Recently, an Indian auntie asked me, "So, are you two thinking of having kids anytime soon?"
Even though I knew she wasn't trying to be offensive, I found myself closing up, the way I tend to do whenever I'm asked about personal life choices.
Certain inquiries have the potential to trigger the memory of a traumatic event, jab at an insecurity or simply be irritating.
My husband and I got married two years ago. Since then, the question about children has been asked by all sorts of people in all sorts of ways:
"Are you guys trying?"
"When are you planning to have your kids?"
"If you're living in a big city, how is that going to work for your children?"
"How are you going to stay in this job if you're planning to have children?"
Before we were married, this question emerged in a different form. Usually it was along the lines of, "If you wait, then it'll be too late to have children."
When I once told someone I wasn't sure if I wanted children, he immediately responded with, "But you'd be such a good mother! Why would you deprive someone of that?" It was as if I somehow owed my so-called maternal traits to the world.
Through discussions with friends, I've realised that there are many reasons why these types of questions should be avoided.
1. The question is intrusive
When people are inquiring about "trying to have kids," they're essentially asking if a couple is having sex. In any other context, asking people if they are having sex would be considered absurd. But for some reason, it's not as big of a big deal to ask people what they're doing with their reproductive organs when they are a certain age and in a relationship.
2. A couple's choices are personal
A couple might not want children, ever. Or they may want children later. Or maybe they do want children now but are having trouble. I know a woman who withdrew from her social circle because of how often she was asked about having children. What people didn't know is that she had had two miscarriages over the past year and every time the question was asked, she was reminded of what was already a devastating time.
3. Nobody owes the world an explanation for if and how they are planning to procreate
A girlfriend recently told me that when she discussed the option of freezing eggs with her family, they yelled at her for being "so unnatural." At what point does the judgment end? It seems as though one step only leads to more intrusive questions about the next ones.
The next time there's uncertainty about a someone's status with respect to kids, maybe it's better to trade curiosity with compassion.
The truth is, the inner workings of other people's lives are private, complex terrains. Certain inquiries have the potential to trigger the memory of a traumatic event, jab at an insecurity or simply be irritating.
So the next time there's uncertainty about a someone's status with respect to kids, maybe it's better to trade curiosity with compassion.
Maybe it's better to just not ask.
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