I have been married to my husband for a few years now and I am under increasing pressure from his family to start having children.
My husband and I are still rather young and we need time to save up moneywise, never mind to focus on our careers and the dreams we have set for ourselves as individuals before we even begin to think about raising a family. The truth is, I am not sure whether I want children at all, my own upbringing having not been the best. I was adopted when I was a little and I always thought that if I was to have a child one day then perhaps I would go down the adoption route too, helping a young child without a family just as I was helped.
The pressure I feel comes specifically from the disappointment of my mother in-law, who asks me every time I see her whether I am pregnant yet. I feel judged when I tell her no, that I am focusing on my career at the moment. My mother in-law does not hide her displeasure, last week for instance, telling me in front of a dinner table full of people that if I do not have a child soon I should get ready for divorce, adding that I am not worthy of her son. My husband laughed it off as a joke, as did the other people around the table, some of them looking rather confused by the comment. I felt disrespected and very angry. I am terrible with confrontation and so was unable to find the right words to respond. As you can imagine, it has caused some tension in my marriage.
My husband agrees that it is not the right time for us to have children yet. He is open to adoption in the future, or not having children if that is what feels right for us when the time comes, he is very supportive like that and like-minded in his career ambitions. However, he fails to see how his mother’s actions are crossing the line and refuses to broach the issue with her. I worry that this will become more of an issue over time, because I don’t see how it cannot!
I am becoming increasingly stressed. Is there anything you can suggest that might appease the situation?
Thank you for your help,
It is times like these that a time machine would be just wonderful wouldn’t it? Taking you back to that dinner table in order to respond with what I can imagine one of many counter replies that you have thought about since that moment took place. Focusing on the positive, you sound like you have a healthy outlook as to what your needs are when it comes to motherhood. Whether you have children naturally, whether you adopt, or whether you decide it simply isn’t for you, I am glad that you know it is in your hands and entirely your decision.
I think this issue has transpired into two concerns, your mother in-law being one and the refusal of your husband to intervene being the other. Firstly, the actions of your mother in-law do indeed cross a line. You have a right to feel angry because you were disrespected. It is one thing for your mother in-law to be curious about the prospect of grandchildren, many would argue that is absolutely natural. However, it is another thing entirely to be actively aggressive towards you in her communicative approach. You mention that when asked by your mother in-law if you are pregnant you reply no and that you are focusing on your career right now. In doing so, you tactfully side step her judgement and persistence whilst also avoiding confrontation, the correct response in order to keep the peace. However, there comes a point when we have to enforce a boundary. By boundary I mean your communicating what is acceptable and frankly what isn’t.
The next time your mother in-law asks you whether you are pregnant, perhaps a more direct response is required. You respectfully respond with your usual ‘‘No, I am focusing on my career right now and for the foreseeable future’’ whilst also adding, ‘‘please do not ask me this question again’’. By doing so you are politely and courteously enforcing a boundary by informing your mother in-law that this topic is off limits moving forwards. The priority here is to ensure that this situation causes no further tension to your marriage. The key to this is open communication about how you are feeling. Often what feels like a huge concern to one person within a relationship can actually feel minor to the other. Tension arises over misunderstandings such as this, especially over time.
Currently your feelings have not been validated by your husband as they should have been. Calmly and clearly convey to your husband how angry you have come to feel, how disrespectful you find his mother’s comments and that you would like him to appreciate how uncomfortable you have come to be, using the incident at the dinner table as a prime example. It helps to be concise and logical when communicating important issues such as this, so as not to overload your language with emotion. In fact, it can become a useful tool for the both of you moving forwards…
1. ‘‘I AM angry, disrespected and uncomfortable’’.
You are clearly stating how you feel.
2. ‘‘BECAUSE of your mothers actions towards my choices about motherhood and BECAUSE you fail to empathise with how it makes me feel’’.
- You are clearly stating why you have come to feel this way.
3. ‘‘I WANT YOU TO KINDLY understand and appreciate how upsetting this is for me’’.
- You are articulating what you want from your husband in the present moment.
4. ‘‘I NEED YOU TO KINDLY support me if this ever happens again by gently asking your mother to not bring this subject up with me again, nor communicate with me in an aggressive and confrontational way’’.
- You are expressing what it is you need from him in the future if this situation arises once more.
It is significant that your husband understands that you are seeking his support. You are not asking for your husband to be argumentative here, but rather assist you in laying down a boundary with his mother that is essential for you moving forwards. It may prove difficult for your husband to hear you initially given this is fundamentally about his mother after all. If it takes a few attempts for this conversation to be effective that is okay and only normal. Continue to be patient and calm with him.
It helps somewhat to embrace experiences such as this as an opportunity to practice self-care. You note that your stress levels are building. When faced with circumstances such as this, it is so very imperative that you prioritise your peace of mind. It is important that you feel able to take some time for you, to breathe and rejuvenate.
Protect your inner strength Rudi and focus on achieving what it is that you want, whether or not it meets the expectations of others. Wishing you all the best for your future ahead.
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