Stop Asking Women When They’re Going to Have Kids, Please. Thanks.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

I am, by nature and profession, a very nosy person.

Growing up, Harriet M. Welsch from Harriet the Spy was one of my favorite characters. I got totally got why she wanted to be all up in everybody's business and why she wanted to write about it. I did too.

So naturally, I grew up and became a reporter — a profession where my snoopy skills were not only useful, they were rewarded with money. (Admittedly, not a whole lot of money, but money nonetheless.)

Like most people who write for a living, I’m an introvert. I’m shy and frankly, I don’t like talking to strangers much, or to acquaintances for that matter. I find it exhausting and also I suck at it. But being a reporter gave me a way to talk to strangers in a way that made sense to me. It gave me a script. I just had to ask them questions, and by and large, people responded favorably to that because when pressed, most people really do want to talk about themselves.

Both during work hours and outside of them, I ask so many questions. What do you do? Where are you from? What do you think of the weather today? What’s your Hogwarts house? (You know, totally normal, non-awkward questions like that.)

But there is one thing I never ask someone. I never ask if or when someone is going to have kids.

Now, at this point, most people know better than to straight-up ask someone if they are pregnant. Most people know this, but not all people know this, which is why I have been asked if I was pregnant on multiple occasions. This can likely be chalked up to my love of baggie clothes and well, also, my love of eating things. I like to eat things. Either way, none of these situations were fun for me.

As a woman in my 30s who has been married for close to 10 years, I also get other kid questions on a far more frequent basis: “When are you going to have a kid?”, “When are you going to start a family?”, “When are you going to make your parents grandparents?,” and the more frank “Seriously, when are you going to have a baby already, woman?”

And to make these questions even more fun, they’re often asked by people I barely know, like coworkers, extended family members, cashiers and people at family weddings who I’m only tangentially connected to feel but I must talk to in order to be polite.

For the life of me, I do not understand why these people are so darn interested in the childbearing habits of strangers.

I also do not understand why this is considered to be an appropriate topic for polite conversation with people you barely know. It’s inappropriate for me to ask a stranger about their yearly salary, for example, but it’s okay for them to ask me a question that basically boils down to “So hey, have had unprotected sex lately?”

What? How is that okay? That is so weird.

It’s an aggressively personal question about a subject that is, in itself, deeply personal.

For me, the “When are you going to have kids?” question is basically just an annoyance because I don’t have a solid answer. I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids and also, I don’t know if I want them. But I do very firmly know that I do not want to have strangers question my life choices or harp on about my biological clock, so when I’m asked a variation of this question, I usually just say something noncommittal and then wander off, looking for alcohol.

But for other people, the question is far more than just a nuisance or an intrusion into their personal life. For others, the question is truly hurtful.

Despite what society tells you, motherhood isn’t a given for everyone. Some women simply don’t want kids — and that’s okay. And other women, desperately do want kids but it doesn’t work out for them as they planned. In each of these situations, women shouldn’t have to have a conversation with a total stranger about it. These aren’t subjects for light chitchat.

The “When are you going to have kids?” question is not a simple one and it doesn’t come with simple answers.

So stop asking it.

There are plenty of other things you can be nosy about. Trust me, I know. I’m an expert on nosiness.

I’m a freelance writer and editor. I’ve written nonfiction children’s books, bar reviews, health care communications and more: https://ashleystrehlehartman.com/

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