“When are you going to have a baby?” they ask.
It seems like an innocent question on the surface. But, is it really?
What are people really saying when they ask that question? Notice that the question isn’t: “HAVE you decided to have children?” Instead, it’s: “WHEN are you going to have children?” The inference is that you aren’t fulfilled as a woman unless you have kids. Some askers are even saying, “You are less than me because I am a mother.”
I have a friend who got married this year and people started asking her when she was going to get pregnant at her wedding. The following weeks were even worse. She finally had to make a public announcement on social media that basically said: “I’d like to enjoy my new husband for a while, we will choose when we want to have kids, stop asking us!” The amount of childless friends who “liked” her post showed me how many women are getting asked this question.
And, what about the women who have been quietly trying for years or those who’ve had multiple miscarriages? How hurtful is it to attend baby showers and watch your friends get pregnant easily without having to face being asked: “When are YOU going to get pregnant?”
There are a myriad of reasons women don’t have children: Infertility, a traumatic childhood, interfering mental conditions, illnesses that require medications that cause birth defects, or just not feeling called to be a mother.
For those of us who did feel called to motherhood, it can be hard to relate to someone’s decision to not have children. So, in an attempt for better understanding, I reached out to my “Niece” (I adopted her). She has been very open about her decision to not have children and I was curious about the backlash she has faced. With some paraphrasing, these are her words:
We got asked the “When are you going to have kids?” question a LOT when we were first married, especially by our families. When asked when we were going to start a family I would always first feel a little hurt. My husband and I are a family. Does the absence of a child make us any less of a family?
Usually, my answer would be: “We have decided that’s not right for us.” And, always I would be met with: “Oh, you’ll change your mind.” And, that filled me with anger. No one asks how we came to our decision. They seem to assume that we heard a baby have a tantrum once, we had a bad experience with a friend’s child or worst of all, that we don’t like kids. They essentially believe that we made the decision lightly when in fact we spent more time on our decision than many of those who do decide to become parents.
My husband and I attended couple’s therapy for four months before we were engaged, 18 months before we were married and continued for the first seven months of our marriage. We discussed the decision with our counselor and between ourselves for a very long time. Even to this day, we check in with each other to make sure we are still on the same page.
So, how can I describe not wanting to be a mother to those who are moms? The only way I’ve come up with is this: as badly as you wanted to be a mom, as sure as you were that that was the right decision for you, that is how strongly I feel about not being a mom. I know in my heart of hearts that it is not my calling. God skipped that when he created me and I don’t feel cheated. Instead, he gave me a heart for the elderly. Those are the ones I want to care for and serve. And, if that ever changes, we are completely open to making a home for a child who needs it.
I hope this helps others understand my decision and the decision of others to not have children. I also hope I didn’t offend anyone. My heart aches for those women who want children so badly and can’t have them. I can’t imagine their heartbreak. I also know that many women feel a primal desire to be a mother. To them it isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity and they thrive at it.
I simply speak from my own experience. I know that my decision is dismissed or even frowned upon by others. I would hope for understanding and even viewing it as a smart choice. I was told by my mother for most of my adolescent and young adult years that I was not wanted. I won’t be responsible for making another human feel that way.
Just, please know that my decision was not made lightly and it deserves to be valued as much as your decision to have kids.
We’d love to hear from others who have decided to not have children and we hope these words serve to nurture understanding. And, may we eradicate “that” question forever.
Romans 12:6 – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…”
(PS: My niece is the adopted Auntie to all her friends’ kids and she loves them passionately and spoils them rotten whenever she can!)