The single personal question I dislike the most is this one: “Are you going to have any more children?” For others it might be considered small talk, but for me the conversation is personal. Have I thought about giving my daughter a sibling? Yes. Do I think about the consequences of having an only child? Yes. Are there reasons why we have just one child? Yes.
Do I need to disclose those to you at a cocktail party? No.
Let me be clear. I am not talking about the friend whose connection spans over many conversations, years, and is packed with history. I am commenting on the casual acquaintance or a person I just met who feels the need to comment on my reproductive status.
I find it interesting that while we don’t ask people their salaries, the question of how many children a woman has becomes an appropriate conversation topic. The truth is that most people don’t know my backstory, nor do I feel the need to explain my lifestyle choices.
I hear the same complaint from others regarding this topic. Those who don’t have children yet, hate answering the question, “When are you going to have children?” or for others it may be related to other topics like the way they parent or whether they decided to enroll their children in public over private school. All of these subjects are ones where people have definite opinions and yes, insecurities. A particular decision has multiple layers of backstory and people don’t want to explain their motivations to the casual acquaintance.
I’ve shared my question. What question is deeply personal for you?
Wow, I was thinking about the same thing yesterday…
You are right. Asking another woman about her reproductive plans has become so common that it’s not even considered a private topic. (And by the way, for me it’s always another woman (another mother) asking me – never a man or a woman who doesn’t have children.)
What bothers me most is when other mothers ask “So when are you going to have #2?” or when they come straight out and TELL, urge me to have another baby! I’m actually fine if someone, simply out of curiosity, wants to ask me what I think about another child. I’m okay until they start imposing their values on me as if they know what is best for me and our family. I LOVE your first paragraph where you, in a none-of-your-business kind of way, tell others that yes you have thought about this issue and yes there is a reason you have just one child. My mistake is that I had sometimes felt defensive and felt the need to explain myself, so people wouldn’t think I was being selfish for having only one child. Your post reminds me that I owe no one any explanation of my family’s most personal decisions.
Thank you for talking about this.
I think people don’t realize their curiosity can be hurtful. And some people seem to pride themselves on how “down to earth” and curious they are. I agree…some things are not anyone’s business. I hate it when people ask me “what is Reese’s prognosis?”
So personal and emotional for me. It has taught me to ask myself,”why am I asking this question?” before I speak. Is it to satisfy my own curiosity? Then I don’t ask.
I think that people are not sensitive enough when they ask questions. Some things are not up for discussion and it’s just rude to ask or to assume that you know someone well enough to ask.
I agree!! I had a costumer at my wine bar TELLING me that I should try to have a child in spite of my age (39) without knowing me at all. Everybody has a back story about this topic and I am guilty of asking somebody a while ago and realized that it just re-opened old wounds for them.
Another question that I get asked is why don’t I have more friends from my country of origin… this one is also too personal.
oh yes. I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, I think that these misguided people ask these questions because they are trying to make friendly conversation. If only they knew how personal and potentially heart-wrenching their question can be.
I don’t know about you, but whenever someone asks me a question like this one, I always wish I had a perfectly concise answer which politely told the person to bug off. Maybe someone will suggest such a response here?
Oh, where shall I begin? Why did you get divorced? Why isn’t your daughter married? Why did you leave your religion? Are you going to eat THAT?……
Funny, well not really funny, how the questions we feel free to pry with, are cultural. And i think we, in the States, are more invasive and bold than other places on earth. Maybe it’s because I spend most of my time here so it happens more often.
Amazing the things people think is their business and are insulted we don’t share! I am shocked by the questions some people ask. I wonder how they’d react if we told them it’s personal and none of their business or how they’d react if we asked them the same type of questions.
Well, I can’t think of a specific question that upsets or offends me. But, I know there have been plenty of times when people have made personal remarks or asked questions that made me uncomfortable. I used to feel like I had to explain myself, but not anymore.
Your point is true. People do seem to think it is perfectly okay to ask women about their reproductive lives. And I agree that it is very personal. I have a family member who thought she was infertile, but wanted children desperately. People were always asking her when she and her husband planned to start a family. This often reduced her to tears. (To her surprise, she conceived, years after giving up on the idea.) It just isn’t appropriate to ask a mere acquaintance personal questions.
That is so personal. I would never ask anyone that…unless it was my best friend who knows all my secrets.
You’re absolutely right; people who don’t know anything about you often ask the most personal of questions in a manner that suggests they merely asked if you would like another drink!
As a recent graduate, the questions I get asked the most are, “So what plans do you have/Why haven’t you got a job yet?” and “Any plans to get married?”
It’s a real pain in the neck.