How can I politely tell people that my reproductive goals are none of their business?

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By: Hey Paul StudiosCC BY 2.0
As my husband and I decided that this pack of birth control pills would be the last (for a while), I found myself confronted with an awkward situation. Random people (co-workers, clients, etc.) asking me in one form or another if I was thinking about having a baby yet (“Anything in the works yet?”).

I find this to be perplexing. I told them the truth (NO — it’s really not yet, but I don’t want to say that), but started wondering about what I would say in four or ten weeks when there might possibly be “something in the works.” For some friends and family, I have no issue telling them where we’re at. But for the woman I interact with over the phone three times a year for work purposes, I’m not really comfortable telling you I’m trying.

I don’t want to lie, but what do you say to people who ask if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant when you aren’t yet pregnant but are trying… without being totally rude? — Hannah

Comments on How can I politely tell people that my reproductive goals are none of their business?

  1. I’m fairly certain when someone asks “is something in the works” they aren’t asking if you are trying, they are asking if you are pregnant. I have no polite way of saying no other than, laughing and changing the subject so they maybe get a clue. Personally if someone was annoying me I’d say something along the lines of “well my husband and I are doing our part” and let the stunned awkwardness of that silence them and perhaps prevent further questions. But, like I said, I’m not really all that polite.

  2. I think keeping it light and vague is the best way to go about it. “Oh, I don’t know, we’ll see!” That shuts up most people. If they insist, you can tease them – “Wow, you seem very interested! You’ll be the first to know, I’ll keep you posted.”

  3. i’ve dealt with this a lot, and it’s gone poorly. my husband’s friend’s wife (who i am NOT chummy with, more than passing politeness) emailed me twice last year asking me if i was pregnant, and suggesting that if i wasn’t i should use the ovulation strips from amazon that she used. i mentioned to this person *once* (a long time ago) that my husband and i weren’t certain if we’d be having children (just undecided), and apparently that’s a gateway for her to ask about my uterus out of the blue.

    i responded to her emails rather frankly with “If I choose to to have a child, I will let you know.” what i really wanted to say was, “STFU! What I choose to do with my body is none of your concern.”

    after the second inquiry, i just started blocking her.

    best of luck!

  4. Mind ur own effing business would work for me. I get asked all the time if I plan on another one and people don’t just take yes or no as an answer, then you have to explain why. Tell them you don’t ask about their sex life so they shouldn’t ask about yours

  5. When I had people ask me this I would simply respond with “We are having so much fun practicing!” That shut people up right away, somehow acknowledging that sex is what causes pregnancy embarrasses most people that ask that sort of question.

    • Omg, I’m so using this the next time my MIL suggests to us that this is a good year for girls. She has 3 sons and 2 grandsons but only daughters-in-law. She wants a chance to raise a girl which, honestly, makes me want to suggest she have her own. I fully intend to raise any daughters I might have myself, and not just drop them with Mawmaw ( I wish I could change that, it sounds too much like mama for my comfort) while I go play. I think she got the wrong idea when her middle son had the first grand baby at the ripe old age of 20, and left him with her while he went to play and be a kid.

  6. Try to stay calm about it, and not take things people say personally. They just want to connect with you on some level by talking about your personal life. I would just say something like the above comment. “We’ll see!” “Maybe!” or “I’ll keep you posted” If they keep asking for real details, just don’t say anything or laugh and change the subject.

  7. tell people you are “thinking about it”, then wink and walk away. I also agree with Tres. That answer also usually makes people flush and walk away.

  8. It’s not any of their business. I always hated when people would ask me. That’s when you say “That question could potentially get you into an awkward conversation!” or the old stand-by “So, how about that local sports team?”

  9. Man, I got this ALL the time immediately after the wedding. Everywhere we turned there was the “When are the babies coming?” and “Are you pregnant? Are you pregnant?” Pretty regularly.

    My response was typically absurdist; I replied to everyone with “YES, I am going to have 5 fat babies and name them all Dave. They shall be known as ‘The Daves’.”
    This probably doesn’t help you any, and it’s hard when pregnancy somehow became a public interest, but it’s definitely fun.

    • This made me laugh so hard!! I have had the same thing happen to me ever since the day of our wedding. We just (within the last two weeks) decided to go from “not trying not to” to intentionally trying to conceive, complete with charting and all.

      The thing that actually makes me even crazier is when the whole baby thing comes up and people are like, “Oh you should wait until you’ve been married for at least a year.” We’ve only been married for 4 months, but we’ve been together for 6 years and we are ready. Thanks for your opinion..

  10. I work at a childcare center with 3month-12month olds. Most of my moms are my age. They’re constantly asking when I’m going to give them a baby to playmate with.

    My answer when they ask (or anyone else for that matter) is “Oh, haha, I already have 8 babies! But then I go home to a full nights sleep! Can’t beat that deal!”

    • I do the same thing. I run a childcare program and work in a 2nd grade classroom- when the parents started asking after I got married a few years ago (and are still asking!) I say “I’ve got 22 beautiful children! And at the end of the day, I send them back to you!” It works pretty well.

  11. You do not have to be polite. The goal is to not encourage this line of questioning. If you ‘give them hope’ by saying “soon!” or etc, then they will keep asking. So as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock would say, “Shut it down.”

    That is, just think of a quick, pat reply.

    “We want to get out of debt first.” And/or:
    “No, we want to AT LEAST do X first” (Climb Mount Everest, buy a house, finish grad school, travel to Eurpoe, etc…)
    “Eventually, but not right now.”
    “We want to at least be married for X years first.”
    “Probably not.” (Even if your real answer is ‘probably yes’).

    Then if you are pregnant, you can say “surprise!” πŸ™‚ You do not “owe” any person an explanation.

    • You do not have to be polite. The goal is to not encourage this line of questioning.

      THIS. I know people usually mean nothing more than small talk by it, but it’s a line of questioning that’s a bit annoyingly intrusive at best and very, very painful at worst, and I wish more people understood that. I am dealing with a slightly different situation, in that we want kids but can’t have them, and this is not information that we have shared nor intend to share with anyone we know. I usually start with a “Not right now.” and a topic change, but people who won’t take the hint get a series of increasingly curt dismissals.

      • I think the biggest realization I’ve had since becoming a mother and watching several of my friends become pregnant OR struggle through infertility is that THAT question is so incredibly and ridiculously personal. When you ask it so flippantly just to fill a conversation, you have NO IDEA what that woman is going through. Maybe she just had a miscarriage or found out last week that she is going to have to endure expensive treatments to have a child or maybe she’s just been turned down as an adoptive mother. You never know what is lurking under the surface. So insensitive.

        • Or maybe she’s found out she’ll never be able to have her own.
          Of course, I have put my foot in my mouth before when an acquaintance had a miscarriage. I should have seen the signs, but I was in the throes of a tough semester and just missed them so she had to tell me. I was horrified that I hadn’t been more sensitive.

    • YES on not having to be polite.

      I’d suggest, with a raised eyebrow and a disapproving tone, “That’s a rather… personal question, isn’t it?” with the implication that the asker is being unbearably rude, and you are doing them a favor by not being completely horrified at the question!

      With any luck this will get them to back off not just of you, but of any other pregnant people that might cross their path.

    • I’ve found that when I use the “we want to wait until x” – I get the “well, there’s never a perfect time to have a baby”. I’d go with a “nope”. Even if you are – serves them right for putting their nose where it doesn’t belong! πŸ™‚

      • I agree; I would never say “well we are waiting for this or that”…its none of their damn business and I don’t offer explanations for private matters. I might reply with “WHY?! ARE YOU?! OMG YOU ARE, ARENT YOU?! YAYYYY!!!!” This might shut them up for good. πŸ˜‰

    • I get this question a lot (EVEN THOUGH I MARRIED TO A LADY. YOU’D THINK THAT WOULD SHUT IT DOWN IN AND OF ITSELF.) and I use the “Yeah, someday” tactic to try and shut it down.

      And then people think they can pry into exactly HOW we would have children one day and I go cry in the corner.

  12. I share your frustration. We are actually trying, but it hasn’t happened so far, and as the months pass these questions get more annoying, not less. Generally, if someone asks if we’re trying, I give a shocked look and answer “Not at this particular moment!” I’ve had some people pry farther, and gone with “If we have any news, we’ll let you know”. I try to say that politely but firmly, since too much of a jokey tone seems to make people think that the topic is still open.

  13. I generally say, “Well, we hope to have kids sometime in the next couple of years.” (Substitute whatever time period works for you.) Then, whether it’s a month from now or two years from now, it’s still a true statement. If they push it, I just try to change the subject.

    • This what I said too (I’m 7 months pregnant now, so the gig is pretty much up on the trying). Whenever I would be asked, I would say, “oh, we’re hoping to have kids in the next few years.” I didn’t usually get any follow-up off of that. Amusingly, despite the fact that I had told my mother-in-law some variation of this several times, when we told her we were having a baby, she was totally surprised (but happy) and said “I didn’t think you guys were going to have kids.”

  14. I feel you. Because I’m not very good at coming up with these one liners (some great examples here) and the truth is easier for me, I tend to want to answer honestly whenever someone asks me a question. But really, when they ask an inappropriate question, you do not owe them an honest answer. They are crossing boundaries and invading your private space and you have the right to protect that private space – you don’t owe them any answer at all. So I usually just say, “No” or “Who knows” and change the subject.

    If it comes out that you were pregnant and not sharing it yet, if someone is offended, that’s just too bad. Most reasonable people won’t be offended and understand a pregnant woman not wanting to share the news until the danger of miscarriage is past. When you decide to share your pregnancy (and any details of the pregnancy like the baby’s sex, name, etc.) are all your personal business and up to you.

    I am pregnant and fending off questions about the babies’ names (yes, it’s twins). And I just say point blank – we’re not sharing them yet.

    • Ugh! Me too! (re: the baby’s name) My husband and I both work with teenagers and sometimes younger kids. Some days I’m asked 20 times a day what Bean’s name is. And there’s the repeat offenders, who ask once a week. I’m NOT telling you! We haven’t even told our parents and when I tell the kids that, they’re like “Oh, but I’m your favorite student!” Um, no, you’re not and I’m not telling you anyway. I’ve said point blank “We’re not sharing,” and they still ask and ask and ask. Grr. I know they’re excited. But it’s really getting to me. I’ve finally just started saying it’s the name of whatever kid is currently asking me. That seems to shut them up better. Go figure.

      • I totally get where you’re coming from! I work with college students, and while most of them are respectful, some seem to have a hard time with boundaries. Fortunately, I’m their boss, so I can say, “That’s a very personal question, and I’m not going to answer that because…” Though I do think the tactic of using that person’s name is hilarious!

  15. My favorite response was “someday, but not today! ” And, if they persisted I’d keep going “today would be bad, after work I have to run a few errands then there is the bonfire at my friend’s tonight, then I want to watch the late show…so today, today would be bad”. That usually shut people up πŸ™‚

  16. I generally find that the best way to deal with an intrusive question is to not acknowledge it, and abruptly change the subject ( as in the ‘how’s the local sports team?’ mentioned above.) This lets the other person know that the subject is not up for discussion.

    If the questioner persists, then ‘the look’ is called for.

    Step three is very simple, a firm, yet polite, “That subject is not up for discussion.” Smile. Change the subject. Repeat if necessary.

  17. When people asked me earlier this year if I was pregnant…I flatly said, No. Or I said that we were waiting until we could buy a house.

    Sometimes I would say ‘it’s too early to tell!’

    I continued to use the latter phrase until the end of my first trimester…I am now 22 weeks pregnant!

  18. If a person is really getting on your nerves with intrusive questions, you could try, “Oh, enough about me – let’s talk about you! When are going to >insert overly-personal life event here<?!"

    I've been getting a lot of "Are you pregnant?"s and raised eyebrows lately because my husband and I are trying to conceive and so I've given up drinking (except for a couple beers on that one week out of the month when I know I'm not pregnant – silver lining!) It's unusual for people to see me out and about socially without a beer in my hand, and when I reach for the ginger ale at a BBQ you might as well insert a record screeching noise into the soundtrack! I don't want to make a big deal out of the fact that we're trying, because I KNOW that would lead to lots of awkward questions, but still people manage to piece it together. Thankfully the friends we're closest with and see most often are really great about just raising an eyebrow, saying, "A ginger ale… comin' right up" and nodding conspiratorially without getting all into our business.

  19. I’m a fan of the “bean-dip”. Say something vague, like “We’re talking about it/ Nothing definite yet” And then abruptly change the topic (i.e. “Have you tried the bean-dip? It’s wonderful!”) If they keep pressing, just keep bean-dipping. Eventually they give up. If they don’t, it’s perfectly okay to excuse yourself from the convo or tell them you don’t want to discuss it any further.

  20. My standard response was something like, “Nothing to report!” or “No news yet!” I also didn’t want to lie and say I wasn’t pregnant, but I figured this wasn’t lying. I don’t have news because I’m not telling people yet/at all. If/when I wanted to share, then I would spread the news!

    I think I may have been guilty of asking these questions before I was ever pregnant but I will never ask anyone again. Seriously, if someone is pregnant and wants you to know, I bet she will find a way to tell you.

    • There’s a lady at my office that just had her second. I didn’t find out for sure, though I could do the math and women typically only gain weight like that during a particular life stage, until December. The amazing thing is she headed up the fundraising for and even participated in Heart Walk the previous month. I’m not sure I’d be able to do that at 6months pregnant… Of course, I’m basing that assessment of my sisters’ pregnancies. One was sick all 9 months of all 4 pregnancies, and the other had the energy of a giant three toed sloth… Not to mention pregnancy brain.

  21. I have had similar questions since I got married. I was talking about this with one of my workmates who was married about a year before I was, and has no plans at present to have children. Her answer to date has been “We’ve been trying for so long… (looks away)I think I might be barren”

    My recent comment when ask if I’m pregnant is “I hope not… it means my birth control isn’t working”

    • I used that tactic as well (“… but maybe I CAN’T get pregnant…”) hoping to shame my Mom from repeatedly asking, but she never took the hint. Finally I answered her with “Isn’t it up to God, ultimately?” (She’s uber Christian), and now that I’m a mom she reminds me, every time we talk, of my religious experience. Sigh.

  22. I am often asked intrusive questions about my family by people who don’t know us or only sort-of know us because my kids are adopted and a different race than I am. I find “why do you ask?” to be a response that stops folks in their tracks. I think that would work for this too, and encourage them to have a reason other than idle curiosity before being nosy the next time.

    • This is one of the best responses I have ever heard of, useful for so many things. I am definitely noting this one for future situations. Thanks!

  23. Not an answer to this question, but I decided a few years ago that I would NEVER ask this question to anyone except maybe best friend. The people you ask will fall into three categories:

    (1) working on it and excited about it
    (2) not wanting kids right now, so please STFU
    (3) wanting kids but not getting pregnant, and possibly having a very hard time with that and not wanting to be reminded of something that may be painful

    For two of these three situations, my asking will cause aggravation. If someone is trying/pregnant – and wants me to know – SHE’LL TELL ME.

    • I will add a fourth option: Had a child who is no longer living.

      I decided never to ask this question after my cousin’s first baby was stillborn. Even people asking whether she had any children was a rough experience for her, because she felt she either had to tell the whole story and turn pleasant small talk into a suddenly serious conversation, or lie and deny that her son had ever existed.

      She now has a beautiful daughter and goes through the same difficult situation when people ask, “Is this your oldest?”

      It’s made me incredibly mindful of how intrusive or painful certain questions can be.

  24. Ugh. As someone who works almost entirely with women in their reproductive years and is dealing with infertility challenges this has become my nightmare. I used to always say, “We’re just not there yet.” Then I saw the video on offbeat mama by Keiko Zoll – “What if: a portrait of infertility” and decided there was no reason I had to keep it secret.

    Now, my comment to people that I’d like to shut up is, “Actually I’m infertile. Do you think you’d like to donate your eggs?”

    That pretty much does the trick.

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