Stop Asking Me When I’ll Have Children

by J.M. Cools
Originally Published: 

I’ll never forget the day Nathan and I found our first apartment together. It was this tiny place that, quite frankly, looked like a shithole. Despite that, we looked at each other and I said, “But I think we can make it our shithole.”

We filled out an application and the landlady asked us a few questions. They began as simple questions that seemed pertinent to renting an apartment. Who was our previous landlord, if we were married, and when we said yes, for how long. At the time we had been married for a few months. As soon as we said that, she asked the question every person has ever asked whenever they find out we’re married:

When are you having kids?

This is one of the questions I hate being asked the most. It’s right up there with, “What do you do for a living?” And “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The inquiry about children is a private question mired with all sorts of judgments and societal expectations.

It is asked under the assumptions that (1) the woman being asked even wants to have kids in the first place, (2) she is physically capable of having children, (3) she isn’t already trying to have children, and (4) that it’s not an extremely rude and personal question.

We politely told her we were waiting (our standard, canned answer). She, in turn, playfully said that the storage room could house a stroller. We laughed awkwardly and she proceeded to tell us what she needed for us to finalize the paperwork. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first nor the last time we’ve heard that question. In fact, more often than not, it’s one of the first questions I get asked as soon as I meet someone new who finds out I’m married.

I’m aware of the innocence of the question. I’m also aware that it’s a reflexive question like, “How are you doin’ today?” Something you say to people because it’s expected of you. However, all because I understand why a question is asked doesn’t mean I appreciate being asked it.

There are so many articles on the subject and two most notable reasons you should never ask a married person this question: they might have miscarried in the past or have a difficult time trying to get pregnant now. But I don’t believe those are the only reasons this deeply inappropriate question shouldn’t be asked. Not everyone’s situation is that extreme, and, quite frankly, neither is mine.

Mic and HuffPost both have articles discussing some of the reasons women don’t want to have children. Some of those include prevention of overpopulation, a fear of bringing a child into this messed up world, and wanting to put their careers first. None of these are mine. In fact, I have a few others that are all my own.

1. I have no desire to have a child right now.

I can’t express this enough. I know that women are literally designed to bear children, but that doesn’t mean all of us want to. At work, I see a lot of kids. Some of them are really cute and sweet and I, like any human being with a heart, go “awwww!” But every time I do, someone asks me, “Thinking about having kids?” No, dude. I just think this kid is cute right now. That doesn’t mean I want to have my own.

Similar to the women in the aforementioned articles, I am very aware of the effects of children on a marriage and on a person. I lived most of my life with just my mom as a parent. She had no qualms about telling me how hard being a mother was. Every time she did, though, she would reassure me that, to her, it was worth it. To me, it doesn’t seem worth it. Especially not right now.

The thought of being someone’s mother when I have so much left to figure out seems like a crime. One I’m not willing to commit.

2. I don’t want to raise a child while I still can’t manage my mental illness.

Of the women who responded to Mic’s requests, one said, I’ve struggled with depression and if I passed that pain on I would feel horrid for inflicting that sadness and numbing on another human. No one deserves to live like this if it can be prevented.” That’s exactly how I feel. I don’t want to raise a child who has to see me break down and feel hopeless day in and day out. I don’t want that little soul to mimic me or, worse, to know exactly how I feel.

Though my family won’t admit it, I believe we all have depression to a degree. It’s difficult to say because we didn’t necessarily believe in therapy. But, after having gone through it myself, I can see how consumed we all are by it. I don’t know if my parents passed it on to me or if I developed it on my own. Regardless of how it happened, I just couldn’t take the guilt that would come from discovering my child also had depression just like me.

3. I’m afraid of what will happen to me.

Pregnancy is a taxing experience no matter who you are. You can get morning sickness, tender breasts, sensitivity to smells, back pain, and the list goes on. But what I’m most concerned about is postpartum depression or even depression during the pregnancy. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, a woman who has already experienced depression in her lifetime is at a greater risk of developing postpartum depression.

I have already been suicidal and depression has taken me to very dark and hopeless places I never thought I would go. To go through that and add an infant into the mix is something I simply cannot do. I can’t risk being suicidal again, especially after just becoming a mother.

4. They’re too expensive.

It’s already hard enough to keep a budget on a shoestring salary, but having a kid would be like paying for a semester of college every year. Starting with paying to get a pregnancy test in the first place to then the costs of prenatal care to then actually having the baby can cost thousands depending on the economic situation of the couple.

And that’s just the beginning. Once the baby’s actually born there are the costs of taking care of the little soul. A middle-class family can expect to pay approximately $12,980. However, my household is below middle class and in California daycare costs approximately $12,068 per year. That doesn’t even include diapers, clothes that they constantly grow out of, baby wipes, bottles, milk, food, and all the other parenting stuff companies convince you that you need.

Notice I also didn’t mention toys, school supplies, hygienic products, and electronic devices that are becoming more and more necessary by the year. I’m literally too poor to have a child. Having one at this time would be the worst financial decision I’ve ever made. So, please, stop asking me about it.

5. They’re a huge responsibility that I’m not willing to undertake.

Of course, paying for a child’s needs is not the entirety of being a parent. There is also the actual caring, nurturing, and guidance I would have to provide. I’d have to be patient even when I’m tired; I’d have to tend to their needs and ignore my own every single day; I’d have to protect them even when I don’t have the ability to. Worst of all, I’ll be subjected to much harsher judgment than my husband will be.

If I need to breastfeed in public, someone will have a problem with it. If I have to leave my kid in the car for some reason, I could suffer legal ramifications for it. My every move will be judged or criticized while men typically get credit for just showing up. I’ve seen it with my own parents. Some of my dad’s old girlfriends would coo at the fact that he was hanging out with his kids while my mom got no credit for taking care of us every day. I’m not ready nor prepared to deal with that kind of inequality.

Lastly, having a child means taking responsibility for that person until they turn 18. That means the way they turn out will be a reflection on me and my husband. I have generalized anxiety as it is so that means I’m already worried and anxious about everything all the time. Combine that with the pressure of being a parent, it might kill me.

6. None of these reasons should even matter to anyone.

In the end, none of these reasons should matter. It’s entirely up to me and my husband if we chose to have a child, how many we’ll have, and what we will do with them once they’re born. The decision to bring another person into this world is a personal and life-changing one. So, please, stop asking me and stop asking other couples when they’re going to have kids. We’re tired of being asked and tired of going down the laundry list of reasons each and every time.

And as far as having space in our storage room for a stroller, we filled it with old books and furniture instead.

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