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A Brand New Pressure For You

Just in case you didn’t have enough stress right now, I wanted to turn your attention to a recent article where its sole purpose seems to be to make you feel guilty.

Time magazine just wants you to consider as you struggle with family building (or consider putting it off) that your biological clock also affects grandparents.  What?  You aren’t living your life for your parents?  Then you’re DOING IT WRONG.

The article wants to remind you that you inability or lack of desire to procreate affects the older generation.  Susanna Schrobsdorff writes,

While we were worrying about our biological clocks and our careers, it didn’t occur to us that another biological clock was ticking down: that of our parents’ health. And while medical science keeps coming up with new ways to prolong fertility, thwarting the frailties of old age is harder.

And yes, everything she says is true, but that doesn’t mean that it should have weight.  Would any sane parent really want their child to enter parenthood just to please them before their child is ready to do so?  It makes as much sense as a person grabbing a partner before they’re ready to marry just to please their parents.  And yes, I’m aware there are people who do this, but that doesn’t make it a sound idea we should be recommending to others.

This article got under my skin because of course I’m cognizant of generations aging.  If I’m aging, then everyone else is aging, too.  I’m too aware that when I’m racing a clock for myself, I’m racing it for everyone else who is running alongside me.

A lot of factors go into the timing of parenthood, and adding the age of grandparents into the equation in order to enjoy a longer period of health (which, again, isn’t a given) pushes past the boundaries of reasonableness.  Which Schrobsdorff grudgingly admits,

If I had thought about all that, I might have gotten pregnant a few years earlier, just to give my kids that little bit of extra time with my parents in their prime. Of course, it’s not as if my sister and I could have chosen exactly when we met the men who became our children’s fathers.

Schrobsdorff’s cry of “Don’t forget grandparents in the high-pressure calculus of modern life” isn’t a helpful take on the equation.  It’s just one more reminder of another contingency we’re letting down in a situation that is mostly outside a person’s control.


1 Karen (River Run Dry) { 04.07.15 at 7:46 am }


This is yet another example of how the media is trying to convince us we don’t have enough, we aren’t enough, we can’t make good enough choices, we aren’t responsible enough to choose to bear children when our parents are in their prime, blah blah blah blah. “Better have kids at the PERFECT AGE, ladies!” is not at all helpful, and it just feeds into the whole idea that I’m not actually enough.

Boo, Time. BOO.

2 Working mom of two { 04.07.15 at 10:24 am }

Sad but true. My 86 yo dad recently died and my kids are only 2 and 4. He was old for his time -39- when I was born, and of course I was old when my kids were born. 2 grandparents died before they were born.

3 MinnieK { 04.07.15 at 10:55 am }

I don’t need Time magazine to tell me that I am doing it wrong – I’ve got my family for that! When I was born, I ushered in an era of 5 living generations in my family on my mom’s side. When I was 16, my great-great-grandmother died, and we were down to 4 generations, and then we had 10 years before my great-grandmother and grandfather died. As the oldest grandchild, I felt a great deal of pressure to procreate before my great-grandparents died and bring the family back to the “glory” of 5 living generations. I failed. Until one of my cousins had a child 3 years ago, my grandfather would openly lament that we only had 3 living generations in our family and that he will probably never see another 4 or 5 generation family in his lifetime. (He’s kind of a drama queen.)

For my grandfather it is about the bragging rights that come with having so many living generations – it has nothing to do with wanting to have time with his hypothetical great-grandchildren. (He has yet to visit his 3-year-old great-grandchild because the child lives 2,500 miles away and my grandfather “doesn’t like to fly.”) Once I realized his motivations, I felt no responsibility to procreate on his timeline.

I know my mom has feelings about becoming a grandmother and my timing or lack thereof, but thankfully she has kept them mostly to herself.

Basically, their feelings about the issue aren’t part of my equation.

4 Infertile Girl { 04.07.15 at 12:06 pm }

Urgh, this is so maddening. I already had this weight on my shoulders brought on by my own mother, family, coworkers, society en masse and it drove me nuts. My biggest fear was not having children before my grandmother’s dementia gets so bad that she doesn’t know who I am, let alone my child. Pretty sure most of the world doesn’t need some ignorant reporter pointing out that we’re “disappointing” our families by not having children at the appropriate* time.

*Whenever that is…

5 Ana { 04.07.15 at 12:34 pm }

don’t most grandparents-to-be (not to mention society in general) remind their children about this very issue from the moment they get married/reach their mid-20s married or not? has no one ever heard “when are you going to give me grandchildren?” without time magazine needing to inform of us of this hidden problem? (my parents thankfully kept their mouths shut, but i’ve had my friends parents complain to ME about their daughters’ lack of procreation)

6 a { 04.07.15 at 12:42 pm }

Pffft – we’re late bloomers in our family. I think my grandmother, who was born in the 1880 – 1890s, didn’t get married until she was in her mid-20s. She was probably around 30 when my dad (her second oldest) was born and around 40 when her youngest was born. My dad got married when he was 38, had his first child at 40 and his last child at 48. Plus, on my mom’s side, my grandfather died at age 47. I am immune to age related pressure. If anyone in my family had wanted to play that game, I would have just laughed and told them THEY should have started earlier.

7 Lauren||everylittlemoment.com { 04.07.15 at 12:45 pm }

Uggh – just what I need – MORE pressure 🙂 I just went over to the Time website and left a comment there (there were no other comments on the article so far). I was hoping that by commenting there someone reading that article would maybe see my comment and realize that women do not need anymore pressure than we already feel (especially when it comes to starting a family)! This is what I said: The decision to start a family is a big one and one thing that women DO NOT NEED is more guilt! I understand what the author is trying to say here, but this article basically made me feel like I should feel guilty for yet another thing. My husband and I are dealing with infertility and have been trying to get (and stay) pregnant for close to 3 years now. On top of all of the medical treatments, tests, hormone injections, heartbreak & tears, I absolutely refuse to feel guilty or worry about another thing. If I am an older grandparent (as well as my parents being older grandparents), then that is just the way that things will be – I will be so grateful for that opportunity when the time (hopefully) comes.

8 torthuil { 04.07.15 at 1:41 pm }

I absolutely did, and do think about the hypothetical time that my child or children will have with their grandparents (it’s hypothetical even when child is born because we don’t know how long anyone will live). Right now AJ has 3 sets of living grandparents and I think she is one lucky baby. I hope she is able to have a memory of all of them (my parents are the oldest). But no matter the emotions, a parent’s first responsibility is to their child, whenever they are born. My parents certainly believe that too and I’ve never been “pressured” by them (yay). Also “a” above makes a very good point that the timing of all generations matters. My mom is the youngest of 7, born when her mom was 40. She had my eldest brother when she was 29 (after delaying children for 5 years) and me at 36. So yeah. Children are humans, not somebody’s genetic insurance policy. Mortality and awareness of can be a crisis for sure; that doesn’t mean you get to offload the emotions on someone else.

9 SRB { 04.07.15 at 3:07 pm }

Oh good grief. What Ana said about is spot on though…”WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE A BABY?!?!?!” My mother has repeated asked me when I’m going to “get oops pregnant again”, despite knowing everything I have gone through to have to grandchildren I did “give” her. Nothing is ever good enough, for many people.

10 slowmamma { 04.07.15 at 3:15 pm }

Yes. The grandparents-to-be are by far the most aware of this issue- and they do tend to issue regular reminders (at least Italian parents do!). I understand the source of your frustration but I’m not entirely sure that this issue is without merit. We come from a generation that is working on the very difficult job of rewriting cultural norms in the name of social progress but, as difficult as that is, I doubt I’m alone in saying that becoming a parent has made me maddeningly aware of the roots of some of those cultural norms. It’s a tough place to be!

11 loribeth { 04.07.15 at 3:40 pm }

I wasn’t quite so worried about my parents being around to enjoy grandchildren, since they are barely 20 years older than me. 🙂 But I was lucky enough to have both my maternal grandparents around until I was 37, and I so wanted my children to know and remember them. As time went on and they got into their 80s, I just hoped that my grandparents would live to see them, even if the kids didn’t remember them. 🙁 I was advised to cancel my planned vacation to my parents during my pregnancy, because the prognosis was so unclear 🙁 so they didn’t even get to see me pregnant. My parents started making plans to come see me instead, and I thought that while they were here, I would model some of my maternity clothes and get Mom to take some pictures that she could show them. Then I lost the baby before they came. 🙁 My sister was tasked with making a special trip to tell them the news in person, while my mom scrambled to come to be with me in time for the delivery, and I have never been able to bring myself to ask her about it. My grandfather died two months later. I sometimes wonder if he lost the will to live after that. 🙁 Grandma died almost a year to the day later.

My sister is childfree by choice, so my parents have no living grandchildren, although they have several “honorary” grandkids they enjoy spoiling. Do I feel guilty? You’d better believe it.

Now, many of my friends and cousins are becoming grandparents themselves, reminding me that not only did I completely miss out on the parenthood experience, I won’t ever get to be a Grandma either. Infertility — the gift that just keeps on giving. :p

12 Emily { 04.07.15 at 4:34 pm }

It would’ve been more interesting if she’d talked about a new factor that should maybe be taken into consideration–for women who are planning when to have children, and if they’re in a position to do it now or later (they have a reasonable expectation of fertility and are married or are comfortable with sperm donation or something to have kids). They might be thinking about the pros and cons of having a baby now versus focusing on a career move now and procreating later, and as more of us are caring for kids and parents simultaneously, they should maybe give some thought to pushing the kids deadline up so the parents can be either a non-consideration or a help when the kids are little, who will then be independent when the parents need more attention and help.

I also wonder if these articles are a product of women having a stronger voice in the media and “women’s issues” are taking more of a place in mainstream discussion. There are fluff articles everywhere, and many of them are not just about fertility but are being written by women who are facing some of these exact topics. So while they get old and annoying, and sometimes present an infuriatingly biased view, it might be a symptom of progress.

13 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.07.15 at 4:43 pm }

Mental note: don’t put pressure on my kids to have children for me.


14 Sharon { 04.07.15 at 7:20 pm }

I can’t speak for others, but at least for me, this is not a new pressure. It’s something I thought of more than once during the years I remained single-and-childless well into my 30s and then again once I (finally) married at 37 and then found out I was infertile.

I feel bad about the fact that my parents (and parents-in-law) had to wait much longer than they likely would have preferred to have grandchildren, but it is, to some extent, an inevitable consequence of the choices both my sister and I made to pursue higher education and careers. . . and that is something that my parents supported wholeheartedly (indeed, encouraged).

Also, I can tell you from my own firsthand experience that having children at a younger age does not insure that one’s parents will be around to enjoy them as grandchildren: both my grandfathers died before I was born, even though my parents had me when my mom was 25 and my dad was 29.

15 Mrs. Agony { 04.07.15 at 9:49 pm }

This makes me think of this stupid thing that goes around Pinterest all of the time that reads “The Best Parents Get Promoted to Grandparents.” Fuck that noise. My mom passed away before I could give her a grandbaby and being pregnant now with her not in my life is heartwrenching. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. Now I feel all crabby. Thanks, Time!

16 Mali { 04.07.15 at 11:13 pm }

You ask, “Would any sane parent really want their child to enter parenthood just to please them before their child is ready to do so?”

Yes – though I guess it depends on your definition of “sane.” I see this all the time. I hear people saying they’re under pressure from their parents to have children, to give them grandchildren. I find it very selfish, and have been very lucky to have had “sane” parents and – after one or two pointed comments to them by my husband – in-laws.

My father had three daughters, and his eldest daughter had three daughters. I was hopeful when I was pregnant – especially with my second pregnancy – that I might be having a son. I wanted him to have a boy. I know my sister felt the same way, but she had her daughter after he had died. I understand therefore the desire to give your parents grandchildren, but I don’t think we should feel guilty. After all, grand-children aren’t a given just as children themselves aren’t a given.

Then I look at my in-laws. They have seven grandchildren. They all live overseas. They’re not around to be with their grandparents, and the grandparents have made little effort to be with them either, especially in the early years when they were still able to travel. So much for having children for the grandparents.

17 Mali { 04.07.15 at 11:16 pm }

Ugh. I’ve just read the article. I thought she came across as quite selfish, thinking about herself in her old age, not about what will be right for her children.

18 Cristy { 04.08.15 at 12:00 am }

It’s interesting because this article is on the heels of another push for Millennials to marry. There’s been a lot of op-ed pieces about how failing to marry is actually a delay to entering adulthood, with research pushing the idea that it’s better to marry and divorce than never marry at all. I wonder if this is just the next level of that push?

Either way, it’s also on the heels of increasing criticism and critique about that Baby Boom and it’s believed failure to parent. There’s been a lot of criticism about helicopter parenting and the fallout from these kids as they are able to function in the workplace. Frankly, I don’t think it’s that cut-and-dry, but there is some truth with generational theory. Maybe this is just an effort from the Boomers to guilt their Millennial children into leaving the nest and making them grandparents?

19 Middle Girl { 04.08.15 at 8:39 pm }

Mean. Articles like that, just plain mean.

Old enough to be a grand-parent I am over the moon that my over 30 son and near 30 daughter have been having children on the back burner. Way back.

20 Jackie { 04.09.15 at 10:08 pm }

I honestly think this piece of the puzzle in the decision of modern young people as to when to have kids is a valid one. I think we’ve lost sight of it in part because we rely less on our parents to help us raise our kids, they often have their own careers until much later, they are living longer, etc. However, my personal experience says the old fashioned model can work out very well. My mother-in-law watches my boys part-time during the work week (with daycare in-between), and it both saves us money and gives the kids valuable time with another member of their family. The longer we wait the older she would be and the less able to help us out in this way she very much wants to. Its something I seriously take into consideration when I think of possibly having a 3rd kid in a few years. I think this whole issue is a complicated one, kids “grow up” later, student debt is higher, people are getting serious about relationships/getting married later, and this all leads to starting families later. However, I don’t think the average lifespan is keeping pace necessarily, which affects not only grandparents but parents as well (sad but true).

21 Jessica { 04.10.15 at 9:42 am }

Grandparents can be sweet but they suffer from the generation gap issue. They forget their grandchildren are grown up and still treat them like kids.

22 Bionic { 04.12.15 at 12:41 pm }

It wasn’t *for* my mother that I wanted to have children, but thinking of her as a grandmother was a part of what I was wishing for. And then she got two and a half years of being a grandmother before dying, with no warning at all, while I was pregnant with what turned out to be the granddaughter I’d always imagined her with. It fucking sucks, it wasn’t something anyone predicted, and I don’t need some dumb magazine selling ads by telling me it’s my fault. Fuck. That. Noise.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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