This question may seem harmless, but it can be one of the most painful and upsetting questions you can ask a woman. Sadly though, not many people realize how private and harmful this question can be.
For me, this question started as soon as Drew and I were engaged. And I mean within a day of being engaged. The conversation went from ‘So have you picked at date?’ to ‘So when are you guys having kids then?’ in next to no time. They were often asked back-to-back. What was even crazier to me about this was who was asking. While some of our family asked (which may seem more expected), we were also asked by random coworkers or strangers that we were meeting for the first time.
There are so many reason why NOT to ask that of a woman or a couple, but I’m going to break down some of the biggest ones that hit home for me and for some of the women I am close with:
That’s a private decision between a couple (married or not) that does NOT involve anyone else. You are basically asking them to divulge their sex life. I don’t bring that up to you, so why do you feel it’s OK to talk about it?
You never know what that woman or couple are going through. Maybe that couple has been trying for years without conceiving, maybe they are undergoing IVF treatments that are both physically and emotionally painful without wanting to publicize it, or maybe they have chosen not to have children at all. With such a personal decision and circumstance, not everyone chooses to publicize their experience or even share it with friends and family. That’s ok! That is their choice and their right to have those conversations and decisions made within their relationship with their partner.
You also don’t know what that woman (or couple) has already been through. Miscarriages, failed IVF, medical circumstances; there are plenty of things that a person is not tattooing on their foreheads for the world to know. We often take for truth the exterior picture of a person or their ‘highlight reel’ from social media when the reality may be completely different than that perception.
As a married woman without children, this question is by far my least favorite thing that anyone asks me. No matter how I answer it, someone is judging me and furthering the conversation to dig out even more from me that I likely don’t really want to share. If I simply say ‘I don’t want kids’ then the question is ‘why not?’. Now there are a number of ways this could go: ‘I have been focused on my career since I didn’t graduated college or get a big girl job until I was 26’, ‘I’m not a huge fan of kids’, I could talk about my family/childhood and how that has shaped my thoughts about having children, my fear of the medical side of pregnancy and birth, or maybe the fact that we haven’t been trying not to get pregnant but nothing has come of that. No matter which option I go with here I have to divulge extremely private, personal information that I would never venture on my own. That’s just a little too much for me to share with those that aren’t closest to me. On top of that, if I tell someone I don’t want to answer that, I look like a B$@#h. It’s a lose/lose no matter how I slice it.
Moral of the story, don’t put someone in that position. Family, friend, stranger; if someone wants to have that conversation with you, they’ll let you know that by volunteering to talk about those kinds of topics. Otherwise, add it into the category of things not to discuss in public: money, politics, religion, and family planning.