Q: I have "baby lust" — for grandchildren! Of course it's none of my business when or whether my children will have a family, but when all my friends have these adorable little ones to love, it's hard to not let my own offspring know I want that for myself. (The astonishing thing for me is I never wanted more children than the two I had.) How can I not be envious?
A: First of all, there’s no need to condemn yourself for being envious. If others have something you want, it’s normal to be envious.
There is, however, a difference between dealing constructively with your feelings as opposed to imposing your wishes on your grownup children.
You’re right — as painful as it is to accept, it’s none of your business. You cannot control the lives of your children. As adults, they get to make their own choices, including whether or not to be parents.
Despite your grandbaby lust, it’s unreasonable to expect your kids to cough up grandkids for you, adorable though those little ones might be.
What you should not do is pressure your children to have children of their own. Nor should you assume anything about their situation. They might not want children, which is their prerogative.
Or they might want them, but be unable to have them because of financial, health or fertility issues. I advise you not to nag or tease them about this. Adding to their distress to alleviate your own, or informing them that they are failures or disappointments because they have not provided you with grandchildren, is not a good solution.
Besides, they would not make great parents if their motivation were to shut you up and say “Here they are — are you satisfied now?!”
It’s not surprising that you want grandchildren, despite your not wanting additional children. Having grandchildren is completely different. As you know, grandparents get to swoop in and dole out treats to those adorable little ones, and then check out when it is time for the diapering and discipline.
This special, twinkly relationship looks like fun, and often it is.
You could, however, be idealizing this relationship. The grandparent-parent-child triad is complex. It’s not easy for grandparents to relinquish control after years of control over their own children.
So what to do? You accept your feelings of envy, you live with them, but you don’t dwell on them. Instead, you move on to other things that are fulfilling.
You might be focused on grandchildren because your life doesn’t contain enough good stuff of its own. If you have spent much of your life as only a parent, you need to expand to other identities.
One way is to engage in activities that involve children, like volunteering with a children’s organization or being a mentor to a child.
If too much exposure to other people’s grandchildren continues to make you pea-green with envy, then there are plenty of valuable activities that don’t involve children.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: You don’t always get what you want in life, like grandchildren. Pressuring your own children to produce them is counterproductive. Instead, fill your life in other ways.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book, "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts" (Penguin), helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2005 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.