To ask or not to ask

On September 20, fed up with question about her reproductive and procreative plans, Emily Elizabeth Bingham posted the following on Facebook:

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Hey everyone!!! Now that I got your attention with this RANDOM ULTRASOUND PHOTO I grabbed from a Google image search, this is just a friendly P.S.A. that people’s reproductive and procreative plans and decisions are none of your business. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Before you ask the young married couple that has been together for seemingly forever when they are finally gonna start a family … before you ask the parents of an only-child toddler when a Little Brother or Little Sister will be in the works … before you ask a single 30-something if/when s/he plans on having children because, you know, clock’s ticking … just stop. Please stop. 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. You don’t know how your seemingly innocent question might cause someone grief, pain, stress or frustration. Sure, for some people those questions may not cause any fraught feelings — but I can tell you, from my own experiences and hearing about many friends’ experiences — it more than likely does.

Bottom line: Whether you are a wanna-be grandparent or a well-intentioned friend or family member or a nosy neighbor, it’s absolutely none of your business. Ask someone what they’re excited about right now. Ask them what the best part of their day was. If a person wants to let you in on something as personal as their plans to have or not have children, they will tell you. If you’re curious, just sit back and wait and let them do so by their own choosing, if and when they are ready.

That post has received more than 45k Likes and more than 78k Shares.

My initial reaction was “you go girl!” It can be quite awkward to receive these questions regardless of where you are in the journey. However, it might surprise you (or maybe not, since I am blogging about it) that I don’t feel as harshly.

For me, it all comes down to what you ask and how you ask it – there is a time and a place for these conversations, and that time and place is likely different for everyone.

THE WHAT:

If you are going to start such a conversation… please don’t include a “timing” variable in your question (i.e. WHEN are you going to start a family?).

Nothing urks me more these days than the idea that everyone can just decide WHEN then are going to have children. Many moms and moms-to-be are lucky enough to “pull the goalie” and get pregnant within the first few months of trying. However, it takes the average couple 6 months, and some much, much longer…

What should you ask? One way I was recently asked that didn’t bother me at all was “Are you guys thinking about kids?” For me that was simple, straightforward – I said “Yes.” and we moved on. Easy peasy.

THE HOW:

I feel like I really shouldn’t have to write this, because it should be common sense for human interactions – but common sense isn’t all that common. Here goes: for the love of GOD and everything holy, do NOT bring up this line of questioning/conversation in a large or non-intimate group.

Again, this is basic manners. Do not bring up sensitive and delicate conversations that make others feel uncomfortable. Having good manners is to make your audience and guests feel welcomed, safe, and comfortable. Questions about procreative plans do not fall into that category.

However, in one-on-one situations or certain small groups of close friends and family, this may be a perfectly appropriate topic of discussion, which in many cases may be a welcomed outlet.

Finally, to anyone who plans to strike up this conversation, just watch your tone and be ready for any response. There have been a handful of people who’ve approached me with a kind and caring tone, people who I normally wouldn’t have opened up to. However, because of the questions that they asked, and how they asked, I felt comfortable that they would listen and be understanding. As a result of opening up, I’ve felt that a weight was lifted from my shoulders and have even encounter other women who have been through similar situations.

I honestly don’t mind talking about what I’m going through, but I’m sure not everyone feels that way. Just be caution and caring, and dig out your Emily Post if you have to. Respect the potentially delicate and emotional nature of the conversation you are introducing. And beware that if you don’t, the response you get may leave you feeling like an ass.

For additional reading on what to say next… I really enjoyed this UpWorthy article.

 

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