Sara is the proud mama of two rabbits, Walter and Eleanor, Helga the cat, and a dog named Dante.
Do You Have Any Kids?
"Do you have any kids?" is a seemingly innocent question to ask when getting to know another person, right? New coworkers, neighbors, or a stranger at the bus stop tend to ask the question innocuously enough, but for a woman of child-bearing age who is childless, the question can induce panic. The question can lead to a stressful conversation for women who are either intentionally childless or childless due to circumstances beyond their control.
If you ask whether or not a woman has kids and she says no, move on. If you feel the need to say any of the following 8 phrases (or some variation of them) just don't. They are rude, and quite frankly, a woman's reasons for being childless are none of your business.
1. You Will Change Your Mind
This statement is usually accompanied by a condescending smile, and it always makes my blood boil. I'm sure this statement would make a lot of people mad. This statement upsets me because women constantly have to justify their lack of maternal desire. Please believe me when I say that you will not find yourself in good favor with someone after making this remark.
It would be ridiculous to assume that someone would change their favorite color because you find another color more aesthetically appealing. If you ask me about my favorite color and I say it's blue, you probably won't feel compelled to mention that you think pink is a better choice. Your preferences and desires are your own, so don't project them onto strangers.
In 2014 the U.S. Census Bureau found that 47.6 percent of women between the ages of 15-44 had never had children. That number does not address intentional and unintentional childlessness, but it stands to reason that a majority are the former, considering that the statistic was a mere 2.4 percent in 1982.
Nearly half of the women in the U.S. are childless for their own personal reasons. Most women who have decided to forego motherhood are probably not going to change their minds just because a stranger tells them to.
2. Kids Would Give Your Life Meaning/Fulfillment
Saying this implies that a woman's life currently has no meaning. You might as well hand me a length of rope so I can put myself out of my misery, eh? Sarcasm aside, it might surprise you to find that many people find meaning or fulfillment in their relationship/marriage, career, or hobbies.
My standard response to this comment is: "I will consider having a child to distract us if my partner and I ever run out of other things to talk about. Our relationship is meaningful to us. We are fulfilled. Implying that we are not living our best life because we list zero dependents at tax time is narrow-minded and rude."
3. You Would Like Your Own Kids
You may have heard what happens when you assume. It makes a donkey out of you and me, or something along those lines...
This statement is usually made by people who assume that my partner and I dislike kids. Many people love dogs without owning one and that is socially acceptable. The world doesn't assume that every pet-free home is anti-pet. I love kids. Believe it or not, some of my favorite people are children.
I am the incredibly proud aunt of three nieces and four nephews. These kids are the coolest things that ever happened to my world. Want to know why? The answer is simple—as an aunt, I get to enjoy all the fun parts of being around kids. Loud toys are my favorite present to give them because when I go home, I never have to listen to the loud toys again. Giving inappropriate outfits to my nieces and nephews is also my specialty. The outfits are hilarious and I stifle laughter while my mom scolds my siblings for dressing her grandchildren in such ridiculous clothes. Those seven kids are the only humans on the planet that can get me to use Snapchat filters. For them, I'll willingly be a bunny, a puppy, toast, or whatever else makes them laugh on any given day. The bonds I have with them are special because I get to be their best friend and confidante without having to take on the hard parts of parenting. They never say they hate me and I will never deny them ice cream, which is a great relationship, am I right?!
Implying that I hate kids because I am childless simply shows that someone doesn't know anything about me. And you sort of look like a donkey when making those kinds of assumptions—no Snapchat filter needed.
4. It Will Happen When You Least Expect It
Thanks to getting "The Talk" as a teenager, I know where babies come from. I also know how to prevent that from happening. The Supreme Court ruled in 1965 (Griswold v. Connecticut) that it is my right to use oral contraceptives. Knowledge plus accessibility equals desired results. When taken correctly, these contraceptives are over 99.9 percent effective. The odds appear to be in my favor. There are also numerous other methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy. When precautions are taken, a woman who doesn't want kids can be pretty certain that it will not happen when she least expects it.
And while abortion is not a topic I intend to delve into, let us remember that accidental pregnancy does not automatically require that a person must give birth.
5. Is Your Partner Okay With That?
There is a period of time wherein two people who are romantically interested in each other get to know one another. They talk about things like their favorite movies, sports, religious beliefs, and general desires out of life. This period is called "dating." Perhaps you have heard of it? During that time, the topic of children usually comes up. If a couple's personalities, desires, or needs are ill-matched then the pair can choose not to pursue a relationship.
This question is rude because it ultimately asks a woman if her partner (presumably a man) is okay with her making a decision about her own life and uterus. It is out of line to imply that a woman needs her partner's consent to make a choice about her body.
6. Who Will Take Care of You When You're Old?
The short answer is: trained medical professionals.
My eldest niece, whom I lovingly call "Monster," once asked me why I don't have kids. She was probably around four years old at the time and my response was "Monster, if I have kids, I can't spend all my money on you anymore." Without missing a beat, she looked me dead in the eye, and stated "I guess you don't need kids because I will find you a nice nursing home when you're old." She certainly won't have a hard time finding a facility. Senior living facilities now operate like upscale hotels complete with open bars, fitness centers, swimming pools, restaurants, and cleaning services. I would gladly move into one tomorrow if the price was right and they overlooked my age.
I won't be alone in the facility. According to AARP, only 31.9 percent of American seniors reside with family members. That leaves 68.1 percent of seniors to reside elsewhere. The numbers would indicate that, whether or not I have kids, I would likely not rely on them for care in old age.
7. You're Just Being Selfish
Assuming this is a true statement, isn't it better to remain childless if one is truly selfish?
Authorities believe Texas woman, Darlene Routier, killed her two sons because they were ending her lavish lifestyle. The story of Oregon woman, Diane Downs, is even more chilling. The short version is that she shot her three young children and then herself (in the arm) because the married man she was obsessed with didn't want the kids around. Two of the children survived and live with the knowledge that their mother tried to kill them. Let that sink in for a moment. Their mother didn't want them anymore. That is a horrible feeling for a child to experience. Someone should have told these women that they were selfish and should not have procreated.
I used to take the time to explain all of the reasons why selfishness was not the reason I didn't want to have children. Few people are truly selfless, but I come pretty darn close. My dedication to my partner and pets is proof that their needs trump my own at every opportunity. Over time, I have come to the realization that the accusation of selfishness isn't the real issue. At the end of the day, I do not owe an explanation to anyone who would turn to name-calling or making negative assumptions about my character because of a difference in life choices. Telling stories about women who were selfish enough to (attempt to) kill their children is a more effective way to get my point across.
8. Don't Your Parents Want Grandchildren?
Here is a long list of things I wanted as a kid and never got.
- A Pony
- Moon Shoes
- A sister
- Power Wheels Jeep
- Easy Bake Oven
- Doll House
My parents informed me that people don't always get what they want. If I had a dollar for every time my mom reminded me of that fact, I would be as rich as Oprah.
My parents and in-laws want to be grandparents. It took many, many, years for them accept that they would not get any grandchildren from me. The people who raised me are the only two individuals on this planet that get to pry into my feelings about remaining childless. While they might appreciate a stranger's concern about the matter, they wouldn't want anyone treating their child with disrespect. Questioning how I choose to use or not use parts of my body is disrespectful. My mom and dad would be the first in line to tell someone that.
Fortunately, my partner and I both have siblings with children. It would make me feel sad if our parents never got to have grandchildren, so I'm glad my siblings and siblings-in-law chose to have kids.
Ultimately, asking invasive and personal questions about someone's life is unnecessary and impolite. Think twice before you ask a woman why she doesn't have children, and please don't use any of the aforementioned phrases when discussing the fact that a person doesn't have children.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Otomita on May 30, 2018: