What's Wrong With Wanting Grandchildren?

mother and adult daughter enjoy good times not pressured about grandchildren
Keep relationships with adult children strong so you'll be ready when grandchildren come along. Photo © SelectStock | Getty Images

Openness and honesty are assets in most relationships, right? So why do we ask those who want grandchildren to hide the fact? Why should we have to pretend not to care about becoming grandparents when we really care very much?

Is It Really a Secret?

News flash: It's highly unlikely that your children are in the dark about your desire for grandchildren. There is no shame in that desire, nor in letting your children know how you feel. The difficulty arises when want-to-be grandparents can't let any family occasion pass without referring to the subject, or when they allude to the topic frequently in an offhand manner that fools no one. Those strategies seldom pay off. In fact, children may be less likely to start a family, anticipating difficulty in getting grandparents to respect boundaries. And would you really want these tactics to work? Do you really want individuals bringing children into the world because of pressure, or even gentle nudging?

When Will the Time Be Right?

Here's what you know intellectually, although you may be having a hard time accepting it with your heart: Only your children can decide when the time is right to have a baby. They could be having marital problems or financial problems that they have not confided in you that make starting a family unwise. They could be having fertility issues. Some couples prefer not to announce when they are "trying" to have a baby. And, last but not least, they may be enjoying their childless state.

Sometimes the want-to-be grandparents hear biological clocks ticking more clearly than their offspring do. That could be because they are hearing two different biological clocks, one attuned to their children's fertility and one attuned to their own strength and health. It's only human to want to have grandchildren while one is still young and strong enough to enjoy them.

As for the biological clock for the younger generation, current thinking is that there's no one right time to have a baby. A recent study cited in Psychology Today argues powerfully for later childbearing. There's no denying that younger women are more fertile and less likely to suffer miscarriages and stillbirths. But sociologist John Mirowsky, the author of the study, says that fewer birth defects and lower infant mortality rates are associated with older mothers. In addition, he states that mothers who give birth later are more likely to enjoy better health themselves.

Logic tells us, however, that some of these outcomes are probably associated with other factors. For example, women of higher socioeconomic status and levels of education are the same women who are likely to give birth later. They've been busy earning degrees and getting established. Still, many positive outcomes are associated with later births.

What Not to Do

So we've established that later birth can be a good thing, and we've agreed that you shouldn't pressure your children to start a family. Here are some other things that you should not do:

  • Bring up family members or friends who are having babies.
  • Pause in the baby department when shopping with a daughter or daughter-in-law.
  • Flaunt your collection of children's books or baby blankets. (It's okay to collect such items. Just don't show them off.)
  • When you're channel surfing and you come across one of those shows about pregnancy and childbirth, flip right on past. Better yet, get up and take a walk.

On a more serious note, parents who are happy, healthy and busy are less likely to obsess over grandchildren. If these descriptors don't apply to you, maybe you should work on getting there instead of trying to fill the hole in your life with grandchildren. Do volunteer work, join a gym, write a book, see a therapist. You'll be a much better grandparent when the grand occasion finally rolls around.