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Stop Asking When We’re Having Babies: A Plea from a Military Spouse

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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?”

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.

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?"

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.


46 Responses

  1. I so totally agree with you. As a 50 year old newlywed I am still asked that question.

    1. I normally say ” In God’s perfect timing” , that always shuts them up. Can’t argue with God. Next question. ….. Lol

      1. Yeah, that’s what I said. I was then asked if we were trying. Sigh. I feel this is a question our answers are never good enough for.

        1. I always feel like “are you trying” is such an invasive question too. Are you really asking if my husband I are having sex?

  2. So much this.

    I recently met other milspouses who were astounded that I didn’t have kids. It’s just assumed you have them, especially since dh and I are in our thirties, we should have 2 or 3 by now, right? -_-;; Drives me nuts.

      1. I know, right?! After the aweful PCS we just had I couldn’t imagine doing it with kids. Just no. It’s complicated enough without them.

  3. I adore this post, and I can’t wait to share it. Seriously, what is it about people asking dumb questions. I like to refer to these as the default questions because people can’t think of anything creative to ask. It goes from when are you getting married to when are you having kids to when are you having another kid. My husband and I were practically old timers by military standard by the time we had a kid. Some milspouses my age have middle school and high school children, which is so crazy. But seriously, I couldn’t agree more with you and I’m so glad you shared!

    Lauren

    1. First, thanks so much for sharing, Lauren. I appreciate it! I know the old timer feeling– it’s kind of weird since we’re still young! :-)

    2. I think this is a great post! While I too flew under the radar while single, I met my husband when he got out of the Army in 2010 and we only dated 9 months, were engaged 9 months and yes married 9 months when we found out we were unexpectedly expecting. We were in shock. That’s just how it happened for us. However, no sooner than my maternity leave ended did 2 friends of mine ask when we were having another and I now can totally relate! I honestly was furious and wanted to tell them it was none of their business and rude for them to be asking such a personal question. I think you have the right to give whatever answer you feel like saying in that moment because only when we answer honestly does the point get across and they stop asking.

      1. Thanks for the kind words, Anna! I have such a hard time saying exactly what I’m thinking (that’s probably why I blog– I can write it out! :-) ) in the moment. I get all tongue-tied and then think of the PERFECT thing to say 15 minutes after it’s all over. haha

  4. Exactly! We have my student loan debt and my health. A car soon, then deployment, then a house. All in a little over a year. Too much to do, to consider. And with my fertility issues because of my health, I need to have less stress. If I get pregnant now, I’d be high risk! Who wants that? NOOO one! Lol I always tell people I have a food baby right now, a good sized big Mac or Hoagie with a twin of fries. I always say, practice!

    But what always shuts them up is when I bring up my health. Cuz I’ll go down that road, I’ll take that turn, and I can make anyone feel entirely too weird talking about chronic illness by going verrry…. Verrry personal about it. But hey, they asked their questions, so here’s my answer! Lol

  5. I couldn’t agree more! My very sweet, but doesn’t always think before she speaks mother-in-law asked me the day before our wedding, when we were having kids. *Give me a second to enjoy our wedding and marriage, right?* LOL. We are in our early-thirties and have been married for three years, so we get the question all the time, and I hate being asked it. Because like you and your husband, we really don’t know. We are having fun, enjoying being married and traveling. It’s such a personal question and really no one’s business. Currently there are more families in my husband’s shop who don’t have children than the ones who do have children. I am LOVING it, because “the question” doesn’t come up at work functions anymore. :)

    1. We’re coming up to our 30s and I know the questions will only increase. Hopefully, by then we’ll have the answer. But if not, that’s okay too! Thanks so much for sharing your story and taking a moment to read and comment, Nichole! :)

  6. YES!!! Oh gosh, yes—I adore this post and wish everyone would read it! Having children or not having them is such a deeply personal thing and should definitely NOT be used as a get-to-know-you question!

  7. I agree with this 100%! It gets frustrating after a while, I honestly wish people knew how to mind their own business. Also, thank you for saying that even without kids a couple is still a family! I wish more people felt that way.

  8. As a mom of 2, I confess that I sometimes envy couples that don’t have any children! I had my son at 20 and my daughter at 25, and although I do feel that they are my entire world and I would NEVER change a thing if I could.. it’s still one of those ‘what-if’ thoughts that cross my mind! Spending time with your hubby and enjoying your marriage without the craziness that is parenthood is awesome and people should just respect that!

  9. I never wanted kids then ended up marrying a man with three of them, and I totally admit – I still struggle. I am 38 years old and people now ask us when WE will have kids.

    It is your choice and honestly, I see no harm in answering, “If and when *WE* decide to,” or “That’s really between us. Next topic.”

    I hope people read this and take heed. Sharing!

  10. Amen! The hubs and I have dealt with this for over 12 years now and the questions never change and never get any easier to answer!

  11. LOVE this! While I now have 2 children I can completely relate to this in the early days of our marriage. You never know what people are going through and I have so many friends who would be deeply hurt when asked this question because they were struggling with their journey. Others who never plan on having kids were just as hurt. It’s a personal thing, asked in innocence, but can cause such deep wounds!

  12. Well said! I hope people read and heed. When my husband and I got engaged we were in our early 30s and weren’t sure if we wanted children–ever. Turns out that we changed our minds 6 years later, but I can’t count how many times we were asked when we were going to “finally start a family.” I’d always correct the person and let them know that my husband, cat, and I considered ourselves a family even if we didn’t have littles running around. It didn’t help that we were living in Utah where a large number of families are started very young, and we were well into our 30s… It’s such a personal choice, and whichever path a couple chooses is what’s right for THEIR family.

  13. I want to marry this post, THANK YOU for putting it out like this so eloquently. My husband and I are planning to remain childfree, but I have close milspouse friends whom have been trying to conceive for four years and it breaks their heart every time someone asks about their plans for kids. I also loathe the “start a family” phrase. My husband and I formed our family when we said I do. I don’t mind asking about if we have kids, but once I say no, switch topics.

  14. I feel like 5 years into marriage and military life, I should be used to this question, but I never am. I don’t even have a set answer after all this time because my answer is always changing. I grew up wanting nothing more than to have kids, but life dealt me a different card. I struggle with being bluntly honest and telling people my womb is a dried up cavern of rotten nothingness or being polite and telling people we’re just not there- even when I don’t think we’ll ever be there. I find people usually don’t settle for a polite response though and even sometimes the blunt shock factor response- they push you for more like I’m on a morning show interview! I don’t know if it’s being with the people we are with now, or the fact that I just hit 30, but everyone seems to be saying “it’s never too late!” WHAT?!?! I just turned 30! I didn’t think I was that old!
    I feel like just because I am in a socioeconomic group of breeders doesn’t mean I need to be <— oh wait, was that rude? Try asking someone why they can't keep their legs closed and you're the anti-christ, but they can feel all too welcome to ask you about your reproductive choices! (And OBVIOUSLY I am joking… I would never behave in such an ill manner!)

    1. 30 is not old! It’s the new 20? The new 15? The new whatever-makes-you happy. :-) I know we’ve heard that– “You’d better get started soon…” But having kids out of fear is probably not the best way to bring them into the world…

  15. I would literally applaud this post if you could hear it through my computer. =) I was asked when we’re having kids literally on our wedding day! I was like, woah, slow down. Remember how we’re getting married in like four hours? People have all different reasons for not having kids “yet,” and, as you point out, they may not want to discuss them. I think most people ask innocently, but I do wish more folks could come up with a better ‘get to know you’ starter question.

    1. Thanks, Natasha! Yes– slow down is right! I got the same thing too. At least wait until after the honeymoon to ask that question! ;-)

  16. The day my husband and I got engaged, his mother told me our first child would be a boy. The night before we got married (at a dinner we had with both families), she asked how long til she would get another grandbaby (her daughter has a three year old and is expecting another). It’s a talk we’ve both had and have both agreed we’re not quite ready for. Kids are in the plan, just a few years out. I’m hoping once his sister gives birth, his mom will calm down on questioning us but it could very easily go the other direction and she’ll start saying that we need to catch up to her. I know my parents would love a grandchild, but they know I’m personally not ready for a kid. I’ve got a one year old puppy I sometimes struggle taking care of (and when I say struggle I just mean energy level struggle). I never understood why strangers felt the need to ask newly weds when they were going to start popping out little ones. I get my friends asking – and even then most of them ask in jest – but strangers? I feel like that question is on the unwritten “don’t bring up” list along with religion and politicis.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Sam! I think it’s fantastic that your parents know you’re not ready for a kid yet… and that they’re okay with that. As long as you’re not receiving pressure from your family, it’s so much easier to brush off the question from strangers!

  17. Amen!! I’m sick to death of this question. Being a childless Army wife makes me feel like a unicorn sometimes, and I often feel left out when we move to a new place since I don’t have anything in common with the moms. I personally don’t understand why you’d ask such a personal question to a complete stranger.

  18. So. Much. This.

    I’ve heard so many responses, most of them negative, to my childfree status. I have no idea why my life choice matters, but I assume it’s because many people assume that if you don’t make the exact same decisions as them, you are somehow making a judgement about their choice. Over the years, I’ve grown a thicker skin about it. I’ve found that being confident helps stop a lot of negativity before it even starts. When I’m asked about children, my go to response is something like, “We’re happily childfree. Have you read any good books lately?” Changing the subject lets the other person off the hook so they don’t feel awkward by the (polite) shut down.

  19. Well coodoes to you! We too went through an entire military career and no children. (24 yrs mil & 20 yrs of it married) At 3 yrs of marriage I had a severe asthma attack and was put on meds for a very long time. They would affect pregnancy…So needless to say, at ages 27 & 26 we decided no children until it was medically safe. We did try adoption route and, well it’s a l-o-n-g story…Painful too.
    Anyway, I do tell people medically it was not possible and if God willed it we would have children. When prompted about adoption, I give them the story. Shuts them up and never a word again.
    We all have our reasons…It is no one’s business but our own. And, we can and will share the reason(s) IF we want to!! You’re doing what YOU need and want in life! Good Luck! (By the way, my husband retired out 9 yrs ago!)

  20. Thank you thank you!
    I already have one child but am CONSTANTLY asked when I’m going to have another one. It’s so frustrating and awkward! I feel like all i get is judgement for not wanting to pop out a bunch of babies. One child is hard enough, going through deployments and moves, having to explain over and over why daddy isn’t there. Plus, being pregnant sucked and I don’t know if I want to go through that again, possibly on my own, because with the military you never know where or when it’s gonna take you or your spouse. I’m glad I’m not alone!! I was starting to think something was wrong with me for not being baby crazy.

  21. Glad I’m not the only one! I used to try to be polite too, but so many try to force you that having kids is the only way to live that it can be frustrating at times when you’re trying to be nice. Great post!

  22. I thought I was going to be bombarded with this question after we got married but no one asked. Not a single person even after a year and a half later. And I have to say I would love to know the frustration because not being asked and thinking no one cares or even wants you to have children is completely heartbreaking.

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  24. We completely understand, been married 16 years and just had our first. We stopped answering that question and people finally stopped asking. Not something to take lightly when you have deployments and overseas tours. We are finally at a peaceful place and almost to “retirement” where dad will be in the picture for good. That is why we chose to wait, so he can be there for every milestone. It is a “team effort'” to raise our child. There is no I in team. We knew that from the start and were always on the same page about it. Tell the nosey bodies you are practicing and they will never ask again!

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