In China asking someone their salary is considered to be a perfectly nice conversation starter. In Parent World, asking people without kids when are they going to have a baby, is also considered to be perfectly OK chit-chat material. I am going to have to pull a Miss Manners here and explain that this is no more appropriate than asking someone when they are going to stop being so fat.
Parents—I know you can’t imagine your life without kids. In fact for many of you, it’s hard to imagine any type of small talk (or any talk for that matter) without it being All Kid, All the Time. But you must resist the urge to ask the baby question. With all stories going on in the world right now, I promise you there is something else to chat about besides the status of your friend’s uterus.
While I find this question irksome (not to mention unimaginative), I’m not just explaining this for my sake or even for my child-free sisters’ sakes. I am explaining this because you DO NOT want to ask a childless woman who is desperately trying to get pregnant but can’t. Hell has no fury like a woman who is completely amped up on fertility hormones, spending her entire 401K plan on IVF treatments, and thinks the whole world is laughing at her barrenness. Ay, yi, yi. You can’t even ask these women the time of day without getting a crying jag on how unfair it is that unmarried teenagers get pregnant just looking at each other. Just the possibility of an outburst like this would make people think before asking.
And yet, my husband and I still get asked. Even after nicely deflecting the question by explaining I am perfectly happy with my dog and being the Cool Aunt to my 19 nephews and 3 nieces, I really am astounded when people continue to push. I get the, “You’re athletic, you’re smart—you should pass on your DNA” and “Really, you have to have kids, it will change your life.” Interestingly, some of the people that push the hardest are people that seem to be the least happy with their kids. Is this a misery loves company thing? Because let me tell you, the happier parents aren’t nearly as pushy.
And to be fair, the parents that know me the best, don’t ask. They know my lifestyle—that I love playing with kids for about 30 minutes and then I’m ready for my cocktail. Also, they realize I am not a complete idiot. Of course I have thought about kids. Unlike many parents (and this includes ALL parents from my Mom’s generation and everyone before that), I actually have put a lot of thought into the question. I know I am missing out on something incredible. I also know how much I would miss my child-free life and relationship with my husband. You can only cut so many corners when it comes to sleep, work, and keeping some semblance of order in the house. What’s first to go is a fun, loving relationship with your husband and it usually doesn’t come back until the last kid has left for college.
So parents, in the interest of friendship and better cocktail party conversation, how about we make a deal. You don’t ask people without kids when they are going to have one and we won’t ask you why you look so tired all the time and when’s the last time you had sex. We can all stick to safer subjects. Like how much money you’re making.