My only daughter is five and so it seems lately I am getting my “favorite” question, “So when are you going to have another one?” I could be at the grocery store and as I am standing in the checkout line, the woman behind me watches me interacting with my daughter, answering her questions and from out of nowhere, I hear, “So is this your only one?” When I meet new mothers for the first time, the cocktail question of “What do you do?” has become “How many children do you have?” Some women have dubbed me selfish for just having one child and others have said, “Don’t you want a backup?” What if something happens to your daughter, don’t you want another one just in case?” I wish I was making up that last question.
I was raised with the idea that some questions you don’t ask like, “How much do you weigh?” or “How much do you make?” or “How much did you pay for that?” or questions related to politics or religion. I’ve learned that most people feel, “When are you going to have another one?” doesn’t make the list of questions you shouldn’t ask.
To confess, it is my own sensitivity to the issue. Everyday in my life, I hear of another friend, acquaintance, and/or blogger becoming pregnant. In the last six months, four women I consider good friends are having a first baby or a second baby. I read posts about some of my fave bloggers either delivering or about to deliver their second or in some cases a third child. There are reminders from my daughter as well. Somedays, she will ask for extra peanut butter on her sandwich and follow-up with, “When am I going to have a brother or sister?” She often tells me that “I can grow another baby in my tummy if I really want to or her latest question is, “Can we rent a brother or sister?”
For the last few months, I’ve wondered what is wrong with me. Why can’t I just do what every woman I know is doing and just have another baby? Why is it so complicated for me? Why do I have to overanalyze it? I’ve decided my hesitation is complicated. First, I have a husband, everyday, who deals with premature babies and I’ve heard stories of healthy mothers who deliver very unhealthy babies. My husband has told me repeatedly, that if you have a healthy child, consider yourself very lucky. If you have more than two that are healthy, you have hit the jackpot. Sometimes knowledge colors the pathways you decide to take. Second, in the last two years, I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of change, losing a father, leaving a career, moving to a new state, and taking on the care of my mother who lives with us. And just recently, I’ve discovered a third revelation. I understand to the nth degree Tina Fey’s statement in her recent article in the New Yorker, “What’s the Rudest Question You Can Ask A Mother?, that “the things that most people do naturally are often inexplicably difficult for me.” And when I read that statement, the proverbial bell rang out in my mind. I’ve never done anything because someone else was doing it. I’ve always thought about my decisions, carefully and with constant deliberation, analyzing all of the what if issues that may or may not happen. This analysis has been amplified after losing my father and realizing that even if you do everything right, things can go horribly wrong.
I’m not closing the door on harboring a new life, but I don’t really want to face answering that question in unexpected moments. Maybe because I am still trying to work it all out. I don’t want to talk about it out loud.
And the biggest reason is it is a question I haven’t answered yet.
How do you answer difficult questions? Do you answer them or evade them? Any hesitation on having a first, second or third child? Do certain things come more natural to you or are you prone to over-thinking? What’s a question you don’t want to answer?
I’m an evader. 😉 I do try to answer, and I work on finding my truth. But I usually evade for a good, long time before tackling the big questions.
I totally understand this and applaud you for writing this. It never ceases to amaze me that people feel licensed to ask such incredibly personal questions. I did not feel much hesitation about having each kid or getting pregnant this time, but I have felt hesitation, profound hesitation, about many many things. And I think you know this already, but I am a major league over-thinker 🙂
Brave and wonderful post.
Hi Rudri, While it is great to cultivate compassion for others, this makes me wonder if the people who end up making you feel uncomfortable might be unconsciously giving you their similar feelings of discomfort. Moms may be some sort of trigger for people to spill their unresolved kid issues onto that mom.
I have also noticed that many women tend to tell their traumatic pregnancy and birth stories to pregnant women, perhaps similarly triggered to relive their own traumas. And then again, some people may not have been taught manners (or come from a different orientation regarding what is polite to ask).
Conversely, it may be that people see you as a terrific mom and they ask about more kids as an awkward way of giving you a thumbs up on your parenting and cheering you to do more of it (like at a family dinner when you liked your first serving and the host wants you to eat more… even if you’re satisfied with what you have had).
Here’s to accepting each other for where we are at, living the lives we are living. Namaste
Having children is a personal decision…whether or not (and no matter the reason) you and your husband decide to or not to have another child is no one’s business. I am floored that people say some of the comments you’ve mentioned. I think you are a wonderful mother whether you expand your family or not.
The most important message here, one I think you demonstrate clearly, is don’t have another unless you are ready and it’s what YOU want. Multiple children is not the be all and end all, what feels right for you and your family is what is important. Before we had children and between the birth of my children I told everyone that we weren’t having children, and then that we weren’t having two – straight out. Because I didn’t want to face any pressure. The surprise of one and then two was tremendous for them, and it helped me make my decision on my own.
Your are an amazing and thoughtful woman. I have no doubt you’ll figure out what’s best in your own time.
One of the greatest advances the feminist movement brought was a woman’s right to own her reproductive choices–whatever those choices might be. Whether a woman wants none or ten, we should all support that decision and not ask silly questions like “when are you going to have another one?” It is your choice and the answer can bring many other complications to a situation that some seem to think is simple.
I hate that question! When I was recovering from a miscarriage, I kept getting asked my virtual stranger, so… you gonna have another? I didn’t even know if I could have another! My emotions got so raw, I lashed out at one mom I barely knew (and cared little enough about). Only to find out she herself had struggled too. And she was nicer than I deserved. You never know what can of worms you’re opening!
I never ask when questions, close friends and family I will ask, do you want to have kids (or another). Which may not be much better.
There is nothing selfish in having a child. And no guarantee in having two or three or ten. And however many we have, each of us is striking our own path (if we are lucky.)
Wow, that is a lot of pressure/questions you are getting from others. I think that you ARE answering the question (to yourself anyways) – you talk about losing your father, your husband’s exposure to sad situations and your current thoughts. I think it is great that you don’t take it lightly and don’t assume that having another kid will help eradicate any sadness or confusion. I’m sorry people won’t let it be!
What is it anyone’s business at all if you have another one? What’s wrong with just having one? You have to do what you feel is right and tell those other people just to mind their own business!!!
I’m sorry, Rudri. It’s shocking how rude some people can be, and it’s especially difficult when it’s such a sensitive and personal topic.
I usually try to evade, using some form of humor and then changing the topic. I guess maybe it would be better to just say “Well that’s not your business at all” and be direct, but I’m too much of a people-pleaser to do that.
As soon as I got through your first sentence here, I thought of Tina Fey’s piece last week – and how she branded that the rudest question we could be asked! As you know, I’m struggling with answering that same question for myself – and that’s much harder for me than answering it for someone else (“Yep, at some point.”)
Now add infertility and foreign adoption to the mix. Talk about rude questions! I should write a book. (Or at least a blog post! 😉 )
Being an only child myself, I remember my mom being asked that question A LOT. Enough that I still remember it to this day, and I’ve often requested for a sibling myself, although I asked for a big brother. I was definitely setting myself up for disappointment there.
Having had a very difficult time trying to conceive my firstborn, I can’t even imagine asking someone about their baby-planning because I realize I don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. Maybe they are trying but are finding it difficult to conceive and to ask that question would be pouring a bag of salt to the wound. I also think it’s a very personal question so yes, I’m with you. People should learn to know what is or isn’t an appropriate question to ask.
Before I had my first child, I remember feigning excitement when some good friends of ours announced their pregnancy. We had also been trying (and failing), and I wanted to be happy for them. I went home and cried. A lot. But eventually, we got pregnant, too.
Fast-forward to my second child, who was an accident. Complete and total (and, eventually, wonderful) surprise. If he hadn’t come along that way, I don’t know that I’d have ever felt ready for more children. Adjusting to one child had left me so battered emotionally and physically that I didn’t know if I would ever have the strength to do it again.
Because I so vividly remember the emotions from each of these experiences, I never ask pregnant women anything. I ooh and aah, but I wait for them to offer details, if they wish. Same thing with other mothers, especially ones I don’t know very well. I know all too well what could really be going on behind that smile.