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{Lifestyle} The Kids Question: Common Courtesy

Ashley Bardsley - August 23, 2012

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When and how many children a couple decides to have is a decision for them, the Lord, and their doctor--and no one else.

There’s an issue in our culture I feel just has to be discussed. It has to do with harassment: specifically, asking women when they are going to have babies. 

Before we delve into this, I have to admit this is a personal pet-peeve. Let me explain: A week after I got married, my new husband and I began opening our wedding gifts and reading through cards. While everyone was super generous, I couldn’t help but wonder why some people felt the need to tell us when we were supposed to have children--specifically, now. I mean, we had just gotten married. Living with a boy was all the change I could handle at that time. And they weren't telling us when we were supposed to buy our first house or anything else like that.

I know many readers have had similar experiences—and it doesn’t just stop there. Some people, it seems, truly, madly, and deeply cannot wait for every couple to have kids—and right away. I understand. Families are incredibly important, and we have been commanded to replenish the earth, for goodness sake. As members of a religion and culture that take that commandment very seriously, it can be difficult for those who are childless to answer the question, “Why don’t you have kids?”

But let’s give couples a break. We don't know what's happening in the lives of other couples, and if we don't know, maybe that means it's not our business. A woman one of our editors knows wanted to have kids and couldn't for medical reasons--for eight years. In addition to this trial, she also had to face a constant barrage of questions about when they'd have kids. For other couples, they may just need time. Or there could be a multitude of other unkown factors at play. There are just a lot of “maybes” we don’t need to know. The decision to have children--when or how many or any other aspect of it--is between each couple and the Lord and, unless you are their doctor, you’re not included. 

I have been married for four years, and I deeply appreciate those who are close to me and have never asked, “So when are you going to start having kids?” They knew my husband and I were excited to someday be parents and were respectful enough to suppress their curiosity and respect our privacy. To these individuals I say, “Thank you.” I am happy to say that we are now expecting our first child. As I count down the days and remember my experiences, I hope I'll remember to be a tad more sensitive to my couple friends who do not have kids. 

Your turn: How do you handle questions about kids, whether they are about yourself or about your children, friends, or other family members?
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© LDS Living, 2012.
Comments 16 comments

charly said...

07:03 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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I don't usually comment, but I just wanted to thank you for this article. I think it is an issue more people need to be sensitive about. The decision about children is truly between a couple and the Lord, and it is not our place to judge or make assumptions about their choices.

macho_mz said...

07:55 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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Amen! The people asking couples these questions may be well-intended, but they also need to remember how sensitive a subject this can be.

enjoybirth said...

08:31 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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This is so true. I think we need to be so careful when talking with women about family size. It is something between the couple and the Lord. It happens on the other end too, I have had a few friends who have gotten criticism for having "too many" kids. This is from fellow church members.

grobyn said...

08:56 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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My wife and I have been married for nine years. We have struggled with infertility for 5 years. We were on birth control for the first few years and then started trying to have kids for a little over a year before finding out about our infertility. We didn't want to go into debt for treatment, so we saved up about $20k and paid for invitro fertilization (which has a 50-50 chance of failing). We are blessed to have TWINS due soon, but we know two other couples who have tried IVF and it failed. Imagine the horror and frustration of spending $20k for a failed result! I applaud this article. Hopefully, it prevents many tears from being shed - ignorant, but harsh questions/comments have prevented friendships with us. I also applaud infertile couples who have the courage to reply, "we're infertile, we've tried it all". At times, I wish to add that some of the questioners should receive the retort of, "You are rude, so why did you reproduce?"

megtaylor said...

08:57 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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I loved this. It's so important to be sensitive and realize we don't know others' circumstances. For me personally, it was not infertility but extreme postpartum depression that makes it difficult to extend our family. Following the birth of each of my two girls, I went through a year of severe depression and anxiety. Those who were most vocal in urging us to have more kids were the least willing to accept that a baby brought with it a literal yearlong fight for my life. We never know why people chose what they do--and it's none of our business anyway!

lb35 said...

09:05 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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My responce would be, "When we figure out how to have sex. Do you and your spouse want to show us how its done?" This type of responce is so shocking it will shut them up pretty fast. It also illustraits how rude there question is in the first place.

getalife said...

09:48 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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I can fully understand the sad feelings that might come every time someone asks a couple that can't have kids when they are going to ... I myself received that question several times right after a miscarriage that no one had any idea about ... and I agree with the need for sensitivity when interacting with people .. but I have to say, your article was a little less than objective. It came across as a bitter "pet peeve" and soap box. Asking people when they are going to have kids is no ruder than asking someone when they are ever going to get married, or asking the parents of a screaming child in church if they need your help, or telling someone they have lost weight, or asking if an unemployed person has found a job yet. The list can go on. I get personal heartache and the fact that nobody ever knows everything that is going on in a person's life ... but if they can't ask or talk about any of it, how can they possibly show they care? Sensitivity needs to be had on both sides, and those who don't like the question don't need to be so offended when it's asked. More often than not no one is trying to be rude.

grobyn said...

10:12 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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In reply to 'getalife', if someone only asks me because they happen to be in the same church, AND have not been anywhere other than church with me, then such personal questions are not warranted. In those scenarios, lb35's retort becomes warranted! ;)

000 said...

10:22 AM
on Aug 23, 2012

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A wise friend taught me a trick that helps in situations like this. If someone asks a rude, thoughtless question (like why you don't have children, why you got divorced, why did you loose your house, etc.), answer with, "Why do you ask?" It gives them a second to think about why, indeed, they asked and another second to realize it's none of their business. A kind way to to say, "Shut your pie-hole." but still be able to serve on a committee with them later on. ;)

swissmiss said...

12:06 PM
on Aug 23, 2012

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000 - I love your comment! I'm going to use, "Why do you ask?", now that I just had my 4th baby and people are asking me if I'm done having kids. The questions never end soon they'll be asking when hubby and I are going on a mission or when our kids are going to get married, have kids, etc. I think most people are just looking for something to say or ask or some way to connect with people. We need to all relax a bit, after all how many times have we asked a kid what their plans are after graduation, are they going on a mission, etc. All questions that could upset a kid who doesn't feel like they are doing the "normal" things they are supposed to. Any question could be a sensitive topic to someone depending on what they are going through.

mjduley said...

12:58 PM
on Aug 23, 2012

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During our years of infertility, when people asked us when we were going to have kids, we would flat-out say, "Never apparently, since we've been trying for years!" We'd say it in a serious tone, and that would usually shut people up. Eventually enough people knew of our situation that they quit asking.

katiefrankie said...

01:16 PM
on Aug 23, 2012

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My mother-in-law presented me with a baby blanket the day after our wedding reception and asked me when we were having children. When I told her I wasn't sure when or even IF we were having children, she got angry and told me I had hurt her feelings. What I wanted to say was, "What about mine? It's none of your business!" I just turned 30 and the question of why I have no babies is easier to answer since I had an unexpected stroke at age 28, and the medication I take to prevent further strokes is contraindicated for pregnancy, but it doesn't make the question any less intrusive or the children I'd like to have any more forthcoming.

meres5 said...

01:30 PM
on Aug 23, 2012

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It's tough for both sides. Like others have said, there are many questions that can seem offensive depending on where we are at in our lives. I think generally most people aren't trying to be upsetting, questions during conversation are just a natural part of life. Both sides need to be thoughtful in any situation. It's not just a member thing...it happens in all cultures throughout the world. I think if it's something thats too upsetting to discuss then we can say that and any decent person will respect your answer and leave it alone. Anyone else who doesn't, didn't need to know in the first place. If none of us ever share our experiences though we would never be able to empathise with others. We would only see our own struggles and believe that there were none others as hard to get through.

noemchen said...

02:30 PM
on Aug 23, 2012

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Amen to the article! I got married when I was 38 and years before people kept asking me why I was not married and when am I going to get married. It hurt every time this question was asked. (Like it was my "fault" of being single) Now I am married and pregnant and because I am a little further down the road agewise my husband and I decided to have children right away, so the people did not have time to ask... But my sister has 5 children and people keep asking them when they are done. On the other hand, I have friends that cannot have any kids and they are hurt every time people ask them about kids (they are married almost 4 years now and about my age). For some people you can never make it right and some people just want to say something and do not think about what they say. People might not ask to offend or hurt the other side, but still should think about what they say. If friends say something, I am okay with it. BUT most times it is people that I just happen to be in the same ward with and have no other connection to them that ask those kinds of questions.

007 said...

03:02 AM
on Aug 27, 2012

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This is great! I'm single and I get so sick of people "blaming" me for not being married. I guess the "blaming" extends into marriage with other issues. (Ha ha! Sorry, I just feel so validated right now!) I propose that we all step in when there's a clear need (ex. moves, pregnancies, deaths, marriages, births, illnesses, etc), listen when someone needs to talk, but otherwise remember that there is not a specific checklist/timeline we have to meet. Each person's life is his or hers alone to live and no one else has the right to judge how he/she is living it. Let's just all show each other some mutual kindness, respect, and tolerance.

lovethesunshine said...

10:21 PM
on Sep 01, 2012

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Although I totally understand that these questions can feel a little personal. I don't think they are as ill intended as some people are interpreting them. I have certainly never felt judged by such a question. Often the person asking is just looking for something to talk about and family is an easy topic. Or in many cases, the person asking is just trying to figure out her own answers to these same questions. In my own life the questions have evolved: As a newlywed-”when are you going to have kids?” New mom-“When are you going to try for another?” and “How many kids do you want?” After having two and then three girls-“are you going to try for a boy?” and now that I’ve just had my fourth child (a boy)-“Are you glad to finally have a boy?” and “Are you done having kids?” The thing is, I can’t stop people from asking me these questions and rather than feeling offended or getting frustrated I choose to feel flattered that someone wants to get to know me better!
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