If you ask someone if they are going to have kids and they respond in any way that isn’t joyful delight, leave it at the question and move on with the conversation.
Look, I know that most of the time this question is just a polite way to keep conversation going. It’s a card that is pulled whenever there is an awkward silence, even though it can make things even more awkward. It’s one thing if you really know the person and you know they want kids, but even then you can be stirring up some stuff without even knowing. But this is especially true if the person is a stranger or just an acquaintance.
Here’s the thing: Some people don’t want kids and some people want them but can’t have them. In either case, it’s a personal matter that should only involve the couple in question and whoever they willingly choose to talk to about it.
I don’t know if I’ll ever want kids. I know enough about pregnancy, childbirth and raising kids to know that I don’t have the patience or desire for it. I’ve also seen too many parents outlive their kids. I’ve felt this way since I was a small child and being that I’m almost 30, I doubt very seriously that it will change. However, if it does change, it will be because I decided, not because people pushed me to do it.
Before we got married, people harped on us about getting married. Within days of our wedding, they had moved onto harping on us about having kids. I mean, no time at all. Just went from “Y’all need to get married.” to “Okay, you’re married, now where are the babies??” almost overnight.
At first, my response was, “Someday.” because I just wanted them to shut the hell up and leave me alone, but that didn’t work. “You’ve got to start now so that you’ll still be young enough to live your life after they’re out of the house!” They’d say. Then I got tired of it and started just telling people flat out that I didn’t want them. You’d think I had just thrown an actual baby off a bridge.
*GASP!* “What do you mean you don’t want kids?!” They would ask. Then they follow up with one of the following premonitions/admonishments/dire warnings:
- You’re selfish for not wanting kids.
- You’ll regret it when you’re older!
- Who’s going to take care of you when you’re older?? (Because that’s not selfish, right?)
- You’re just young, you’ll change your mind.
I’m not sure which one is my favorite, honestly. The whole “you’re selfish/who’s going to take care of you?” kind of takes the cake, but I really love it when someone condescendingly tells me about my own desires as if they are inside my head.
Yeah, I might regret it, but I’m the one who’ll be doing the regretting, so leave it be. Or, I might be like thousands of other people and use this time to do what I want to do and die an accomplished old lady who never thought about the “What Ifs”. I mean, at this point it could really go either way.
No matter what, though, it’s mine and my husband’s decision and we are the ones who will deal with the consequences. We appreciate the advice, really, but if we say we don’t want them, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to convince us. In my opinion I’d rather a couple not have babies if they don’t want them than to have babies they don’t want because they’ve been pressured into doing so.
So, we’ve established that some people just don’t want them, but there is another group out there, too, that your incessant questioning hurts: People who want them but for whatever reason cannot have them. This group breaks my heart because I’ve seen first-hand how it can harm those who are in it.
And just like people have opinions about being childfree, they’ve got things to say about infertility, too:
- It’s God’s will.
- Well, you can’t afford a baby, anyway.
- Have you done ______? You should really try ______.
First, God has nothing to do with it. If he did, we wouldn’t have children being born to abusers and molesters. We wouldn’t have newborn babies dying on a regular basis from neglect and abuse. Secondly, no one can afford a baby and even if they can, the ability to pay for a child should not be a prerequisite to having one. I know plenty of people who “couldn’t afford” to have a child, yet here they are raising one. And finally, someone dealing with infertility has tried every imaginable option available to them and if they haven’t tried something it’s because they can’t afford it.
Again, asking once is one thing and I know most of the people who say these things mean well. The problem is when you ask every time you see the person or following up with more questioning when you don’t get the answer you want. Most couples who are dealing with infertility have enough to deal with without having to worry if you’re going to harass them about having kids.
Generally, they will tell you the same things I did just to get you to stop. “We aren’t sure if we want them.” “We are waiting.”, etc. This is because they’ve worked so hard to push the thought of never having them out of their mind that if they tell you the truth they’ll probably break down and cry right in front of you.
Because that’s the thing: For couples dealing with infertility, every day is a new day to think about the fact that they may never have children of their own. Every day they are inundated with ridiculous diaper commercials that show a “mother’s love” and wish with all of their heart and soul that they could be that mother. Every. Single. Day.
So if they’re out and about and finally not thinking about it and you come along and start harping on them, you’ve just ripped that Band-Aid off and started rubbing salt in the wounds.
Like I said, I know that most people mean well and that for generations the main reason people got married was to start a family. It just seems like the natural next step in the stages of life. Asking someone if they’re going to have kids is a normal reaction in a lot of ways.
The problem is when you ask someone, get an answer you weren’t expecting and then think that you’re going to convince them otherwise. Having a child is not something to be done for other people. Being a parent is hard enough if you want kids, but parenting while hating your children just creates monsters.
And in some cases, unless you’re willing to shell out $15k for in-vitro, you’re wasting your breath entirely while also hurting the person in the process.
So, the next time you want to ask someone about their plans for children take just a second to think about what you’re doing. Ask once and if they act stand-offish about it drop the subject and move on. If you ask and they seem happy to talk about it, fine! But you’ve got to read their body language and react based on that.