Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to marry one of the most wonderful men I’ve ever met. Almost immediately after we returned from our honeymoon, we started getting the question…
“So, when are you having kids?”
Each time I had this bomb dropped on me, I wanted to SCREAM! Why not just ask me how often my husband and I have sex while you’re at it?
While I believe that children are a blessing, and I don’t knock anyone for wanting to experience the joy of motherhood, the honest truth is: I do not want children.
I grew up in a household where it was clear my parents weren’t ready to be parents.
When I was born, my mother and father were 31 and 25-years-old respectively, and married for over a year. Not exactly teenagers, but as long as I can remember, there were long hours at work, weekly parties, drinking, and lots more I won’t get into. My parents weren’t unique in this respect, this rang true for lots of parents in my neighborhood.
As an adult, I understand now that a lot of them were just looking to escape their circumstances in any way they could. They were fleeing living in deteriorating buildings, suffering the loss of family and friends to prison or death, unhappy marriages, unemployment, stress, love, anger—they were looking to escape the cycle of poverty.
My parent’s relationship fell apart when I was around nine-years-old.
As their marriage decayed, their parenting became half-hearted. After much soul searching, I realized it was never about me. They lived their lives just as they had before I was born.
I used to think that their inability to make the sacrifices I believe parenting requires, was my reason for not wanting children.
While I also don’t want to make those changes —it’s so much deeper than that.
While I watched the adults around me work as hard as they could to keep their heads above water, I realize something valuable along the way.
They were never going to escape the cycle.
Fear set in. I was afraid I’d end up like my parents—like all those well-meaning, loving parents, who struggled to surpass their circumstances. I was scared to end up like all those beautiful mothers who tried desperately to make ends meet for their children. I knew the ends would never meet.
So, I poured myself into getting out.
I did what most Latino parents tell you to do—I went to school, worked hard, and dedicated myself to making sure I was successful.
I worked 10-12 hours days, followed by a 60-90 minute commute as an Assistant Principal. Every day, I managed hundreds of students, dozens of faculty and staff members, parents, vendors, partnerships, community organizations, amongst other things. I got out was that not enough?
Mamá’s Mixed Messages
I was so confused. Every day I saw parents telling their daughters they needed to apply themselves in school. They pushed and pushed to drive home the message that education was their salvation. Yet, once the degrees are completed, the pressure to find a mate starts. Once you have, the baby question gets dropped by just about everyone you encounter. Suddenly, all the degrees and the career don’t matter.
That’s just my story, but for some, it isn’t a conscious decision, it’s a real struggle.
- I can’t have children, and it’s breaking my heart
- My husband/partner and I can’t afford to have children
- My husband/partner and I are barely keeping our relationship together
- I’ve been trying for years, and nothing seems to work
- I have zero family support
- My partner doesn’t want any
- I have a medical condition
I’m aware that some people are just excited to share in the milestones of their loved ones’ lives, while others are looking for a comrade in the struggle of raising children, but it’s never okay to ask such a personal question.
Being asked about children is so socially acceptable that we almost feel guilty for being offended when we’re asked. You shouldn’t feel guilty! It’s a personal decision between you and your partner, and no one else’s business.
But, since it will definitely come up.
Here are some tips on how to handle the questions without losing your cool:
How close are you to the person in question?
Your approach to this question will vary based on your relationship with the person asking. The closer the relation, the more honest you can be if it makes you uncomfortable, or you’re just sick of hearing the same thing over and over.
Use your best judgment on the right approach with that individual if you’re dealing with friends or family. If you’re not close with the person asking, you can say something like, “Time will tell.” Change the subject, and they should get the hint.
Send Questions Right Back At Them
Since they have questions for you, I suggest you fire some questions back at them and make sure to include lots of humor. This approach lets them know they shouldn’t ask since their contribution will be minimal.
Which days can you babysit for the next decade? Wait, let me pull up my calendar so we can coordinate.
Okay, I’ll have the baby, but can you breastfeed?
Can I count on 10% of your income? No, really.
I wish you’d ask me if I’d like you to pay my mortgage for the next few months. Can I count on you?
Oh, we’re getting personal, it’s my turn to ask questions next. Okay?
Change the Subject
When the question comes up, change the subject. The easiest way to get someone to forget you is to get them talking about themselves. Ask about their lives and what they’ve got going on. If you know they have something they would love to vent about, bring it up. This also works well with anything they are passionate about or would like the opportunity to showcase.
You can also use the opportunity to highlight some of the other things going on in your life, especially if they can relate. Again, this will get them thinking about themselves or advice they’d love to share unrelated to kids.
Tell Them a Story
Tell them a story about a few women you know that are struggling with having children because of fertility issues, relationship concerns, or finances. In this story, share how badly your friends felt each time they were asked. What’s the moral of the story? It’s a personal question that shouldn’t be asked.
If you’re struggling with fertility issues, I am so sorry that you’re going through that. You are showing great resilience in the face of disappointment, please don’t lose hope.
If you have decided you don’t want children, I’m sorry you are continually feeling like you have to defend your choices, and are left feeling like your achievements aren’t enough.
Regardless of your stance, don’t let you or anyone diminish your accomplishments because of a predetermined timeline. Everyone gets the opportunity to live their own life, and you must live yours on your own terms.
If you’d like help on this journey to self-empowerment, I am currently accepting new clients.