The Question You Really, Really Need To Stop Asking Married Women
I’ve been married for two and a half years. Since my wedding day, I’ve been asked the same question approximately a million times:
“So, when are you going to have kids?”
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I get asked this on a weekly basis. From EVERYONE. And by everyone, I mean my coworkers, my second cousin, the janitorial staff at my office. I mean people on the internet, my nail manicurist, the UPS man, the dental hygienist. I mean neighbors and family friends and long-lost acquaintances from high school. I mean my Pilates instructor, the woman who lives down the street from my mother, the receptionist at the veterinarian office. EVERY. ONE.
I get it. People know I’m married. I am a woman of childbearing age. Kids are the next obvious step. Acknowledging that and asking about my plans is a nod at my current situation. It’s expressing an interest in my life. It’s a way to show they care. I understand that their curiosity might be well-intentioned, but “when are you going to have kids” is still a rude question that’s grounded in three dangerous assumptions:
1. “When are you going to have kids” assumes I actually want to have children. Which, you know, not all women do.
More and more women in my generation are choosing not to have children. And while they may not mind explaining their (very personal and emotionally-loaded) choice, they probably don’t want to do that with you, an acquaintance at best, in a very public space. And if they do explain their reasons for not having children, they’re often met with an unfair amount of judgment. I’ve seen people pry and hassle women into a debate about their futures and their lifestyle choices.
Please: do not engage in this kind of challenge to women to defend their personal choices. It’s uncomfortable and rude and judgmental and none of your business. This is not your body, not your life, not your decision. You don’t get to have an opinion on what I do with these three aspects of my life.
2. “When are you going to have kids” assumes that I’m physically capable of having children. Which, you know, not all women are.
If you’re struggling to get pregnant, the last thing you want to do is discuss the issue with strangers. It’s painful and personal and not something you want to be reminded of multiple times a day by the general public. Imagine how you would feel if everyone you met was constantly asking you about the one thing you wanted most, but were unable to have.
Remember that having kids is not a given for every woman. It’s not an assumption you should make so quickly. If you’re going to breach the subject at all, do so with tact and empathy and privacy. You never know what battles they might be facing.
3. “When are you going to have kids” assumes that I’m actually interested in having this deeply personal conversation with you at this specific moment in time. Which is highly unlikely, considering that I didn’t bring it up to begin with.
I fall squarely into this camp. I do want to have kids, and there are no known physical reasons preventing me from fulfilling this personal wish, but I don’t feel like discussing these facts with you, Dear Stranger. If I did, I would’ve brought it up myself. Trying for pregnancy and having a baby are arguably the most important decisions a woman makes in her lifetime. It’s not “casual acquaintance” conversation topic.
If I want to discuss my plans, I will bring them up. Who knows — I might ask for your advice or insight or personal experience. But the conversation will be on my terms: I will determine the when and where we have this talk. I will set the boundaries for the conversation, because it is my life and my future that we are discussing.
There are some people who are exempt from these rules. My husband, obviously. My mother. My sisters. My best friends. My close family members. My top-tier people. But that’s about it. If you’re not sure about whether or not you should bring it up, err on the side of caution. I promise you, if you know a married woman of child-bearing age who’s thinking about starting a family, she will initiate the conversation when she’s ready to have it. And I can guarantee that — if you leave her the space the start that conversation herself, instead of the other way around — she will be happy that she got to do so on her own terms.
I don’t think people mean to be offensive when they ask about when I’m planning on having children. I know that they’re trying to be supportive and friendly. I don’t mean to be dismissive, but it’s a very uncomfortable topic and it can be truly offensive and painful for some women to put up with it publicly, every day of their lives, whether they’re having a good or bad day. Be mindful of your personal responsibility to respect women’s personal choices, moving forward.
Jillian wants to live in a world where the coffee is bottomless and the sweatpants are mandatory. As a professional writer, she enjoys crafting copy that cuts through the bullshit of the everyday media. When she’s not being a word wizard, Jillian can be found hiking the trails with her husband and her slightly neurotic German Shepherd named Penny. To learn more about her work and her love of sweatpants, visit her website or find her on Twitter.
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