After I got married, about a year and a half ago, I was pretty taken aback when various acquaintances (people in my graduate program, a random bus driver, a dental hygienist cleaning my teeth, etc.) started asking me if I was planning to have children. Frequently, the question was whether I was planning to have children soon.
In reflecting on the issue, I realized that this makes me uncomfortable because in the community that I’m from (Orthodox Jews, modern), nobody would ask such questions. For the first one (do I want to have kids), I suppose it’s because it’s assumed that every Orthodox married couple wants to have kids (it’s an extremely family-oriented culture), rendering the question a little silly, and in fact, those who have been married for more than a few years without any children are assumed to be having trouble conceiving.
The second question, asking if you want to have kids soon, would be perceived as very rude, as couples without children presumably fall into one of three groups: a) those who are trying to conceive, to whom you might cause a lot of pain by asking about it if they’re having trouble; b) those actively using contraception, and thus not wanting children yet (this, like everything else relating to an Orthodox couple’s sex life, is perceived to be extremely private and wouldn’t be discussed except perhaps among close, same-sex friends); and c) those where the wife is actually pregnant, but they’re not discussing it yet as she’s still in her first trimester. None of these things are perceived as being your business, so you don’t ask. (Some older yenta-types might make annoying comments about stuff like how nice a baby looks on you when you’re holding somebody else’s, which doesn’t thrill me, but doesn’t seem as offensive either.)
Am I being weirdly sensitive in finding it an invasive question, or is this actually a pushy, personal thing to ask about? Do people commonly ask this of someone they’ve just met, or is this an attempt to get a handle on Orthodox Jews and Their Approach to Reproduction?
Yes, it is rude, even in non-Orthodox Jewish culture to ask such a thing. The rudeness varies by who is doing the asking. A random stranger on the street is very rude for asking such a thing, while a friend may be just trying to “stay in the loop” and show they care about you, but they are still being intrusive. Family members may be letting their eagerness to welcome a new child into the family over-ride their tact. In general, it is a personal question, and if the person wants to speak of it they will without being prompted to do so.
Yes, it is rude, and when it is asked by strangers I regret that I often reply with full snark. I may be speaking from the experience of having PCOS* and taking part in PCOS-support message boards where the biggest topic is the rather painful one of conception (or rather the lack thereof: that’s the bulk of the topic). Inquiring about someone’s fertility is never a good topic for conversation, unless you (general you) have been brought into the confidence of someone for a good reason or you’re their fertility doc.
*I am also childless by choice and married into a Catholic family, so you can guess how often I get bombarded with this question.
(Actually, I’m LDS and come from a similarly family-oriented subculture, and some people do ask. Those people are rude. Happily they are in the minority and I haven’t had many problems at all in that department.)
You can just look surprised and say “Wow, that’s a very personal question,” or if you want to be less pointed, smile graciously and say “That’s personal.” Or you can pretend not to hear them…
People I don’t know well, like the bus driver (I’d gotten on the otherwise-empty city bus thirty seconds earlier) get the Miss Manners-ish “Why would you want to ask such a personal question?” I have a harder time blowing off people I’m friendly with.
Part of me is strongly tempted to act deeply upset and tell people that I’m afflicted with some terrible medical condition rendering me infertile, but I know I couldn’t carry it off. I’m a really, really terrible liar. It’d probably cure most of them of asking, though
Dunno, I would generally think that in modern day, the expectation is that people do use contraceptives and choose if and when they’re going to start working on the child-raising part of life. So asking whether they’re “just married” or “married and starting a family” tells you a bit about them. E.g. whether they’ve got a comfortable income and a secure job, etc. or are still mostly concentrated on working up the ladder.
I wouldn’t consider it rude. It’s pretty much the same thing as asking someone if they’re single or married–something entirely up to their choice.
I think it would be overly-familiar, verging on rudeness, if it’s asked by a stranger or with the presumption that of course you should have had kids by now. However, someone who knows you just asking about what your plans are doesn’t seem any ruder than asking “What are you planning to major in?” “Where are you planning to go after graduation?” “Are you planning to rent or buy?”
I get it pretty often, and it doesn’t bother me. I do find it kind of condescending when I tell people we aren’t planning on having kids and they tell me I’ll change my mind, but I don’t freak out over that, either. I think it is one of those questions that is fine for family to ask, but if you barely know someone (or are a perfect stranger) you shouldn’t. I do think it has the potential to be very hurtful if someone is experiencing infertility, though.
I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth enough times to not freak out when someone else says something that maybe they shouldn’t have.
Meh. I guess I’m old-fashioned to a point, but back in my day, the only reason anybody bothered to get married in the first place was to start having kids…until the subject of offspring arose, folks were happy to just yannow, live together** in sin** so to speak.
IOW, once you’re married, you’re fair game for the local crones and the rumourmongers. Either you start pushing kids out immediately, or they start enquiring about what might be wrong with you.
If you don’t want to be harrassed continually for the next umpteen years, I suggest you make up a story about how you and your husband have a ‘marriage of convenience’…aka, he’s gay and you’re a necrophiliac or summat. Hey, at least it will shut them up about babies…
Given consideration I would have to say it is a rude question, but more importantly I do not believe the question is asked (usually) with the intent of being rude, so I would not be annoyed with the questioner. For me intent is very important when determining if I am offended.
People at work hound me about it more than my family does. Thankfully, I like all my co-workers, but I prefer to keep a little mystery around it, you know? Only one co-worker knows when I plan on trying. The rest can wait.
You’d consider it polite to ask someone “So, you making a comfortable income these days?”, because you seem to be suggesting that that’s the reason you ask if they have kids.
There are a hundred reasons people may not be having kids, and many of them are deeply personal: hereditary diseases, infertility, marital problems, personal insecurities about one’s suitability as a parent . . . .the question “are you having kids soon?” isn’t a yes or no question, it implies a “why or why not?”, and since half the possible answers to that are sensitive and private and may be a source of grief or shame to the person you are questioning, it’s rude to push them to a place where they feel that grief or shame.
Definitely rude. For all you know, the person you’re asking could have experienced a miscarriage two weeks ago. (It happens more often than you’d think in early pregnancy.) Or they might be a carrier for some genetic disease. Asking pries into people’s sex lives, medical histories, marital relationship, etc, however innocently you may pose the question. It’s a more loaded query than it appears at first glance.
I find it terribly rude. My wife and I are having a very difficult time deciding if we want kids. We really don’t need the input of some random knucklehead to help us make that decision. Thankfully, my family is good about minding their own damned business, so it’s not a problem with them. I only discuss these things with the missus and one very close friend. Everyone else can just shut their yaps.
And that’s exactly how you should respond: None of your damn business.
There are a lot of reasons for not having children: Medical, financial, economical, and just plain personal. Childless people get this question a lot, but they rarely ask anyone with children “Why would you want to create that?”