How To Tell People Your Uterus Is None Of Their Business


AAPW: Seriously though. How do I get them to stop?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

baby feet in white

Q: I find it extremely annoying when people ask when we plan on having kids. Firstly because that’s a very personal question. Secondly because when we say we don’t want kids, people get all defensive and start telling us that we’ll change our minds. As if they know us better than we know ourselves.

We’re getting married this fall and kids seem to be the first thing everyone asks about when they find that out. Dealing with that topic recently got more complicated, frustrating, and depressing.

Just after I turned twenty-two a couple months ago, I found out that it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to bear children. I’ve suspected this for a long time due to issues I’ve had since hitting puberty, but having it confirmed by my doctor really hurt. We’ve both been trying to work through the lost possibilities, even though we never really pictured being parents.

So now when people start asking about when we’ll have kids, it’s painful on top of irritating. If I tell people I don’t want kids, they don’t let it go! I can’t figure out why, but for some reason people take it as a personal attack and will relentlessly push the subject. If I decide to open up and tell them I can’t have kids, they act like it’s painful for them or tell me all about my options. I don’t want to hear any of it.

How do I deal with people who just won’t drop it?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,
I really don’t know why people insist on asking personal questions, let alone forcing their opinions on you.

When I’m feeling generous, I assume it’s because these folks have had such a wonderful, rewarding parenting experience that they want to spread the gospel of the joys of having children. That they’re just afraid someone will miss out on all this goodness and are trying to save you from regret.

Other times, I think some parents don’t feel completely content with their decision and are very sensitive to an insinuation that it might have been the wrong one. “How dare you imply that there’s another choice, and that choice might be better!” sort of thing.

But, mostly, you’re right. It’s people being nosy and newsy and assuming they know what’s best for you.

Cut them off before they get started. When the topic arises, shut it down. “I prefer not to talk about that,” followed by a swift subject change is something that only gets easier with practice (and may be better received than “YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE!”). Most people are socially inept, even the nice ones. We suck at polite chit-chat. We have no clue how to respond well when we hear about tragedy. Avoid all of it. You shouldn’t have to navigate an awkward conversation on top of managing your hurt.

I’m sorry you’re facing this, Anonymous, and I hope you eventually find some peace with this news. Hopefully cutting off strangers intent on poking that wound will help.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Kelly

    Despite internally always wanting to go the “YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE!” route, I usually say, “That’s not in our plan.” Or something to the effect. When they tell me I’ll change my mind, I say, “Mmm. Maybe.” The noncommittal shut-it-down inflection and tone I use generally means the conversation moves on and I go about living my non-child-rearing life. It’s frustrating, but I’ve found this to be the easiest way to deflect. However, I fully acknowledge that for me, it’s an issue of not wanting rather than dealing with infertility, and I realize the hurt and pain that go along with wanting but not being able to have children adds a level of awfulness to this.

  • Sarah E

    Can I say how happy it makes me when long-time regular customers at the bar start peppering my male boss with the “and when are you having kids” questions instead of me? While I commiserate with him on people not respecting he and his wife’s choice to be child-free, my little feminist heart sings that a man has to put up with this shit, too.

    • Jessica

      Shitty questions, until they are obliterated from society, should at the very least be equal-opportunity.

    • Sara

      At my fiance’s old job, he got asked this pretty frequently. The #1 response from other men when he revealed we weren’t having kids: “Good, don’t do it! I will never be able to retire and they are so much work!”

  • Moe

    I’m really sorry the letter-writer got bad news. I imagine this makes an already difficult subject even harder.
    I got married for the first time at 39 and not too long after it become pretty clear that I never had children earlier…because I didn’t want to. I never had the drive, desire, instinct to have a child like others do. Luckily my husband feels the same way (and yes we probably should have really explored this BEFORE getting married, but it all worked out great) We as a couple are thrilled about the future with no children. Some of our family has been really respectful and never pressed the issue. My mother in-law is a rock star. She’s always been gracious and kind and has never pushed.
    However, by brother in-law just would not let it go. He had all the reasons why we should have a baby lined up. He had all the guilt ready to dish out: “You’re not going to give mom a grand-baby?! How could you!?” Every family gathering was an opportunity to bring it up. Until finally one day at Christmas dinner my husband had enough and firmly shut the conversation down. Looking back now it was really about some sort of weird sibling rivalry he has with my husband. Its better that he handled it because my way would have sounded something like “get the fuck out of my uterus already!”
    Liz always gives such gracious advice, listen to her not me. This really is a conversation about setting appropriate boundaries with people. Never allow anyone to make you feel bad for standing up for yourself.

    • nutbrownrose

      When I saw “You’re not going to give mom a grand-baby? How could you!?” my immediate thought was, if you feel so bad about her not having grandkids, why not have some of your own?

      • Moe

        Yes! I said the same once…his response was “Oh I dated a girl with kids once, I’ve already been a parent. It’s not for me.”
        Because dating a single parent is *just like* parenting. /sarcasm

      • Sara

        We (unexpectedly) got more pushback from my future BIL than my fiance’s parents. They seemed much more disappointed and I expected my fiance’s parents to be the most upset. I think it may be because future BIL has given them 2 grandchildren already so they are happy, but future BIL also wants/expects his brother to follow in his footsteps and give his children cousins? It’s all complicated but I think everyone has accepted it now, thankfully.

    • Rebekah

      Unrelated, but Moe! So happy to see you back in the comments. Hope life is great!

      • Moe

        Awwwww! Thanks! I pop in on occasion! :)

  • Elinor

    Who are these people and where are their manners??! Geez, talk about the weather, not someone’s future during small talk.
    For pretty much every scenario that involves questions I don’t want to answer or unsolicited advice, I’m a fan of saying ‘I don’t want to talk about that.’ Followed swiftly with ‘No, I’m actually not weird/emotional/in denial about it, I just don’t want to talk about that with you right now (or everrrrrr)’.

  • I never thought that this was going to be an issue that I dealt with. My family is well aware that I’ve always been a bit on-the-fence on the whole child-having subject, and now that I have plenty of nieces and nephews toddling around all over the place, people have happily made assumptions (or just kept their mouths shut) and I don’t have to deal with any questions about babies.

    BUT – when my partner and I got married last August, I faced an unprecedented onslaught of questions from his family! I never would have thought this would be appropriate, but they’re so public about it! I posted a photo of the two of us on vacation, and my partner’s uncle responded “babies yet?” I don’t even know how to respond to that. I don’t want to step on any toes, since they aren’t my blood relatives, but we are family, and I feel like it’ll be easier to say something and never discuss again than to deal with little messages on every photo from now until my fortieth birthday.

    • Violet

      It probably is easier to say something once to put the issue to rest, but if it were me, I’d have my partner speak for us to his family. If the comment were on my picture, I’d delete the comment. I have one of *those* uncles; you know, the kind who thinks he’s such a cut-up, when really, his jokes/comments are stupid bordering on rude? Anyway, I just delete his comments. If I were in your shoes, I’d delete the comment and give my partner a heads up- “Hey, Uncle Goofball posted a comment about babies on my FB picture, and I deleted it. If you wanna talk to him, you can.”

      • Eh

        Totally agree!!! Delete the comment and have your partner follow up with the uncle.

    • Alicia Landi

      It’s time to step on toes. If they’re stepping on yours by getting into your business, you can go right back at them with the truth. “Nope and not planning on it!” is how I’d respond. Own it! Once I started communicating with my husband’s family in a manner more similar to how I communicate with my own, I felt like I was SUPER married. haha

    • scw

      same for me! I have a bunch of nieces and nephews and my mom had my brother and sister pretty young and neither of my parents have ever ever pushed that stuff on me, but my husband’s family is another story/another genre completely. and you’re so right – it’s different when they aren’t your blood relatives.

    • Sara

      This is awful and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. I am hoping my future MIL has spread the word enough that I don’t have to deal with this post-wedding… but I’m not sure.

  • Amy March

    If you don’t want to talk about it don’t! None of this we don’t want or can’t have them stuff. That just signals that it is a topic you are open to discussing. Try “gosh what a personal question” or “that’s none of your business.” It is none of their business!

    • YES. And in solidarity, I jump on people I catch interrogating friends, because I have a LOT of friends who cannot or chose not to have kids, about their nosiness and presumption because they catch enough unnecessary flak from crappy people.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Basically because people will never stop asking. One of my best friends is approaching 50 and single and folks are still asking her when she’s gonna have kids.

  • When I’ve gotten the questions, my mantra has been “Stay out of my uterus, it’s none of your business”. I figure I don’t have to be super polite to a rude person.

    Or you could try: “What a personal question! Do you ask this of everyone?”

    Or you can also look at people when they ask – don’t respond, just look. If they have half a brain they’ll realize how ridiculous they are to ask such a personal question.

  • Danielle

    This type of persistent questioning is just so rude.

    I have heard some parents say things like, “Everyone should have kids.” I do think it can be about that person’s own doubts and struggles with the child-free life they gave up. It bothers me to hear, though. I can’t always come up with a polite response (“Are you unsatisfied with your life?” doesn’t seem appropriate) and usually don’t say anything.

    Somewhat related, have you folks heard Terry Gross’s interview about choosing to not have kids? It’s so good: http://longestshortesttime.com/episode-79-terry-gross-on-not-having-kids/

    • Violet

      If someone ever told me, “Everyone should have kids,” it would take everything I had not to retort: “I wish Mr. and Mrs. Hitler hadn’t…” I mean, really.

    • Teresa

      Terry Gross–I LOVE HER and I LOVED that interview.

      • Sara

        Yesss this interview hit home with me. She is so honest and straightforward, and it gave me the confidence to approach these types of conversations more confidently too.

        • Teresa

          I know, she’s such a badass! I loved the way she was even flippant talking about her cat! Terry Gross and cats?! My favorite things!

      • Danielle

        I know! She’s as good an interviewee as she is an interviewer.

        • Teresa

          She was also on WTF with Marc Maron–it was a very enjoyable interview!

          • Danielle

            Ha ha, really? Those two are on such opposite ends of the… personality spectrum, I would love to hear how it went :)

          • Teresa

            it was actually kind of adorable, b/c he so clearly thinks she’s freaking amazing (b/c, Terry Gross) and so he was trying so hard to do a good job. It was charming! And then he was recently on Fresh Air again–my husband loves Maron, so it’s super fun for us to listen to these things together!

    • scw

      that interview gives me all the feels, terry gross has a big place in my heart. megan daum’s collection of essays by other writers on deciding not to have kids is really good, too.

    • Sara

      I’m going to start responding to “everyone should have kids” with “Personally, I think everyone should have a dog and two neurotic but lovable cats.”

      • Annie

        I could definitely get on board with that philosophy.

      • Danielle

        “I think everyone should have a dinosaur and a flying car! And gold sparkle high heels!”

        Just because it’s what I want, doesn’t make it right for everyone.

        • Totch

          I disagree. What you want is right for everyone, and I love my gold sparkle heels.

          • Danielle

            Yeah, everyone deserves gold sparkle high heels.

  • Cellistec

    Confession: I’ve been super defensive about the Kids Question in the past, to the point that when one friend would ask it of another in a group setting, I’d jump in with, “Wow, that’s a very personal question!” (And I got some justifiably raised eyebrows. Because…they weren’t asking me.) But recently I’ve been thinking transparency might work better. We do want kids, just not biological ones, which is hard for some people to grasp. But I’m starting to test the waters with friends and relatives I trust most by suppressing my defensiveness and just being open about our plans. So far, everyone has been supportive.

    But it’s still hard when I’m at a big family gathering and one of my well-meaning (…usually) brothers shouts across the room, “So when are you guys gonna have babies?” I don’t want to shout back, “Actually, we’re gonna adopt!” So a one-liner would come in handy. Something gentler than “I don’t want to talk about that.” Maybe “We’re in no hurry…I’ll tell you when there’s something to tell?”

    • Ashlah

      I’ve had luck recently with “Someday” or “Eventually.” Single word responses that make it clear I don’t really wish to talk about it further. Obviously this doesn’t work for people planning to never have children, and pushier people might continue the barrage of questions, but it’s worth a try.

      • Cellistec

        Both of those are perfect in their simplicity. I guess if they keep pushing, @amymarch:disqus’s replies above would do the trick.

    • Amy March

      “You’ll be the first to know” accompanied by major eye roll (for your brother) or minor raised eyebrow (for your great auntie).

      • Cellistec

        Oh, I like that. Maybe followed by a wink instead of an eye roll, or both.

    • Elizabeth

      Oh my goodness! My husband and I are in the same boat! For many, adoption is plan B or even C so getting people to understand that it is our plan A has been so difficult. My parents think we will change our mind as if we haven’t been wanting this since way before we were married. For their sake, I have been very open and clear about our plans and timeline, hoping that they will get used to the idea and learn the appropriate language to use when talking to their future grandchild. For everyone else, it’s “Not right now, probably a bit later”

      • Cellistec

        See, that’s what I wish we’d done from the outset, instead of studiously avoiding the topic around our parents because we’re worried about upsetting them. Never too late to start getting them used to the idea, I guess.

        • Elizabeth

          I learned my lesson when I pretended to agree with everything they thought by silently nodding for years until one day I was like “I’m moving in with my boyfriend. It is decided. I am an adult.” and they DID NOT TAKE THAT WELL. I think if I had been honest about myself and my opinions earlier, they wouldn’t have been so shocked/convinced that it was just a whim they were obligated to talk me out of and I might have been a bit kinder to them as well and included them in my actual life more. There is still some residual resentment from that time, but talks about our family are going a lot smoother now that they know how I feel.

          But, nosy friends/coworkers/distant family members/acquaintances, they don’t get all that thoughtful honesty I put into discussions with our immediate family. That would be too exhausting. I’ll divulge more as it becomes necessary.

      • tempy13

        You are so right about people seemingly thinking you’re making a huge mistake if adopting or fostering IS your FIRST choice. I get really negative crap about that whenever I feel honest enough to answer that question- which isn’t often btw. People tell me that I won’t be able to do foster care because when the child goes back to zir parents or whomever, my heart will be broken. Finally I started telling people in a rather rude tone that I must be mistaken because all along all these parents have made it seem like parenting is about sacrifice on behalf of the parents and providing as much love as possible for the child. They sometimes start to back off when I ask why that should be any different for a foster child or adopted child.

  • sara

    I would go with “This is a very painful topic for me and I’d prefer not to discuss it.” And then if they push past that just stare at them and reiterate. “Wow, I just told you this is a painful topic for me. Why would you continue asking about it?” Literally push the rudeness back in their face and make them face how bad their behavior is. I have successfully used this tactic with a different topic, and at least for me, it really did shut them up (and made me feel good for calling people out!). I also had some close female relatives on my side, and if they spotted family members asking about the sensitive topic at big gatherings,they would swoop in with some sort of biting comment like “Wow, I can’t believe you asked that! Don’t you know that’s as rude as asking a woman her age?!” to save me. So if you can get some people on your team with this, that helps too!

    • Leela

      Sara, your answer is so nicely articulated. I’m going to use it (also because it’s true for me). One of the hardest parts of these unwelcome questions is that so many people view them as simple small talk — as if they’re just saying “what color geraniums are you planting this year?” When it’s actually more like they are asking the geranium question while also stabbing me repeatedly with a toothpick.

  • Violet

    The offspring-or-no question really runs the gamut for me, personally. It’s all about context. Am I close to the person and regularly confide in them? Then they probably aren’t asking cause they already know how I feel. Is the person a stranger/barely an acquaintance? Then they’re being rude and snoopy, and I’d have no qualms about raising an eyebrow, chuckling in an intentionally awkward manner, and saying, “Yeah, sooooo… anyway, we’re really looking forward to the mimosa bar at the wedding.” (Side note: wish we’d had a mimosa bar at our wedding. Anyway.)
    It’s those in-between people where I can’t tell if the question is coming from rudeness (because childbearing is intensely personal) or general interest (because childbearing is incredibly public). I know, I know, people really *should* know that infertility and such are issues and therefore avoid asking, but really, there are so many possible issues in life; if we restricted our speech out of fear of touching a nerve, we’d have to stop speaking to each other all together. In these cases where I don’t know what to make of the question, I try to look for a response that doesn’t intentionally make the asker feel uncomfortable (because if you’re not even sure if they were being rude, why punish them?) that STILL doesn’t give up an answer. I’d look for something a little more gracious (“Kids? Oh, like the rhyme, love, marriage, baby carriage, all that. Hahaha.”) before moving on to my slight-of-hand misdirection (back to the mimosa bar, *obviously*). As an example, recently a coworker who is a proud dad was showing his new baby girls around the office. He asked me (after I’d been cooing at his daughters for a while) “So, you getting baby fever yet?” He’s a nice guy. He’s psyched about the new additions to his family. He doesn’t *really* want to know about my uterus; he’s trying to connect with me and make conversation. So I said, “Baby fever? Haha, we’ll see!” and he got it and that was that. If he had kept asking, then I’d have put him in the “rude” category and gotten more firm about it. So, tldr: All about the context. And mimosas.

    • Cellistec

      Well said. All of it.

    • Her Lindsayship

      I was just coming to say the same. It’s easy to know what to do when near strangers ask – they’re being rude, shut it down, move on with life. Close friends don’t make a big weird thing out of it. But the in-betweeners… They’re the ones that have surprised me with the ‘you’ll change your mind!’ing all over the place. It also feels gross that this is the immediate reaction of some people learning about our engagement. “You guys will have beautiful babies!!” No one was even talking about children??

      • Totch

        “Beautiful babies” is the street harassment of the reproductive gossip world!! If you say something about it, the response is always “What? It was just a compliment! Can’t you take a compliment?”

        This is off topic, forgive me, but there is also this kind of trend with interracial couples where “OMG mixed babies are so cute!” is considered a totally acceptable topic of casual conversation. It is such a weird thing to casually push someone to parse out the levels of their statement: 1) I’m saying you should have a baby rather than even asking if you want one, 2) I’m saying your baby will be more exciting because I think it’ll be aesthetically pleasing, 3) I’m saying some exoticising bullshit and painting broad strokes about ethnicity and race, 4) oh, never mind, I realize now that I’m rude and you should punch me.

        • Amy

          YES. Currently pregnant with a mixed-race baby and I have gotten this from so many people. Interestingly, they’re mostly people my age (late 20’s) and all of them are white (as am I). I know they’re trying to be nice so I try to take it at face value, but it’s just such an odd thing to say. “Your baby is going to look different from me and I like it! Melting pot! Woooo!”

          • Totch

            Yeah, there is always a bit of a weird feeling when white people are a little too happy about interracial relationships? Obvs they’re being nice and just trying to show approval… but myself and a few of my siblings have partnered up with people of color and it sometimes feels like our extended family has this weird white liberal pride about just how unracist we must be?

          • A.

            Yeah, I have a lot of relatives who really pride themselves on “forgetting” that I’m in an interracial relationship. But considering that my husband has only been really embracing his identity as a PoC over the past few years, it can actually quite erasing, however unintentional. He WANTS to talk about being indigenous and Latino and everything that comes with it, and really wants our kids to be raised with that identity. But when people admiringly say that they “forget” he’s Latin, it subconsciously assumes that assimilation is a goal or a good thing.

            It can be complex stuff though, since I know my relatives would be mortified at that suggestion! I think overall a lot of white people (speaking as a very white person) don’t know where the line between acknowledgment and preoccupation is.

          • Totch

            I like your use of the word preoccupation. My family can be a bit the opposite, they’re quite excited to embrace our partners’ different heritages… sometimes as if it’s a fun project? It’s cute that my parents celebrated lunar new year with my sister’s kids in honor of my fiance. But sometimes a thing that’s just Tuesday for us is a fascinating cultural event to my family.

          • Amy

            Oof, yes.

            My family’s behavior around my husband being non-white has really run the gamut. There was a lot of “We’re so inclusive! This is so cool!” around our wedding because we incorporated traditions from my husband’s culture. The fascination with everything was a bit much, but honestly I prefer that to some of the other stuff family members have pulled – from consistently forgetting/mispronouncing my husband’s name (for 10 years now) to saying they hope my siblings marry white people so my parents “can at least pronounce SOME of our grandkids’ names” to spreading a completely fabricated rumor that my husband was engaged to someone via an arranged marriage, which I broke up, thereby enraging his parents. What. No.

            I’m the first one in my very large, very white family to marry a POC and though most people have been awesome it’s been a bit of a rocky road. Made a bit worse by the fact that my family would respond to any pushback on the aforementioned items by saying we’re being “too sensitive.”

        • Michelle VE

          Yes! As if the baby’s adorableness enough of a reason to reproduce, or that my hypothetical future offspring wouldn’t be as beautiful if my husband were white. Really?

          • Totch

            Right!? Just in general, the beautiful babies line of conversation is messed up. You’re talking about natural selection, and you’re saying that we should select for looks when you should be trying to select for alien/robot/zombie killing prowess.

        • A.

          Oh god, even some of our close friends get weird about the fact that if we (fate willing) have bio kids that they’ll be SUPREMELY MODEL GORGEOUS WITH CARAMEL SKIN OMG. My husband and I certainly aren’t cretins or anything, but it’s a very, very specific assumption. People also tend to focus on this weird hypothetical of how AMAAAAZING it would be if our kids ended up with my husband’s skin tone and my blue eyes, despite the fact that it’s genetically impossible. (They’ll have brown eyes! It’s fine!)

          People mean well, but it does often treat our hypothetical kids as objects more than we’re comfortable with.

          • Lisa

            Totally not the point, but it is remotely possible for a child to end up with lighter eyes and dark skin! Recessive traits are totally a thing. :) I have a friend who is black, and his eyes are this really light, bright shade of green. People often think he’s wearing contacts because they’re so surprised by his eyes.

            That doesn’t give other people the right to speculate about your future children or make declarations about what would be the prettiest. I think this thread hit the nail on the head by acknowledging that these relatives and friends want to show that they are accepting and progressive, but they are going about it in a completely wrong way.

        • Nm

          Yes, people said we would make awesome looking babies all the time. Ugh! I never had the nerve to call acquaintances on it though, and now we have an extra-cute toddler, so what can I say ;-)

        • ladyjanegreysanatomy

          not to distract from the rest of this very important sub-conversation, but someone needs to give you a pat on the back for naming this “the street harassment of the reproductive gossip
          world!!” YES.

          • Totch

            Thanks!

    • NatalieN

      I agree – and how the question is phrased matters too. “When are you having kids” implies that we are going to have kids – that would be extremely personal and kinda rude if I’ve never talked about kids with that person, or expressed any interest. If said person instead asked “do you want kids/think you’ll have them someday” that’s a more appropriate question, the answer could be “we’ll see” and just leave it at that, but maybe the answer is “yes, maybe the next few years” and then if the other person wants to talk kids etc you can.

      Now, for friends/family that know that husband and I do in fact want kids (through comments like “when we have kids, they’ll probably break everything, so we’re going to set up a line item in our budget called ‘this is why we can’t have nice things’ “), for those people asking, “when are you guys thinking of having kids” could be more appropriate. Especially in the case of my siblings – we grew up with only 2 cousins that were about 10 years younger than us, so it’s been stated generally that we’d all like our kids to have cousins they can hang out with, obviously not planning our lives around that, but it’d be nice.

    • Guesty

      How would you then handle people who are TOO polite to directly ask but talk in general like they know you life path, like trying to commiserate about their kids because they know you are destined for parenthood now you’re married? Girls vs boys, busy exhausting this will be you guys type shit. It feels so gross! It makes me alternatively want to punch them or run away. But they are being so sneaky and subtle that if I say “gosh that’s personal” and blow them off does it make me look like the asshole for shutting down a parent trying to reach out and be normal? I am talking family acquaintances in this case.

      • Michelle VE

        I just keep it really vague – no need to either confirm or deny my actual plans. It helps that I don’t get angry or upset when people assume (incorrectly) that I’ll have kids.

      • Violet

        I’d kinda act all innocent about what they’re really trying to do, and treat this kind of “Oh geez, KIDS, amirite?” complaining as I would if they were complaining about anything else in life. “That sounds hard,” etc. Turning it back to them and their experiences. I know what you mean though, there are definitely people who act like they’re talking about themselves, when really they’re trying to suss you out!

    • toomanybooks

      (Re: baby fever) I was holding a baby of a friend and a guy was like “Careful. That’s how it starts.”

      I responded, “What – my future political career?”

      • Violet

        *slow clap*

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        NICE.

  • TeaforTwo

    We went through infertility and IVF before finally getting pregnant, and I know how the kids question can feel intrusive and painful. I agree with Amy March that the best way to avoid talking about it is not to answer at all. Saying “We don’t want kids” or “we don’t plan on kids” legitimizes it as a topic for discussion. My go-to was usually a breezy “Oh gosh, who knows?!” followed by a subject change. To most people that will communicate “we’re not talking about this right now,” without making them uncomfortable the way a pointed “none of your business” might.

    I will say that I read a lot of comments that make this question sound like a social third rail, to be avoided at all costs, and I’m not sure it’s a question you can never ask of anyone. As a woman in my early thirties, this comes up a lot with friends, many of whom are genuinely sorting out whether or not THEY want kids, and are asking if their friends want kids as a way of talking through some of the questions. I don’t think asking someone if they want kids is the social sin – expressing your own views on their answer, or pushing the topic when they clearly aren’t into it is the real problem.

    • Sara

      I completely agree – I don’t think asking is the worst thing in the world. Its a definite ‘know your audience’ and a ‘mind your manners’ situation though. I have friends I’ve asked if they’re having kids. When they say no or change the subject, I drop it. I don’t need details, it was just part of the conversation. If/when they want to expand on the topic, they will.

    • Teresa

      I think if it is a question asked between friends, when deciding whether or not to have children or just because you are curious, that is a very different story. I have had many of these conversations with women who were my friends and they have always been wonderful, respectful conversations–I am thankful to those women who offered me a safe space to talk about my feelings on this topic. I think the LW is referring to anyone else–people not in your close social circle or without very kind, considerate intentions. Like, the woman who works in the school I teach in who used to ask me ALL OF THE TIME when I was having kids, once reminding me that I was not getting any younger. Or the lady at Macy’s who was visibly shocked when I told her my future-husband and I weren’t registering for more stuff because we live in a tiny apartment in a large city–but don’t we plan to move to the burbs, buy a house and have kids? NOPE.

      • Eh

        When I have had conversations with my friends about the topic of kids/no kids they have always been respectful. One of my friends asked me if I wanted kids and she said she was happy to hear that I did but would have respected my decision if I didn’t. On the other hand it is not a conversation I want to have with my in-laws (my family never asked me) or my coworkers or a random person I don’t know that just found out I am married.

        • Grace

          A guy I used to vanpool to work with asked me when I was getting married. I answered end of October, and he followed up with, “Oh, so by December/January you’ll be pregnant.” No, just no.

          • Shawna

            Blech.

          • Eh

            I live in Canada so we get 1 year of maternity/parental leave that can be split between the parents. Lots of people live off hoping between 1 year contracts after women have babies (since it’s very much the norm that the birth mother take the full year). So after I got married a guy who was covering a Mat leave contract asked me when I was having a baby. When I did have a baby he did get my contract but I split my leave with my husband so he only got six months. After I got back he had hoped to another mat leave contract and he has not asked about me having another baby (he more or less told me to find a permanent job somewhere else in the company so he could have my job)

          • ladyjanegreysanatomy

            what a gross douchecanoe. on that topic, my ex-employer had a round of layoffs while i worked there which just happened to include everyone on mat/pat leave. as it happens, the ones i knew personally were mostly okay with it for various reasons, but it was still so gross (and kinda illegal, but people rarely fight it).

          • Saxyrunner

            Oy. My coworker dude says he bets we’ll have a kid within two years. He was flummoxed when I said, “That’s a stupid bet to make, because my birth control method can remain in place for another five years.”

          • toomanybooks

            Yessssssssss

    • Cellistec

      I don’t know, I think a breezy answer sometimes legitimizes it as a topic for later follow-up. “We don’t want kids” does open a can of worms, but might it also help normalize the idea that not everyone wants kids? Which would be a relief, at least for me. I’d love it so much if people started asking “Do you want kids?” and scrapped the assumption-laden “when are you having kids?”

      • Sara

        Agree here. I always make sure to respond with a firm “We’re not having children” because I feel it should be a dead-end stop (sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t), and because if someone asked the question, they should be able to handle the honest answer without me tip-toeing around a response to avoid possibly offending them.

      • Jess

        This is a reason I push back pretty hard against the normalized kids-having assumption. I’ve always been very vocal about not wanting kids – which is slightly confusing to me now that I’m planning to at least try for kids some day because of R’s desire for parenthood – hoping that it helps the next person down the road.

        But realistically, I’d love it if we just stopped asking unless we’re close friends.

        • Totch

          Even close friends need a check sometimes. We’ve decided we’d only want one kid if we have kids, and friends are wonderful but not perfect.

          I recently had a friend wax poetic about the “power of siblings” and how only kids so easily become brats. And just a couple weeks ago I was hanging out and knitting a baby blanket for my new niece. A friend (who should have known better) started waggling her eyebrows trying to ask if the baby blanket was for me/if I was pregnant. I just said “ew, no.” because I really needed her to hear the ‘no.’

    • sofar

      My go-to is similar: “Hmmm what an INTERESTING question!” and then a subject change. If they ask again point blank (and some will), I just say, “Yep, I heard you the first time. That’s an interesting question!”

    • nobabies magoo

      I see some difference in people asking WHEN you are having kids, vs. IF you are having kids. But, maybe it’s all bad to discuss in “mixed company”… Personally, the IF is more of a curiosity thing, whereas someone asking me when is a presumption.

  • MC

    I have a friend (woman) who is married to a trans man – it’s not a secret to people who know them, but they definitely appear to be a cishet couple. When they get asked about when they’ll have kids, they have to decide whether or not to talk about their genitals & reproductive organs and how it’s actually much harder to “try” for kids than people perceive. Hearing them talk about it has been a good reminder that you really, really never know what people are going through. So don’t be nosy!!

  • It must be something in my facial expressions because I cannot think of a single time that I’ve gotten push back on the “Nope” answer to whether we were having kids. Not his parents, not my parents, not strangers on the street. Nobody fights with me about it.

    I will count myself lucky and shut up now..

  • Eh

    Since before my husband and I were married my MIL has been asking for a grandson (yep, a grandson – because I dictate the sex of the child). After we got married, my MIL and BIL (because for some reason he was interested) both would ask me every time they saw me if I had “any news” or “anything to announce”. At least the way they phrased it I could easily shut down the conversation. “Nope.” and leave it at that. My MIL asked me at our gift opening the day after our wedding and my husband’s grandmother shut her down by saying “They just got married” (she waited until we moved into our house, six months later, to start asking us). I was getting annoyed with the questions every time I saw them and by this point I was pregnant and hormonal. We weren’t ready to tell people. Luckily no one asked (for the first time in 1.5 years) because at that point my response was going to be that it was none of their business and make a comment about horrible they would feel if they found out that we were struggling to get pregnant. I have learned I have to be very careful about how I phrase things around my MIL. I was talking about the person that covered me while I was on maternity leave (I have a 10 month old daughter) and my MIL got the idea that I was pregnant again (my husband jokingly looked at me and said “is there something I don’t know” I laughed and shut down the conversation with “NOPE!”).

    • Sara

      This sounds terrible to have to constantly deal with, I am so sorry.

      • Eh

        It has been pretty frustrating. My BIL asked about us having a second child when I was six months pregnant with our daughter. Umm let’s let this one finish baking before we think about the next. I am pretty sure once her 1st birthday comes around the onslaught of inquiries about baby #2 will pick up.

    • Cellistec

      All the nopes.

      Just to have fun with it, though, I’d be tempted to answer “Anything to announce?” with a range of inane things, such as “Actually, yes! I had sushi for the first time last week!” or “I finished watching the entire series of The West Wing!” or “I painted my toenails a new color!” and then look to the person next to you like, ok your turn!

      • Eh

        Hahaha I should do that next time!

      • Grace

        Ah! My parents did a variation of this (as a joke, but it would totally work to shut people down). They gathered the entire extended family into one room during a holiday or something, and my dad starts with the, “We have a very important announcement….. We just saved a ton of money by switching to Geico!”

        • Eh

          My BIL and SIL announced to my in-laws that they were pregnant with my youngest neice by coming over to my in-laws house without their older children. So everytime my BIL and SIL come over without my nieces my in-laws think they have big news.

        • Cellistec

          Your parents win at life.

      • Totch

        I called my grandmother last month and she answered the phone with “Do you have news for me?” and I just went “Is it news to you that it’s Mother’s Day? Because that’s why I’m calling!!”

        For the record, we’ve been engaged for 6 months. Not even married yet!

    • Rebekah

      That kind of crap makes me want to buy a speculum and carry it around with me so that if people ask I can pull it out and say, “I don’t know, want to check for me?”

    • Sara

      Oooh, my MIL would do that too. She started asking us ONE MONTH after the wedding if we “had any news.” I didn’t understand what she was getting at so I just kept answering, “Um, no?”

      When we finally told her I was pregnant (about a year and a half later) she didn’t believe us because I think she had given up hope.

      • Eh

        After a year and a half she gave up hope??? Haha my parents and my inlaws both waited five years to have children after they were married, they were younger but still. My MIL had suspicions that I was pregnant and started prying and asked what was going on in our lives so I started talking about work. I was super sick so it was very obvious I was pregnant (a family friend said I was either pregnant or had terminal cancer and that she was glad I was pregnant).

  • Not Sarah

    The most awkward part about this question to me is that if it were just me being asked, I have no problems being like “NOPE NOT HAVING KIDS”, but my boyfriend is much less adamant about whether he wants kids or doesn’t than me and so if people are asking us as a couple, I no longer know what to say to them.

    Boyfriend’s best friend asking me if I want kids? I’m going to be straight with him because I know him and his partner have been struggling with that. He then followed up with “Well what if it turns out that Boyfriend wants kids?” and I barely hesitated before telling him “Well that would be very sad.”

    Boyfriend’s parents asking me if I want kids? That’s his prerogative to answer. My parents asking? They already know the answer is hell no, so they never ask.

    • Sara

      Sounds like we are in VERY similar situations. Since I was 11 I’ve been declaring I wanted animals not children, so my parents have had a long time to get used to the idea and have never once brought it up at all. It was a total shock to my fiance’s family. My fiance does not want children either, but when I’m alone people sometimes ask me what would happen if he were to change his mind and my answer is always the same: I love him more than anything, and if he changed his mind, I would support him finding someone else who could give him what he needed out of life. It would hurt like hell and be the worst thing to ever happen to me, but this is just one of those things you can’t compromise on.

  • Chalk

    Credit to Carolyn Hax:
    Them: “when are you planning to have kids?”
    You: “Why do you ask?”
    They: either explain or get the point
    You (if it gets to this point): “It’s such a personal question, I was curious why you were asking. Anyway, how ’bout those Sox?”

  • Jessica

    I was asked (by a drunken republican slob) at my brother’s wedding this past weekend when I’m going to have kids “cause aren’t they just the greatest??” My go-to response is “Yes, we’re definitely going to adopt another dog! We think it’s so important to have more than one.” Usually, people get the hint that they are not going to get a straight answer out of me, but this guy just kept insisting that because my parents (who waited 5 years after they got married to have a kid, and even then it may have been an accident) are “so neat” and my husband and I would “make neat parents.” His wife stood next to him rolling her eyes, and said “He bothers our daughter about it too, but she isn’t sure she wants kids.”

    Not to go on a tangent, but this guy drove me crazy. He told me he felt sorry for me because of all the responsibility I have due to my husband’s military career. I was seriously about to throw my drink on him, but it was pretty good vodka, so I drained it and walked away (after telling him off on how insulting that was).

    • Sara

      Oy. This guy sounds intolerable, I’m sorry. I just LOVE the “but you would make such good parents!” line. Yes, yes we would… I would be a good parent, no GREAT parent, but at the total expense of my sanity because I am so overly-sensitive. “But they are just the greatest and so much fun!” You know what else I’ve heard is great and fun? Skydiving. Running a marathon. Dropping acid. I’m not interested in doing any of these things, either.

      • Sarah E

        Exactly. I would be good at a lot of things, because I am a smart, capable person. But I (fortunately) do what I want, not strictly what I have the technical skill for.

        • Grace

          I think I’d channel Jo March, “I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer.”

      • Lawyerette510

        Oh the whole you would be great at it is so annoying, and I have a similar feeling about loosing myself and sanity if I went down that path! I find it especially confusing when the pressure is by someone who doesn’t even make it look fun. I just had a co-worker who is technically higher than me in the pecking order (although I don’t report to her, so she’s kind of not but kind of is), and is constantly talking negatively about having to deal with kid-related stuff (leaving in the middle of the day unexpectedly, getting stressed when her kid stuff conflicts with her work stuff, kids behaving badly) and how all the household responsibilities are on her. Then the other day she was talking about how they had their first child sooner than they’d planned/ hoped for and the third kid was totally unintended and pivoted and asked when I was going to have kids because I’m just so calm and organized, and I answered that I wasn’t planning to. Then she said “well sometimes they happened without planning” and I said “well there are steps to avoid it.” And hoped that would end things, but then she said “well even so, sometimes it just happened.” It made things so awkward because what I wanted to say was “well that’s where abortion comes in” but I felt like that had a lot of potential to offend her and I knew it would offend someone who sits near us, so instead I said “oh I’ve got to get ready for a call.”

    • Violet

      Is he getting a commission from some stork somewhere for each person he can convince to have a kid?

      • Jessica

        I hope so, but I hadn’t seen him in over 10 years and he has never met my husband, so he is a terrible spokesperson.

    • Jess

      I am in awe of your ability to stand there and listen and not throw booze in his face.

      • Jessica

        I had already spun some logical webs around his flawed thinking, and gotten him to assume I was talking about Scott Walker while discussing good governors (MN’s) versus bad (didn’t name names…) He was a mess and I felt bad for his wife, who is one of my mom’s good friends.

        But, after that, I totally see why we never went on trips with them or saw them more than once every couple of years.

  • eating words

    I hate getting this question, and I can’t imagine how much harder it is for LW when it’s tied up with that kind of news. When we were on our honeymoon, one B&B owner zipped it at us over breakfast. We told her politely that it was a personal question. But she wouldn’t let it go. The toad finally said, “Well, you’re newlyweds, so I’ll forgive you.” FORGIVE? Because we OWE this stranger an answer? I still get angry about this conversation, even months after it happened.

    • Cellistec

      “Well, you were clearly raised in a barn, so I’ll forgive you for asking us in the first place.” Some people.

    • Jessica

      brb, going to go seethe with rage on your behalf.

  • Anon

    I’d love to get some advice on handling this question when it comes from your partner’s people. I’m very private and reserved, especially when it comes to my uterus and my sex life. My people know this, they don’t prod, they don’t bring it up unless I mention it – it’s wonderful. My partner’s people are the complete opposite (with the exception of his parents, blessedly). Every time we see his aunts, or cousins, or friends, we get asked, “Soooo when ya havin’ kids?” followed by winks and nudges. It’s even worse if I choose not to drink, because then the question is, “OMG do you have any news to share with us?” And my partner is either not as private, or more eager to please, I dunno, so he answers them and gives people an actual timeline! (Which is the actual timeline we have discusses & decided on in private, luckily we ARE on the same page there).

    I know they are just excited for us (mostly for him) but MY boundaries are being crossed constantly. I’ve tried to give him some talking points to redirect the conversations, but they can’t get the hint and the questions NEVER STOP. Even if we hung out 2 weeks ago, they will ask again. Even if we tell them that’s a personal question. I can’t avoid his friends and extended family forever but I’m sick of feeling like I’m just a walking uterus standing next to my husband.

    • emilyg25

      Change the subject or even leave the room.

      “When are you going to have kids?”
      “Are you watching The Americans? That show is so good!”
      “But kids?”
      “Like I just think the portrayal of marriage is so complex.”
      “Kidsssss?”
      “And it’s interesting to see how tense it was living in the Cold War.”

      Also, talk to your person so you can get on the same page. He might need to speak privately with his people to tell them to shush.

      • Anon

        I think I’ll have to talk to my partner again, and ask him to address this with them privately. I don’t mind if he’s doing the man-to-man deep discussion of feelings, but I don’t want these questions to be part of normal small talk when I am around.

        I think the thing that bothers me the most, or the #1 reason why I don’t want to share with them, is because they are SO dang gossipy. So once we deflect, the discussion turns to gossip about who IS trying, or pregnant, or are they going to have FOURTH baby (the horror!), OMG can you even imagine so-and-so is going to be a DAD?! And I know that once we leave, the discussion will turn to us. (This is turning into a question about how do you handle people whose values are so different from your own.)

        Also, based on your description it sounds like I should be watching The Americans!

        • Jess

          So, my family is intensely gossipy and R’s family is too. I take the track you’re trying to (share as little as possible) for a variety of reasons, but R tends to be a little more open and sharing.

          There’s not much you can do to stop the gossip, but you can definitely ask that your partner not share certain things, or not discuss them with certain people present (including you!). That’s very, very fair to ask of a partner.

        • Vanessa

          Really, you should be. The Americans is so good.

        • Sarah McClelland

          Same here! We’ve already decided not to tell his mom or grandparents until we are ready for EVERYONE to know when we get pregnant.

    • Amy March

      I don’t think this has anything to do with his people- its about him! Of course they aren’t taking the hint, because he goes right ahead and talks to them about it! If it’s important to you that they not know your timeline, then you need to be talking to him, not them, about respecting your feelings and not sharing that information, and he needs to actually shut it down with “I’m not talking about this” and then actually not doing it.

    • Sarah McClelland

      My hubs had to sit his mom and grandparents down and tell them to stop asking. We established pretty early on that “family deals with family” and so he handled it after the third or 4th time we’d gotten the question inside of 6 months. And if they ask when we visit, we escape to his dad’s house.

  • Ebloom

    Yes, unless you’re having a close personal chat with your best friend over the subject already, this is rude. Though it does remind me of when we told my partner’s sister we were getting married. I turned to her to ask if she would be ok with her kids being in the wedding, by saying, “So, the kids-” when she cut me off and exclaimed, “Oh my god yes! Kids! When are you having them!” Super awkward. I don’t understand people sometimes.

    • Eh

      My MIL has a knack for either cutting me off or only listening to half the words I say and somehow confusing what I say with something about children. Some people have baby on the brain all the time. Ugh

      • Lindsey

        YEP! It’s like they don’t care what you have to say, as long as their opinion has been presented.

  • Rebekah

    I’m a twerp and almost always respond to the question “When are you having kids” with “Oh, probably about 9 months after we conceive them.”
    If they continue the line of questioning, I simply say, “We’re having fun practicing.”

    • Arie

      These are my favorite responses yet.

      • Rebekah

        I actually just saw a comment on a Dear Prudence column that said to respond with “It’s on backorder.” I plan to add that one to my rotation, just in time to attend my younger sister’s baby shower.

    • Jess

      I did once use the APW user suggested, “Are you offering to help?!”

      It resulted in a horrified expression and silence that lasted just long enough for me to walk away.

    • Dess

      I want to use these.

    • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

      I’m ready to start saying “Not with the way we’re doing it!” to “ARE YOU HAVING KIDS IMMEDIATELY RIGHTNOW??”

    • Mad

      I like to act all horrified and say “why are you asking me about my sex life?”, and if they ask for clarification I said “you are literally asking if I’m planning on having my husband ejaculate inside me”.

      • Megan

        Recently I’ve said that I’d send over a schedule of our most recent sexual encounters and positions so they can be up to date on the latest developments. Mind you, this was to my 19-yr-old BIL in front of his gf so he was naturally horrified and hasn’t brought it up again.

    • Lisa

      “Oh, probably about 9 months after we conceive them.”

      This is the best response yet. My family has been really great about not pressuring when we are going to have kids, but I can definitely see my extended family asking these questions at some point. I kind of hope I get a chance to use this!

    • Sarah McClelland

      HA! One of my husband’s church members told me to respond, “Oh, we’ll just go get started right now!”

    • Carrie

      I got so fed up that once I answered, “We ordered them in the mail, but they haven’t come yet.” When they responded with shock and horror I said, “Well they were on sale for a really low price and I didn’t want to miss out on such a great deal.”

  • Mrrpaderp

    Am I the only one who’s totally blown away by the fact that a 22 year old is getting these questions? I mean, I’m 32, I haven’t been asked about kids very often, but I can kind of maybe sort of understand where people are coming from when they ask me. They’re weirdly trying to make conversation. Or something. Not that it’s OK. But the idea of people getting judgy and defensive that a barely college grad aged person doesn’t want to start popping out babies makes me ragey. If I were LW I would give them a confused look and say something like, “Oh wow not any time soon!”

    • Dess

      Ragey, yes. My fiancé and I are not so very much older than LW, and have been fielding this line of questioning from my (generally socially progressive) FMIL since before I was a college grad. I know the questions come from a place of caring, but #nope.

    • Vanessa

      Yes and also if she is getting it this bad already at 22? It’s going to get so much worse.

    • Aubry

      I think if any of the 22 year old I knew were pregnant (and I know quite a few around my sister’s age) it would be a reaction like this:
      them: I’m pregnant!
      Me: oh… (waits for their reaction)
      them: reacts positively or negatively
      Me: gets excited with them/offers a shoulder and space to talk about it

      I mean, I know in other parts of the world people are married and like, own houses and plan babies at 22. But I live in Vancouver where this is… not a thing. I’m 29 and just now are people starting to plan babies and are all getting married. No one owns a house cause they’re all 1 million dollars. I was close to exactly two people who have had kids already – one at 17 and one two years ago, both serendipitous babies (unplanned but of course a great thing).

      My personal experience aside, 22 is just too young to be pressuring anyone for big life stuff. They have lots of time still to do anything, and I’m sure don’t need the added pressure you are heaping on.

      • jubeee

        Yeah where I am from no one gets pregnant at 22 on purpose so this seems crazy but it doesn’t matter, people shouldn’t ask even if she was 30.

    • Rebekah

      To offer a counterpoint: I am from a heavily religious city (one particular religion) where the majority of my classmates from high school went to college for a year or two to meet their spouses and then promptly had babies. I joked with my friends that being 26 and unmarried made us spinsters in their eyes (these friends and I are not members of the majority religion).

      While it does seem super young, I can imagine a situation where the LW is getting a lot of pressure at that age, so this wasn’t quite so jaw-dropping to me.

      • Pinkrose

        *cough*mormon*cough*

        • Kara E

          Conservative christian too – I know a bunch of people who started having kids in their early to mid 20s. My east coaster friends were considered young if they started having them around 30!

  • Keri

    So also, here’s the beauty of an open-ended question. Maybe you DO want to talk with friends or family about thinking about having kids, and maybe they do too. If they want to talk about it with you, they might just bring it up if you ask, “So what’s up next for you two?” But they might also want to talk about their career, or a new city, or a movie coming out, or a new cat, and that’s cool too.

  • Kim

    The “everyone should have kids” thing. Oy. One of those truly golden
    sweeping generalities, right up there with “people shouldn’t be
    monogamous” and “you shouldn’t be allowed to have kids unless you [can
    afford X].”

    One of my brothers once told me that he thinks people who don’t have kids are just more selfish (as in, once you have kids you are automatically a less selfish person). I want kids, but at that moment I thought of all the people out there who use their kids as an excuse to be more selfish in other areas of their lives.

  • Kylie

    Can I also bemoan generally well meaning older colleagues (often women) who ask this question (usually in public) under the pretence of offering supportive career advice or mentoring. “Have you considered where you’re going to fit kids in during your residency, you’re too old to wait till you finish?”. I know for a fact that the guys I work with are NEVER asked this.

  • Lindsey

    Hey, I feel you. As a lady with PCOS, I’ve been inundated with those who think they’re doing good by sending me article after article of “miracle births!” It’s not gonna happen. Also, I’m not getting married until the fall so can we focus on the wedding before the extremely invasive personal garbage?

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  • toomanybooks

    Maybe it’s where I live, or maybe it’s because I’m marrying another woman, but I’m lucky that I don’t really get asked this question. (My mom has said she wants grandkids – but not yet – and my sister has definitely suggested that I should have kids because she wants baby access, but that’s pretty much it, and they know that I am not planning on having kids, as I have made this pretty clear my entire life.)
    I think this was covered on a podcast I listened to recently, one of the ones Elizabeth Laime does, and they suggested saying something like “it’s just not in the cards for us” which sort of suggests that you can’t have them without saying it.

  • Amie Melnychuk

    I catch the hubs asking friends, a lot, when they are having kids. I keep having to remind him later that some people are interested in kids, and some can’t. We chose a conventional life path, but some others are taking windy ones, or no path at all! And that is great for them, but we shouldn’t pressure them to ours, and support them as they find their way, much as we want them to support us on ours.

    Instead of asking when they are having kids, he is now asking if they want kids. It’s moving in the right direction.

    • Eh

      This is one of the frustrations I have with my BIL. Before we had our daughter (and even since) he would ask us about children. His experience with having children is that they happen accidentally/without trying. On the other hand, his wife had fertility problems and many miscarriages before she met my BIL. Luckily we got pregnant fairly quickly but if he asked one more time (before we announced we were pregnant) I was going to ask him if he would feel horrible to find out that we’d been trying for a year (we only tried for a couple months) – just to make the point that he might want to reconsider asking the question.

  • guest

    I think that the people who ask this are just trying to make conversation. Things like weddings and children are some of the most common experiences that humans have. Often with people you are supposed to feel close to, but do not actually know that well (family, coworkers, friends significant others) things like weddings and children are an easy topic of conversation. I don’t think it is helpful to assign some terrible intentions (or secret personal woes) to people trying to make conversation with you.

    If you don’t want to talk about having children just say “I’d rather not talk about that” and suggest a new topic. . .

    • Anneke Oosterink

      Yeah, so many people have infertility issues, and even more have had miscariages so it’s a very painful topic to talk about for a very large percentage of the population. If you wanna discuss kids, do that with people who have them, or people you know well enough to know that they want them. Otherwise shut up. I don’t think I would be able to keep it together if someone I vaguely knew were to just point blank ask me when the kids are coming. I am seeing therapist over this, I am not doing well. Asking me about it is honestly super triggering (for lack of a better word, it’s not PTSD, but I am legit crying right now as I type). I mean, I can deal most of the time, but this is not a topic for chit chat.

  • Rachelle

    I actually got pressured into telling my MIL that we were trying when a family member asked in front of her when we were having kids (already knew we wanted them). I just casually said hopefully pretty soon and she point blank asked “Are you trying?” I was sort of caught off guard and said um, well I don’t think MIL knows this yet, but yeah. Thankfully it happened pretty soon after that because I was so worried about getting questions that delve way too far into our sex life than I’d prefer to discuss!

  • Ugh my dad’s side of the family keeps asking about this (well, they keep asking my sisters, I don’t live in the same state so I see them a lot less). I don’t mind if people ask when it comes up in a conversation that is relevant (like if we are talking about future life plans and goals, it is relevant to a 5/10 year plan but don’t just start asking all the time randomly! Or if we were talking about how cute children or babies are. Or something like that?) But because it is my dad’s side of the family, I don’t have to have a polite response (as long as it isn’t outright cruel) so I just say whatever sarcastic thing comes off the top of my head. Usually I say something along the lines of “oh wait, I thought I already had one. Darn, I must have forgotten to bring it/her/him/the child.” or “tomorrow. I am having a baby tomorrow, can’t you tell” (when clearly I am not 9 months pregnant… I used this one a lot before I was engaged when people asked me when I was getting married) or dramatically yell NEVER (even though I am planning on having kids) and pretend to fall to the floor. It gets the point across that I don’t want to talk about it and they probably shouldn’t have asked it. And if they are being rude I will be rude too.
    I mean, though, I think it is fine to bring up if it is relevant to the conversation and you are talking to someone you are close to (like I am very close to most of my family even if there are a lot so they might not all know since I haven’t had time to have personal conversations with everyone since I got married/grownup etc), as long as if they say they don’t want to talk about it, you just let the conversation move on and don’t bring it up again.

  • Sarah McClelland

    This is a hard thing, and one I have been biting my nails over for a while now…
    It’s tough because we are zeroing in on a timeline(Holy WOW! 6 MONTHS!) to begin the whole TTC process, but we both work in VERY public positions(we each pastor a church in communities where church is a big part of life) and there’s a part of me that would love to talk this whole process out- ask women close to my age about doctors in the area and choices… And just… I don’t know. Process externally? Get advice?
    I guess it’s one of those easy-to-bring-up, conversation-starting things around here… As folks over 25 without children we are decidedly in the minority. And we’re both pretty open about wanting kids eventually. I just don’t want the question from everybody, or want it every month until something happens, and my lack of poker face gives it away, or until we are ready to say.
    We’ve been pretty open about the fact that I’m part time so I will have time for baby, and when we moved into our house we chose the bedroom that has another bedroom close enough to be a nursery. But I still feel like my uterus and the eventual choices we make will be judged super harshly and I don’t know how to deal with that.

  • jubeee

    I am 35 and 30 weeks pregnant. The first question I always get is “when are you having another?’ To which I respond “Is that required?” They really don’t get my not so subtle clues that its none of their business when and how many children I have, I often hear “Oh you must have more, its all that you’ll want after you have your first.” Sorry, not for me. Leave me alone.

  • Prue

    This! On my first day back at the office after my honeymoon I had a colleague come up and put her hand on my belly doing a ‘baby bump’ check while I was sitting at my desk working away…I mean what! How is this even thought of as being acceptable.

    • Eh

      Before I got engaged my coworkers used to do “ring” checks. Someone would have lost an arm if they ever did “baby bump” checks. I hated people touching my belly while I was pregnant. Very few people touched my belly while I was pregnant so my stern glare clearly worked.

    • Ashlah

      Oh my god, that is so inappropriate.

  • anon for this

    What Chalk said. It’s a good response to any overly personal question.

    And sometimes (often?) people aren’t trying to be rude or hurtful, they just don’t realize that it is a sensitive thing. As someone dealing with miscarriage and secondary infertility, sometimes I do answer more honestly or openly (or bluntly). Depends on the person and the relationship and my sense of the conversation. If they’re just making conversation, I often figure out a way to move on without saying anything much. [e.g.: Maybe, maybe later, we have other things to deal with first…]

    On the other hand, one of my colleague’s response to the same question was “about a year after the last time you ask.”

    And also…there’s a lot of paths to “having kids” should you decide you want them…

  • RageFace

    Ugh I hate this. Mr Rage and I don’t want kids and everyone keeps telling us all the “you will change your mind” and “it’s different if they’re your own” like they know us and when I challenge those opinions it becomes “the lady doth protest too much”. I hate people.

  • Megan

    My MIL, after showing her pictures of my baby nieces, stated to me, in front of the family, “This is such a tease! I’m going to need a baby in another year or two.” To which I high-fived her and said, “you go girl! I’d love another brother or sister in-law!” The look on her face was worth $$$. Wish I’d taken a pic…