Have you ever asked someone this question? Such a seemingly innocuous question. But, it’s actually a very loaded, potentially painful topic.
A few days ago I received this email from a newsletter reader.
I am not physically able to have children. The extreme heartache has
been something I cannot deal with in privacy when it’s obvious I have
no children and people delve into the topic with me beyond the usual
and natural question, “Do you have children?” When I say no, I am
probed on a regular basis by such responses as this: “You mean not yet?”;
“You don’t want children?”; “Why don’t you adopt?”; “If you adopt you will
probably get pregnant,” etc. Unfortunately, I have come to the point of
saying to people, “It’s a personal thing I don’t care to talk about.”
I can tell that makes people uncomfortable but I don’t know how to
protect myself from the onslaught of mainly female responses that only
cause me further pain.
What if I had lost a child? Would I be forced to tell every questioner
of that agony? And yet, I feel like I have lost a child. I will never
meet the child or children my soul has longed for much of my life.
You probably know you shouldn’t discuss religion, politics and money with people you don’t know, even people you do know. But, you may not know that asking about kids is also a topic to be avoided. It’s obvious how painful the question is to Rachel. It’s even worse that people continue asking her questions about it, causing her great anguish and discomfort.
My husband and I made a choice not to have kids. We both love children but just didn’t feel it was a lifestyle we wanted to pursue. When people ask me if I have kids I always feel uncomfortable answering because I can sense they wonder why I don’t. And, I also feel like I have to say something that shows I don’t dislike these little people. My usual response is, “No, but we have lots of nieces and nephews,” and then there is often an awkward response.
Rachel began her email to me by writing, “I recall you saying that etiquette is not about being proper so much as avoiding making others uncomfortable.” And she is right. Being kind and respectful of others trumps knowing which fork to use. So, please add the “Do you have kids” question to your list of verboten conversation topics so that you don’t make others uncomfortable. It’s the polite thing to do.