Last year I turned twenty-seven. This year Michael and I will celebrate our fifth year as a married couple. Which means, of course, that the questions have started. For the first time since Michael and I started dating, the conversation in my family has shifted from “Dear God, please just don’t get pregnant” (My mom was eighteen when she had me, and Michael and I started dating in high school. It was pretty much the only rule in our house) to “When are you going to have babies?!” In fact, this past Christmas, I found out at dinner that my sister and aunt were placing bets as to whether or not I was already pregnant, supported by the evidence that I was the only one not chasing my McGriddle with mimosas (even my unrefined taste buds can’t stomach André before 1PM.)
To be fair, I haven’t been helping myself in the situation. (I think I told Michael’s mom that all I wanted for Christmas was to hold a baby. Whoops.) While we’ve talked at length on APW about the decision to have kids, or not, we haven’t really dug into what it feels like when you want kids, just… not yet. Longtime APW reader Brooke, sent us this email:
I can’t tell you how often I’m being questioned or forced to justify the fact that we haven’t made children a priority yet. Actually, I can tell you. At least once a week on a good week, sometimes as frequently as daily.
Initially, I brushed it off. “Haha, we just got married. Everyone is excited for us. They want to see us take the Next Step.” As time went by, it became a little more uncomfortable. Why were people still asking? Why did we need to keep them updated as to whether or not our plans had changed? What if we WERE trying and were having difficulty? Would I have to tell them that? Do I owe ANYONE an explanation?
Just this week, I was reminded yet again as a family member announced her pregnancy, and was met with cries of elation and my own mother running out to the store to buy baby gifts. My mother, who has expressed nothing but a lack of understanding and displeasure at our choice to wait to have children.
For some reason, it felt like a complete betrayal. Why is it not acceptable to ask a couple to justify their reasons for bringing a child into this world, but it’s fine to subject couples who wait to an inquisition? And then, as happens so frequently and is even worse, to attempt to invalidate their reasons for waiting or choosing to remain childless. The imbalance in our cultural dialogue regarding childfree couples is disheartening, bordering on disgusting.
As for us, Michael and I have never waffled on our desire to have kids. We’ve hit a point where we feel emotionally ready for children, and are giving it some time for our finances to catch up and to get in some solo travel. In the meantime, I offer up my babysitting services to Meg and David so they can have date night and I can get my kid fix. And we’re okay with this.
But in the meantime, what do you do about everyone else? On the one hand, I can understand. Nobody gets more excited about the possibility of loved ones having babies than I do. But do we really have to spend the next few years of our lives giving the pat line about how I’ll have a baby when I get all the laundry off my floor? (A feat I haven’t accomplished since I left home for college, so it buys me time.) I’m not sure there is much to do except grin and bear it, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. (And don’t get me started on when people ask these questions and you’re actively trying to have a baby and it’s not working. I seethe.) So let’s talk about how we’re dealing. Come with your most hilarious anecdotes, good advice, and coping strategies. I don’t think we’re ever going to succeed in getting people to stop asking, but maybe we can make it feel a little less invasive when they do. I want cheeky ways of telling people to eff off, y’all. And maybe a little mutual solidarity.