Grandchildren? This Baby Boomer says, ‘No, Thank You.’
November 12, 2014By Nancy Wurtzel
Over wine and dinner recently my best friend told me she and her husband will soon have another grandchild, their sixth. My friend is excited, and she can’t wait to learn if it is boy or girl and what name the parents will choose. When baby arrives, there will be a shower with gifts of soft blankets, tiny outfits and colorful, tactile toys. I’m delighted for my friend. I love her children, their spouses and their passel of children. Watching their infants grow into toddlers and on into childhood is fun and often wildly entertaining. I’m always grateful when my friend and her family include me in celebrations of weddings, baby showers, birthdays, family gatherings and more. I enjoy being there, but at the end of the day, I’m always happy to say goodbye and return home. Home to my books, music, writing and the adorable puppy I adopted a few months ago. I am happy to be home and happy to be grandchildless.Not craving grandbabies is a realization I’ve come to over time. For many years, I’d been playing a bit of a charade with friends and family. When they would pull out pictures of their grandkids, I’d dutifully look at the snapshots on their smartphone and then say with a pout, “Don’t you think having four grandkids is a bit greedy, when some of us have none?” This little joke always generated a laugh and a comeback from the person, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll have grandchildren someday!” I’d laugh along. But all the while I’d be thinking, “I’m not so sure.”
Not so sure I will have them and not so sure I want them. After a lot of soul-searching, I’ve come to the realization that that while I enjoy looking at the baby pictures and hearing stories about the baby, I do not yearn for the actual baby. I do not feel the need to rock a baby, spoil a toddler or experience a do-over, correcting mistakes I made in my parenting. I do not care if my genes continue for another generation. Among baby boomers, of which I am one, I am certainly an anomaly. My generation has embraced grandparenthood like baby ducklings to water. Most boomer grandparents, intent on being the best, are deeply involved in their grandkids lives. From the very first, they make their spare bedrooms into nurseries, tote diaper bags and babysit for parent date nights. Later, the same grandparents take the kids to ballet lessons, attend preschool recitals and debate the pros and cons of all-day kindergarten.
AARP reports that baby boomers have even pushed the average age of becoming a first-time grandparent down to a youthful 47. I’m at the other end of the spectrum. When I was 47, my daughter, Katie, was in fourth grade. Could my lack of interest in grandchildren be blamed on the fact that I had my only child later in life? By the time Katie might be ready to procreate, I’d be well over age 70. Certainly, I’d be no spring chicken but then again I’d had a wonderful grandmother who was around this same age when I was born. While my grandmother always seemed elderly, my sisters and I adored her. In fact, my relationship with her was the happiest part of my childhood. So if age isn’t an issue, what is the issue? Do I want to avoid grandchildren because I’m divorced, which means I’ll never grandparent with my former spouse? Am I set in my ways? Am I selfish or even narcissistic? Am I missing the Nana-maternal gene?
Call it what you want. I can best describe it as a preference.While I’m no doubt in the minority, I don’t think I’m entirely alone. I’m betting there are other boomers out there who do not feel that burning desire to be a grandparent. When I told my sister about my lack of interest in a grandchild, she promptly pointed out having or not having a grandchild was not my decision. Of course, this is entirely true. The decision rests with Katie. Katie, a college student, is currently spending part of her senior year studying abroad. At age 21, having a child is not on her agenda. Her current life plan is to travel the world, live in big cities, have romances, write a great novel or at the very least edit a few great novels penned by others. When I was her age, I felt much the same. There was so much I wanted to do, and children were not on my radar. Years later, I married and eventually changed my mind about having a child. Every single day, I’m happy I opted for parenthood.Will Katie change her mind? She might. I’ve no idea what lies ahead. When I recently told Katie about my lack of interest in becoming a grandmother, she rolled her eyes and laughed. However, a few minutes later she admitted it felt good not to have the added pressure of being an only child and expected to produce grandchildren for her aging parents. However, if my daughter does choose motherhood at a future point, I’d be supportive and as involved as she would allow. I’m sure I’d fall in love with her children. I’d no doubt take endless pictures and videos and then share them with everyone. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m absolutely okay with that path. My daughter and I can travel together and each lead full, engaging lives, without children or grandchildren.