Sometimes I find myself wondering how many times we don’t realize the power of our words in common conversations.
I’ve had my moments of spontaneity when I would simply ask someone a question out of curiosity. While my question may seem genuine and naïve, it wasn’t until recently that I realized how asking certain questions can actually hurt or upset someone.
Well, there comes me. Happily married for almost 11 years, in my late 30s, with no children.
What? No children?
So you can just imagine how many times I’ve been asked “that” question.
“When are you going to have kids?”
Questions like these have been asked in all kinds of situations, by all kinds of people, over and over again. Of course, they want to know when I’m growing my family or why my husband and I have not yet had a baby. “Your biological clock is ticking, girl!” Yes, I’ve also been reminded of that as if I didn’t know about it.
To be honest, I’m grateful I was actually put in this uncomfortable position many times. It made me more mindful of why I should think twice before I ask someone absolutely anything. It made me kinder and more careful with my words. Because for me it is upsetting to be asked that question, for personal reasons. Why is it that I have to let you know?
So I’m also here to tell you, in the name of all childless women out there, why you need to stop asking “that” question in general.
Why? Because your simple, innocent question might hurt like hell. It might destroy a brief moment of happiness a woman had until you asked it. While it was never your intention to upset her, it may still hurt.
I know it’s not your fault or intention to hurt anyone by asking something so simple. We all want to know! We get excited to hear people are planning to grow their families. Trust me, 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 that question, it might as well be inconvenient for them.
So I’m not here to tell you my story. I simply want to remind everyone out there why we should never ask women “that” question. We need to be mindful of the impact of our words. We can’t let our curiosity rule conversations and cause pain.
I’ve created a short list with a few possible scenarios why a woman doesn’t have a child (especially the ones who have a partner/spouse). That can at least give you an idea of how tough the world can be toward women, and how many people out there could be struggling.
1. That childless woman could be trying to have children now. You don’t know how many tears she’s shed at night because she (or/and her partner) is dealing with infertility. That woman may be struggling to pay for her monthly fertility treatment. She may be exhausted, physically and emotionally, because of how 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 childless woman may be struggling with a disease. She may have had a hysterectomy. Cancer. 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 and eventually she’s decided not to take any risks. And yet, why do you need to remind her of her struggles by asking “that” question?
3. That childless woman really wants children, but she is dealing with financial distress. She and her partner are struggling to pay their bills. They can’t afford health care or childcare. They feel unsupported. They have grown up in bigger families, and now 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. So why do you need to know?
4. That childless woman may have had some childhood trauma. She may have been abused. She may have PTSD. 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 all right if she has a child. You won’t be staying up all night caring for her baby while she is having panic attacks, will you? You won’t pay for child support, will you? So why insist?
5. That childless woman and her partner could be having relationship issues. Serious issues. She may cry in bed every night because they’re 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 into the family. How would you expect her to tell you all that while holding her drink? How would you respond to that anyway?
6. That childless woman simply doesn’t want to be a mother. Period. She feels complete, whole, with or without a partner, with or without a baby. And this is her right to feel like that. She doesn’t have to explain to you why she is doing just great without a child, why she is so happy with her choice. And even if she does tell you why, don’t throw that “you may regret it someday” cliché phrase at her. Ever. If she does regret it someday, 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?
This list can go on and on. There are a lot more reasons behind a woman’s choice (or “fate”) of not having children, and we have nothing to do with them. The bottom line is: it’s none of our business what a woman does to her body.
On a personal note, some of my closest friends know the reasons why I don’t have children. I don’t mind talking about it 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 to people just so their little curiosity fades away. Again, it’s none of anybody’s business but mine.
And this whole conversation here is also valid for women who have chosen to have a certain number of kids. For those who have had one, for example, like my mother, who has heard her whole life how she’d regret having just one. Or for women who chose to have more and have decided to stop having them. In short, we shouldn’t be asking. Period.
And that is also valid for anyone who has made any major decision in life, like not getting married too. There are many reasons behind our choices, and we simply don’t have to settle by answering what doesn’t need to be answered.
So please, dear ladies (and dear gentlemen, too!), when asked “that” question, don’t be embarrassed to say, “Sorry, it’s personal. I’d rather not talk about it.” I have shifted from explaining to simply saying that. Boundaries. Unfortunately, they are more than needed now since times have changed.
Having a child is such a personal and intimate process. It’s a decision that comes from your heart, and nobody else should be part of that but you and your partner. So remember that you don’t have to explain or find a common ground between you and the asker. Or they won’t ever stop.
“Oh, you’ll be happier with children.”
“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. He/she needs a sibling.”
Sound familiar, childless women/men?
So, for everyone who has asked personal questions (and that includes me in the past too): it’s okay that you’ve asked them. We have all done it. I just ask you to be mindful moving forward. Trust me, if that 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.
Also, understand that we all have different life missions. There are plenty of families growing, and 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, no matter what people tell you. You’ve come here with a mission, whatever it is. But ultimately, you came here to be yourself first, before being a mother.
If you decide to become a mother someday, that would be a delightful experience, because you’ll already know yourself before meeting your new “soulmate” who will fill your heart with joy. But if you don’t become one, you should still be happy and live through the power of your choices.
So please, be proud to be just as you are, with or without children.