Your friend who recently had a baby invites you over because they want to talk to you about something important. When you arrive, they ask if you’d be the godmother of their child. You tell her you’d like to take some time to think about it, but as you mull over it during your quiet time, something just doesn’t sit right with you. While you’re honored that your friend thinks so highly of you, you’re not interested in taking on the responsibility of god-parenting.
Perhaps you don’t believe in the whole concept or don’t subscribe to Christianity. Maybe you’ve seen how your friend treats her other kids’ godparents like an ATM and you’re not interested in going down that rabbit hole. Or maybe you’re just not a kid person and you have zero desire to feel responsible for one. Whatever the reason, you don’t want to take on the role of godmother to your friend’s baby and you feel bad about it. Let’s talk through what you’re feeling.
What is a godparent?
In essence, godparents are meant to be spiritual guides or parents to a child. They are often present to witness the christening or baptism of the child. Of course, you don’t have to be Christian to become a godparent and some godparents never play a religious role in the lives of their godchildren. However, the element that remains — regardless of who you pray to — is that godparents are expected to aid in the development of their godchildren and to act as a supportive parent-like figure throughout their lives.
Why you shouldn’t feel bad about saying no
God-parenting comes with enormous responsibility and not everyone feels good about taking on this load. As Jasper Gerard of The Telegraph points out:
“Parents insist they won’t expect much and that it’s just a silly old custom, but they will and it isn’t. A trip to H Samuel for a silver-plated spoon won’t swing it these days. Not only must a godparent love little Tarquin almost as much as his parents do, there’s a tacit understanding that should anything dreadful happen, they will be guardians; no light undertaking.”
A quick Google search reveals dozens of message board threads in which potential godparents-to-be lament over their first-round draft pick status. Though their reasons vary, the one thing that unites them all is that they feel terrible — even though they shouldn’t.
Accepting responsibility for a child in any capacity should not be taken lightly. Doing so halfheartedly or with reservations is a recipe for disaster and sets the kid up for potential hurt, disappointment, and feelings of abandonment in the future. Furthermore, you are in no way obligated to accept responsibility for someone else’s child — regardless of how close of a relationship you’ve established with their parents. Saying no will not shatter your friend or relative’s world. They will be surprised at first, but will eventually move on and ask the next person on the list. They likely asked multiple people to be godparents already anyway.
If you’re feeling reluctant about accepting the godparent role, the question shouldn’t even be a matter of whether or not you’ll accept, but rather, the most tactful way of saying no without damaging your relationship with the child’s parents.
How to say no
Turning down a friend’s godparent request falls in their neighborhood of declining to be a maid of honor. It’s a sensitive subject and the conversation should be handled with care. First and foremost, acknowledge that you’re flattered that your friend would think of you for such an important role in their life and in the life of their child. If your reason for turning them down is not an insulting one, be forthright. However, if the truth is likely to offend, offer a more general answer. No reasonable person will argue with a person who says they’re not ready for that type of responsibility (And if they do, consider yourself lucky because you just dodged a bullet). Finally, offer reassurance that your decision is in no way reflective of how you feel about your friend of their child.
Turning down a request to godparent the child of a loved one can be an uncomfortable conversation to initiate; however godparenting a child is a lifelong commitment. Accepting a lifetime position that you don’t want just to avoid temporary discomfort is senseless. If the relationship is solid, it will survive. If it wasn’t, you don’t want to be tied to this person for life anyway.