Here comes another clueless question about childlessness

I received an email last week from a radio person who wondered if I would be available to comment in a little over an hour on the pros and cons of grandchildren.

Say what? It was early. I wasn’t even dressed yet. Maybe I could squeeze it in before I had to take my car to the shop, but what would I say? Without preparation, I’d sound like an idiot. I declined.

Curious, I listened to that station until I got to the Honda dealer. Not a word about grandchildren. It was all about Covid and the war in Ukraine. Maybe someone decided there were more valid questions to ask.

For the heck of it, I tried making a list of pros and cons.

Pros: Little ones to love, continuation of the family, someone to call in good times and bad, someone to call me “grandma,” photos to treasure and show off to my friends, someone to receive the family keepsakes.

Cons: Babysitting, more responsibility, someone else to worry about, gifts and cards to buy, and the risk they’ll turn out badly.

Now that I’ve had a few days, I’m thinking it’s a pointless question to ask of anyone who is childless not by choice. Grandchildren are not like cars or jobs where you weigh the pros and cons and decide yes or no. Even if we had children, it would not be up to us to determine whether grandchildren would follow. It’s not really something we can control.

I’m wondering now if this radio person was looking for someone to expand the joys of being childfree to being grandchild-free. As with the frequent offers I receive for guest posts on how to be a better parent, she doesn’t quite get it. I don’t need a list of pros and cons to tell me I wish I had grandchildren.

Either way, I’m glad the car needed a new battery.

In an interesting coincidence, the waiting room at the Honda dealership was full of people, including two children who were not shy at all. They marched right up and said, “Hi” and demanded my attention. I decided to go with it. (You can read about that at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.) Kids don’t care who has or has not given birth. If you look like a grandma, they’ll assume you’re qualified to love them.

Since we’re talking about grandchildren, it’s another factor to consider if you’re coupled with someone who is unwilling or unable to have children. No kids=no grandkids. The “survived by” section of your obituary will be very short. Can you live with that?

Your turn. Do you think about grandchildren and how you won’t have them if you don’t have kids? Do you talk about it with your mate? If someone put you on the radio with an hour’s notice, how would you answer the question?


Next week’s Childless by Marriage post will be #800. Hard to believe. I’m planning something special to celebrate. Don’t miss it. If you aren’t already subscribed to the blog, why not sign up? It’s free.

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Toddler on the altar

At church yesterday, I shared the podium with a woman about my age and a tiny girl with pigtails. I was singing the psalm while the Grandma was doing the readings. We don’t usually bring companions to the altar, but the girl was too young to leave alone in the pew.

I found it hard to concentrate on the Bible passages while this adorable child was hiding behind the podium, so small she was invisible to most of the congregation. Grandma did the first reading, I sang my song, and then Grandma got up for the second reading. Just about then, the girl started whispering, “I have to go potty!” To emphasize the urgency, she literally crossed her legs. I thought, Oh Lord, don’t let her go to the bathroom on the altar. Read fast, Grandma. In fact, let me read it so you can take her out.

At that moment, I did not envy the woman’s predicament. Being the lector is kind of a high-pressure job. It’s hard to maintain the proper solemnity with a potty-driven toddler hanging off your legs. But she did finish the reading, and the child held her water.

A while later, when I was back at the piano, I saw the woman holding the child against her breast, rocking her. She wore an expression of such contentment. Once again, I thought, “Damn!” (yes, I know, cursing at church) I will never have that. No grandchildren to bring to church and hold in my arms.

I do have step-grandchildren, both young adults now. But we never got that close. We never lived nearby and there were real grandmothers at hand. I was uneasy around small children, not knowing what to do. But the biggest reason we didn’t get close was my husband’s reluctance to make the connection. He did not enjoy small children and felt he had done the fatherhood thing with his first wife. Not only did he not want to have kids with me, but he didn’t feel any drive to connect with his grandchildren. I think it would have been good for all of us, but it just didn’t happen.

It’s funny. I never used to be comfortable around children, but now I’m starting to yearn for their company. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Perhaps I need to volunteer somewhere that will let me get close to children, closer than I get now singing for the kids in the religious education program. Close enough to hold a child in my arms. Do you know what I mean?

If you’re struggling with not being a mother, do you think about what it will be like to not be a grandmother?