brother isn’t going to have more, and the younger brother isn’t going to have any… so all eyes are on us.

Here’s the catch: we’re not having any children. Ever.

How do we break this news to her, knowing it will break her heart and possibly damage the relationship we each have with her? My parents know my desire to have a Child-Free lifestyle, but they’ve known it for years — this is not the case with my mother-in-law. We’ve tried dropping hints about it, but she doesn’t understand that kids just aren’t in our future. Help? — Haymaker

Offbeat Families readers had a lot of great advice on this topic, we’d like to share some of their answers, and then ask you for your own:

Realize that her desires are about *her,* not you. Acknowledge that she desires a life full of children and encourage her to seek out experiences that fill that need for her. Let her know that you love and accept her for who she is, complete with her desires. By accepting her, hopefully she will more fully accept you for who you are and the choices that resonate in your life. It’s not a battle, it’s a relationship. -Linda
If you have already dropped hints, I would move to very plainly telling her. If that doesn’t work, I would sit her down, with your husband, and have your husband tell her very, very frankly that it is never going to happen and that it is off the table to discuss. If it is very hurtful to you that she still says the things she does, you can establish the boundary of “if you mention this again, we will end the conversation/leave the party/you will have to leave our house/ect.”

You just gotta be firm about it. Oh, but do remember to primarily let your husband create the boundaries. if you take the lead on it, you will be the evil witch who stole her baby and wouldn’t “let” him have kids. So just keep that in mind. -katie

I second letting your husband take the lead, and have him phrase it as “WE feel” and “WE’VE decided,” stressing that it wasn’t a decision you “forced” him into.

My mother-in-law got grandchildren from us, but her issue was getting them baptized, something we were definitely not going to do. Hints from me didn’t work, and the comments started to become very obvious and slightly rude. It took my husband really having a direct heart-to-heart with her about it, along the lines of, “we respect your feelings on the issue, but our home will not include religion and our children will not be baptized. I’m sorry if this upsets you and I know it’s not what you wanted, but this is a decision that we’ve made together as a family and we feel very strongly about it, so I’m asking you to please drop it and respect our decision.”

Obviously your discussion would be a bit different, but the overall gist of it-direct, courteous and firm-might be a good place to start? Good luck! -Erin

Since you’re newlywed, you could also drag it out a little longer. This is what I’ve done, and it’s worked rather well. My husband and I have been married for two years, and by now the questions about children have primarily stopped.

Basically, we found that immediately after our wedding, it wasn’t only parents, but also aunts, random relatives, random family friends, basically everyone was asking when we were going to have children. I would answer, “Oh, we haven’t decided yet, and definitely not anytime soon.” …even though we had decided. After a few times, people stopped asking. It also gave us a buffer to not have our parents be equally pushed by others (so not just their own desire to be grandparents, but also everyone else’s expectation for them to become grandparents — remember, they can have expectations heaped on them too!)

Now two years into marriage, we’ve turned that “Not sure; not anytime soon!” into a firm “We’ve decided it’s not for us.” And by taking our time to come to that conclusion publicly, it’s taken the pressure off the desire others have had to see us with kids. They’re used to us being us, just us, so while I’m sure both set of parents are disappointed, at this point, neither set is willing to give us a hard time about it. -Lenna

Child-free Homies, how have YOU dropped the “no kids” bomb?

Comments on How to tell family you’re childfree

  1. I was pretty blunt with my husband’s family. My son was 17 when hubby and I married. My pregnancy sucked. My son had all kinds of challenging behaviors and then was brain injured in a car accident. I was 19 when he was born and was looking forward to him turning 18 and frankly becoming his own responsibility. (I feel awful typing all of that, but after fighting him to adulthood and dealing with his dad, a break was needed! ) When the baby question popped up I quickly spoke up that at 37 I was not starting over again. They were understanding, and then I got a hysterectomy.

  2. Let the child of the curious/anxious/pushy parent be out on point for this one. My mom trusts me to know my own wants, needs and abilities and calmly accepted our decision not to procreate. My dad….. I had to be the one to tell him that grandchildren were not an option, at all, ever, for any reason, and no we won’t be changing our minds. My partner had to be the one to communicate with his family. True story, before being introduced to me in any way his aunt emailed me about babies and how soon we were going to have them. I forwarded that email to my future husband and told him that for the sake of future relations he should probably handle that one. Also, communications styles! I can say things to my dad such as “Stop whining” if my husband were to tell my dad to stop whining that would be Defcon 5. On the other hand I am really conflict avoidant but also intense about policing my boundaries; I am not the right person to explain to his family why we aren’t reproducing, he is. He knows how they communicate and how they are likely to react. He can tailor his announcement and response so much better than I would be able to do.

  3. I’m very lucky that my parents don’t really care either way (even though I’m an only child). My “West Coast Mom” (aka my MIL) is still itching for grandkids, though. I deflect mostly by pointing out how my husband reacts to his cousin’s two-year-old… by inching away from her with a look of horror on his face every time she comes remotely near him. Not really Dad material. 🙂

  4. My parents are surprisingly okay with me not ever going to give them grandchildren, probably because they’re both still 21 deep down themselves. While my boyfriend’s mother has gotten used to the idea over time that we won’t be making her a grandmother (she’s probably okay with it because boyfriend has a sister who wants kids), it’s his father who is the problem. He has this backhanded way of lamenting it in a “oh, how I wish you two would have a child – I miss holding a baby and playing catch with a little boy” kind of way and flat-out guilt-tripping my boyfriend into how he’s the only one to carry on the family name. It’s not a regular occurrence, but it’s pretty shitty when it happens. :/

  5. All the articles on this website have helped realize that I’m not alone in not wanting kids (at least not for many many years). But it’s so hard when family gets involved!
    I’m from a very religious family. Marriage = babies. Period. End of discussion.
    How do I even begin to tell them I don’t want kids? Part of me doesn’t even want to tell them because of the hell that will be raised. But I feel so alone in this decision. My husband supports me 100%. But every time I see my family the question is always raised. “Are you pregnant yet?”
    I’ve only been married three months, why can’t we have time to be a married couple before we even think about having kids?

  6. I am young, so I always get told I’ll change my mind. And it’s starting to get kind of a touchy subject, because with mental health medications and issues I have started to realize the improbability of even being able to change my mind. It would be highly unlikely I would be able to be off enough meds to safely have a child in 6, if not 10 or more years. And that’s best case scenario. But I prefer playing close to the chest and not wanting everyone to know this very personal medical fact about me, esp after having my husband’s family be less than receptive of any mental health maintenance.
    Currently we tell everyone we will decide at 30 but are leaning towards no. As newlyweds still trying to get our bearings financially, its not responsible to pressure us anyway. That will be probably not last and my husband is going into ministry so that will be anew set of pressure.

  7. We pretty much just avoided the question until people stopped asking. It’d come up occasionally before we were married and A LOT immediately after, but after a couple of years of no pregnancy and no sign that we were even considering it I think people started to get the hint.

    Although I think it helps that my in-laws already have 9 grandkids and 1 great-grandkid, and my parents now have their first grandchild too, with the possibility of at least one more sometime in the future. I can imagine the pressure would be much worse if we were the only hope.

  8. My husband and I have decided to not get children due to a spine condition that I was diagnosed with on year ago and that causes me a lot of pain. As my neurosurgeon has confirmed me that a pregnancy could worsen my condition we told our parents that we would stay child free or perhaps when I feel better adopt.
    Everbody understands our decision except from my mother-in-law. Her hurtfull comments don’t stop ” If you don’t get children you don’t need to stay married…She even suggested to my husband that I’m not tough enough and that I’m exaggerating my spinal condition and pain to avoid getting children! My husband is very supportiv but he also loves spending time with his parents but I can’t stand the constant bashing of his mother any longer.

  9. So, My husband and I have always been open about being childfree, but ever since his sister had children, we’ve become outcasts. They barely even talk to us anymore & when we go to family gatherings they spend all their time with their grandkids despite never seeing us AND living literally next door to their grandkids. It’s like we don’t exist? Has anyone else experienced this? How did you cope? I feel awful for my husband because he was very close to his parents.

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