Q. My 18-year-old daughter is engaged to be married this summer. She’s happy—which makes me happy—and I like my future son-in-law. However, my daughter wants to start a family right away. I think they’re too young and will get stressed out trying to provide for a family. What can you tell me about children of young parents? Do they turn out okay?
A. It’s obvious your desires for your daughter’s future and hers don’t quite match up. She wants to be not only a wife but a mother. Some young women have a dream of motherhood since childhood, and it’s often hard or impossible to get them to put this dream on hold.
I wonder how your future son-in law feels about when to have children? He has an important role to play; it’s not your daughter’s decision alone. And more importantly to put it bluntly, it’s not your decision. The more you push your daughter to wait, the more I suspect she will hold firm.
As I see it, your role as mother of the bride is to listen. Be supportive in ways that help them succeed in their marriage and family life—but your support must not be viewed by them as intrusive. You’re better off staying in their good graces, and this is done by not micro-managing their lives or seeming to do so.
All parents of young married people micro-manage their children to some extent by things like loans or gifts of money for education. For example, if you provided money for college or helped her get scholarships, would she put off having a child without your asking her?
You seem to be okay with your daughter being mature enough to marry but question her maturity in being a parent. I’d like to think that some people are able see and meet a child’s needs while others may never be able. Hopefully you have instilled in your daughter the ability to think beyond what she needs to see her husband’s needs and the needs of future children.
In spite of what you do (or don’t do), your daughter will be blessed with a child or she won’t. Many factors are involved. Wanting and getting a child are two different things. You might worry that if she has a child early in the marriage, she and her husband will become too stressed out from providing for a family so early in their careers. Your fears may or may not be realized. But if the young parents do become overwhelmed, I ask you what can you or others in your family do to offer them relief?
You ask if children of young parents turn out okay. Yes, the vast majority of them do. Many of us who had young mothers (mine was 19), had a grandparent or an aunt or uncle who played a huge role in helping us grow up and becoming successful in life. My grandmother was loving but strict when it came to rules. I still hear her saying “Don’t be ugly, Betty” whenever I start to say or do something on the verge of being unkind. My grandfather steered me into a career and encouraged me to “get out and do something” in my life.
Ask yourself: What can I do to help a future grandchild grow up loved, be trained to have good qualities and be successful in life? Being a grandmother is a very important role.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.
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