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When the questions about “having kids” go too far

Crying Kid
NOTE BEFORE READING: This article is not meant to alienate those of you with kids, or even those of you who have asked us about having kids. This is an article merely to illustrate our point of view of the “DINK Dilemma” (Dual-Income, No Kids)…

When you’re single or dating someone, the inevitable question from friends, families, coworkers and even strangers is “So when are you getting married?”. Normally you’re too polite to respond, or you just try to laugh away the question. It’s especially bad when it’s your date’s first time meeting the family and you’re asked that question. Nothing like a little pressure to make that guy (or girl) run for the hills!

And when you finally marry that guy or gal, what’s the next obvious question?


This question actually comes in multiple forms.

Question 1: “So when are you two having kids?” or “When am I getting grandkids?”

This question can be in both accusatory and innocent styles. The accusatory style tends to come from your parents who are wondering when you’re going to give them grandchildren. They’re so used to the parenting role that they have nothing else to do except dream of parenting YOUR children, or showing off pictures of your kids to their friends and coworkers as if they had something to do with the mating process (ew! I hope not!). Siblings and other relatives may also ask, wondering when they’ll be aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, etc. Luckily we only have one member of our families who continually bugs us about kids, but I won’t mention who.

The innocent style comes from friends, acquaintances and strangers just finding a way to strike up conversation. Perhaps they have kids and talking about their kids is much easier than talking about themselves. Unfortunately, this line of questioning can often backfire, specifically when the questioned couple is having difficulty having children.

Question 2: “How old are your kids?”

This question usually comes from people you just met who assume you have kids because they see the ring on your finger and the gray in your hair. They automatically assume that anyone who is married MUST have kids, regardless of their physical capability to birth a child or desire to have a child. This is actually a pretty insulting question unless you KNOW that they do in fact have children, but for some reason some people start off with this question, or similar one like “What school do your kids go to?”

Statement 1: “Oh, I’m sorry if you can’t have children”

You might notice that we’re getting into more and more insulting questions and statements. Since Stacie and I don’t have kids and we’re now in our 30s, some people automatically think that we’ve tried to have kids and have failed. Honestly, I have no idea if we are biologically capable of creating and carrying a child to term, and aren’t ready to test out our hypothesis that we can anytime soon. I do understand that the questioner is trying to be sympathetic, but don’t assume that couples without kids are unable to produce them.

Statement 2: “You should have kids now. You’ll regret not having them when you’re X years old!”

Ugh. The alternate to statement 1 is this one. Again the person assumes that every married couple only got married to have kids. While this may have been a necessity for people as recent as 50 years ago, perhaps we got married because we’re best friends and love spending time together.

I understand the biological probabilities of having a less-than-healthy child the older you get, but this statement is wrong on so many levels. This is where I relay the story that sparked this whole article.

When a coworker just can’t get the hint

I tend to stay away from talking about family or work issues directly on this site out of fear of retribution, but some statements by my wife’s coworker just irked me so much that I needed to write this article.

To set the stage, this certain coworker is in her late 30’s and has 2-year-old twin boys. She just started working with Stacie and, having double the Terrible Two trouble, kids were the only thing on her brain. One of the first questions to Stacie was “Do you have kids?”. When Stacie answered “No”, she then asked “Why not?”.

I’m sorry lady, but we don’t need to tell you why we don’t have kids. But Stacie, being the nice, polite woman, explained that we’re just not ready for kids. But then the coworker couldn’t leave that alone. She then went to Statement 2 that we “better not wait” and “you’ll regret not having kids”. Stacie just brushed off the questioning and got back to her job.

In subsequent conversations, specifically ones about kids, the coworker would state, as if a fact, “when you have kids…” and then go on to relate some wise parenting advice like Stacie asked for it. Stacie came home angry a number of times because the questioning and assumptions were getting to her. I decided it needed to stop, and being the blunt and rude person I am, I looked for an opportunity to speak with this lady.

The Broken Finger

Just before Christmas, Stacie broke her finger (long story). We didn’t think it was broken that night, but at work the next day (she works in a hospital), her finger turned ugly purple and swelled up like a hotdog. So I met up with her in the ER where she works (as a note, the knuckle chipped in two spots).

After she got out of the ER, she had to go back to the office to get her things. While there, we chatted with one of her other coworkers for a while. As we were preparing to leave, the “baby mama coworker” comes into the office. Stacie introduces me to her, and while Stacie finishes the conversation with the other coworker, the baby mama immediately starts off the conversation with “Oh, when you have kids…”.

I don’t let her finish, and still don’t know what she was going to say, because I correct her by saying “IF we have kids”. I don’t think I gave her my infamous “crazy eye”, but she switched topics immediately. Perhaps she finally got the hint that kids aren’t planned for our immediate future. Shortly after, we said our goodbyes for the night and headed home.

Well, the next day at work, baby mama tells Stacie about our brief conversation. Apparently, now she thinks I’M the reason we’re not having kids. She thinks I’m the controlling force telling Stacie we don’t want kids. I’m sorry, but it’s an equal split between Stacie and I. So now baby mama is on a mission to convert me, via Stacie, to see the light of day and the wonderfulness of kids.

I will honestly admit that there are many times both Stacie and I question ourselves and each other whether we’re making the right decision to wait for kids. But then we remind ourselves that we enjoy the freedom in our lives and careers right now, and agree it’s best to wait. Neither of us is the controlling force in the decision, but I will also say that birthing a child is not our primary desire.

Options for kids when “you’re too old”

I’ve previously covered all this in “Examine Your Motives: Having Kids“, but I’ll recap. As I’ve said, people keep telling us “don’t wait too long or you’ll be too old to have kids”. But we just brush it off because we know we have other options for having kids:

  • Adoption: We’d probably be more open to older children if we’re also older. We’ve looked into a number of adoption agencies already, and are still mulling our options here.
  • Foster Care: I’ve made the uncouth joke that “we get to give the kids back” if we’re foster parents, but with full knowledge that fostering kids forms a strong bond between the foster parents (us) and the children. Helping troubled children isn’t a joking matter, but the short-term aspect definitely plays into the decision process.
  • Big Brother/Big Sister: If we really just want to make a lasting impression on a youngster, then this could definitely be an option.
  • Spoiling our nephew, nieces and friends’ kids: Yep, we can fulfill our need for children with long trips to Disney with our nephews and nieces, and give them back when we’re done with them. But for our friends and family reading this, don’t get your hopes up that we’ll pay for your kid’s college education 🙂

So while we continue to consider whether we want (or should even have) kids, we’re comforted by the fact we have numerous options if it “becomes too late” to have a biological child. I shudder at the fact, though, that we’ll have to deal with prying questions and insulting assumptions for the next decade or two, or unless we have a child.

And for those of you who just realized that you’ve been guilty of questioning your friends, or strangers, about when they’re having kids, consider this: People grilling us about kids only makes us want kids less. And hearing you say “those little moments where my kid does x makes it all worth it” doesn’t make us want kids. It shows that you become numb to all the pain that kids cause (lack of sleep, stress, communicable diseases…and don’t get me started on puberty!).

Ok, done with my rant. Any questions or comments?

Photo by Darin Moran

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I’m a mom…but LOL. I told my friend who started trying that she was insane and not to do it. Obviously we’re very very good friends.

    My feeling is that society as a whole has gotten rude as hell. I have and occasionally still do get comment about not being married to daughters father. In fact we aren’t together at all. I used to try to be polite, I think more from shock of how rude people actually are. Then I started telling them point blank that getting married solely because you reproduce is a good way to raise a screwed up kid and end up divorced.

    My point is…these people are rude and out of line, particularly coworker. So there should be no effort made to be polite in any response. Your wife needs to tell her it’s none of her business and to shut-it. Future incidents should be addressed with the boss or h.r. She certainly shouldnt have to come home angry because of this woman veering into territory she doesn’t belong.

  • Thanks for writing this article. While I agree that many people ask these kinds of questions casually to make conversation, there are others who assume that everyone will make the same decisions that they did. Having children should be a completely conscious and thoughtful choice, not a reflex.

    My husband and I have two beautiful daughters but were married for years before having them. We had agreed that having children was such an important decision that both of us had veto power; we both had to fully support the choice before we could move forward. We went back and forth several times before we were in agreement.

    It turned out that we had infertility issues so it took longer than we expected to conceive but I am SO glad we waited until we were both ready. Parenting is incredible rewarding but it is also amazingly grueling and exhausting. If one of us had reservations, those first years would have been even harder. (Our girls are 4 and 6 so I can’t speak to the older years yet!)

    Just as important, children deserve to have parents who want them wholeheartedly. I’ve lived long enough to see plenty of adults with unresolved childhood issues – the world needs smart, confident people, not more folks who felt unloved and unwanted as children.

  • We’re finally trying for kids, 10 years after we got together. And I haven’t told anyone except for my blog readers. But seriously why would I tell anyone? I’d only get more annoyed.

    And after 10 years you’d think they’d not say anything!

  • With kids, never say never. My husband and I got married at 24, swore we would never have kids, then 6 years later had a beautiful baby boy. He has changed our lives in so many ways…most of them good….some of them not. That little terror has brought so much joy to our lives, but so much changes as well. This is not a decision to be bullied into. Being a parent is a full time job that you never get vacation from.

    When people badger you about kids say ” We just decided with all the kids that are homeless, starving, and abused in the world it is just plain selfish to have our own. We are pursuing adoption because we don’t want to be selfish and deny a needy child.” That should shut them up, and possibly win you an academy award!

  • Both of the choices, one way or the other are more or less selfish ones. To not have kids, keep your independence, financial freedom, all that. And to have kids, bring joy to your life, pass on your genes, yadda yadda. So if I’m going to be selfish, I’m going to be selfish in the way that makes me the happiest, and personally, that is to not have kids. I’m a little upset about not having a spawn of my own, but that’s about the only negative I can see. I try to already impact the lives of kids by mentoring those that are less fortunate, and I feel I can do a lot more good this way, by helping many, than by trying (there are no guarantees that you will birth a great kid) to have my own great kid.

  • Just as Amy said, I think it is perfectly fine not to have kids when both people agree that this is what they want. Same with adoption – if both people are fine with adoption, they have all the time in the world.

    But… There are also a lot of people who postpone and then regret later. I agree that it is intrusive and tactless to impose one’s opinion on others. It is a private matter. But often older people, especially those who went through the emotional pain of wanting kids but not being able to have them want to spare others the same heartache.

    I’d never bring up this subject in conversation. I hate talking about kids – I can’t have kids, I wanted them but waited too long… . My ability of having kids was gone when I was in early- to mid- 30s. No illness, it just happened. But when I do post on the subject, I do mention the health aspects. Not because I want to be intrusive, but because I want to spare people the pain I felt when I found out I can’t have kids. Not everyone wants kids, and it’s fine. There is no right or wrong decisions here. Some people have their own reason for waiting, are aware of the risks and are fine with adoption. It’s great. But a surprising number of people really don’t understand the risks – they want kids, but they think they have all the time in the world.

    And sometimes men don’t understand the risks to woman’s health or just don’t care:
    “I’m 28 years old and do want to have kids in the near future but I can totally relate to what you’re saying. Only a lot of the pressure I get comes from my wife.”
    Maybe your wife wants to reduce her chances of having breast cancer later in life? As well as risks associated with pregnancy and birth; risk of infertility or risk of having a child with Dawn… It’s really between you two, but are you aware of all the health reasons your wife has? Do you care about her health?

    @Four Pillars: “I was 39 when my newest baby was born and my wife was….I’m not allowed to tell the age , but she is older than I..”
    As the doctors and epidemiologists say “plural of anecdotes isn’t data”. Yes, there are a lot of women who have healthy kids late and who are fine. But there are also many women who wait too long. Many women in late 30s and early 40s can have healthy kids and are just fine. I even know one who did it at 47. I also have a co-worker who married at 41, had two healthy kids and was diagnosed with breast cancer some years later. Did her having kids contributed to her breast cancer? Maybe, maybe not. Would she still had cancer had he had the first child early? Maybe. Women who have kids early can get breast cancer. But I bet she is wondering about it.

  • I have two, was tricked into the second. I LOVE THEM THEY WERE THE JOY OF MY LIFE. THEY ARE GROWN AND GONE , but I have to say if you don’t want them don’t have them. I made certain my second new that he was a blessing was never his fault that I was tricked into getting stuck parenting a second time around. I was happy with one but that was not enough. In fact two was not going to be enough not sure 8 would have been. I spent almost every waking hour with them and then one day they turn 18 and they are grown and they leave. Want to talk about empty nest!
    I did always think it was odd that most folks push you into having them and these same folks complain about their children all the time. I still think mine are the greatest two people the world has ever seen. Would not have change the roller coaster ride a bit. Really glad I don’t have more. Don’t want Grand kids and don’t want them for any time in the forseable future and I’m in my mid 50’s and kids are in their late 20’s. So if you spend your entire lives never wanting a child that is perfectly ok and you don’t have to answer to anyone but each other on this subject.
    People are rude and pushy and yes, most of them are miserable with their decision to have children and just want others to join in the misery.
    I personally saw them as a blessing and I valued greatly every moment I was blessed to spend with each of them. (This is not to say parenting is easy , it is not it is the toughest job in the entire world!)(Plus the pay stinks minus like a half a million dollars for each child you decide to have)

  • You forgot one… “You are so selfish to not have children” I actually got this from my 2 best friends, one who was knocked up and unmarried when we were 21, the other who was married at about 23 and would have had kids right away except they had fertility problems.

    For those “KID PUSHERS” out there, remember some of these decisions are medical, like autism, downs syndrome or more severe birth defects runs in the family.

    And for you Cleverdude/dudette – I say come up with some good short phrase to shut down any future comments and be assertive with people like this woman and tell her that she is being rude and insensitive!

    The biological decline of fertility in women is not something you should brush off. I know in my relationship I am a better argue/debater than my husband. He says he often gives into my arguments on certain subjects because it is easier than trying to change my mind. It is worth it to make sure your both analyze your feelings separately. Especially since your wife seems to be so non-confrontational with this woman at work, if that tendency spreads to not wanting to rock the boat with her husband by admiting that she DOES want kids right now it might not be blatantly obvious. This decision tends to be highly emotional, and you have to overcome many rational arguments about expenses, sleep loss, stress, effects on your career etc.

  • “The biological decline of fertility in women is not something you should brush off.”

    Is that a statistical fact, or is it simply less women having kids making fertility rate stats of industrialized countries decline.

    For instance, if you visit Gap Minder World and chart Fertility Rate Vs GDP per capita you can watch the progress over time, it’s very interesting.

  • My statement was not a statistical fact, but just a result of a recent conversation I had with my doctor (I am 5 months pregnant with my first child, god willing).

    To second what Kitty was saying…
    Thanks to the biological diversity of humans, some womens fertility starts to decline earlier (late 20’s) and others continue to be fertile well into their late 40’s. For convenience many of the official statistics draw a line around age 35 for when certain problems are more likely to occur with pregnancy. You never know which end of the scale you will be on, so IF you prefer to have a child of your own genes it is not something to brush off, you should talk to your doctor and get some tests to see where you stand.

    Adoption and foster care are both HARD. Psychological disorders, unstable family members, rigorous interviews to prove your ability to care for a child, continued involvement of the state in your daily lives (foster care), the high number of people who want to adopt and the small number of babies available for unrelated infant adoption are all complications. The people that embark on these journeys should be much more compassionate and willing to sacrifice even more of themselves (time, love and money) than the average parent. I definitely see how being a big brother/sister and spending lots of time with a favorite nephew or friends kid can be viable answers to the “before its too late” statement but don’t kid yourselves. If you don’t want to be parents then adopting or being a foster family will be a hard sell. (this stems from some serious conversations I had with my own husband)

    I have a small number of friends and even a married older aunt on my husbands side who have decided to not have children and have to deal with many comments like what you have had to endure. It is just something that will come up often. Just imagine the flack that people who never marry get!

    I don’t think you should be at all apologetic about your decision and I am glad there is someone out there representing this side.

  • As I read all the comments stating how rude people are for asking or assuming children, and how rude Stacie’s coworker was for saying”when you have children” I think that we forget that Stacie’s reply to her was “We are not ready YET.” If someone had said that to me then I would see no issue in saying what she said becasue the option was not out. Even by saying “IF we have children.” Also, if her talking about her children and setting expectations for someone who she thinks is STILL CONSIDERING children is wrong, then I guess I have a lot of people upset at me.
    I am a mother of 2 little girls in my early 20’s. Did I plan on it that way, no way! But never the less, I enjoy it greatly, good and bad, because God’s plan for me was to be a mommy and to be a parent means taking all the good and all the “pain”. I always knew I wanted to be a mother but not everyone was designed to be parents. Hearing comments like, ”
    And hearing you say “those little moments where my kid does x makes it all worth it” doesn’t make us want kids. It shows that you become numb to all the pain that kids cause (lack of sleep, stress, communicable diseases…and don’t get me started on puberty!).” , clearly indicates that the response should be that we are not having kids because we are not capable nor willing to take on what it entails to raise them.
    Being a parent is not about bragging rights or showing off your trophy. Children are an extension of your soul. They are gifts that you are entrusted with to love, protect and guide. If you have to pondering whether to have them or not then you shouldn’t bother.
    I do have to clarify that there is nothing wrong with deciding not to have children. As a parent myself, I do however get annoyed by those same people that do not want to have kids telling myself and others how to raise ours.

    • @January, I agree with all your points, except your last sentence. Parents seem to forget that everyone else was once a kid and might just remember what worked and didn’t work as far as discipline and motivation. Personally, I acted out because of lack of proper attention (ie direct communication, not just sitting there while I play). I understand what it’s like to be a kid. Being a parent yourself doesn’t give you some magical power where you understand how to raise kids. If it did, then don’t you think all parents would be good parents?

      Granted, I have no idea what’s good for a baby, so I try not to give any opinions with babies.

  • My least favorite response to saying we’re not planning on having kids is, “Oh….you’ll change your mind.” EXCUSE ME? Like you know more about what I want to do with my life than I do? While you are telling worthless predictions of the future, mind telling me when the stock market will rebound?

    It’s really so rude to those of use who are waiting or just don’t plan on having any. It’s down right cruel and painful to people like my aunt who love kids, but couldn’t have any.

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