WHY YOU SHOULDN’T ASK “ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE KIDS?”
ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE KIDS? HOW ASKING ABOUT CHILDREN MAY ACTUALLY BE HURTFUL
Are you going to have kids? May seem like an innocent question. Our culture especially finds this a “normal” topic of conversation considering it is just assumed that everyone wants children… or can have them. I work with an array of clients varying in relationship status; single, dating, in a relationship(s), married. My clients have been extremely successful in one way or another and many tend to have their own definition of what they’d like their future to look like (with or without children). I have recently been hearing from clients (and friends), about how the question “Are you going to have kids?” in small-talk can be extremely stressful when their situations are not as cut and dry as the person asking may expect them to be.
We have all heard it, been asked it, or have even asked the simple question, “Are you going to have kids?”
Our culture and society play a huge role in influencing us to feel, believe and/or experience pressures and insecurities. Universally, it seems to be more of a norm and expectation that one of our top priorities should be to have children. Whether that norm is something we agree with and have wanted for ourselves since we were young, or is something that unfortunately causes internal conflict because we are uncertain, or is something we desire but it is unattainable; this question has a lot more depth to a “yes” or “no” answer.
Sometimes, people find themselves having to wait longer to have children because they are single and looking for a partner to “settle down” with. Other times, people find themselves in situations where they have a partner and desire to have children, but biologically cannot. Some people find themselves with one child, but not able or wanting a second one. In addition, more and more people are also choosing to not have children and/or get married at all. Everyone’s unique situation and choice is different.
So, when we meet someone for the first time and are having a surface level conversation, we may not even realize that we may be opening up a raw wound for someone when prompting a simple question such as, “Do you have children?” “When are you going to have kids?” or “When are you going to have another one?”
Maybe asking about children is strictly out of curiosity or to make the small talk less uncomfortable, but unfortunately, this simple question can bring up a lot of emotion for someone who may be struggling with complexities that are not on our superficial radar.
Let’s consider the following scenarios that may make the question, “Are you going to have kids?” a sore subject:
- This person is or has struggled with infertility/health issues and biologically can’t conceive.
- This person has been in a painful feud with their partner for years regarding children and one person wants them, while the other one doesn’t.
- This person is in a relationship with someone of the same sex and they have been struggling with where to start the process.
- This person has had a traumatizing experience with losing a child(s) or pregnancies.
- This person is single and has extreme desires to become a parent one day but doesn’t have a partner at the moment to make their dreams a reality.
- This person is married, but as a couple has chosen to not have children and feels uncomfortable explaining that to others.
- This person has experienced a discouraging adoption process that did not work out.
- This person adopted a child, but doesn’t want to explain their unique process to others in a superficial conversation.
- This person has a child, but can’t have another one.
- This person is in the midst of fertility treatment and feels uneasy about it.
- This person doesn’t want children at all, and feels sensitive to judgement.
With these few examples, (and yes, there are many others), I hope you can imagine the pain and discomfort that this question can inflict onto someone if they are struggling with healing from a difficult experience and/or feel stuck in a upsetting process when it comes to their relationship(s) and family planning. Often times asking about children imply we are supposed to have them and it can be hurtful for people who may have difficulties creating this for themselves and/or who have chosen to not have them at all.
Please be cautious of how or when you prompt questions like this to other people, because it may not have a cut and dry answer and may really upset someone.
Instead of asking, “Are you going to have kids?” try being more mindful of these potentials moving forward. As a tip, to avoid hurting someone unintentionally, consider trying the following small talk question instead, “What do you enjoy doing on your free time?” This opens up the conversation to potentially talk about children if they say they “enjoy spending time with their kid(s)” or gives you more content to work with in the conversation about their hobbies and interests if they don’t have children or simply don’t have interest in talking about their personal life in too much detail.