My mom and I are close and have generally happy, healthy boundaries. We call each other up in times of crisis and watch old movies and drink wine together over Skype and so forth. But we’re also extremely different. She’s a retired pre-school teacher who absolutely loves children and who very much believes that the best, happiest choice for any woman who can afford it is to stay home with her scads of children. I tend to think the best, happiest choice varies quite a lot from person-to-person and that my mother is living in 1954. She’s said several times that I have this opinion because she wasn’t a good enough mother when I was a kid, which is ridiculous. We talked this topic to a stalemate years ago and don’t discuss it anymore, mostly because I got pretty tired of her getting so, so sad over my decision to be childfree and what she thinks it says about her. For the record, my mom is loving and funny and smart and deeply compassionate in addition to being neurotic and a little bit self-absorbed.
My boyfriend has volunteered to get a vasectomy and has an appointment next week. We’re also talking about getting engaged shortly thereafter with an eye on marriage in about two years. My mom is so, so thrilled about the pending engagement, the wedding, and the presumptive grandchildren. Should I tell her outright that kids are not happening? I feel like this is going to cause some uncomfortable drama, and I’m kind of wimpy where my mom being sad is concerned. On the other hand, I don’t exactly want to spend the next decade ducking questions. My boyfriend and I have discussed telling her that he can’t have kids, which after next week will be true, but it seems like the kind of minor deception best left to high school students. What should I say? — Not Making My Mom a Grandmother
This seems like a situation in which you are almost damned if you do (say something about the vasectomy) and damned if you don’t. If you are serious about never wanting children — and that does seem to be the case if your boyfriend, whom you want to marry, is getting a vasectomy — don’t tell your mother that he simply “can’t have kids” because, the next thing you know, she’ll be telling you how wonderful adoption is. On the other hand, if you tell her now about the vasectomy, she has plenty of time to try to talk you out of marrying your boyfriend (and God forbid you tell her before he gets the vasectomy and she tries to talk him out of getting it done). Even if you wait until after you get married to tell your mother that your boyfriend/husband got a vasectomy, she may still try to talk you into adopting a child or having the vasectomy reversed. Really, if your mother is a meddling woman and is hellbent on seeing you become a mother, I doubt something like a little nip-nip is going to shut her up. But then, you’d be the better judge of that, of course.
The thing is, you’ve already told your mother that you don’t want kids. Apparently, you’ve discussed the topic into a “stalemate,” and decided to put it to rest for now. I would try to leave it at rest as best you can. When she starts bugging you about when you’re going to have children, simply remind her that you aren’t. I would err on the side of protecting your and your boyfriend’s privacy and not spill the beans about the vasectomy. If telling her that you don’t want children hasn’t done the trick, then who’s to say that telling her that you REALLY don’t want children (i.e. “My future husband had a vasectomy, Mother.”) will do the trick? And by sharing personal information with someone who seems to be somewhat emotionally manipulative (the whole “You must think I’m a bad mother and that’s why YOU don’t want to be a mother!” is emotionally manipulative), you’re basically handing her a tool that she can use against you. I don’t know HOW exactly she may use it against you, but why put yourself in a position of finding out? To potentially save yourself a decade or so of ducking questions? Don’t kid yourself. There will still be questions: “Why did you marry a man who couldn’t have kids?!” “What did I do to you that would make you hate children so much?” “Why don’t you just adopt?”
Your best bet is to suck it up, develop a few retorts to your mother’s questioning, and enjoy the child-free life you and your boyfriend are creating together. Eventually, your mother will get the message that you are not going to have kids. It may take a decade, yes, and you will have to deal with her being a Sad Sally and probably judging your life choices. But something tells me that’s going to be the case, regardless. You don’t owe your mother an explanation and you don’t need to tell her private information that is none of her business.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.