5 Reasons NOT to ask: “When are you going to have kids?!”

People are nosy.  People are curious. People want to share their thoughts and opinions. I’ve been guilty of this myself. But when it comes to asking a couple without children, “when are you going to have children?”, I’d like to recommend the biting of tongue technique. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Would you go up to a couple with no clue of their financial situation, and ask them:  “when are you going to be debt free?” Likely not. Why? Maybe because finances are private (for whatever reason). Maybe it’s due to the reality that a person can hope and plan to be debt free but cannot control the exact date of when it will happen. Maybe asking the question could discourage the couple due to their current reality. Hmm. But a similar intimate question is asked all the time re: “when are you going to have kids?!” The same reasons why people don’t randomly ask questions about finances could be applied here.

2. The typical question is loaded with assumptions. It’s often phrased as, “WHEN will you have children” vs. “do you plan to have children?”. We would never ask a high school student who we barely know, “when are you going to University?”. Why not? Well, that would assume too much. What if they don’t have the grades to get in? What if they have received rejection letters to each school they applied to? What if they are taking a year off? What if they want to go to college instead?. We may instead ask what their plans are for the fall.

3. When throwing out the typical question: “when are you going to have kids?”, be prepared that you may make a person cry. They may cry right then and there or afterwards. You never know if a couple could be trying to conceive and it’s not happening. I’ve read about a woman being asked this question while she was physically recovering from yet another miscarriage. A deeply personal question such as “when are you going to have a baby?” could cause a person to sob after you are no longer around. Be warned.

4. Continuing the topic of assuming,  I’ll throw a couple more “what ifs” your way. What if a person decides not to have children because they have a health condition that would make parenting extremely difficult.  What if having a baby would make their already challenging health condition much worse? What if a couple is aware that they have a predisposition of passing on a serious genetic condition and they feel that they can’t do that to their child. What if a couple recognizes that they both came from dysfunctional families and feel strongly that they are likely to repeat the cycle again. What if…. You fill in the blank.

5. Lastly, what if a couple can’t have children. I mean that they really can’t. I read a blog post yesterday of a women who tried for 10 years to get pregnant and even did two rounds of IVF. 10 years. There was nothing obviously wrong with them. They were classified as “unexplained infertility”. They tried everything to get pregnant and it did not work. As you can imagine, they are now totally spent emotionally and financially. They do not wish to get on the adoption roller coaster after all that they have been through. They are done. She is focusing on building a beautiful future as just the two of them. The sad reality is that some who desperately want to be pregnant and have a baby are not able to despite their best efforts. Next time you think of asking, “when will you have a baby”, keep in mind that it may never happen for that couple, ever.

Last week, I became aware that it was National Infertility Week. I’ve learned that as many as 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility (and there’s such a thing as secondary infertility – an inability to get pregnant despite already having a child). In my life, I’ve been exposed to the heartache of infertility while standing by close friends in their darkest days. My advice would be this: unless you can sit down over coffee and talk to a close friend re: children, don’t spring this question on anyone unexpectedly or jokingly. Think of, “what if…” before asking such question to someone you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking about their finances. Children are wonderful. Babies are precious. Remember that some people won’t experience pregnancy, birth and raising children for whatever reason.  Biting your tongue may prove to be both wise and kind. And if you must ask, please do so 1:1 and not in the middle of a baby shower. For their sake and yours.

Can you add to this list? Thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

9 thoughts on “5 Reasons NOT to ask: “When are you going to have kids?!””

  1. Great post! I like your suggestion of asking, “Do you plan to have children?” So much more ‘conversational’ instead of ‘accusatory’. And you’re right, usually those types of questions are better over coffee instead of shot out randomly or in passing.

  2. There is a time and place for everything and that includes conversation on various topics. We all can improve the fine art of tact and deferring discussions until the right moment.

  3. As I wrote about in my blog, people say the most awful things without even realizing it. I think part of the problem is that we ask such personal questions without being involved enough in people’s lives to know whether or not those questions would be hurtful. I think your post is a reminder that we should try to reach out and get to know people before before we begin assuming anything. Thank you!

  4. The other day we wanted a room with a double bed and at least a single [or double] to accommodate my son. So I asked a friend who lives in the city to recommend somewhere. But everywhere seemed to only have accommodations for couples or singles. Then I got this comment, “well if you had 2 children then you could just get them their own room”. I was taken aback but I responded, “even if i did they’d be too young to sleep in their own hotel room”. I mean let’s assume I had a 2 year old. Do you think it’s okay to let a 10 and 2 year old stay alone? It made me realise that people really do not think about what they say.

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