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.