ASK AMY

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dear Amy:

My husband and I have been together for 10 years (married for four). We are both in our thirties.

Lately all of our friends and family are having children left and right.

I have been going to more baby showers in the last year than I can count. Every time I go to a party, our families and friends like to put me on the spot, asking when we will start having children.

When I tell them I don't want to have children, they start treating me as if I have the plague.

It's not that we hate children; we love our nieces and nephews, but we don't want any of our own. We like where we are in life and have agreed that children are just not for us.

I was a nanny when I was in college. I like children. I just don't want them. Friends and family criticize me, saying that I don't have any maternal instincts.

How do I stop this? It's getting to the point that I do not want to attend any function where there are kids at the party. I was even criticized for having an "adult-only" party for my husband's birthday.

My husband recently informed me that his family has labeled me a child hater.

How can I handle this before it gets even more out of control?

Don't Want Kids in Virginia

You and your husband should divide your families down the middle -- he takes his, and you take yours -- and say to them that their sniping and criticism of you -- publicly and privately -- is simply unacceptable and that you're just not going to listen to it anymore (they might not quite realize how much this hurts you).

The next time you become a target, you should look at your watch, say, "My, look at the time!," get your coats and go. When people you don't know query you about your childlessness, you can cheerfully say, "Well, we're the cool aunt and uncle and we love it," and then change the subject.

A book you might find helpful is "Baby Not on Board" by Jennifer L. Shawne (2005, Chronicle Books).

Dear Amy:

In a recent column you printed the story of a young girl who was helped by her school counselor. I applaud that counselor and am glad to hear that she received the help she needed.

Early in my senior year of high school, I was summoned to my counselor's office to discuss my future. She asked me what type of job I'd like to have after college.

I had no idea. I told her that I wanted to work at night (I'm not a morning person), have fun at my job and make good money.

In what appeared to be all seriousness, she told me I was an ideal candidate to become a prostitute.

I sat there in shock.

Perhaps she was using sarcasm (lost on a 17-year-old), but after a minute of silence, she ushered me out of her office and welcomed in the next student eager for her "advice."

Twenty years have passed and I've never forgotten her words.

I am so thankful to hear that there are counselors who not only take their job seriously but who even go out of their way to help students.

Thank you for reminding those of us with less-than-stellar experiences of that.

Teacher in Virginia

Oh. My. God.

By my reckoning, every single 17-year-old on the planet wants exactly what you say you wanted at that age.

Goodness knows how many young prostitutes that one counselor unleashed onto the streets.

I notice that you chose to become a teacher.

It seems that that 17-year-old who likes to sleep in, have fun and make lots of money really grew up.

Dear Amy:

I'm responding to those women who worry about what their grandchildren are going to call them.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my mother-in-law (my husband's adoptive mother) insisted that she must be called "Grandma" and that no other grandmother would be allowed to use the name.

I was offended, but I called my mom and stepmom. Both of them showed me just how classy they were.

Mom claimed the name "Nana" and my stepmom claimed "Granny."

A few years later, my husband and I gratefully found his birth family, and we added two more Grandmas and a Great Grandma to the family!

Now our daughters have three "Grandmas" but only one "Nana" and one "Granny."

I am very grateful to my mother-in-law for being so insistent, but I don't think it worked out in her favor.

Smiling in Virginia

You cannot have too many "Grandmas" in my view.

Thanks for the smile.

2006by the Chicago Tribune Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.

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