Deciding if and when and how to have a baby is a tough decision that requires a lot of thought, a lot of planning, many discussions with your partner and doctor, and, let’s be honest, a fair amount of Googling. But is it ever OK for friends, family, coworkers, or the lady at the grocery checkout to weigh in?
Real quick, before we go any further, have you ever found yourself asking a parent, or expectant parent, one of the following questions?
- When are you going to have a baby?
- When are you going to have another baby?
- Why do you have so many children?
- Why do you only have one child?
- Was she planned, or an accident?
- Are you breastfeeding?
- Why aren’t you breastfeeding?
- Is he adopted?
- Are they “natural” twins?
- Are you having a “natural” birth?
- Why did you have a c-section?
- Did you use IVF?
Yes? Sit down. We have a lot to talk about.
All of these topics fall under the umbrella of “family planning,” and if you’re not part of that family, it’s none of your business. To be clear, when I say “that family,” I don’t mean that extended family. I mean that if you’re not one of the parents directly involved in creating or adopting said child(ren), you’re out of your element.
I know why you’re asking. It’s because you care (or hell, maybe you’re just nosy). It’s because you think your friends would make great parents. It’s because you love their first little munchkin so much that you think they should make another. It’s because you want what’s best for your grandbaby. But please keep in mind that the people who know what’s best are the parents themselves — and their doctor.
There are a whole host of answers to those questions ranging from awkward to downright painful to share. Family planning isn’t just about making cute babies; it’s also tied to the family’s budget, religion, medical histories, and many other factors, none of which you’re entitled to interrogate someone about.
Maybe they’re pregnant, but not ready to disclose it just yet. Maybe they’re trying to have a baby (or another), but are having trouble getting pregnant. Maybe they’ve already miscarried, and don’t need you to remind them. Maybe they’d love to get pregnant, but can’t afford it right now. Maybe they — gasp! — don’t want any kids, ever! Maybe the mother or the baby is unable to breastfeed for medical reasons. Maybe she chose not to breastfeed (as is her right), and she’s not in the mood to debate her boobs with you.
Maybe they only planned to have two or three kids, but they had another unplanned, and they’re not comfortable explaining to you in the middle of Target that the baby was the results of a broken condom. Maybe they’ve always wanted five kids, so they had their five kids and they can handle and afford their five kids, and they don’t care if it seems like too many to you, because they’re not your five kids, now are they?
Maybe they thought long and hard about their choice to adopt or use IVF, spoke to professionals, are happy with their decision, and don’t feel it’s their job to debate the pros and cons with you, because even if you somehow won the debate, they do not have access to a time machine, and anyway, they like their kid a lot.
Did you ever think about that? Of course not. You’re a caring person, sure, but it never occurred to you that it was rude to ask those questions. It never occurred that it was rude to forcibly knock on the door of someone else’s life and push your way in. But now you know, and I’m sure you’ll never ask them again.
As an additional courtesy, here are some replacement questions for you, free of charge, for the next time you see your favorite parents:
- How are you?
- Can I get you a glass of wine?
- May I hold your baby so that you can eat a hot meal?
- How did you like the Mad Men finale?
- Lovely weather today, isn’t it?
- Can I babysit your children so that you can take a nap?
- Has anyone told you that your baby is the cutest baby in the world?
- Is there something different about your hair?
- Do you want this Starbucks gift card?
- Did you know they might make Pluto a planet again?
- I made you dinner; when can I bring it over?
- How do you manage to be such an amazing parent?
That ought to cover it.