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Carolyn Hax: Mom blames herself for lack of grandkids

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I do not ever remember having a healthy relationship with food. Neither did my mother. She grew up obese and later yo-yo dieted her whole life to try to maintain her weight. She was terrified that I would be fat and taught me that food was something to be feared. In college, away from her watchful eye, I did gain a lot of weight. After college, I only became thin again through bulimia; finally, an ER doctor persuaded me to get help. Through years of therapy, I was able to get a handle on things, but maintaining a healthy weight takes more energy and vigilance than most people would believe.

My mom feels really badly about this and blames herself, but I know she did the best she could while dealing with her own eating disorder.

I’m serious with my boyfriend now, and the question of children has come up. I don’t see how I could ever be relaxed around my children regarding food. Also, there’s no question that eating disorders run in my family; my cousins all have weight issues, and two have had diagnosed eating disorders.

Because of this, I think it would be irresponsible to have children or even to adopt. My boyfriend embraces the idea of a child-free life. He has health issues that run in his family, plus his job is demanding, so he says he doesn’t think he could be the kind of father he should be, anyway.

Mom is begging me to reconsider, is despondent about my decision and is once again blaming herself. What can I do to help her see that this is the right choice for me and that she didn’t “ruin my life"?

— I Don’t Blame Her

I Don’t Blame Her: I hope you don’t mind my saying that your hard work seems to have brought you to a really good, centered, clear-eyed place. That is not easy. Hats off.

As for your mom, she can beg you only if you grant her the time and space to keep talking about this. So don’t. It’s the same as with other boundaries: State your decision clearly and definitively if you haven’t already (it sounds as if you’ve done this); state clearly and definitively that it’s your decision, not her fault (“Mom, I like my life this way; it’s not your doing, and it’s not your place to tell me it’s not a good life”); say you won’t discuss this with her further; and end all conversations calmly, kindly and on the spot, by the easiest means available.

So, phone: “I’ve got to go, talk later.” Click.

In person: “Next topic.” If she doesn’t comply, change the subject, and if she doesn’t comply, leave the room.

On social media: Ignore, delete or hide posts.

Over text: Ignore her.

Note that there is no set of “help her see” steps. Not discussing it, ever, is helping her see that this choice is not open for debate. And living the good life you’ve made for yourself is helping her see that it’s not ruined and that your choices were right for you. She can choose either to remain despondent in her own vision of what could be or to join you in your actual contentment. That’s up to her.