Tuesday 29 September 2015

Don't ask

When Emily Bingham of Michigan went on to Facebook urging people not to pester women about their plans for children, she had no idea it would strike such a chord that her plea has been shared some 40,000 times.

She said that endless probing about babies-to-be, without any knowledge of the woman's personal circumstances, can be hugely upsetting and intrusive.

She wrote: "This is just a friendly PSA that people's reproductive and procreative plans and decisions are none of your business. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. You don't know who is struggling with infertility or grieving a miscarriage or dealing with health issues. You don't know who is having relationship problems or is under a lot of stress or the timing just isn't right. You don't know who is on the fence about having kids or having more kids. You don't know who has decided it's not for them right now, or not for them ever."

But mothers in particular are often so keen to have grandchildren that they raise the subject constantly. Or a couple is told their lives are "incomplete" without a child or two. Or if they have a son or daughter they're asked when they're having a complementary daughter or son. Or they're told an only child must be lonely and needs a sibling.

As someone without children, it simply never occurs to me to ask a woman about her plans for children, or more children. I wouldn't assume she even wants any, unless she says so. As Emily Bingham says, such questions can open a massive can of worms that's best left unopened.

Surprisingly enough, I can't recall my parents ever asking me if Jenny and I were planning a family. I'm not sure if it was indifference or tact, but either way it was a relief not fielding those awkward questions.

Apart from anything else, it puts a childless couple on the defensive. They're forced to justify what others see as an abnormal situation. But why should they have to defend their personal behaviour?

Some questions are best left unspoken.

Pic: Emily Bingham


  1. I guess as most parents dote on their little darlings
    There is an automatic assumption that everyone will be made " complete" by having a child in a baby carrier

    Its the excitement of the " newly converted"

  2. brava emily bingham!!!
    when i was a new very young bride...
    i got that question continually.
    bob had one daughter from a first marriage.
    he was 10 years older than i ... and didn't want more.
    he told me upfront. and that it was MY decision to accept it.
    i gave it deep thought. and i decided i loved him enough.
    and i did. and he was so worth it! for 16 years.
    losing him early ... would it make a difference now ...
    if i had a child or children? probably. but i wouldn't trade my time with him
    for anything or anyone! there are many children in one's life to love. they don't have to be one's own. and the world is over populated as it is!
    yes. emily bingham. people NEVER know the whole story.
    and it is NEVER any of their business.

  3. John: The excitement of the newly converted indeed. Most parents are delighted to have had a child, but those who regret their decision dare not say so.

    Tammy: Very true, there are plenty of children out there to love, there's no necessity to add a few more. It sounds like you loved your husband very dearly and not having a child never seemed like a big issue.

  4. The decision to have or not to have children is deeply personal.

    I would love Boy to have kids, but he doesn't want to. He may change his mind, he may not. I want him to be happy whatever.

  5. Rose: That's the point isn't it, whatever makes you happy. Which might be having loads of kids or might be not having any kids. Constant prodding on the subject is uncalled-for.

  6. I'm not interested in being called 'Grandma' anytime soon, so I would not broach the subject with my married daughter.

    I'm sort of the opposite in that I have a hard time being happy for people who seem to keep having children that they can't afford.

  7. Bijoux: That baffles me too, people having children when they're obviously struggling to make ends meet. They'll just pass on a lot of anxiety and tension to their kids.

  8. This survey has always intrigued me. 70% of parents regret having children.



  9. I must say, I wanted Kaitlin but I never had the urge to have a grandchild. Some people have tried to convince me that I'm missing a lot, and I don't bother arguing with them. I would rather have my granddogs. :)

  10. www|: I remember you mentioning that survey before. Quite eye-opening. I think there are many parents who for one reason or another have mixed feelings about their children. But they're expected to say how wonderful their kids are and how their lives have been enriched, and any reservations have to be firmly stamped on.

  11. Jean: I must say I've never understood the passionate desire for grandchildren. Aren't your own children enough? As a child though, I was very grateful for my maternal grandma. She was a lot warmer and kinder than my permanently bad-tempered father!

  12. I am so guilty of that. But only with my own children and i hope we're on close enough terms for then to tell me it's inappropriate. In fact I'm sure they'd tell me to butt out.

    I do have the tendency to speak without thinking though and should be more aware.

  13. Liz: I guess it's not so bad if your kids feel free to tell you to back off. As long as you do back off and don't keep hankering after the patter of tiny feet!

  14. My son and daughter in law are childless and I am grandchildless as well. Both conditions in India too invites questions that need to be tackled with aplomb if one has to maintain relationships. I usually use humour to say that I shall return home to try and persuade my children in case they have forgotten what is to be done or some such quip. Or I respond with how many grand dogs I have.

    Yes, it is nobody's business why my son is like that and I am like that.

  15. My kids know now I want to be a granny one day!!! However, once they're older and with a partner , I really hope I'd never bring it up!

  16. Ramana: Perhaps turning the children question into a joke is the best way of dealing with it....

    Suburbia: I can't see you as a granny, you look far too young! Grannies have to be grey-haired and a bit dithery.

  17. As I told you once before here, my daughter and my new son-in-law announced at their wedding that they were not planning on having children, because a) it would upset their careers and b) they wouldn't bring children into a world as bad as this. To which I replied "What a good decision, I wish your mother and I had made the same decision on our wedding day, it would have made our life so much easier". Needless to say I wasn't flavour-of-the-day after that!

    I do miss not having grandchildren to spoil and waste my money on. . . . .

  18. Keith: So were you serious or was that strictly tongue in cheek? If you were serious, I'm not surprised at the reaction!

  19. Nick: It was tongue in cheek, but I think the underlying meaning got through. She is the last of our family line.

  20. Keith: I must say, I would be most nervous about bringing a child into this crazy world we're living in today. I'd have to be very confident my child would have enough intelligence and common sense not to succumb to some enticing but self-destructive lifestyle.

  21. It's reasonable to expect parents and perhaps siblings to have a genuine interest in the question. But rather impertinent, I agree, for people who don't really care to probe on such a sensitive subject.


  22. As you know Nick, I have no grandchildren. I did not have Elly for my parents sake, we had her for and from our pleasure. I am regularly asked if I have any 'wee grans' yet. My answer is always the same: "No, not yet, and until the day I am told a baby is on the way, it is actually none of mine or anyone elses business!"

  23. Jenny: I guess the occasional query is fair enough, as long as it's not persistent prodding.

    Grannymar: Good answer! They'll just have to wait and see, and curb their idle curiosity!