I don’t feel like procreating right now. Let’s move on shall we?

A weird thing happened the day that I got engaged. Apparently a memo was sent out to every individual I was ever to come into contact with for the rest of my adult life, informing them that they had a vested interest in the contents (or lack thereof) of my womb.

I’ve been married for nearly three years now, and I can say – hand on heart – that not a single month has gone by in that period (pardon the pun) where a person hasn’t asked me the question. THAT question. The question that makes my stomach clench, my blood boil in my body, and my mind scamper to and fro like a trapped mouse:

“So, when are you having kids then?”

At first I’d laugh it off. Surely they were just being friendly. The news of a new marriage is kind of like the news of a bereavement. It forces the recipient to think of something thoughtful to say in response, and on the UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED LIFE TRAJECTORY CHART, you go to school, you go to college, you get a job, you get married and then you have kids. So, naturally that’s where their mind goes and that must be why they think it’s acceptable to ask a (sometimes) almost complete stranger such a personal question.

Asking people when (what an assumption!) they are having kids is rude, and here’s why. You may think you’re showing an interest in someone’s life, but asking a person when, not even IF, but WHEN they are having kids is a really loaded question. Think for a minute about all the thousands of worms that are in that can.

Maybe the person you’re asking can’t have kids – think about all the painful issues your seemingly innocuous question will dredge up for them. Maybe they had a childhood so painful, they couldn’t conceive (again pardon the pun) risking repetition.

Maybe it’s none of the above. But it’s frequently a painful subject to dwell on for anyone who’s at all unsure about how they feel about starting a family. I can honestly say that I’ve been forced into more awkward conversations about this LIFE-CHANGING decision with shop keepers, who’s only knowledge of me is what brand of cigarettes I smoke, than I have with my own husband.

Some of the reasons I have felt forced to produce to these not-even-acquaintances are:

“We’re just saving up right now”, “We still want to travel”, “X doesn’t cope well with stress”… etc.

These are all lies. The truth is: I just don’t want to. But apparently, the world requires a better answer than that.

It would seem most of my friends and family are desperate to see me up the duff.

“Who will look after you when you’re older?” they ask. “Aren’t you being a teeny bit selfish?”

Forgive me if the following statement seems outlandish, but according to my own belief system (which is apparently morally corrupt), the only reason you should ever bring a child into this world is if you can’t live without doing so. The only reasonable motivation for me is LOVE. Not fear of loneliness; not a misguided sense of obligation; and NEVER for any kind of control over others or financial gain.

It’s not a handbag – you can’t change your mind and take it back.

The worst aspect of this situation is the seed of doubt that gets sown every time someone finds out that you’re undecided about having a baby. It’s all very awkward, and leaves me with the sense that maybe there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I’m not a proper woman. Maybe I should have a baby and then everyone would leave me alone. They’d all sigh with relief to know that I am normal after all.

So, if you too find yourself in this uncomfortable and frequently hurtful situation, what should you do?

There’s lots of advice out there. My boss used to tell people “It’s not possible” and walk away. Let their own fertile (I really must stop these puns) imaginations produce a satisfactorily gruesome excuse.

Comedian and revolutionary, Doug Stanhope, recommends having yourself registered as a sex offender.

Although these solutions would bring a sense of bitter victory to the proceedings, I can’t help but wonder:

Why should I have to justify any decision I make over what I do with my own life, and with my own body?

Who’s to say that I’m in the wrong here?

So this is the thing in life that drives me crazy. I have yet to find a solution that will mean I don’t get completely ostracized, but if there’s anyone out there more eloquent than I, help a sister out.

I’ve got to nip this thing in the bud once and for all.

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168 thoughts on “I don’t feel like procreating right now. Let’s move on shall we?

  1. Good post! I get asked this frequently as well. Although I take no offense to the question when asked by acquaintances being friendly, I despise my “friends” that ask me over and over when I will have a baby. Or the ones that try to talk you into taking the plunge simply because they have and insist that my life is lacking something “amazing” because theirs is so great. Don’t try to tell me how amazing my life “will” be. I think it’s pretty great the way it is thank you.

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  2. I am probably unable to have children and found out at a young age. But I still hear it ,even from my mother, who was in the hospital with me that horrible day. It is disheartening. But if you approach it with humor it makes it better. I tell them things like ” Not for me, but practicing is fun.”, “Yeah I thought about adopting an 18 year old that way I could just bypass the icky parts”, and for the real jerks……strait up ” I can’t, but thanks for asking”

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  3. It only gets worse if you do procreate
    So is he going to school?
    No. We’re unschooling him.
    What? I don’t know what that is.
    Good…it’s none of your business…
    But I don’t say that…too nice
    So contortions follow guilt…
    It’s societies character building programme
    At its very best!
    Great article.
    You’ve got character. …
    It’s working…see!! 😉

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  4. I’m wondering which is worse – being like you and having everyone and their mother try to shame you for not having kids, or being like me and having everyone and their mother try to shame you for having your first kid while 20 and single.

    I suppose you have it worse, because being harassed for no children could theoretically go on forever. “You’re not too old to have kids! You could always adopt!”

    On the other hand, I’m now 32 and married with 3 kids, and so all the finger-wagging on that front eventually stopped. I think it also helps that I’m naturally intimidating (or so I’ve been told) so no one says anything to me about the fact that my oldest child is a different color than either me or her siblings.

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  5. Great post! Those kinds of questions are terribly rude and assuming. You could try an annoyed and patient look and hopefully the weighty silence will make them as uncomfortable as they’ve made YOU. I noticed when I was young that it was often the first question that women asked upon introduction: “do you have kids”? What does that say if the answer is “No” – that you must have little in common with them? Very silly and myopic.

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  6. First off, love you post … Thanks to Freshly Pressed for leading me to your post 🙂 When people ask me that, I used to do all sorts of things to change the topic….but then one day I responded with the following “why do you ask?” People get all sorts of flustered trying to justify why they have asked such a personal question and that’s the end of that. It doesn’t work all of the time, but when it does, it’s friggin PRICELESS to observe their reaction. Try it just once and see what happens 🙂

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  7. I really appreciate this. As someone who is young and committed to another person, I get asked this by friends of mine who aren’t even married yet. (I’M NOT EVEN MARRIED- not that it’s a requirement for the job of parent, obviously, but probably makes the process markedly easier if you’re really invested in such a thing). I have no idea if I ever want to have even one child, much less the proverbial 2.2 kids in the 3-bed, 3-bath “perfect” house. So people assuming “you’ll change your mind one day” is a little insulting. Even having not reached the point in my life at which many of my friends are becoming parents yet, my opinion on the subject of growing children in my own body is apparently not of value or permanence.

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  8. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I also especially hate that “seed of doubt” you mentioned because in the end I always get angry at myself for caring what other people think, but honestly it’s so hard not to–especially in this situation. It get’s old having to lie because as you put it, saying you don’t want to isn’t a good enough answer. #relatable

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  9. I’m 46, never had a child. Don’t regret it at all. I can’t remember anyone ever asking me anything about when I was having children, even though I was married at 23. What I do get now is the, “You don’t know because you never had children” thing. It can be about absolutely any topic- even something that is nothing to do with children. I was a teacher for 20 years and write novels for teenagers as well as educational materials, but apparently I know nothing about children…

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  10. Hi Lisa. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I’m a mother of 2 but one thing I don’t ever do is to ask if or when someone wants to have kids. It’s a personal decision. It’s not enough to have kids. You must want them in the first place and be ready for the responsibility. How about having them and not caring for them, huh? One look at all these little street boys you see around is enough reason to think twice.

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    1. Hi there. I absolutely agree. I have friends who have always known that they wanted a family, and you can tell that their children bring a lot of joy into their lives, which is lovely to be around. I also know people who clearly regret their choice, and I can’t help but feel that their kids must pick up on this. I myself was unwanted by my father, and it created a huge amount of issues for me growing up. It’s simply not fair to gamble.

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