5 things to consider before you ask, “when are you having kids?”

Guest post by Minerva Siegel

By: kennycole – CC BY 2.0
By: kennycoleCC BY 2.0

“So when are you having kids?”
“Do you have kids yet?”
“Dogs don’t make a family; you really should have kids soon. Clock’s ticking!”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard those questions, the purse slouched on the chair next to me certainly wouldn’t be knock-off Prada. Questions like these are as common as anything, and can seem so benign that most people don’t think twice about asking them; they might as well be talking about the weather. In actuality, asking why someone doesn’t have kids is impertinent to begin with — because it’s none of your business — besides the fact that these questions are loaded and can be seriously hurtful and triggering.

Other people’s reproduction is none of your business, period. Here’s why…

1. We’re capable of making our own reproductive decisions

Whenever it’s revealed that I’m child-free, I get comments like, “You’ll change your mind” and, “You just haven’t met the right man yet.” Telling women that they’ll change their minds about their decision not to reproduce undermines their intrinsic ability to make basic life decisions, and thus is both disrespectful and rude. Women are perfectly capable of making the logical, reasonable decision to not reproduce after considering any number of valid factors.

To be fair, some women do change their minds about not having kids, and that’s perfectly okay, too! That fact still doesn’t give you license to disrespect women everywhere by telling us that we’re incapable of making logical reproductive decisions.

2. Infertility

A huge portion of the population suffers with fertility issues. Fertility isn’t something you can tell just by looking at someone, so it’s incredibly rude to assume that everyone can have children whenever they want and that, if they don’t have kids, it must just be because they don’t want them. Asking someone who’s struggling with infertility whether or not they have children can be an extremely triggering thing that can not only ruin their day but send them into a tailspin of depression.

I’ve ended up hospitalized regularly since I was about nine years old with bursting ovarian cysts, and other hormone problems, that refuse to be controlled through medication, and I have a tilted uterus. These things combined mean that I’m likely infertile. While I release my maternal feelings by caring for and rescuing animals, and therefore don’t really feel the need to have children of my own, there’s another component that comes into play for me: I know it’s ridiculous, but part of me feels that I’m less of a woman because my body can’t produce a child, and people prying into my reproduction status reminds me of this and makes me feel both offended and sad.

3. Socio-economic factors

Children are extremely expensive. They really are. They’re time-consuming, demanding, and expensive life-long commitments that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Sometimes, couples simply can’t afford them at the moment. Other times, people don’t have children because they don’t want to raise them in the neighborhood they live in. Or they’re waiting to tie up other parts of their lives (that, again, are none of your business) before having them. There are any number of socio-economic factors that can contribute to whether or not someone wants children, and it’s not your place to pry into them.

4. Genetics

A significant amount of child-free people have chosen not to reproduce so as not to pass on certain genetically-inherited traits, conditions, or diseases.

5. Some people just plain-old don’t want kids

Kids are loud little attention-demanding wild things that make everything messy and completely disrupt your life. They also have many good qualities, but some people just plain-old don’t want to deal with any of that. And that’s fine. Many people just don’t want kids personally, which doesn’t mean that they hate children altogether… although, if they did, that’s entirely their prerogative.

People are completely capable of making their own reproductive choices based on a huge amount of different factors. This is why, “When are you having children?” and “You don’t have kids? Your biological clock’s ticking!” are two of the most rude things you can say to someone. If someone doesn’t want to procreate, they shouldn’t ever be made to feel badly for it or like there’s something intrinsically wrong with them for it.

Reproduction is a personal thing, and it’s about time we stop allowing impertinent inquiries into other people’s reproductive statuses to remain common occurrences.

Comments on 5 things to consider before you ask, “when are you having kids?”

  1. My husband and I have been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for a year. Every month that has gone past, my emotional state surrounding pregnancy has gotten more and more volatile. Those close friends and family that are aware of this are very respectful about it. I don’t mind a good-natured inquiry from them every once in a while. It’s the random acquaintances that don’t know anything about our situation who pop up out of the blue and say things like, “You got married 2 years ago. Where are all your babies?” that really get to me.

    • I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all that. Infertility is a shitty but large club. You aren’t alone. May your infertility story be short and have a happy ending.

      • Thank you 🙂 We are both under 30 so have some time to figure this out. My husband and I are both lucky enough to have a strong support group to lean on.

    • I’m really sorry you and your husband are facing this problem. I’m hoping for you there will be a child in your future in whichever way, or that you’ll have the strength to accept your situation in the end.

      Don’t forget to reach out to others with this problem, so you won’t feel totally alone. <3

      • Thank you for the support. It is not a problem I discuss very often and it is nice to know that people have nice things to say about it 🙂

    • I am so sorry to hear about your struggle. I do not want to assume anything about you or your situation, but have you considered trying the Fertility Awareness Method (also known as Natural Family Planning)? I have heard great things about it, although I have no personal experience.

      • Thanks! Might be time to dust off my old Reddit account and actually use it. I will definitely check these subreddits out, because if I hear, “You just want it too badly” as consoling advice one more time, I am going to do something unpleasant.

  2. 1, 3, and 5 are really speak to me.
    1. People don’t question me for other big decisions I’ve made like when I bought a new car, switched jobs, or got engaged. I didn’t get any “Are you sure about that?” “You may regret that some day” or “I bet you’ll change your mind.” So why is the decision to be child-free any different?
    3. Sometimes when people ask a baby related question I ask them where exactly we’d put a baby? We live in a one bedroom apartment. Sure, we’re looking for a house with at least two bedrooms but that second bedroom is going to be my office damn it! Plus, once we do buy a house we definitely won’t have enough surplus income to support a kid!
    5. Don’t want them, don’t like them. Never have. Since I was sixteen I didn’t want them and since I was about … nine, I didn’t like them. Seriously, even when I was a child I could never stand to be around children younger than me. As an adult I can tolerate them, I can be polite, and I can even play with them for short periods of time … but only when there is literally no way I can get out of it.
    This was my favorite “If someone doesn’t want to procreate, they shouldn’t ever be made to feel badly for it or like there’s something intrinsically wrong with them for it.” I feel like some people definitely think there’s something wrong with me for not wanting kids and it’s not even a situation one can turn around. It’s not like I can say “Well, there’s something wrong with you for wanting them!” because of course there isn’t! I just wish it was more of a two way street and that not wanting children was perceived as just as acceptable as wanting them.

    • #2 – my in-laws used to ask us when we lived in a small apartment with no extra space when we were going to have a baby. Once, I was annoyed and said, ‘Does the baby get to live at your house when it’s born? Because there isn’t anywhere to put a baby here! Also, can you pay for it and raise it for us!?’

      • Exactly! I always want to ask them — if you really think I need to have a child, can you fund it? Provide part- or full-time care throughout its life? Send it to college? Provide unwavering emotional support? Because I don’t have the desire, time, or money and I’m not sure why I’m expected to scramble to find these resources for something I don’t want.

        Sometimes I tell friends, “If you feel that strongly about children, you can have two more on my behalf to compensate!” And they laugh and say “no way!”

  3. Also, even if a woman already has one child don’t assume that she can easily have a second one. There may be physical factors (fertility), financial factors (fertility treatments are expensive yo), and emotional factors (going through fertility treatments is rough even before you factor in the hormone shots).

  4. Number one is the worst! I always get extremely pissed off when people tell me that I’ll change my mind. Don’t fucking presume to know me better than I know me! That, in combination with unfavorable genetics and just not really liking kids all that much, I’m pretty sure there will not be any kids for me. I actually would’ve broken up with my fiance if he’d told me that he does want kids.

    Honestly, I’d rather, in the end, regret not having kids than regret having them. You can’t go back and not have them after they’ve been born, so it is my opinion that you need to want them. That can develop during the pregnancy, I’m very aware. But I do not want to take that chance and emotionally damage my child. I’d love them too much for that, if that makes any sense.

    • SO MUCH THIS. I had my neighbour at a recent craft market tell me there was still “plenty of time” and that I “might regret it”. If I didn’t have to stand next to her for the next three hours I may not have been so polite, but I really wanted to say “If I told you that I was going to have kids, considering the massive impact that would have on one’s life, would you have asked if that was the right decision for me?” BET SHE WOULDN’T! imho, I bet a higher percentage of those who choose to be child-free put a DAMN SIGHT more thought into their decision than those who have children.

  5. Loved this! Been married a little over six months now, and I am already so sick of this question. I’m over the rude statements from my brother to my husband about when he’s “going to put a baby in me,” I’m over him asking if we want to do a big group family picture now, or “wait until I’m knocked up,” and I’m over the general questions from people I hardly know asking when we are planning on having kids. I work two jobs, one at a desk, that I’m trying to get out of gracefully, and one as a cook in a high volume trendy restaurant. If I want to progress my career in kitchens, which I do, I’m not really sure when we will be able to have a kid. They are very expensive and take so much time, not to mention the hardship on my body. Am I being selfish? I don’t think so, because I feel like it would be way more selfish to create another human just because it’s what you do after marriage, and then not be able to properly care for our family as a whole.

    • “..just because it’s what you do after marriage” Oh man do I hate that assumption. My husband and I have been married for a little under six months and are in the process of buying a house. So many people at my work have assumed that we’re buying a house so that we have space for babies!
      No, we’re buying a house because we’re sick of renting, I’m sick of my long ass commute, and we want to have a real home. Those extra bedrooms are not for babies, they are for an office and a craft room.

      • Yessss that’s exactly what me and my husband went through when buying our house. It is a 3 bedroom and he has a office, I have a craft room. Unfortunately most of the people we talk to, new nosey neighbors, just love to give us their opinions about how that is a waste of the space. “What a wonderful house for children!!! And it’s right by a park!!” Okay??? Your point is?? More park time for our dogs!!!!!

        • The house that we’re looking at also has a finished basement with a really nice den, and four other rooms. If we WANTED to have kids we could comfortably house four of them each with their own room, and probably about eight if we doubled them up! I actually got a comment of “That’s too much house for just two people. You should look for something smaller so that a FAMILY has a chance at that place.” You know … because my husband and I don’t count as a family if we don’t have children.

      • Next time for sure! Of course his intentions are in the right place, I’m pretty sure he just wants another baby in the family, but it sure does get old. Will be nice to have a way to shut him down quickly in the future!

  6. I love this! I pretty much never get asked this question, but when I do, I pretty much answer with, “Would YOU want to raise a small combination of my husband and me? Because I sure as heck don’t.” If they’ve spent 5 minutes around the two of us, that line either shuts them up or takes the conversation in a completely new direction.

    I love the way this article is written. It’s so open and welcoming to any opinions about kids, including hating them and changing your mind about wanting them. Thank you, OP!

  7. I’d bet these same people don’t have the stones to walk up to a pregnant woman and tell her “you’ll change your mind”.

    Just as big a decision either way, to have kid(s) or not, but people seem to overtly favour one decision over the other.

    Fucks me right off.

    When somebody tells me my biological clock is ticking, I tell them that ticking is the timer on my temper and it is fast running out with this conversation

  8. Planning for a baby, but getting your life and finances in order first? “Oh there’s no perfect time to have a baby!” While that may be true, there are certainly *better* times to have one.

    Also, I’m 34 and whenever anyone mentions concerns about age and pregnancy, I always link to this article – http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/

    In particular: “The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830.”

    That fact blew my mind! I’ve had the article bookmarked since it was published and, while we’re waiting to start trying, I still read it from time to time 🙂

    • This article really improved my morale about the whole situation. I’m at a weird place (but at least it sounds like I’m not alone!) where I’m now in my early 30s, I’ve been married for three and a half years, and my husband and I are doing well enough financially that we would be comfortable with TTC, and we’re planning an out of state move so we can get an actual house and not a crappy condo in a bad neighborhood that’s somehow still Zillowing for half a million dollars (thanks Silicon Valley). The circumstances are pretty good at the moment…

      …Except I really really do NOT want kids right now. Being pregnant sounds awful (I respect that it’s wonderful for a lot of people, but it does not appeal to me in the slightest), and I’ve been babysitting since I was 12 and nannying since college, and I feel like if I have to go through one more round of teething, or teaching a kid how to read/ride a bike/walk/talk, or potty training, or the whining and the messes, etc– I’ll go insane! I used to love my job, and while I still love the kids I work with as if they were my own (been with them off and on for seven years), it’s a struggle to go to work because I don’t like children anymore. Walking down the hallways of the elementary school makes my skin crawl. I want to clap my hands over my ears and run away when some nearby toddler starts tantruming.

      But… I think I’d regret NOT having had kids. I used to love kids. I’ve been “playing Mom” for my entire career, and I have so much experience I’m confident I’d be a good parent. I know every trick in the book when it comes to fibbing preschoolers and tantrum control… and I’m so damn burned out at the moment, yet wrestling with the panic of “but I’m already in my 30s!! What if it gets to be too late??”. And then on the side we get the questions about when we’ll have kids, and we’re among the last of our friends to do so.

      TL;DR that article was immensely reassuring for me, and I imagine it would help others in my situation too. Feeling that there’s more time than I thought for me to choose makes it easier to keep putting off the decision.

      • I’m in a similar situation, but a few years behind.
        Been married a few years, soon to be in a good financial situation, and I’ve always wanted kids. I’ve worked in childcare in some way since I left college. But now…I don’t really want kids anymore.
        But I would regret it if I NEVER had kids. When I’m old and gray, I want adult kids and even maybe grand-kids to surround myself with. But *right now* I have no interest in tantruming toddlers (I get enough of that at work!).
        Thankfully my husband isn’t ready either. We probably won’t consider trying for at least another year, and then it will probably take some time to get pregnant as well. I’m not exactly sure of my fertility situation, but since my cycle is sooo spaced out, well, thats fewer ovulations to work with!
        I think its totally fine to put off the decision. If you don’t REALLY want a kid right now, I don’t think it should be forced. You have time to still decide.

        • you both could possibly consider fostering or adopting older kids. then you would lose the parts you don’t like about toddlers and still get the benefits of having older kids in your life and having a future potential family.

  9. My husband and I had a big picture of us that we had people write messages on at our wedding. It’s beautiful and frames and I will forever treasure it, but also on there is a message from my sister-in-law saying “Now go make us lots of cousins!”.
    FUCK. OFF.

  10. My husband is not enthusiastic about children but would have them if I wanted. I would love to have them, but both he and I have lots of mental illness in our families, including some of the big debilitating ones. We’re also very happy as a duo, and have plenty of little nieces and nephews to love up. If we had an accident, I would be terrified and delighted, but it would be downright irresponsible to conceive on purpose.

    Most of the time I’m okay with our choice not to have children, but some of the time I feel very sad about it. As much as I know it’s absolutely the right choice for us, I still have moments where I get very emotional, like writing this post, or when people ask about it and I’m in the hypersensitive third week of my cycle. I imagine there is a certain amount of grieving to be done for some of the womanly rites of passage I won’t experience, and for the kids I won’t have. They would be so loved! But they would also be at enormous risk of serious suffering. Oh, heartbreak.

    I am grateful to live in a time and a place where I, as a woman, am not forced to spend most of my life pregnant, but having the choice to have a child or not is a huge weight to bear!

    Anybody else in this same mucky childless-by-sort-of-choice camp?

    • I am in the mucky camp after dealing with infertility and the decision not to pursue any of the alternative options available to become a parent. I have commented before on that, so I won’t do that here. I’ll just say that I have often felt “childless-by-sort-of choice”. I have never been able to state it that clearly before, so thank you.
      It was difficult discussing it with others. For close friends, family, and people who were judgmental, we told them that for us, trying to have children was a very expensive game of roulette, with poor odds, not covered by insurance, and played while riding a very emotional roller coaster the entire time, so we had decided to stop. No one questioned us beyond that. As for dealing with new acquaintances, we always say flat out, “we weren’t able to have kids”, and then ask about theirs. People are usually relieved to move on to a safe topic. Most folks don’t mean to be rude and they usually feel awkward, as though they’d mistakenly asked about someone who had died.
      I commented a couple weeks ago that by my 40s, I began to believe I would have found contentment no matter which choice or outcome. Within a day of making that last comment, for the very first time, someone asked me if I had grandchildren. The question hit me hard in two ways. First, (and hardest) I would really like to have grandchildren! A few of my older friends are starting to have them and they are so happy! I am beginning to understand “grandchild fever” and that it might be just as strong as baby fever. I finally understood why mothers can be so relentless about wanting grandchildren. This brought back to the surface of my heart the piece of sadness that may never go away completely. I took the time to think about the sadness & all the ways I’ve grown since I went through baby fever & how I can handle “grand-baby fever” now. Second, I realized that now that I am in my 50’s, I must be starting to show my age. Vain as I am, it provided a distraction from the sadness. I can’t do anything about parenthood at this point, but I can take better care of myself and my appearance!
      In the meantime, I still have friends with young children and it is true that “it takes a village”, not just to raise children, but to have a good life. There are many ways to be connected to a community, parenthood is only one way. I have found happiness sharing in the lives of friends and family of all ages and sharing in the life of our community. Connection is really what it is all about, after all and there are infinite ways to connect with others.

    • I was just going to say the same thing. Miscarriage and infant loss effect a lot of people Getting asked “when are you going to start a family” or “why don’t you have any kids” is very very hard to answer when you’ve been through loss.

  11. The invasiveness about reproduction doesn’t stop once you have a baby, either. I have a young son, and I ride the bus often with him. Because he’s in a stroller, we have to sit in the front of the bus. Oh, the questions I’ve been asked on the bus by total strangers. “Are you still breastfeeding him?” “Did you have a natural birth? (Whatever THAT means)” “How many doctors were in the room when you gave birth?” “Was your husband there?” None. Of. Your. Damn. Business.

    • That was probably me. I think pregnancy and childbirth are the coolest things the human body can do, but I can’t have kids. So I live vicariously through other people’s stories. Sorry!

  12. LOVE THIS!!! We have been married five years and have been asked since day 1 when we are having kids and why we don’t have kids yet. Well, I have been asked- no one ever asks my husband that. Coworkers, family, everyone! We have struggled to start our family- IUIs, two rounds of IVF, a miscarriage, and now we are very cautiously optimistic about this beautiful baby girl who is 23 weeks along inside of me. And I realize this isn’t even “long” in the infertility world. When I was at my worst (around the time of IVF #1, our miscarriage, and a big birthday), every comment about my childlessness was a stab in the heart and a painful reminder of what I so desperately desired. At the time, I was very quiet about what we were going through, so while no one meant harm (since few people knew), it hurt SO much. Now I have “come out” of the infertility and miscarriage closet and it feels good. Every time I tell someone about our pregnancy, I add in a quick “it took us a long time to get here and we had a loss.” It feels so authentic to me to add that, like the story isn’t complete without a little background on the struggle. I’ve been amazed at how many people respond with heir own stories of pregnancy loss or infertility. Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling to say that this article is spot on and very much appreciated.

  13. Great post! One thing people don’t seem to realize is that having children is kind of a thing you can’t un-do. I was reading someone’s Reddit post about this earlier. You can return something that doesn’t work, you can put an item back on the shelf if you don’t want it, you can send food back if it’s too salty and you can walk out of a movie if it’s not doing anything for you. You can’t exactly do that with children – they’re kind of final. There’s no reset button if you decide kids aren’t for you. My mother-in-law has actually tried saying “I bet you’ll like it if you try it” concerning motherhood. My first thought was “she sounds like she’s trying to get me to eat brussel sprouts.” She leaves my husband and I alone mostly, but occasionally, she’ll forget that we’ve mentioned dozens of times “no kids – just pets.” And that’s when I have to cut her off and tell her “Mom, I know you’re trying to be nice, but [husband] and I have said plenty of times that we are NOT having children. Please respect that and stop asking us.”

  14. I learned a lonnnng time ago not to ask questions about other people’s reproductive plans but unfortunately I had to learn that as an adult. Although lots of other “too personal” fences were explained to me as a child, this wasn’t one of them. In fact, practically the opposite was true. There were social situations were you were expected to ask, like a bridal shower. Not asking would almost be rude because it would indicate a lack of interest in that person as a whole.
    So on behalf of my generation, I apologize to anyone who was made uncomfortable by nosy reproductive questions.
    And if you’re reading this and have children, make sure you take the time to teach them these questions are out of bounds, just like asking how much money somebody has or how much they weigh.

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