What questions do you always ask other parents and then immediately regret?

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There are a few questions that I always find myself asking other parents — whether or not the answer is something that’s interesting, let alone worth discussing. The number one is (in the case of parents and their kid) “Who do you think he/she looks like?”

It’s not really a big deal: this is something that a LOT of people do. The reason it irks me when I do is that in the case of biological kids, the question is kind of silly: obviously the kid is going to look like one parent or both. There aren’t really THAT many answers. It’s also a question that can yield a potentially awkward answer: what if a kid’s adopted and I don’t know it? Do the parents just have to bullshit?

I think questions like this do serve one great purpose: they’re an easy way to start conversation between parents who don’t know one another very well. However, the potential negative response (especially in regards to who is a biological parent of a child, adoptive families, and LGBT families), totally outweigh the possibility that you’ve found a way to engage someone else in conversation for five minutes.

There are plenty of questions like this: I asked everyone on Facebook if they ever catch themselves asking something that isn’t necessary, and here’s what I got back:

winter babies
Keren: I have twins and always get “Do twins run in your family?” It always bothers me. And for some reason it’s always my first question when I meet other twin parents. Its such a rude question but I cant help myself.
Jen: I cannot resist chatting up parents who made similar choices to me. Babywearing and cloth diapering are common topics, but I was changing dipes next to someone once and said, “Oh, you didn’t circumcise your baby, either!”. *facepalm*
The sexy baby-wearing daddy
Katie: [It] only happened once but I asked a baby-wearing mama in an airport bathroom her pee strategy with the baby in the ergo and immediately regretted it/turned bright red.
{24 Weeks}
Andrea: I stupidly asked a coworker once when she announced her pregnancy, “Were you trying?” — which is basically asking, did you use a condom? So awkward.
Naked Time!
Laura B: [I ask] things like “Do you cloth diaper?” and “Are you still nursing?” Obviously these are things I don’t need to know, it’s more like… I couldn’t/didn’t do these things and I want to know more information about those who are doing them. [It] tends to sound awkward, though.

Tell me: what other questions like this do you guys find yourselves asking?

Comments on What questions do you always ask other parents and then immediately regret?

  1. Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t find any of those questions awkward. Except maybe the circumcising comment, that’s an odd one. I think parenting is such a universal “binding together” thing so I don’t mind questions asked of me, nor do I think any of those are awkward. My response to “who does the baby look like” has always been “I think they look like themselves” because I honestly can’t see resemblances very well in my girls even though I’ve been told they are like “mini me’s” of me.

    • I don’t find those question as awkward or rude either! even the “Who does he/she look like” one, because I think a lot of the time children pick up on their parents mannerisms pretty fast and copy them. My son ended up looking like my best friend for a long time because he idolized him so much that he picked up a tonne of his mannerisms, even speech inflections. ts an interesting thing.

      I also think that as moms, particularly moms of small children, you expect certain questions, and a lot of the time it’s nice to share your knowledge or choices with other moms.

  2. I wish MORE people regretted asking variation of “Were you trying?” None of your business, folks! If the parents volunteer, fine, but if they don’t tell, don’t ask!

    • I’m really bad about assuming all babies were accidents, since most of the people I know didn’t plan to have babies when they did and we are still happily child free. Sometimes it comes across like “Oh, I’m shocked you wanted and love your child!” but that’s totally not my intent.

  3. I get excited when I see another ring sling moms bc not many ppl use them where I live. The moms never seem to mind though when I ask questions. Maybe it’s a babywearing thing:) Oh and I asked the pee question re:ergo in bathroom before too! Hahaha

      • I’ll go! When you wear a baby on the front, the bathroom is tight but do-able, as long as the waist-band of the Ergo is really on your waist and not your hips. I had a LOT of practice going to the bathroom with the baby on my lap, since for the first six months or so, Matteo would scream whenever I’d put him down.

        But now, I usually use my own bathroom breaks as a time to take the kid out of his carrier & check his diaper too.

      • Then there’s the variation when the baby’s on the back. Either hope the seat is elongated and you can squeeze in there, or attempt the rear seat method and hope no one notices your feet are pointing in the wrong direction!

      • Baby wearing to the bathroom gets really tricky when you’re still rocking the maternity jeans… the kid is much smaller which helps, but I wore maternity jeans for 3-4 months postpartum and having elastic up to your belly button makes getting your pants on and off underneath your ergo or wrap rather tricky.

  4. The standard “greeting” between unknown parents at the local indoor playcentre which I take the children I nanny to is “how old is he/she?”
    People ask before they’ve even said hello or introduced themselves, it seems to be the very odd icebreaker around here!

    • Yup, that’s how most conversations at the park start too. It was esp. amusing when I used to babysit my niece who is 3 months older than my daughter. People thought they were twins all the time. They’re (obviously) not identical, but do share a strong family resemblance. I used to love the look of confusion that would pass on peoples’ faces in between me answering, “15 and 18 months”, and then adding, “They’re cousins.” It was cute, and never bothered me.

      • I know a few moms of premature babies and the comments on age and guessing of age can be really annoying among them. Some who were carrying their babies were even ased if they were carrying a doll because the babies were so tiny. And they were like: yeah sure, i am a grown up person wearing a baby doll bc it’s fun ?! In this situation, age and development can be a sensitive topic.

  5. I often find myself asking parents I don’t know very well if their baby is good for them. I don’t even know why as I hated to be asked this myself! What are the chances that someone is going to turn around to a near stranger and say “actually, my kid’s a little brat”!?

  6. I’m still trying to learn not to ask, “Is he/she your first?” My cousin’s first baby was stillborn, and she now has a daughter and gets this question all the time, along with “Is she an only child?” She says she wavers between telling the truth, which immediately turns a lighthearted conversation somber and makes the other person apologetic, and just lying and saying yes, which seems like an insult to her son.

    • Thanks for bringing this up! It seems like the kind of question I would ask without considering how loaded it can be. Thanks for keeping my foot out of my mouth.

    • This is SUCH a hard one! I have a hard time answering the question, “do you have any children” because I’ve only had one child, a son who was stillborn. It’s a perfectly innocent question, but it’s a hard one to answer honestly.

    • Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I think if I were in that situation, my answer to “is she your first” and “is she an only child” would be, “She’s the oldest!”

  7. ” Who’s the father?” Whenever someone I know announces she’s pregnant, the first thing that comes to me is this question, which leads to some serious killer eyes when they are in a long lasting relationship, hehe.

  8. I ALWAYS ask: Who does your family say he/she looks like? or some variation…. I never thought this would be embarassing because people love to talk about their babies.

  9. I think the “Who does he look like?” question is almost universal. I was surprised when living in Japan and my Japanese friends who just had a baby would ask me, “Who do you think she looks more like, me or her?”

  10. Hey guys: I’d really like to keep this focused on awkward/funny questions YOU ask other parents — not stuff that other people ask that is annoying or frustrating. Thanks!

  11. This is so hard. I usually ask how old the other kid is because it seems like the only inoffensive thing to ask. So after that it’s usually awkward and quiet and I just hope the kids will do something we can talk about. Maybe instead we need an article about “How to start inoffensive conversations with other parents.” (I am sure not qualified to write it)

    • OOH! That’s an interesting idea! Part of the idea behind this is that I almost always use “who do you think he/she looks like” as an icebreaker with parents I don’t know. It’s not an offensive question necessarily, but it’s also not a meaningful one. This is definitely similar to what we touched on in How do you find offbeat mama friends?… making friends as an adult = hard. Making conversation with other parents who might also be your friends = very hard indeed.

  12. I seem to be more likely to overshare than ask awkward questions… I saw another mom using a nipple shield once and had practically given her my whole nursing history with latching difficulty and how I finally got my baby to latch before she set me straight that she was just getting over thrush and didn’t have any difficulty latching at all. Oops.

  13. since moving to Cali, I’ve had to learn not to ask “oh! is your baby adopted?!” when I see a clearly different ethnicity than just the one parent I see. I always ask out of wanting to know more on the type of adoption (open or closed) as I have an open adoption with my daughter and her parents (I’m the birth mom). When I placed I lived in Florida and it was more likely to be an adoption than here in Cali where there is such a great diversity that its hard to tell unless you see both parents.

  14. I asked a lady who works in my office how much weight she gained with her pregnancy. I forgot that it’s usually NOT ok to ask a woman about weight. We were talking about having to buy transitional cloting for work etc. Still… kinda rude.

  15. I tend to not ask any questions but I do tend to stare kind of creepy like. I want to hold babies but I’m always too shy or feel awkward asking… when it’s a family member or friend since it is seen as rude to grab a stranger’s baby. So, I always look at the baby out of the corner of my eyes silently begging the parent to suggest that I hold the baby.
    I asked my sister once how giving birth was since our other sister had to do C-section both times. Not a regretable question untill I realized we were in a room full of my brother-in-law’s nieces and nephews.

    • Oh my goodness, I do this all the time!!!!! I love babies, and they tend to like me too because I have crazy hair that’s fun to pull and ample boobage (I’ve held many newborns who have tried to suckle while I’m holding them) but I’m always too nervous to ask if I can hold someone else’s baby. So then I just look longingly at them and I feel like a bit of a creeper. I think it stems from a fear of offending their parents or overstepping boundaries. There seems to be a lot of ettiquette around babies and parents that seems complex and daunting to child free peeps like me!

  16. I used to CONSTANTLY ask other parents if their babies were sleeping through the night, or when they started — I was struggling so much with Matteo (who wasn’t sleeping at all mostly because I was stubbornly trying to keep co-sleeping despite all signs that it wasn’t working for us) that I was looking for any sign of hope or commiseration — either would do!

    I think that a lot of these “stupid questions” from parent-to-parent usually have to do with trying to find common ground, advice, or solutions to whatever kid-problems are occupying our minds!

  17. I’ve only ever asked, “How old is she/he?” and feel it’s a pretty good, safe question.

    Somebody once asked me, out of the blue: “Did you get your son circumcised?” I just said, “Nope.” I knew I was supposed to follow up with, “How about your son?” but I just didn’t want to know the answer or really anything about the kid’s penis. So there was an awkward pause and I think the other mom was a bit embarrassed.

  18. I asked a pregnant coworker how much time she was planning to take off to be with the baby. I was just wondering how we’d divide the workload in her absence, but I think it came off sounding judgey. From the tone of her response I knew I’d unwittingly wandered into “Mommy War” territory.

  19. You know, I would actually prefer “Who do you think he looks like?” rather than people just jumping in with “Oh he looks just like you!” I personally think he looks a lot like his dad. Since we’re poly and there is a (remote) possibility that he was fathered by someone else, I’m pretty defensive about the fact that he looks like his dad. Although it is privately amusing when someone comments “He looks just like Daddy” when I’m out with my boyfriend. We’re just like “Yeah, he does” and smile. They don’t need to know; unless we’re feeling sadistic and WANT to make people awkward.

    • Hmm … I meant this as a “I don’t think that’s a bad question” comment, but may have accidentally made it a griping about other people comment. Uh … feel free to delete? I can’t really tell.

  20. I almost always ask how old the baby is… partly because I can never tell and partly because I have an interest in knowing how my child might look/act at a certain age.

  21. One of the first things I always ask about babies is if they sleep well, or are they sleeping through the night. I always regret it as soon as it’s out of my mouth because I HATED being asked that question that question when my son was a bay. My son didn’t start sleeping through the night til he was 18 months and I was so tired by then.

  22. I once asked a lady in a crunchy local store, who was obviously nursing her toddler, “Oh, is he still nursing?” Duh, and it made me sound like I was being judgey when I was just trying to be supportive. Post-partum, when I was still loopy with sleeplessness and depression, I would also ask a lot of “Are you going to XX?” questions of pregnant friends, which I hated when I was pregnant, but couldn’t stop myself from doing.

  23. I am totally responsible for asking so many of the question people say they dislike! LOL, I would be the one asking about the intact foreskin, but mostly because I don’t meet a lot of other non-circumcising parents where I live. I guess I just see these things as legit to ask, but I am a nurse and get kinda nitty-gritty sometimes… I ask about twins being “natural” or from fertility drugs etc and I ask about how old babies are or were they planned. I am all up in your business! What are we supposed to talk about?

  24. I straight up asked a friend’s sister if she was pregnant in a room full of people. It wasn’t entirely out of the blue, but as soon as the question was out of my mouth, I felt like a jackass and immediately apologized. Not a question you ask someone you barely know in front of her family. Ugh.

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