Societal expectations from day one programme both men and women to aspire to follow a certain life path – birth, education, marriage, children, retirement and death. Anything more and anything less raises questions from people both close and distant.
As a woman who has personally been asked this question and also witnessed this same question asked to other couples, my plea is to request everyone to STOP! The big question I am talking about is ‘So, when are we going to hear the pitter patter of tiny feet?’
As well intentioned as this may be, can we all just stop a minute and analyse the enormity of such a weighted question? There are a number of reasons why posing this question casually is similar to playing an emotional game of minesweeper. Think about it. When you ask someone this question, what are you actually hoping for?
Let me explain: the best case scenario is the person confirms she’s pregnant and she shares the special news with you. This of course is highly unlikely as such an enormous thing as bringing a life into this world is something that you divulge to your loved ones without the need for them questioning you…when you are ready! Not disclose it to a random aunty who you’ve just met and who calculated (after talking to you for five minutes) that you have been married for some time, therefore she would like to know when you will procreate!
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t ask and I hope that this article hits home to any readers who have previously encouraged this kind of questioning within your family and communities.
We do not want children – Some couples may not want children or may not feel ready just yet to have them. There may be a situation where one half of the couple does want children and the other half does not. When you are in any of these positions, answering the dreaded question can leave the person feeling guilty, ashamed and vulnerable for disclosing information they otherwise would not have.
Many parents will know that it doesn’t even stop when you actually have a baby as immediately the ‘when are you giving them a brother or sister?’ type of questions start, which can be equally upsetting and feel like you just conquered one mountain and another has appeared before you instantaneously.
Losing a child – You don’t know if the person you are asking this question to has suffered the loss of a child. This can trigger all types of emotions – none of which are positive. It can affect the person’s self esteem and confidence and result in feelings of inadequacy. Miscarriages and stillbirth are common and not something that most people feel comfortable talking about especially not to people who they are not close with.
Fertility – Some people will have children who don’t want them. Others will struggle to conceive for many years and in some cases, not be able to have children ever. This is deeply personal and people rooting on this topic can cause huge discomfort to the person especially if they have been trying to have a baby and it just hasn’t happened for them yet or they are aware that they cannot have children. Fertility issues are more prevalent than people assume with up to 3.5 million people in the UK experiencing problems with conception. You never know who is experiencing fertility issues so rather be safe than sorry and avoid this line of questioning.
My partner/ husband is not right for me – Consider this…the person you just asked may be in a relationship which is not right for a baby. Maybe the couple are going through marriage counselling, maybe the person’s partner is abusive or maybe the couple feel that they are not yet financially stable to bring a life into this world? See where I am going with this? Don’t be the person that opens up a can of worms and potentially sets the stage for further arguments between the couple.
To summarise, people will have babies in all sorts of circumstances. Planned or unplanned, refraining from asking when it will happen is the right thing to do. There is only one thing that is consistent for everyone. It is their business to divulge of their own volition. Let it be, and ask about their day instead.
Is this something you have experienced? What can we do as a community of mums to help educate our aunties, uncles and random well-intentioned inquisitive (and let’s face it, somewhat nosy) souls?
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