Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Don't forbid your sisters from dating your friends

Carolyn Hax on

Dear Carolyn:

My mom is pressuring me to tell her whether my husband and I plan to have kids. We don't -- he had a vasectomy before we met and I'm fine with that.

I'm a very private person and my mom has a long history of sharing my private information, including with my grandmother, who will give me a hard time for not wanting kids. I also object generally to social pressure to hit one milestone after another ("When will you have a boyfriend/husband/baby,") and I feel like I feed into that by treating my decision as any of my mother's business.

That said, I think she's genuinely hurt that I've refused to discuss this and part of me thinks I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. What do you think? -- Anonymous

I think you have good cause not to fill your mother in on your family plans -- and I think your not telling her has had the unintended consequence of making this an even bigger nuisance for you than it would have been if you had just told her upfront on your terms.

So you've made an even bigger mountain, I guess, out of a mountain.

Unhealthy dynamics promote dissembling where directness serves us best, unfortunately.

Please just tell your mother you don't plan to have kids. It's definitive, so you might as well put it behind you -- plus you needn't say why or entertain follow-up questions or stick around for anyone's backlash.

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Before you tell, though, I hope you'll talk to your mom about your frustration with what you see as the milestoning to death of young ... women? people? in this ... family? culture? And when you're asked these questions, you feel ... diminished? bored? judged? as if your worth is being measured by standards you didn't choose?

Say you're particularly unhappy when your news is passed along to Grandma and then Grandma comes at you blazing.

You fill in the blanks yourself, obviously, with specifics on exactly what chaps you and why -- but it's an important exercise. This family dynamic bothers you and it's affecting the way you interact with your mom, so at least give her the chance to understand. State why you haven't engaged and will (if necessary) continue not to engage with her questions.

She might not budge, but you will know you made yourself clear. That in turn will help you make peace with it when, to hold your line, you need to hang up or walk away.

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