Ahhhhh….THE Question…Do you have kids?
Here are some other versions: Are you planning to have kids? What are you guys waiting for? Is [child’s name] going to get a sibling soon? No kids yet? I’m sure you can’t wait for this [points to crying baby], right?
Should you be concerned about asking these questions? No, absolutely not. Also yes, absolutely.
Let’s deal with “No” first.
These are normal questions and totally legit icebreakers. Every question cannot be off the table…for the LOVE! I mean, have you ever asked someone about their Mom only to find out she passed away when they were young or she left them? Shit! Have you ever asked someone about their job and were told they just got let go? Shit! Shit! It’s an awful feeling, for certain, but we cannot, should not, be responsible for the upheaval these questions may or may not cause. How can we know? These are nearly as standard as “How have you been?” for crissake…
While, I’m happy we now have more of a platform for our voices (thank you social media) and an increased understanding of the difficult things people face in their lives, I do worry we are creating an environment where we have to walk on eggshells. That even the most nominal methods of reaching out feel like they can potentially offend, hurt or cause discomfort and this discourages connection. We simply cannot be expected to be mind readers. I’d much rather someone (think: stranger/acquaintance at a party) ask me if I have kids and make the effort to connect vs. not reaching out at all.
Now for the “Yes.”
First, recognize the kid questions are normal and legit because our society revolves around and is extremely driven towards the very “typical” family: you date, get married and have 2.5 kids with a white picket fence so rover can romp around. And these questions do perpetuate that ideal – they are assumptive.
Second, if you have a friend or family member and you know they are going through fertility struggles, not one of these questions (or any variation) is on the table…ever. I don’t care if you are their parent, their closest friend, or their third cousin twice removed. If you have the knowledge and ask anyway – you are an ASS. Yes, even YOU with the hugs, smiles and sweet as pecan pie voice.
Third, to strangers and acquaintances that do not have the knowledge – In all honesty, ask away. Really. This question doesn’t make me angry or spontaneously burst into tears. I handle it all of the time. But, I’m going to answer you honestly and that seems to make people really uncomfortable. So, if you don’t think you can handle “we can’t have them” or “we don’t want them” as answers to these questions, take a little time and think of a new icebreaker.
If you hear “we can’t have them” and weren’t ready for it, a sincere “I’m sorry to hear that” is a simple, thoughtful, logical response. And then it is quite okay to move on with a new topic or ask more questions if you are so inclined and truly interested (the door has been opened, after all).
I obviously can’t speak with authority to the answer of “we (or I) don’t want them,” but I imagine you should stay away from any version of “Oh, why not?” especially if that response includes a head tilt and a high-pitched voice.
We are not mind readers and the last thing I want is for my circumstances to be a barrier for connection with others and vice versa. When I trip up and unintentionally say or ask the unknowing thing, (because, trust me, I will) please either educate me kindly or give me a little grace or both. And I’ll do the same.