Too Many and Not My Own

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

When I was young I had an abortion. It is the biggest regret of my life.
Not from a philosophical, “right to life” point of view. But because I
genuinely wish I had raised a child. I got a degree in counseling and
know I have helped many other people become parents. I took in a
foster daughter, but because I was considered well equipped to handle
a troubled child, I got a very difficult 15-year old with multiple traumas
and behavioral issues. We have a good relationship now but it took ten
years. I was also a Big Sister to a young woman who went through
bad times but has turned it around and is now married with a one-year
old. I had the family over for dinner. That was the first time I’d seen
her in a year. She shocked me by asked if I would be a “nana” to the
baby and “What would I like to be called?” I’m already helping pay off
my foster-daughter’s college loans and counseling/weight-loss
treatments. I’m tapped out. My answer that evening was, “Let me
think about it” because I felt “NO!!!!” was too strong. How should I
answer?

Too Many and Not My Own

 
Dear Too Many:

It’s clear that you are a compassionate giving person. But that doesn’t
mean you have to answer each request for parenting assistance with a
Yes. Parenting is clearly more than a financial commitment. But it is, in
fact, partially one. Parents help pay to educate, get their children out
of jams, and thousand and one small gifts a long the way. If you were
to be an actual nana to the baby, you’d be signing on for decades of
relating, not just to the newborn but the parents as well. If you are not
truly moved to say yes, you need to be honest. That doesn’t preclude
having a more distant or even regular relationship. But it does change
the level of expectations and commitments.

 
The best way to communicate on this topic is a handwritten note.
Explain that you care about her and are so very happy that her life has
moved into a great place, and that you can see how happy she is
being a wife and mother. Explain that you were very honored to have
been asked to be a grandparent but that you are feeling over-
committed to your own family now. Say you would enjoy a more
casual role, and that names can happen as they do. Wish her the best
of luck and say you’ll have them over again. But don’t set a date very
soon, and have “a previous commitment” if she calls to ask you.
Creating and maintaining appropriate distance shouldn’t be that hard.