“When are you going to have a baby?”
“Are you planning for your second yet?”
If you are a woman in your 20s or 30s, chances are pretty good that you’ve been asked a question of this nature. No matter what the answer is, it can be difficult to be put on the spot about such personal, private matters. Maybe you and your partner disagree on whether to have a child, or another child, and your relationship is suffering as a consequence. Maybe you’ve been trying for many months and are having difficulty getting pregnant. Maybe you recently learned you can’t have children at all. Maybe you aren’t sure you want to have a child. Maybe you are pregnant and aren’t sharing that with anyone just yet. Maybe you don’t want children at all, but you know that is not the “right” answer since the question phrases it as an eventuality. The possible scenarios go on and on, begging the question, why would anyone ask?
Often, but not always, the people who ask such questions are of an older generation. Recent generations are among the first to widely view marriage and children as choices rather than imperatives. It used to be that young couples typically got married and fairly soon afterward began having children, usually two or more per family. There was little to no consideration of these things as choices; rather, it was just part of the life cycle and what most everyone did on a pretty uniform timetable. So, chances are when grandma asks you at Thanksgiving when you are going to give her a great grandchild, she doesn’t mean any harm—she is simply working from her own experience. Considering her context and giving her the benefit of the doubt might make the question understandable, but it probably doesn’t make it less uncomfortable.
Hopefully, if the question is asked with truly innocent intentions, it will be easy enough to protect your privacy and change the subject, “Oh, you know, I’m not really sure about that just yet. By the way, this casserole is fantastic. What kind of cheese did you use?” But what if the questions persist and begin to feel intrusive and judgmental? This is trickier, and it might be necessary to be more direct. You might need to be more assertive about your desire to avoid the topic. It is OK to simply and firmly say, “I’m not willing to discuss this.” If you are really feeling unheard and disrespected, it might even be a good idea to remove yourself from the physical space with something like, “I’ve made it clear that I am not discussing this, but you are persisting, so I am going to excuse myself now.”
For some, this can seem like a shocking, maybe even impossible approach, especially with family. When spending time with family, even the most independent and accomplished adults might find themselves falling back into the roles of the children that they once played in their families. In these moments, it is important to remind yourself that you are, in fact, an adult and you get to decide what you are and are not willing to accept in your life and in your relationships. You can respectfully state what you are and are not willing to discuss and hope that will be respected. If it is not, as an adult, you get to decide what you do next.
The decision to have a child or children is deeply personal and private, and for the sake of potential parents and children, it is a decision that is best made with careful consideration. Because it is largely viewed as an option in today’s society and not an imperative, many people feel ambivalent about it and struggle to make a decision. If you find yourself in this lot, know that you are not alone and that many qualified therapists are available to offer you support as you work to sort this out.
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