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?