Maybe you can’t wait to have grand-babies to spoil. Or maybe you’re thinking about having kids and are wondering what everyone else’s timeline is. Maybe your co-worker just got married and you’ve already made small talk about their all-inclusive tropical honeymoon and you’re not sure which topic to hit on next, so you go there.
“So, when are you guys gonna start knocking out those babies?” (Extra negative bonus points if you wink here.)
Anyone who is of child-bearing and/or child-rearing age who doesn’t have kids gets some version of this question from friends, family and mere acquaintances at a frequency that boggles the mind. And you’d think it would stop after the first child arrives, but no, it gets worse: “When are you going to give him/her a sibling?” You can’t please anyone these days.
Why is this so bad?
It’s none of your business
First of all, unless this person has specifically spoken with you about their desire to have children, it’s presumptuous to assume they even want to parent. And don’t assume that just because they seem to like kids or are “good with” kids that they’re obviously going to pursue parenthood themselves. It’s a personal choice with lifelong ramifications; not everyone is interested, even if they don’t mind the occasional water balloon fight with their nieces.
And for those who do know they want kids, there are all kinds of reasons why right now might not be the right time. Maybe one or both of them is finishing up a degree; maybe a big move is on the horizon; maybe they want to pay off debt or get settled into a home or travel for several years. Their priorities — and their finances — are none of your business. And when you wonder aloud where all the babies are, you are inviting yourself into the most personal aspects of their lives.
Also: Just because a person has one child doesn’t mean they want more children. It also doesn’t mean they’re able to have more children. So if Junior is turning five years old next week and you’re baffled as to why no baby sibling has joined him, put the brakes on before you ask.
Maybe Junior’s parents are perfectly content as the parents of one (news flash: a number that is perfectly wonderful) or maybe they have desperately wanted a second baby and have been unable to conceive or adopt. They might not even know yet themselves whether they want a second child. You’re so curious, I know! But the mere existence of Junior does not entitle you to know where they stand on any potential future kids.
You could inadvertently cause pain by asking
About 10 per cent of women of child-bearing age have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. Miscarriage rate estimates vary by source, but they’re all high: as many as 15-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage and 1 in 4 women will experience at least one in her lifetime.
Despite the prevalence of both infertility and miscarriage, and despite the fact that women are speaking out about their experiences now more than ever, it is still often an isolating, excruciating experience.
About 10 per cent of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant, so chances are good that someone you love is facing or will face infertility. But if you haven’t experienced it yourself (or even if you did but your circumstances were different), it might be hard to know what to say or do to support them.
My point is: Most of the time, you will not know what the person you’re talking to has gone through. And even if you ask and their response is, “Oh, we’re not in any rush,” that does not mean they’re really not in any rush. It very well could mean they’ve been struggling with infertility for two years, have done IVF three times and only have enough money left for one last chance. You’re not the person they’re going to confide in.
You can still have conversations
I’m not saying this is a topic you can never broach with someone you love. Of course we’re all curious whether our sister wants to have kids or when our best friend would ideally hope to time that second baby. But generally speaking, if someone is close enough to you, you’ll already know those answers anyway because the topic would have come up organically a hundred different ways.
If it’s not coming up, there may be a reason why, and that could be an indication that it’s better to talk about something else: that big Game of Thrones battle (Arya, wow!), the new project at work, the landscaping you’re having done in the backyard next week. These are all safe topics. I’m sure you can think of others, too.