Let’s Talk: Do you really need grandkids to have a legacy? 28



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One of the great joys of parenthood is the idea that a part of you will continue long after you’re gone; that you can shape part of the next generation, who can carry on those teachings in turn to the generation after.

But what if it ends there? Not everybody is a parent. Sometimes by choice; others, sadly, by circumstance. How do you deal with the idea that this branch of the family tree is a dead end?

An aspiring grandmother once wrote to Starts at 60 about the strange sadness of learning her daughter had chosen not to have children. Her words are a heartbreaking glimpse into the complicated, confusing feelings such a situation can inspire:

When I am with my friends and they talk about their grandchildren I feel left out of the conversation.  My friends say that having grandchildren means so much more to them than when they had their own children and they feel an immense love they can’t remember having with their own children.  I am sad because I’m missing out on something so special.

And now I’m having guilty feelings that maybe it’s because of me that she doesn’t want children.  She could see all the mistakes I made raising children and it’s turned her off ever being a mother!

They say your greatest accomplishment is your children, and for those who go down the parenthood path, there is a very real truth to that. It’s one of the most direct ways to give your thoughts and worldview a life beyond your own existence. But is it truly the only way to have a legacy?

Another, more hopeful line of thought is to remember that every interaction you have makes an impression. A simple good deed will inspire the actions of others, and others in turn; each of us shape the  in ways nobody could ever never fully comprehend.

Parenthood, and by extension grandparenthood, is simply the most direct way of making that contribution to the future. If your child is unwilling or unable to take that path, the lessons and worldview you imparted will continue through them in other ways; ways that might be subtler, but by no means less important.

Each and every one of us has a legacy; it just won’t necessarily be through a last name or bloodline.

But even the most optimistic outlook isn’t quite enough to squash the sadness of not meeting grandchildren. It’s hard not to be a little selfish; to assume it will happen and see it, in part, as your right. This is simply human nature.

There is no easy answer. So today we’d like to put the question to the Starts at 60 community:

Do you need grandchildren? 

How have you dealt (or how would you deal) with the idea of not having them? 

And in what other ways can we create a legacy?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I I have a granddaughter and a baby great grandson. My daughter ripped my granddaughter away from me when she was six weeks old. I have only seen her a few timespan now she has her son. I will never get to spend much time if any with them. I had three step grandchildren and when my ex and I split up, the parents decided that it was too hard. I was there from the beginning and loved them so much. I don’t know if I am ever going to have grandchildren around me, but it hurt a lot when I could no longer see them. A legacy? I don’t need a legacy, but sometimes it would be nice to be part of the family.

    5 REPLY
    • Very, very hurtful. It is not what we imagine being a grandparent will be like. After bringing up a family and in your case an extended family, often the reward is the joy of grandchildren. I can relate and feel your pain. You are not alone.

    • Life is never what we plan Fran, you are right about leaving a legacy, I’m not even sure what that means. You know you are smart and you know you are a pretty good person, that’s all you need to be.

  2. The only legacy they need is the happy memories you shared and the love that you showed each other

  3. No pressure on my children to have children. Whatever they want to do is fine with me. My sons fiancee has a genetic disease that would make pregnancy for her very risky and my daughter is happily single at the moment. I have no overwhelming desire to be a grandparent. If it happens that is great if not that is great too.

    1 REPLY
  4. I have several friends who are happily unmarried (as they say) and a couple who were widowed early and have no children. Each has been ‘adopted’ by friends who do have children so they are surrogate aunts, much loved by the little ones and adults alike and included in family get togethers etc . There are also various organisations who welcome the input of mature people to mentor youngsters who benefit greatly from their wisdom and support.

  5. I have three two boys one girl all great kids could not wish for better all almost adults so proud of them

  6. I don’t pine for grand children myself though for those who do have them, enjoy them, I say. I am happy to let my two adult children do whatever they want & if that means they choose not to have children of their own (or to have them), that’s perfectly fine with me.

    1 REPLY
    • I feel the same. I brought all 3 of my children up to know that marriage & or children are only 2 choices out of so many life choices. I don’t understand people who pressure their children to marry & have children in 21st century if children don’t want to.

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