When I was single, no one ever asked me the two questions most women in their twenties get asked repeatedly: “When are you getting married?” “When are you having kids?”
I flew below the radar of stunningly awkward questions. And it was awesome.
And then I got married. And on our wedding day, at our reception, someone asked me– just me, not John– when we were having kids. My wedding ring didn’t feel comfortable on my hand — it was still shiny and new and heavy. I hadn’t even gotten to eat our meal. We hadn’t cut our wedding cake yet. And here I was, answering a question about when we were going to have kids.
And then I moved in with John and started attending functions with his coworkers at his command. The kid questions kept coming. Were we planning on having kids? When were we having kids? Were we trying?
Nah, I wanted to say. We’re just practicing.
But I didn’t. I made excuses and explained why we hadn’t decided–after just a few months of marriage–whether we were having kids or not.
I’ll be honest with you– having children is a decision John and I don’t take lightly. And we’re still not sure what we want for our family. (Because we are a family, even without children.) We’re talking about it, but the choice to have children is a life-changing one. It’s a private one. And it’s also a conversation that we don’t share with many people– especially with someone I’ve just met at the command Christmas party over crab dip and watered-down cocktails.
Or at a casual get together, where another military spouse cornered me, promising me that she would change my mind about having kids and “convert” me because having children was the greatest thing that had ever happened to her.
These questions put me between a rock and a hard place. Every time. There’s no way to explain our reproductive choices without sounding like a jerk passing judgment on people who have decided to have children. (I’ve been a casual observer of the Mommy Wars online. And trust me, I do not want to get involved at all.)
Every time we’re asked, I get more and more frustrated with the barrage of baby questions. My friends who are military and don’t have kids get the same questions and comments, too. (They’re tired of answering them, too. It’s not just me!) We’ve talked at length about how frustrating it is to expect (and field) the same question over and over again from people who have children. I get it, though. Kids are a common topic to talk about and compare notes over. And in the military, where people are always coming and going, having go-to conversation starters is a must.
But I’m begging you. Stop asking.
I know the question is innocent, but the response can be painful or awkward. It can shoot our possible friendship in the proverbial foot before it’s even begun. Because while the question might only be about kids, the answer is usually about a lot more than that.
Maybe we’re in so much student debt that we can’t financially care for a child at this point.
Or we’re dealing with a recent health diagnosis that puts children out of our plans for now.
Maybe we’ve lost a baby or miscarried.
Or are dealing with infertility.
Maybe we’re having a tough time with infertility treatments since we PCS every 2-3 years.
Or we don’t like kids. At all.
Maybe we’re thinking about adopting or fostering and are looking at options.
Or we’re looking down the barrel of a deployment and don’t want to start just now.
Maybe we don’t want to have children while we’re attached to the military.
Or we’re putting our careers before family planning.
Maybe we’re terrified and have been putting it off.
Maybe we just really don’t want to have kids right now.
There is a different reason for every couple. And no couple owes anyone else a reason for their personal choices. There are so many other questions that you can ask to get to know me. There are so many other subjects that we can bond over and so many facets of my personality and life that are just as (if not more) interesting than our reproductive choices.
So the next time I meet you at the spouse mixer, or command picnic, or a quiet dinner to welcome you to town, ask me about my favorite book. Or the TV show I’m addicted to. We can swap stories about military life and roll our eyes at the silly things our husbands have done. I’ll be happy to listen to your stories about your kiddos and how big they’re getting. But please don’t ask me when we’re having kids.