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Pressure from the family to have children

By Victoria Fryer 

I consider myself pretty lucky. I really don’t get much, if any, pressure to have children from my family—both family of origin and my in-laws. Though my grandmother will still ask sometimes, ‘Are you really not having kids?’ when the answer is, ‘Yes, really,’ she usually follows it by saying something like, ‘Well, you’re probably making the right decision.’ (Which probably says a lot about how she feels about her children and their success in her eyes, or lack thereof, but I suppose that’s a different story.)

My mother-in-law only says, ‘It’s your decision, and whatever you decide is fine with me.’ I think she works hard to support her children in everything they do—quite a different story from my own grandmother. (And she might be reading this; if so, ‘Hi!’)

My best friends, too, have supported our decision every step of the way. Though they both now have a child, and often talk about the joys they experience in parenting, they have never once said to me, ‘You should really do this.’

To top it off, I’m lucky at work. The other day, I found myself in a meeting in which four out of the five of us didn’t have children. Of course, I can’t guarantee that none of them ever wanted kids, since that’s not an appropriate topic to broach among acquaintances, but the fact is, at work I don’t feel like an outcast or unsupported. That means a lot.

But I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am. In that same meeting, one of my colleagues related a story about her husband and her mother-in-law. Though they are in their early 40s and have been sure of their decision for years, her husband’s mother recently began putting the pressure on.

There were manipulative statements made about her husband’s sister wanting a niece or nephew. There were tears. There was the, ‘I got pregnant twice after 40—it’s not too late.’

My colleague didn’t say much about how her husband reacted, but understandably, she was offended by the pressure and the seeming implication that her mother-in-law felt she could, in some way, have an influence on their life decisions.

Hearing stories like this remind me to appreciate the position that I’m in, the lack of pressure I feel from outside parties. I appreciate not being put in the position to have to respond to family and friends—because it might not always be pretty.

But I’m sure many of you experience the same kind of pressure that my colleague and her husband are beginning to face. Tell me: how do you deal with it? Does it affect your relationships with those people?

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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