“When are you going to have kids?”
As a childfree woman in her mid to late thirties, I’ve been asked “that” question (and similar ones) multiple times in all kinds of situations. It’s not really surprising at all.
But I’m not here to tell you my story. I’m here to share some behind-the-scenes stories I’ve heard of women who don’t have children. I want to be their voice for a minute when so many times they are afraid or embarrassed to speak for themselves. When so many times she struggles with finding the answer to that question you just asked.
Although this is mostly about childfree women, I must say this can also be a shoutout to all women, with or without children, because it’s all about choices!
Most importantly, I’m here to tell you why you need to stop asking “that” question in general. I want you to be very mindful and sensitive before asking any kind of personal questions, but “that question” specifically when you are talking to women who are married or in a stable, long relationship but have no kids.
Some of you might be wondering, “Sweet Lord, why is it so bad to ask something so simple?”
I know it is a “simple” and “harmless” question. I also know it’s not your fault or intention to upset someone by asking. But I must tell you the truth: your question might hurt like hell sometimes. You may not have realized that your question could end a brief moment of happiness a woman had until you’ve asked it.
I understand why you ask. We all want to know sometimes. We get excited to hear people are planning to grow their families — I get excited too! And I used to ask “that” question too. But soon I realized I also had to stop asking. If it was inconvenient for me to answer, it might as well be inconvenient for them.
The fact is that we don’t know the reasons why a woman doesn’t have children (or more children, if she’s had one already). Have you ever considered what she could be going through? Her reasons are personal and do not need to be shared and exposed.
So I decided to point out some of the most common and possible scenarios behind a woman’s choice of not having children. This way, we can all be more mindful before jumping into too much asking.
1. That woman could be trying to get pregnant now. You don’t know how many tears she’s shed at night because she (or/and her partner) is dealing with infertility. She may be struggling to pay for her monthly fertility treatment. She may be exhausted, physically and emotionally, because of so hard she’s been trying. Your question is a reminder, in her head, that she is a “failure.” While this is far from the truth, she is indeed a complete woman, with or without children, she may perceive herself as someone who’s failed. So why ask?
2. That woman could also be struggling with a disease. She may have had a hysterectomy. Cancer. A stroke. She may suffer from some sort of autoimmune disease and her health is too fragile to bear a child. She may have talked to the doctor about her possibilities of becoming a mother and eventually she’s decided not to take any risks. And yet, why are you reminding her of her struggles?
3. That woman may want children but is dealing with financial distress. She and her partner might be struggling to pay their bills. They can’t afford health care or childcare. They may feel unsupported. They may have grown up in bigger families, where everyone (mom, aunt, uncle, grandfather, grandmother) helped raised them. Since now things have changed, they feel that just the two of them won’t be enough to raise a child. While they do want a child, that’s not a priority because they’re simply surviving at that moment. And yet why do you need to know?
4. That woman could have had some sort of childhood trauma. She may have been abused. She could have PTSD. We all know what a traumatic event can do to a person mentally and emotionally. She may not feel ready to have a baby and she’s acting out of fear. She hasn’t “healed” yet, and it’s not up to you to tell her that she will be “just fine” with a child. You will not be staying up all night caring for her baby while she is having panic attacks. You will not be taking that child to school activities while she works. You won’t pay for child support. So why insist?
5. She and her partner could be having marital issues. She may cry in bed every night, as she believes he is having an affair. Or maybe they’re simply fighting all the time. She’s finding out that the love she’d felt for him all those years is simply vanishing away. Their relationship changed, and she might not feel it’s the right moment to bring an addition to the family. How would you expect her to tell you all that while holding her drink? What would you say anyway?
6. And maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t want to be a mother. She feels complete, whole. With or without a partner. With or without a baby. And this is her right. She doesn’t have to explain to you why she is doing just great without a child. And even if she does tell you why don’t ever throw that “you may regret it someday” cliché phrase. Even if she does regret it, it’s her decision only, and that has nothing to do with you. If you are not her partner/husband, you shouldn’t even bring this up. So again, why do you care?
On a personal note, some close friends and family members (very few of them, I must say) know the reasons behind my choice of not having children. I don’t mind talking about this topic with people I trust and care about, but at the same time, I don’t feel like putting that on a billboard. I don’t have to expose myself just so people can satisfy their curiosity.
As for our dear women reading this, with or without children, please hear me out. You don’t owe anybody an explanation about the number of kids you are planning to have — from zero to ten!
Please don’t be embarrassed to say, “Sorry, it’s personal. I’d rather not talk about it.” This is called boundaries and unfortunately, they are more than needed now since times have changed. These boundaries are meant for women who have decided to have multiple children. For women who’ve decided to have only one child. For those who’ve decided to have none. For those who are still undecided.
Having a child is such a personal and intimate process, it’s a decision that comes strictly from your heart, and nobody else should be part of that but you and your partner. So even if you are planning to have children (or more children) but don’t feel like this is the right moment, and you are asked an inconvenient question, simply don’t say anything if you don’t want to. Don’t explain. Don’t settle. Or they won’t ever stop.
“You’ll never know what true love is until you’ve had a child.”
“There is never a perfect timing for having children, so just have them anyway.”
“Having just one child is kind of selfish.”
“Your son needs a sibling.”
Sigh. We really don’t need to respond to ANY of that, ladies. It’s useless, trust me.
So back at you, asking folks! It’s okay that you’ve asked that question many times before. I’ve done that myself without even noticing that I was being intrusive. I just ask you to be mindful moving forward. Trust me, if a woman you know or just met wants to let you know when or if she will have children, she will be glad to tell you! You won’t need to ask. But if she is silent and never mentions anything about it, please don’t bring it up. Understand that we all have different life missions. There are plenty of families growing, while there are plenty not growing — and that is okay! It’s all balancing out in this perfect world.
And you, dear childless woman, please don’t feel like you need to explain in order to fit in. You have your place in this world. You’ve come here with a mission, whatever it is. But ultimately, you came here to be yourself and live through the power of your choices. So please, be proud to be just as you are.