A while back, I wrote this little lighthearted piece on the annoying questions newlyweds don’t want to be asked. At the time, I put the question out there to Twitter and the overwhelming response was that “when are you going to have babies?” is definitely the most frequently asked (and the most irritating) question out there.
But, my dear friends, I fear I may have covered this point too kindly in my last post about the matter. Maybe I was too gentle when I explained that babies can trigger emotional responses, that the question is too personal to be considered a polite and acceptable topic of conversation with someone you don’t know all that well (or at all if the person hasn’t volunteered any information).
So I’m going to make a more cogent case for abstaining from asking the question altogether, and hopefully people will take note.
This one is for all newlywed women. Send it to your nosy neighbour next time they look expectantly at your stomach when they see you putting your bins out, forward it to the distant relative who asks about your ovaries at the next casual family gathering, please pass the message on: asking me about babies isn’t OK unless I actually have a baby!
Being married doesn’t give people the right to gawp at everything you do – especially where your very private choices are concerned
Do you see a baby?
Here’s the very obvious question you should ask yourself before entering the uncharted territory of baby conversation. “Do I see a baby (or the makings of one)?” If the answer is “no” then the following scenarios are possible:
Scenario A – The couple in question doesn’t want kids
Shock, horror, not everyone wants kids. Some people don’t want them right away, some people don’t want them at all, some people want them but their partner doesn’t, sometimes it’s the other way around. It’s the 21st century. Getting married isn’t an automatic precursor to reproducing.
In this scenario, where the person being constantly questioned about babies doesn’t want one, imagine how irritating that must be to explain this (and inevitably be asked to justify it, I mean why else would you marry the person you love, other than to start a family? What kind of suspicious human being marries someone they love and then doesn’t DO anything about it? Duh…) to everyone who feels it’s their business to ask. Making the choice not to have children doesn’t mean you’re out to make a point, be controversial or debate the whole world on the subject, it’s up to you and you alone what you do with your body and your life.
Scenario B – The couple in question can’t have kids
Imagine this – you’re reproductively challenged in some way, maybe having kids is a difficult journey for you or maybe you can’t have biological children at all. Then every single person on the periphery your life, from Facebook friends having a casual catch up to taxi drivers asking nosy questions about your marital status, starts asking you when you plan to have babies. Some people frame it as an outright order (usually as an answer to some other life problem – always a good reason to bring a child into the world… for example Me: “I’m so bored today” Randomer on Facebook: “Oh my God you should start making with the baybeeeezzzzz”). The outright order always baffles me – do people think the prospect has never occurred to you?
Some people forgo the formality of even structuring a sentence and just ask “babies?” In the words of the mighty Lucille Bluth (brownie points to anyone who gets the reference) “I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.”
If someone wants kids but doesn’t have them, it’s not through lack of trying now, is it?
Scenario C – The woman in question is already pregnant but doesn’t want to tell you
What are you expecting to hear? “Actually, polite acquaintance, I’m two months pregnant. I didn’t want to tell anyone yet, that’s why I didn’t volunteer the information in the first place, but since you asked…”
Believe it or not, newly pregnant women aren’t bursting at the seams to be asked whether or not they’re pregnant. Most newly pregnant women I know are thoughtful, cautious and trying to be pragmatic until the pregnancy reaches a later stage. If she hasn’t told you, it’s for a reason.
Perhaps a better benchmark for whether or not you’ve asked an appropriate question is this: “would I be the person she comes to if God forbid something goes wrong?” If the answer is “no” then that’s why she hasn’t told you she’s pregnant – because if it doesn’t work out you’re not the person she wants to talk to about it!
I’m not writing this post to be mean or to make you feel ashamed if you’ve asked someone this question before, I’m writing it because I really want you to think more deeply about the position you’re putting someone in when you’re asking it. If there is no child, then there’s no scenario in which you won’t make the person you’re asking deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or on the spot. It’s not just a “polite thing to ask” or “thing people say when you get married”, it’s a very personal, invasive and inappropriate question and on behalf of my fellow newlyweds, think again before you ask about babies.