I demand to know why you don’t have kids yet!

I try not to eavesdrop. I am a proud graduate of the prestigious Noneya Business School of Butt Out, Jerk. Yet, sometimes, I can’t help overhearing a conversation, and sometimes I can’t help but be intrigued by that conversation. Take yesterday for example: I was sitting in a coffee shop a few feet from a couple of women who looked to be about my age, perhaps a few years older. It seemed to me that these two ladies didn’t know each other very well; maybe they were coworkers or something. In any case, I tried to ignore them and carry on with the work I was doing, but my train of thought was suddenly interrupted when one of the women (Woman A, we’ll call her) loudly asked the other: “So WHEN are you two gonna have a BABY?!”

Woman B: “Uh, you know, we’ll see. Anyway…”

Woman A: “We’re trying for our third. You guys better get going soon [giggle]!”

Woman B: “Heh. Yeah.”

Woman A: “You’ll be too old to chase those kids around the playground [snort].”

Woman B: “We’re still young. We’ll see.”

Woman A: “Oh, I think it’s good to have ’em while you’re young!”

Woman B: “I do too. Unfortunately, we’ve had trouble conceiving. We’re seeing a fertility specialist about it.”
[Awkward silence]

Woman A: “So, how’s the latte?”

It was torturous to even be in the same vicinity as this embarrassing exchange, so I can only imagine how Woman B must have felt. Halfway through the interrogation I was seriously tempted to walk over there and make the obvious even more obvious. “SHE IS UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS VERY INTIMATE LINE OF QUESTIONING. SHE DOES NOT FEEL LIKE DISCUSSING HER REPRODUCTIVE SITUATION WITH YOU. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF HE ASKED YOU ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT, OR ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT? YOU WOULDN’T? THEN KNOCK IT OFF AND DRINK YOUR COFFEE.”

Something tells me that wouldn’t have helped matters.

My wife was pregnant with our twins less than a year after we got married, so we (or at least I) never had to deal with the oblivious, rude, boorish tools who like to pin you to the wall until you explain in detail your plans for procreation. But I’m well aware that these people exist, even though their existence confounds me. I can’t imagine asking someone such a personal question and then CONTINUING to press the issue after they’ve made it EXTREMELY clear that they aren’t interested in talking about it. Who does this? What is wrong with these people? Is it maliciousness or plain stupidity that drives them?

Both? Probably both. Nothing worse than a malicious fool — except, perhaps, a malicious genius.

I feel a certain camaraderie with parents now that I’ve joined that community. My warm feelings of companionship, however, are strained when I witness my fellow parents pull stunts like this. Breaking News: fertility problems are rather common. If you are TRYING to make someone feel bad about not having kids, you could likely be TRYING to make them feel bad about a medical condition that has already brought them much heartache and sorrow. Get a clue. Cut it out.

I think we all know that children are conceived through sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is generally viewed — albeit decreasingly so — as a private matter between two adults. A child is conceived when a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg. I’m reviewing these facts in an attempt to explain why another person’s reproduction is very much a matter that has nothing to do with you. When you ask someone, “when are you going to have kids?” you are really asking them, “when are you and your husband going to have sexual intercourse so that his sperm fertilizes your egg?” And when you shout, “why haven’t you had kids yet?” you are really shouting, “why hasn’t his sperm united with your egg yet?”

When you put it that way, it just sounds like something you shouldn’t be asking your coworker on a lunch break, doesn’t it?

I come from a big family. I want to have a big family of my own. I love kids. I love it when married couples have kids. But it would never occur to me to actively pressure another couple to have kids. Besides, do we really want people conceiving children because of peer pressure? Do we really want parents becoming parents just so people will stop asking them when they plan on becoming parents?

Of course, there’s a flipside to this coin. As the childless deal with their own onslaught of insulting and probing personal inquiries, people with a lot of children tend to be the subject of a different sort of investigation. And when I say “a lot of kids” I mean, like, two. My wife and I have twins — a boy and a girl — which means we have heard this question approximately 70 million times: “so, are you done yet?” “You’re finished now, right?” “I guess it’s time to get snipped!”

Oh, so we’ve reached your child limit for our family? Well, thanks for telling us! Funny, I don’t recall moving to China.

Two kids does not a large family make. We’ve reached replacement level, that’s it. We broke even. We aren’t “done,” but thanks for asking.

I have six siblings, so my parents, and any other parents of what passes for big families in modern America, can tell you plenty of stories about the unbelievable things they’re forced to hear from adults who must know better.

“Are they all yours?”

“You must not have a TV!”

“Are you, uh, religious?”

“You must love sex!”

“Haven’t you heard of overpopulation?”

“Were they all on purpose?”

“So this last one is it, right?”

And so on.

Parents of big families are always in for a treat when they tell people they’ve got another on the way. They’ll likely be greeted with either a stony, silent glare, or an exclamation of exasperation and disgust.

What’s so hard about saying “congratulations”? I’ve never had trouble with it, and it’s never occurred to me to act like I’m put out or annoyed just because another couple conceived a child.

What’s the moral of this story? Don’t be a monumental jerk, I suppose. And when you hear that childless people don’t like being asked when they plan to have kids, or that people with big families don’t like being asked when they’ll be “done,” the only proper reaction is this: stop asking. Period.

I’ve seen plenty of other bloggers tackle both of these subjects, and the comments are usually crowded with culprits attempting to justify their behavior. “I don’t mean to be offensive!” “I’m just trying to make conversation!” “I’m only trying to be friendly!”

You’re trying to be friendly by asking a question that you know will cause annoyance and grief to the other person? You call that “friendly?” You might call it friendly, I call it you attempting to make yourself feel better about your own situation by trying to make someone else feel uncomfortable about theirs.

Worry about your family. The rest of us will take care of our own. Something tells me we can manage just fine without your input.

 

******

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455 Responses to I demand to know why you don’t have kids yet!

  1. Sammbe says:

    My husband and I do not struggle with infertility, but we have only been married a year. We want to get to know each other and figure this marriage thing out before we have to figure out parenting. We made a five year plan when we got married and don’t plan on having kids before then. But the constant demand for us to do so is disgusting and hurtful. We are made to feel like bad Christians for not having a baby yet, and when we bring up our five year plan the response is always “Well God can change your plans ya know.” Or “God will take care of that plan real quick.” While yes, our plans are not always His plans and he can make birth control fail, I also believe that He honors goals we make and supports us when we come to Him with requests. My husband and I travel and play Evangelistic music so it would #1 be very hard to travel and use as much energy as we need while pregnant and #2 hard for a child who is drug around the country because of his parents jobs. We know that God has called us into full time traveling ministry, but even when we explain that it seems as if people think that God will contradict himself and they tell us that it will be all over when we do choose to have one. It’s hurtful and upsetting, I’m glad you posted this!

    • I wish you and your husband the very best, and I am sorry that you and he are having to deal with, errm … things like this. I’m not sure what to call them. But you two will be in my prayers (I’m glad you and he are taking time ~for each other~), as will be the people who keep saying these things to you. God bless you.

    • trooemay says:

      I can relate. We have been trying to find a church home in a new town. We are 30, married for 2 years and cannot find couples near our age at the church who don’t already have 2+ kids. When we asked if there was a group the “singles” group was mentioned as an option. Um no, we aren’t single……just looking for fellowship in a similar demographic… that apparently does not exist.

      • Oneya says:

        Yeah bc most people have kids by then. The older you get & longer you wait the more your chances decrease if being around other couples your age without kids. There’s a reason why God created our bodies in a way that the best time for a woman to have a baby are between 20-35yrs old.

        • Michelle says:

          Your comment is incredibly callous towards people who struggle with fertility issues and who may marry later. Not everyone will have a baby by a certain age. God grants spouses and babies in his time; re: Sarah and Abraham, Hannah, Leah…

        • Michelle says:

          In my previous comment, I meant Rachel, not Leah.

  2. knitlady57 says:

    We have 6; and it wasn’t till I was expecting the youngest that our landlord at the time made what is apparently rather an old joke when he asked me if we had discovered yet “what causes it.” I thought it was rather funny, if tasteless…and besides, it kind of implied that my husband and I are stupid!

    It bothered me more when someone who hardly knew me, finding out that I was pregnant, asked me “Did you really WANT this one?”– As if I was going to say, not only in public (which it was) but in front of my unborn child, “No, I did not want this baby”? I did want the baby, as a matter of fact, but what business was it of hers to ask me? And this was only our fourth. Three kids is OK, but more than that must mean it was an accident? Hmm.

  3. Sarah says:

    We have five children, and I chuckled because I have heard literally every single one of those statements at least 20 times! I didn’t know I was to give my life story to strangers wherever I go! If you MUST know stranger (and you are asking so I expect you want an answer). No five wasn’t in the “plan”. But they are all loved and chosen! And yes we do know what causes this and rather like it apparently. No we actually don’t have a tv in our bedroom, only in the living room but hey it happens there too. They are all mine, but even if I hadn’t birthed them all, wouldn’t they still be all mine? No my hands aren’t full, they are overflowing, thanks for pointing out the obvious. How old am I? 31… And how old are you? Yes our baby girl is probably our last but man we love having babies and our kids love welcoming a new baby into our home. Anyways, thank you for your humerous yet thoughtful post:)
    –The crazy, non Mormon (if you are Mormon that’s ok.,) young woman with five children 7 and under;p

  4. Tara says:

    Every additional human being brought into this world puts additional pressure on an already over-burdened planet. Because we all will have to deal with the consequences, it is, in fact, more than just a personal preference. In the same way I feel annoyed by people unnecessarily driving SUVs, buying and eventually discarding tons of worthless plastic junk, and otherwise making selfish and poor decisions that put pressure on the environment and affect us all, I also feel annoyed by people who selfishly think it’s nobody’s business if they decide to contribute to the rapidly-expanding population. It’s everybody’s business. And, I’m sorry, but replacement is more than enough.

    • Nicole says:

      This “burden on the planet” line has been used since at least the seventies. So people have been saying this for almost fifty years now. Seems to me the planet hasn’t exploded, run out of resources, and all the other things people like you have been screaming about for decades. Do you say this to your own mother in regards to her choice to have you- that she made such a selfish decision to add to the over-population problem and that all she did in giving birth to you was to add pressure to the environment? But let me guess- you are making up for her poor decision by telling everyone else that they shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. Every time you give a complete stranger in the store w/a cartful of kids the stink eye, you pat yourself on the back for letting that family know what a burden they are on society.

      And you’re not sorry for your opinion at all. If you are going to be a self-proclaimed know-it-all, at least wear that badge proudly, no matter how idiotic other people might think that opinion is.

      It is not your business in the least how many kids someone does or does not have. You don’t want to have any kids- fine. That is your choice. Then might I suggest if you haven’t already done so, go get your tubes tied. If you haven’t done this and are engaging in sexual activity, stop doing so until you have completely eliminated the chance of procreating. Because unless you have taken the steps necessary to stop yourself from ever getting pregnant, one day, you will find yourself with one of these little burdens to society.

      • Tara says:

        1. People have also been talking about global warming since at least the seventies (in fact, since the 19th century scientists have been warning that human emissions of greenhouse gases could change the climate). Some people still don’t “believe” it. As for the planet not running out of resources, I beg to differ. See, for starters, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pressure-on-dwindling-resources-threatens-global-chaos-8398528.html, or http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2011/oct/31/six-natural-resources-population, or http://e360.yale.edu/feature/global_scarcity_scramble_for_dwindling_natural_resources/2531/, or
        do some research of your own.

        2. I never said I was sorry for my opinion. I said “I’m sorry” because I anticipated that people like you would fly off the handle over someone expressing an opinion that contrasts so sharply with her own. I almost didn’t even comment, knowing this would be a very unpopular opinion, but you know what: I’m tired of being bullied by people like you who unthinkingly label a differing opinion “idiotic.”

        3. Finally, your comments about my mother and that last bit about getting my “tubes tied” are completely out of line. You don’t know a thing about me or my mother.

        • Nicole says:

          You’re right- I don’t know a thing about you or your mother- just like you don’t know a thing about every person on the planet that has chosen to have a child that you choose to criticize and say are burdening the environment. Don’t want people to poke at your logic and ask about your life decisions? Then maybe you should treat them with the same respect that you are demanding. Go ahead and express your opinion- you’re allowed that right. But you are going to offend people that are parents, so you should expect some of that to come back at you. Yes, what I said was probably hurtful- but no more hurtful than you telling people they are selfish for having children.

          I have done research on “global warming” and on whether or not the earth is overpopulated and we are running out of resources. And guess what I have found? That the “scientists” involved in these “studies” are not really scientists- mostly just a bunch of environmental activists. And that most of the real scientists that have their names attached to global warming studies have asked that their names NOT be associated with it because they don’t agree with what those studies are saying, but their requests are denied. Am I supposed to listen to the likes of Hollywood, who scream “GLOBAL WARMING!”, yet fly in jets and live in enormous mansions that use mass amounts of energy? Seems a bit hypocritical to me. Isn’t Florida supposed to be underwater now according to Al Gore?

          As I stated, people have been saying for decades that the earth is overpopulated. I just don’t see any signs to prove that. And with each passing decade that we manage to survive, those that are certain we are on the brink of the end of the world just up the deadline. “Well, we didn’t run out of food in 1990, but we will by 2000! Just you wait and see! Oh, oops, we’re still here and our politicians are saying we are the most obese nation in the world . . . 2010! It’s coming! We’ll all starve to death!”

          The only things I see causing us to run out of resources has nothing to do with people having babies. It’s government policies- policies that force companies to “go green”. Policies that say car manufacturers have to produce so many cars that use ethanol. And then instead of ethanol- otherwise known as corn- being used to feed people and livestock, it’s going into cars. Policies that state if farmers want to get their gov’t subsidies, they have to give a certain percentage of their corn to be turned into ethanol. Corn that has to be turned into ethanol and guess what form of energy is used to do that? Oh, that’s right- OIL- the very demon that ethanol is supposed to save us from. And then because all this corn is being turned to ethanol, farmers have less of it to feed to their livestock. Which causes them to not have as much meat or dairy product to sell- which jacks up the price of beef and milk and causes shortages. That’s just ONE example of how “saving the planet” hasn’t worked- according to the research that I have done.

          And also- according to the research that I have done and reports that I have read- this nation is actually seeing a DECREASE in birth rates. Pretty sure most of that is because of the rates of abortion, not necessarily because less people are getting pregnant, but that’s an entirely different subject . . .

          I can think your opinion is idiotic and say so just like you can say that I’m idiotic. Because I do think your opinion is idiotic, as far as people having babies is overpopulating the earth and it’s selfish to have children. But I would never, ever tell you that you have no right to express said opinion. I might disagree with you, but I would never tell you that you can’t say that. And I never think anyone should say “I’m sorry” when expressing what they are thinking. It’s what you think- don’t apologize for using your brain.

        • Angellent says:

          Arguing God or not, having children or reproduction of any kind would be naturally regulated to stop population from growing too much. Oh WAIT! It already is. It’s called menopause!!! Nature regulates itself with any procreation. There’s a fertile time in a living things life, and then it is over. It’s like magic. And I could only see how having children could be a drain on society if the parents were on welfare forever and expected the rest of us to pay for those kids. If a family is self sufficient with hard working parents then NO ONE ANYWHERE has the right to tell them they should stop having kids. You’re not paying for them, they are, so keep your mouth shut.

      • Laura says:

        Right on, Nicole!!!

        • Afrowhitey says:

          Right on, Nicole and Laura. No links to any research she did or any evidence that Tara brings up. But, I wouldn’t expect much from people that believe in magic and talking snakes. Come on, logic guys.

    • tosca83 says:

      Wow, Tara. Just…wow.

      >

  5. Erin L says:

    I sometimes ask people if they want to have kids or more kids or whatever, but usually only really good friends. Partly because I want people to feel comfortable talking to me about struggles they are going through. I had a friend who had been trying for 6 months to get pregnant with no luck and when I asked her that question, she was glad for the opportunity to talk about it. They tried for another year and she was always glad that she could talk to me. But I don’t ask casual acquaintances, that is for sure. I don’t like the “none of your business” mentality. I think we are to be in the business of loving and serving and helping one another and if we aren’t willing to open up with each other that doesn’t happen.

  6. Lindsay says:

    Pregnant with our 4th, we are getting the typical, “Are you done?” and “Don’t you know what causes that?”
    Sometimes I want to roll my eyes and answer, “Oh, my, goodness. SEX is what causes that? Seriously? Why did no one tell me??? I could have prevented all these adorable children if I had only known!!” But I don’t. I just mumble something about, “We want a big family.” That’s not entirely true, but it seems to shut most people up. The whole truth is too much for casual conversation, so I don’t even get into it.
    And we homeschool. Which just ups the weird factor. Oh well.

    • Angellent says:

      Just start shocking people and say your husband can’t keep his hands off of you. That will keep them quiet.

  7. LoopTheLup says:

    I am single (and likely to remain that way for a very long time for a variety of reasons), but a rather vicious part of me imagines some of the replies I would love to give in response to some of these questions …
    “I know! It’s such a pity we haven’t had children yet, especially when you consider all the sex we have, just over and over again, day after day (continuing in uncomfortable detail until told to stop)”
    or (in a deadpan serious voice) “I don’t plan to stop having children. Ever. I am slowly raising an army with which I will invade as many other families as I can and bring them under my iron-fisted subjugation. They say that no one man can rule the world, but by the thunders I shall unite us all in LOVE.”

  8. Emily says:

    When my Mom was pregnant with my youngest brother (there are 5 children in my family) I remember we were out one evening with our whole family. It was a few weeks before my mom’s due date and some lady we didn’t know saw us and said “You’re having ANOTHER one?” (very disparagingly). My dad was quick on the rebound though; he said: “Too bad your mom didn’t think that before she had you!”
    Best response ever haha

  9. littlehouseofpenguins says:

    I have 4 kids (ranging from 1 to 6). And they’re all girls. So you can imagine that I get a *lot* of comments. I’ve worked out a few responses that make me feel better.

    The most common comment I get is: “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!” I’ve responded with, “Yes, full of blessings!” or “Yes, they’re wonderful, aren’t they?”

    To, “Are these all yours? God bless you,” I say, “Oh, He has!”

    To, “So are you going to try for a boy next?” I say something like, “Well, we’re pretty used to girls now! I don’t know if we’ll ever have a boy, but we’re happy either way.”

    • Robin says:

      Quite honestly I think that the “you’ve got your hands full” comment is more of a compliment. Obviously it depends on the tone, but when I say that to a parent my intended meaning is “wow, you must work very hard. you’re an inspiration to people like me, who value parenting, and I hope to be as successful as you are if I am ever blessed with children.”

      • littlehouseofpenguins says:

        Oh, I think you’re right, at least for most of the comments. However, they do say it and look like they’re expecting a reply, and honestly, I can sometimes get the exact same comment, word for word, several times a day. It gets exhausting. So having a very positive response helps keep me from being quite so frustrated at getting the same comments day in and day out.

        I think what maybe bothers me a bit about the comments, though, is the impression they give that having four kids is so unusual, so much work, and stands out so much. When having four kids used to be pretty standard!

  10. Jessica says:

    Many people take fertility for granted. If you haven’t dealt with infertility or had a close friend who did, then you often assume it’s easy for everyone. My best friend is pregnant with her 3rd. She and her husband conceived in less than 2 months on all 3 tries; my husband and I took 2 years of fertility treatments to conceive our twins. It was really hard to talk about while we were going through it as the “problems” lay in my reproductive system, and I felt very embarrassed. Now that the twins are here and healthy, I try to be a bit more open about what we went through to try to help erase the stigma those of us with fertility issues often feel. Even though our community is large, the experience is very isolating. Thanks for acknowledging that people don’t have kids for many reasons and that you can unwittingly be causing a great deal of pain by pressing the issue.

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  12. Britton says:

    I do believe there are polite ways to ask people about when they are going to have kids. It’s when you get condescending or rude and push the issue that it becomes wrong. You should be able to tell when it’s a sensitive issue to the couple and back off with appropriate sympathy or change the subject. My wife and I found out we were pregnant a little over a month after we were married 5 years ago. Our 3 kid is due in April. Kids are not a burden unless you view them that way. If you do, your philosophy could use some help.

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