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Assumptive & Inappropriate Baby Questions

question marksWhen my husband and I got married, it didn’t take long for the baby questions to start. Some even assumed I might already be pregnant and that was why we got married within a few months of meeting. Approaching a year of marriage, I had already lost count of the number of people who had, in some fashion, asked one or both of us a baby question. Two years in, there were still questions, often from people who didn’t know us well or sometimes didn’t know us at all. I am not sure why people, especially acquaintances or strangers, care about our reproductive choices, but they aren’t shy about asking things like: “Are there babies yet?” “When are you going to have children?” “Are you trying to have a child yet?” In each of its forms, it makes me uncomfortable and sometimes even a little angry.

For one thing, the most common word choices aggravate me. Using words like “yet” and “when” presupposes that we plan to eventually procreate. While it may come as a shock to some, having children is a choice, not a foregone conclusion. That being the case, those who care to know whether a couple is planning to have kids should not automatically assume that the answer to their question will be limited to “Yes” or “Yes, but not right now.” Maybe it’s a “Maybe”. Maybe it’s an emphatic “NO!” If there has to be a question about having children, why is it about “when” and not about “whether”?

But, why is it a question at all? The choice to have kids or not is personal and could involve many factors. What if we’ve tried and had trouble conceiving or had miscarriages? What if one of us is sterile? What if one of us wants kids and the other doesn’t? What if we have other goals like finishing school and saving money? What if we haven’t decided yet? What if we know exactly what we want and just don’t want to deal with the judgments that could come from stating our choice? There are so many different scenarios that could be in play and affect a couple’s decision whether to have a child and whether to disclose their choice to people. A couple who is working through any number of issues related to their decision or whether to tell anyone about it is not going to have it any easier with people badgering them, and especially in the first few cases could even be hurt by such pestering.

egg + sperm = eraserheadOn another personal note, we all know how babies are made. And yet people seem to forget about what they’re really asking when they want to know if someone is “trying” to have a child. In any other circumstance, it would be wildly inappropriate for people to make any kind of statement or speculation about one’s sex life, especially in public. One wouldn’t say to a woman in front of others (or likely at all), “Does your husband ejaculate into you hoping to fertilize one of your eggs?” Yet people will freely, and in company, ask if someone is “trying” or “pregnant yet” without taking a second to consider that they just asked exactly the aforementioned question with different words. People’s sex lives and what their intentions are with them aren’t anyone’s concern but theirs. It’s their choice if they choose to discuss it. If they don’t, it’s inappropriate to ask.

Regardless of what a couple decides about children, or what has gone in to that decision, their decision is their business and their business alone. It is entirely up to them whether they have children (or not), which people (if any) they want to tell about their decision, and when (if ever) they want to tell them. From my experience, people who know what they want to do one way or the other and want to talk about it will do so of their own accord. They won’t need to be asked; they will share freely when they’re ready to (if they ever are). If someone hasn’t shared their decision with you, then mind your manners and don’t pry.

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8 Thoughts on “Assumptive & Inappropriate Baby Questions

  1. I don’t like it when people ask me the child question, especially when I don’t know these people very well. It is a pretty intimate question and I don’t see the need to explain my thoughts on this to everybody. I don’t even know if I want to have children so I don’t need to explain that to people I barely know.

    • Understandable. I don’t either, especially when it’s people I barely know (yet that always seems to be the people who ask). I agree that it is pretty intimate, particularly when they ask about “trying”. Someone basically said I was being absurd when I pointed out what they’re asking because “people don’t think about it that way when they ask that”. Maybe not, but they should and then maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to ask people. You shouldn’t have to explain your thoughts about it to anyone, especially people you don’t know.

  2. I must admit 12 years ago I too asked people if they had children and asked why not. We must understand that this question is a general question. Not a question to stab into anyone private life. Just a general question of the norm.

    Just like when I got married, the day of my wedding people mention that we can now work on a house and a child. I just smiled. It is a norm in human behavior to think things happen in certain order or should happen because one sex is with the other.

    I can not have children and we have tried many ways for the past 10 years. I have grown and learned from it and understand how people feel about the child question being ask. How insensitive it is. No one know how a situation is unless they are in the same situation. When people asked me why I don’t have children. I don’t let it bother me. I look at them in the eyes and tell them because I am unable to. After that they say how sorry they feel and never ask that question again.

    • I think it depends on how it is asked. I don’t usually get bothered when people ask if I have/want kids as a general question or even necessarily if they’re curious why I don’t. Unfortunately the questions are generally phrased in a way that implies that the only possible answer if I don’t have kids is that I want them and questions about why not usually aren’t asked curiously but are tinged with judgement or attitude as soon as they find out it’s my choice not to.

      It’s one thing to wonder if people are going to have kids; it’s another to assume that everyone who gets married is planning to have them. Just because that’s what typically happens doesn’t mean it’s the case for everyone, and unfortunately the people who ask because “that’s the way it usually happens” tend to act like people who aren’t following that particular lifescript are abnormal, which is not the case.

      I’m sorry to hear that you were unable to have children since you wanted them, and it’s good that people never ask you again once you’ve answered. Unfortunately since it’s not that I can’t have them (as far as I know), people don’t tend to accept the answer and let it go. They can understand someone who wanted kids and couldn’t have them; they can’t seem to wrap their heads around someone who is, as far as she knows, capable of having them and just chooses not to.

  3. I also consider it incredibly rude to ask a couple “when” or even “whether or not” they want children. I always assume the worst case scenario (that they are simply not able to have a kid) and then I think how that question might make them feel and then I don’t feel like asking them anything on that topic at all. But regardless, you are absolutely right in pointing out that “having babies” is equivalent to the frequency of sex in a couple’s relationship. And very personal, therefore none of anyone’s business. And of course some people just don’t want to have kids, as you elaborately discussed in your previous posts.

    I found that Americans are certainly less hesitant to ask the baby question than Germans are but you have both cases in either culture, of course.

    • Yeah I imagine Germans would be less likely to ask. Although I’m sure some do, they just don’t seem to pry into strangers lives. The times German strangers have struck up conversations with me here, they asked things like where I live and where I am from. Unless I totally missed it (since they were grilling me in German), they haven’t asked about babies. Everyone who has pestered me about babies since I’ve been here has been American.

  4. Yes, yes, yes!!!!! I hate the baby question. My Dad is the WORST offender of this. Every time we talk its “When am I going to be a grandpa” or “Any plans for a grandbaby?” I don’t know how many times or ways I can say NO! It is also just odd for your dad to know you are having sex and ask you about when your planning on having a penis fertilize your eggs.

    • Eesh. I agree it’s a bit odd for him to ask when you think about what he’s actually asking. If my dad wants to be a grandpa he hasn’t hassled me about it yet. I’ve never even actually discussed it with him and it’s only come up a couple of times with my mom. Although there have been a couple family members who have pestered us about it, it’s actually acquaintances who have bugged us the most about it, which is especially bizarre to me since our decision wouldn’t affect their life in the slightest.

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