Fielding intrusive questions is par for the course when it comes to not having children. Whether you're childfree by choice or childless by circumstance, both strangers and friends have no problem discussing the status of your reproductive organs and intentions for them going forward. People feel comfortable asking if I have a medical condition or my reason for not wanting children as casually as talking about the weather. As if saying "what do you mean you don't want children?" is on par with "what do you mean you don't like the snow?" There's lots of information about all the things we shouldn't say to parents, what we shouldn't say to someone with a disability or a person with uncommon features. Picture a friend talking about trying for another baby, and then imagine someone asking any one of these questions:
- Are you sure you want another child? You're already so stressed. - Is it really safe for you to carry a baby at this age? - Are you sure you can afford it? - Why don't you adopt instead of having another biological child? - Isn't it selfish to put all your meaning on your children? - What are your plans if your children don't take care of you when you're older? Oh the backlash! We would be considered heartless and rude for our invasive, ignorant comments. How could we ever think to say something like that when we're discussing something as incredible as a baby! Nevertheless people poke around inside my uterus (metaphorically speaking) to find out exactly what is "wrong" with me. Is it that I can't have children or do I just hate them? Have you tried this thing or this pill? There's still time dear, just relax. You'll likely change your mind once you find a husband. These questions and comments are often fraught with a plethora of emotions, whether it's heartache due to infertility or frustration due to past disrespect on the subject. Until not having children is normalized in society as a valid choice, we need to be prepared to field these questions.
Be polite but firm.
I'm going to encourage you to always err on the side of being polite. Even though these questions are so boorish, more often than not, they have good intentions when asking them. Simply saying something like 'I'd prefer not to talk about this, I don't like discussing my personal life at work, that's a little too personal of a question, or I don't feel comfortable discussing this with someone I don't really know' can be enough for many people to let it go and move on. We don't need to be rude with our response, but we do need to be firm that this is a topic that is off limits. Being polite not working?
Slay them with Silence.
In our culture we hate to let a silence linger in a conversation, it's awkward and someone typically always jumps in to fill the empty space. Answer as simply as possible. If they say something like "Oh you don't want children?" answer with "No." and leave it there. Let the silence hang in the air like a lead balloon, it will be heavy and awkward but everyone will get the hint. Any subsequent questions to be answered with just as simple answers. Remember that you don't owe anyone an explanation for your choices and decisions in life.
And if all else fails..
Make it awkward. They say there's no such thing as a stupid question, but I disagree and sometimes a stupid question deserves a stupid answer. This is reserved for the obnoxious aunt that won't let the subject go, the nosey coworker who feels any subject is fair game or even a relative stranger who feels entitled to know your business. Use the words sperm or bleeding or similar adjectives and verbs that would readily make a person squirm. Go into detail about the abnormalities in your husbands sperm or the rupturing cysts on your ovaries or the gory, awful details of endometriosis and make them ever regret being so nosey.
One of my favourite quotes in regards to boundaries is "The only people who get upset about you setting boundaries are the ones who were benefiting from you having none." So own your boundaries. It's not our responsibility to insure others feel comfortable by sacrificing our own comfort in the process. These questions are personal, vulnerable and sometimes hurtful, they are questions that shouldn't be asked except amongst close, trusted friends. Don't allow their negative reactions to make you reconsider your stance. Until we put those boundaries firmly in place, and stick to them, people will continue to cross over those lines, living in the entitlement that they have access to that information. It's time you started benefiting from your boundaries instead of everyone else.
“Why do I need to have reasons? When someone decides to have a baby, people don't go around asking what her reasons are.”