Being a young married woman comes with a given: Once people find out you’re married, they want to know if you have kids. And when you tell them you don’t, they want to know when you’re going to have them. And when you tell them you don’t want any, they think it’s time to play twenty questions. In an age where more and more women are deciding to remain child-free, people need to learn how to not be assholes about it.
Here are some things you shouldn’t say to a woman who doesn’t want children:
1. Your biological clock is ticking!
I’m not really sure how this changes the fact that I don’t want children. Are you saying I should have them now just because I won’t be able to have them later? Yeah, that seems like a good reason to bring a child into the world.
2. Don’t you want a family?
Luckily, I already have a family. Yup, even though we’re child-free, I still consider my husband and I to be a family. Crazy, right? Maybe you meant to ask if I want a bigger family. If that’s the case, the answer is ‘no.’
3. If you don’t want to raise a kid, what will be your purpose in life?
Do you know what decade we’re living in? How is this even still a question? If motherhood is your calling, that’s great! If it isn’t, that’s great too! We all have different life goals and whether or not those include being a parent is a personal decision.
4. What about your poor mother? Doesn’t she want grandchildren?
Of course my mom wants grandchildren. And don’t you worry, she’s asked enough times for the both of you. Let me just go ahead and have a child to make my mom happy. That’s a responsible decision, for sure.
5. Who will take care of you when you’re old?
My husband if he’s able. If not, we’ll pay to live in a fancy retirement community with all the money we saved by not having children. Also, the expectation that children have some obligation to nurse their ailing parents is misguided, but that’s another article for another time.
6. Aren’t you worried your husband will leave you? Men want to leave a legacy behind. Who will carry on the family name?
I’m not sure why we continue to believe this archaic notion that men need to ‘spread their seed.’ I’m pretty sure my husband plans on leaving behind a legacy that’s about more than just his sperm.
7. You’ll change your mind when you’re older.
Nope. But guess what? Any woman who does change her mind, that’s okay too! It’ll still be none of your business.
8. You won’t know true joy until you have a child.
Is the joy hiding underneath all the poop and barf? But seriously, where did the idea originate that in order to live a full, happy life, I have to be a mother? Also what is ‘true joy’ anyway? Is the joy I experience with my husband fake joy? How about the joy I get from spending time doing what I love? Is that fake too?
9. You won’t understand the meaning of true love until you have a child.
I guess I’ll just go through life being in fake love experiencing fake joy with my husband. Oh well.
10. You’re not able to have kids? Or is it him?
This is the worst question. Do not ever, ever, ever ask another human being if their reason for not having a child is because they can’t have one. If they want to offer you that information, they will. Otherwise, it’s none of your business.
Bonus! Here’s a question you can ask:
In fact, short of a nod or just plain old silence, this is the only acceptable response. This gives me a chance to actually talk to you about my choices instead of you just judging me. I might tell you that I’ve never felt maternal. Maybe I’ll give you some examples like while my other girl friends were pretending their dolls were babies, I was busy painting my doll’s face in camouflage and pretending she was an army commander. Or like that time when everyone wanted to play house and all the other girls were fighting over who got to play the mom except me. I wanted to play the weird, loveable aunt who let the kids eat all the cookies when mom wasn’t home. What I’m trying to say is that I have never wanted kids. I have never dreamt of motherhood and I don’t see that changing.
If you ask me why, I can tell you that my gut reaction when I see any child is just the noise “ughhhhh.” I might even tell you the serious, honest-to-god reason why I don’t want children: because I can’t think of a single reason why I should.
But in all honesty, the real reason it’s okay to ask me ‘why’ if we’re talking about my very personal choice to not be a mother is because I can tell you it’s none of your business if I don’t feel like talking about it.
It’s totally cool if you want kids. We need good mothers and good fathers and who knows, maybe your kid will be the next president or the person who finally cures cancer. And that’s awesome! But it should also be totally cool if a woman doesn’t want kids. She shouldn’t have to pretend that she might eventually want them (“Do you have kids?” “Oh no, not yet”) because she’s scared of being judged for her decision.