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The Dreaded Question

My DH and I have been together for 13 years, no children. Every holiday during our family visits we get the dreaded question: “When are you two going to have kids?”

We are not interested in having children……at all. We thought it would be an acceptable answer, but family still insists to know why. Then things get awkward. We don’t want to offend the parents in our family by saying we don’t like children. We’ve tried fibbing by saying, “We’re trying…but nothing” but the conversation gets even more awkward with baby making tips.

I’m very interested in this community’s opinion on how to answer this question in the best way! 1231-16

This is merely my opinion but when relatives keep nattering wanting to know information you aren’t willing to share or they won’t accept the answer given, it’s time to switch to viewing this as a game that you must win. And games are fun! Go to holiday dinner prepared with a humorous, fantastical story. For example, one relative of ours has a long scar down the middle of his chest and he isn’t interested in retelling the boring medical history of why it is there so he fabricated a story of being attacked by a shark. People get the idea that he’s kindly dismissing their intrusive question but it’s done to amuse as well. I know the real story of how his scar came into being so I play along with the shark story and feign horror. I’ve seen some bean-dipping fantasy stories take on a complete life of their own so much that they become family folklore.

I don’t think anyone needs to know the reason why you do not want children. At holidays it’s a recipe for contention as the issue becomes serious and debates can ensue. In your shoes I might come up with a stupid story that gremlins seem to be invading my bed each night and stealing my eggs. Or that I’ve been diagnosed with necliberositis (from the Latin nec liberos meaning “no children”) and that I cannot have children. Yes, it’s stupid BUT people are being stupid asking intrusive questions and it’s a way to skirt around the intricacies of serious issues with a little humor.


{ 79 comments… add one }
  • Marie December 3, 2018, 5:36 am

    OP, your story sounds like my own! My husband an I (12 years and going strong) don’t want children. Apparently, it’s not ‘normal’ for a woman in her 30’s not to want children. The thing I hear most is how sad people feel for our parents that they won’t have grandchildren. This horrifies me. As if that should ever be a reason to have children.

    As for how I deal with people that won’t take “we don’t want children” for an answer…
    If people continue to question me, I will ask the person (let’s assume a guy here) how his balls are hanging today. If it’s the left one that’s lower than the other, as is most common. When the guy tells you it’s none of my business, I sweetly say: “Oh, I’m sorry! Since you were so persistent on knowing what I’m doing with my reproductive organs, I thought it would be polite to ask how yours are doing.”

    If that doesn’t get the message across, I will simply ask them to consider that there are a lot of people having trouble conceiving, or have had a miscarriage, and asking such prying questions can be painful for them. While I am not one of those people, I tell them I hope they’ll consider this next time they question someone about something so personal.

    • Leah December 3, 2018, 8:46 am

      I’m going to use the ball hanging line. I thought I had finally managed to nip the kid question in the bud until this past Thanksgiving when one of my parents friends insisted that I’ll be changing my mind soon.

    • Queen of Putrescence December 3, 2018, 10:46 am

      I love your response about asking how the balls are hanging. Personally I would go further and just flat out ask about their sex life since of course, they are asking about mine. But that’s just the type of person I am. I can be kind a b-word when I want to be.

    • Anonymous December 3, 2018, 4:20 pm

      Really? I’m a woman, I’m 34, and I don’t want kids. If people ask why, I just say (truthfully) that I like dogs better.

      • JeanLouiseFinch December 3, 2018, 7:25 pm

        I once heard a comedian say how she and her husband wanted to hear the pitter patter of tiny feet, so they got a dog because it was cheaper than a kid and more feet.

        • FelFly December 4, 2018, 1:47 pm

          I love this so much. 2x the feet. 🙂

    • Kitty December 4, 2018, 6:12 pm

      People with that mindset – “should have children, so your parents will have grandchildren” – should be told that if grandchildren are gonna be so important, then the grandparents can be the ones to raise them entirely. A person shouldn’t be forced to take on parental responsibility and caring for another human being, just to make their own parents happy with grandchildren.

      And anyone asking infiltrating questions about my sexlife and reproductive organs might get a, “Why? Are you offering me something?” with a wink. Only people who should be concerned about my sexlife are the participants in it.

  • CookieWookiee December 3, 2018, 6:00 am

    Same issue here. My favorite reply to this is, “I’m not bored with my husband yet,” followed by a smile. Sometimes it’s fun to watch the penny drop as they think about their own reasons for reproducing.

    • CarolynM December 4, 2018, 2:19 pm

      My uncle has a history of bragging about his kids and not letting up until you admit you are somehow envious of his kids – this has been going on for as long as I can remember. I’m serious – until I could admit that his son C’s bike was nicer than mine when I was a kid, he kept me cornered! When C announced that he and his wife were having the first great-grandchild, my uncle came up to me (the oldest grandchild) and said all sorts of lovely things to me about how I must be jealous that his son was having the first great-grandchild and that he was wondering what was taking so long as I had been married before C & H and that I couldn’t wait forever because I was running out of time.

      Yeah … when he started talking about “time,” I unleashed the Kraken.

      “Yikes – I am not ready for the fun to stop quite yet! I’m still young – I have things to accomplish and so much of the world to see before I clip my wings by having a kid! I am enjoying life too much and have too many things I still want to do – maybe when I get bored and have nothing better to do? I mean, good for C & H – I am sure they will make great parents – they seem so excited!”

      If he hadn’t always been like that (C’s computer had to be better, when my grades were better it was not because i was smarter, it was because C was bored in school, etc.) I may have just let my uncle have his moment … but … No? How about NO!?!?!?!?!? He was trying to upset me and make me feel “less.” And if his aim was to upset someone with this conversation … why not him? If it makes me a bad person that watching him stutter, turn red, mumble something and walk off obviously upset made my dead black shriveled heart beat like new … then I am happy to be a bad person.

      • CookieWookiee December 4, 2018, 7:39 pm

        That. Is. Epic. Good for you!!!! I hope your uncle kept his trap shut from then on?

        • CarolynM December 5, 2018, 2:46 pm

          More or less! 😉 It’s helped that my life now looks completely different than his kids’ – there isn’t a lot to compare anymore – they are blissed out doing the married with children thing, I am now divorced from the ex, have been with my amazing boyfriend for 8 freakishly happy years with no intentions of marriage or kids and we love to travel!

          And when he does brag these days, its usually bragging about the grandkids and there isn’t a lot of room there to bludgeon an adult with comparisons and things to be jealous about. (“You had cookies before your nap? During your nap I went to the store and bought a whole box of cookies all for me! YEAH!!!! I win!!!” LOLOLOL )

  • Bunny December 3, 2018, 7:08 am

    “Well actually I’m a government developed cyborg and my husband was born on planet Zhofalrog and switched with a human baby at birth, so our reproductive systems are incompatible… Can you pass the potatoes please?”

    • Bunny December 3, 2018, 7:10 am

      *incomptible for fertility purposes

      Just realised that inadvertently implied you couldn’t have sex, rather than couldn’t have children!

      • Kat December 5, 2018, 4:43 pm

        “…our gametes are incompatible” would work. >:D

  • Archie December 3, 2018, 7:41 am

    This still comes up, after people realize we’ve been married for 18 years, and that I’m 42. And what’s truly amazing is how many of these are actually well-wishers who simply believe all must share their enthusiasm for parenthood (the most recent was a good friend who’s newly pregnant at 36, after a very bad loss a few years ago).

    I over-share. I tell them that we tried fertility specialists and acupuncture and the natural way (let them deal with the doing-it-like-rabbits images). I tell them we didn’t try IVF. And then they push – oh but you should have. And I’ll admit that we didn’t think we wanted to spend that much money. We decided pumping my body with hormones was not what WE wanted. It didn’t happen the natural way and we have other ways to share the love, with our hordes of nieces and nephews.

    Is it tiring being that patient? Yes. Consider that we both have not just large-ish immediate families, but also VERY large extended families. Some of whom we don’t meet except maybe once a decade. And I don’t speak the language of the region my hubby comes from, so that’s always fun having my mom-in-law translate sometimes. I leave it to her at that point to figure out how to translate – since she knows I don’t exactly like explaining to a random aunt I’ve met ONCE before, why I chose a certain lifestyle. Does she wanna explain the fertility stuff (since where I’m from, babies are supposed to happen naturally, admitting you needed treatment is a social thingie..).

    So yes, I’m patient, but I take entirely too much glee if someone gets uncomfortable. You asked. I answered.

  • essie December 3, 2018, 7:54 am

    (A) “We answered that question the last time we were here. What didn’t you understand about it?” or assume dementia “Now, dear, we answered that the last time we were here, don’t you remember?”

    (B) “Why are you so interested in our sex life? [Optional, if they’re married, themselves: Don’t you have one of your own?]” or the simple statement “Our sex life is none of your business” or the terse “Nunya”.

    (C) “We’re not even going to consider having children until people stop bugging us about it.”

    (D) “We love you, but honestly, we’re tired of being harassed about this every time we visit. If you can’t love us, US, without progeny, we’ll stop burdening you with our company.”

    (E) “Why?” (in direct response to “When are you two going to have kids?”)

    (F) “We want to make sure the marriage will last. We think it’s unfair to make children go through a divorce.” When they point out that you’ve been married for well over a decade, point out that some people divorce after 2 – or even 3! – decades of marriage, so you’ll just have to wait and see.

    (G) “When geneticists figure out how to ensure our children will be perfect, we’ll do it….” insert lovestruck mooncalf look at each other ‘…because Pookie deserves only the best.”

    (H) Or you could make it clear that you would be the worst parents imaginable: no diapers whatsoever (“they’ll potty-train faster if they can feel it”); let them cry it out – on the back porch – if they disturb your slumber; debate whether foster care or an orphanage would be better short-term care for the kids when you go on vacation; discuss which trouble spot in the world you’d move to in order to ensure your kids don’t grow up to be “soft”; start asking for contributions now for the kids’ college funds/dance-tennis-skating-riding-martial arts lessons/nanny/private boarding school; find out who’s willing to raise them; if you know they’re all on one side of any of the parenting issues, take the other side; etc.

    FWIW, my SIL constantly asked about our family plans and I finally explained that we planned to have 6 kids: boy, girl, twin boys, girl, boy (and names). She asked what would happen if they weren’t in that order and I earnestly replied “We’ll give them away until it’s right.” The look on her face was priceless – but she never asked about our plans again.

    • VickyJoJo December 3, 2018, 11:56 am

      I love options a, b and d.
      I really hope that we as a society will get past thinking that anyone’s reproductive choices/issues is their business. My DH and I have one child. Back when she was a toddler, I would frequently get asked “when are you going to have another one?” Well we had decided one was enough for us. I never, back then, could come up with a witty retort in response so I was honest and then change the subject.

      Unfortunately until people realize that your sex life/reproductive life is none of their business, if I were you OP, I would use one of these responses. Hopefully those asking will get the message.

  • Charliesmum December 3, 2018, 8:05 am

    Maybe say ‘when it is accordance with the ancient prophecy’ 🙂

    • Marie December 3, 2018, 10:47 am

      I love this answer! I’m definitely going to use this next time the question comes up!

  • Mizz Etiquette December 3, 2018, 8:11 am

    Relative: When are you and DH having kids?
    You: Why do you want to know?
    Relative: Well, you’ve been together so long. Don’t you want kids?
    You: Why do you want to know?
    Relative: Can’t you just answer the question?
    You: Why is our reproductive activity so important to you?

    Lather, rinse, repeat until they get frustrated and walk away.

    Sigh…seriously, it is no one’s business why you do/don’t have kids. Rude indeed…

    • Michelle December 3, 2018, 9:12 am

      I love this response. Making them explain why they think it’s their business. Maybe also throw in something along the lines of “If you continue to ask this question every time we are together we will not be attending anymore. You asked, we answered, end of story. It’s not up for discussion anymore”. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to blunt to make people stop asking intrusive questions and that’s not rude. Asking intrusive questions, especially repeatedly, is rude.

    • lakey December 3, 2018, 5:49 pm

      There used to be a thing called “assertiveness training”. You have your answer ready, and you repeat it word for word until the other person gets the message and stops.
      Relative: When are you going to have kids?
      Young Couple: We’re not having kids. (Repeated until the relative stops.)

      I have no patience with people who keep hounding you.

  • karenlikescake December 3, 2018, 8:42 am

    My husband and I did not want children either. After several prying attempts by his overly involved family, he said “let me handle this”. At the next Christmas eve dinner at his super conservative grandmothers house they started in with “you have such a lovely home, when are you going to fill it with children”, my husband replied loudly-“we are just practicing, we are not having any”. You could have heard a pin drop and the gasp of horror could be heard throughout the land….but they never asked again!

  • Devin December 3, 2018, 8:42 am

    I’m single so I only have to deal with the ‘when are you going to settled down?’ Or the whispers wondering if I’m ‘in the closet’. But my brother and his wife constantly get this question. We always joke about it afterwards and have come up with a list of wildly offensive responses. Since this is an etiquette site I won’t be graphic but they would make the tea come out of the nose of any busybody relatives. You ask about someone’s sex lives, expect to get a sexually explicit answer!

    • Vic December 3, 2018, 10:46 am

      The “when are you going to settle down” questions are just as bad. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to answer questions about why I’m not in a relationship and have no desire to remarry after my divorce 10 years ago. They always say they feel so bad for me for being alone. I’m tempted to say I feel so bad for them for having to compromise for the rest of their lives. I wouldn’t do that of course. I just prefer the live and let live mentality.

      • Liz December 3, 2018, 3:28 pm

        Thankfully, i don’t really get this anymore but I did in my younger days. At age 50-something, never married, never lived with anyone, i’m very content with the way things are. But I really do hate that many look at me like i’m some kind of oddity because i DON’T have any desire to get married.

        i mean if i met someone, maybe. But I’m not actively looking. I do joke sometimes that I would ONLY get married if I didn’t actually have to live with my husband. People look at me like I have 3 heads but it does shut up those who ask!

  • Saucygirl December 3, 2018, 8:47 am

    We used to get this all the time. One random family member even told us we needed to have kids so we would have someone to give our stuff to when we died. We informed her that that was what charities were for.

    Then one morning while out to breakfast with my mom she started in on us. I told her I hadn’t planned on telling her this, but I couldn’t keep having the same conversation. I told her my husband had a vasectomy. She started to cry. I met her cry and be sad for like 5 minutes. Then I told her he hadn’t, but that was seriously how tired I was of having this conversation. Then I made a deal with her. If she stopped asking about pregnancy, I would stop asking about her finances, which were horrible. It worked. We had a great next 7 years, until I actually did decide to have a kid.

  • Leigh December 3, 2018, 8:53 am

    Insist you have children. They are always in another room. “Surely you remember Plethora and Imperceptible. They were JUST here. Maybe try the living room. Percy! Plethy!”

    Pretend they’ve asked you a different question. “When are you having children?”
    “Oh, yes, that documentary on Belgian weightlifters during WWI was fascinating!”
    “That’s not what I asked.”
    “Oh, that’s what I heard.”

    Tell them you’re waiting to have grandchildren first as everyone seems to like them better than regular kids.

    • Calli Arcale December 4, 2018, 12:47 pm

      I like that! That was more or less the approach I finally used to get the bullies at school to leave me alone. Strangely enough, it worked. Both bullies and intrusive relatives are looking to engage, so baffling them with bull denies them this and they generally will give up.

      But I love your “grandchildren first” comeback. It reminds me of my late uncle. He really really REALLY didn’t like small children. When he eventually married, it was to an older divorcee who already had adult children and no interest in additional children. But it made him an instant grandpa, and to his surprise, he really liked being a grandpa. So sometimes people really do get to have grandchildren first, and it can be quite wonderful. 😉

  • staceyizme December 3, 2018, 8:57 am

    Don’t play games. These are your family. However, that doesn’t entitle them to intrude into your reproductive plans. You should be able to speak your truth. Do that, once. If they can’t accept it, it’s on them. Tell them that your plans aren’t up for discussion. If you do decide to clarify “no kids”, don’t do it at a family gathering in response to random questions. In such a case, “WOW, AWK-ward!” or a similar expostulation might encourage them to talk about other things. Or leave. Somehow they’ve gotten the idea that this topic is one that they can weigh in on. You can disabuse them of that either by clarifying or by refusing to discuss the matter. Either way is fine. Jokes may encourage them to keep pressing, as may any explanations that don’t shut the topic down. Sorry you’re going through this, but a joking approach by way of response sounds exhausting. Others don’t need access to your bank book, your work life, spiritual life or reproductive plans. Exceptions to that, even for family, are always dispensed from the person whose life is the subject of any comment or discussion. If they aren’t offered, then NO, it’s not open for comment… or discussion. If you’re clear on that, they’ll either GET clear or you’ll withdraw/ ignore/ back off/ whatever feels appropriate.

  • Rebecca M December 3, 2018, 9:23 am

    “It’s funny you should ask, because hubby and I were just talking about how interested in YOUR sex life we are! *proceed to ask deeply uncomfortable questions*”

  • Dawn December 3, 2018, 9:54 am

    Get some business cards printed up. “In response to your rather intrusive question “When are you two having kids?”, the answer – again – is never. We like children, just don’t want any of our own. Please keep this card handy and pull it out and read it every time you feel like asking us this question – again.”

    • Amanda December 4, 2018, 12:42 pm

      I love this one.

      My husband and I have also made the decision not to have children. I’m 40. If people ask, I usually gush about how happy I am to be an Aunt (all the advantages of being a grandparent, but I didn’t have to have kids first) or laugh and talk about how I have a hard enough time keeping up with my cats! I also love “No, I don’t think that would be responsible.” If people persist, I get very serious and explain that, what with overpopulation and so many kids who are still waiting for foster homes, let alone adoption, people should only be parents if they really, *really* want to. And I don’t. And now, I’m done talking about it.
      (Please note that I cast no judgement on parents who wound up being parents and didn’t necessarily plan for it. I just find the “responsible” line to be very useful for Nosy Parkers.)

  • jazzgirl205 December 3, 2018, 10:01 am

    I desperately wanted children and it took me 10 years to have the one I did. I NEVER ask someone when or why when it comes to children. There are only 2 possible answers. The first is that they don’t want children and/or don’t like them. To admit to that sounds like they are casting aspersions on the children in the family. The second reason is that they cannot have children and it is a painful topic. Either way, the question causes discomfort.

    • Corlia December 5, 2018, 6:25 am

      Exactly this

  • AMC December 3, 2018, 10:27 am

    No matter what argument you make, they will challenge it. So best not to engaged them further by making up excuses or divulging personal information. They will just see this as an invitation to keep the conversation going. Instead say, “We’ve given it a lot of thought and decided that we like things the way they are. We have no desire to make any changes.” If they continue to push: “We’ve already told you it’s not going to happen. This isn’t up for debate. Let’s change the subject.”

  • Lori December 3, 2018, 10:54 am

    All kidding aside, how about:

    “We don’t want children, now or ever. Please don’t ask again.”

    To the point, not stating “you don’t like children”. There’s a difference between love and want…heck i LOVE Great Danes, but I don’t WANT one….

  • Jen December 3, 2018, 11:44 am

    We have one kid but for the first several years we were constantly questioned about “When are you going to have another?” or “Isn’t it time for a second?” Our first one was born in 2008, right as the Great Recession really hit and suddenly our salaries were frozen (we both work for a public school system) for the first 4-5 years of our child’s life when we had all these new increasing expenses (daycare, diapers, formula.) We’d debated a second but our finances are still recovering as it is. My husband finally just started asking back “Are you going to pay for him/her for the next 18 years? No? Then don’t worry about it.”

    • BadBandit December 4, 2018, 12:33 am

      Ugh. DD is our only child too. In addition all that you posted, I got the “only kids are (insert adjective/verb/noun here)” comments all the freaking time. DH was on the road a lot for work when DD was younger (like out of state weeks at a time) so my standard response became “unless the UPS, FedEx or the mailman is willing, she’s going to remain an only.”

  • DGS December 3, 2018, 12:01 pm

    Cultivate a pat response and repeat ad nauseam. “We are not interested in having children”. “But [insert whatever reason the person is currently reporting for having children]”. “Yes, and we are not interested in having children”. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You do not have to disclose your reasons for doing so – and you do not owe anyone an explanation. Simply put, you are not interested in having children. Eventually, they will stop asking.

  • Josephine December 3, 2018, 12:03 pm

    I have sort of the opposite problem in my family. My MIL is NOT ready for us to have kids. She says things like, “I am not old enough to be a grandmother”. But she is, and really it isn’t about her being ready but about my husband and I being ready. We are grown adults with good jobs and a home, we are trying but of course we don’t tell her! I think she isn’t ready to give up the attention, honestly.
    There are other cousins in the family with children so the rude question does come up at family get togethers about when we will start a family. We don’t have to try and find an answer because my MIL usually chimes in with a weird comment and makes it awkward enough for everyone 😉

    • staceyizme December 3, 2018, 4:38 pm

      Wow! I guess that this is the other side of the proverbial coin! It’s kind of mean but you could always say ” this decision is not, now and never will be about you. You can feel free to chime in when your own reproductive plans are up for discussion. Meanwhile, we prefer not to discuss our plans.”

  • JD December 3, 2018, 12:09 pm

    “Would you like to ask about our finances and credit rating while you are at it?”
    Actually, the best answer to me is one already given by Mizz Etiquette, and one which my mother taught me when asked a nosy question – “Why do you want to know?” I had a schoolmate who always asked where I got my clothes and I kept dancing around the question. Since my mother made most of them, I didn’t know if she was just curious because she never saw any like them in the stores and truly wondered where we shopped, or if she was trying to ferret out if my clothes were homemade so it must mean we were too poor to shop in stores . I followed my mom’s advice and asked her why she asked, and that stopped her. She stumbled around and finally said she was just curious. I said “Oh” and moved on in the conversation without answering her question. She never asked again.
    My son-in-law had a good answer, when told he and my daughter needed to get busy and have kids – he said “Oh, sorry, I’m afraid I don’t take directions well,” and left it at that.

  • MiChelle December 3, 2018, 12:50 pm

    “Babies are just so much trouble. You have to make sure they have water, you have to remember to bring them in at night . . . I just don’t have that kind of time.”

    When they see you’re serious, they’ll stop asking.

  • AM December 3, 2018, 1:12 pm

    I’m an only child, and my mom desperately wants grandchildren. Fortunately she (mostly) respects my decision not to have kids and has stopped asking, but others occasionally pester me on her behalf (not at her behest.) This is my standard response:
    Idiot: so, are you having kids?/ when are you having kids?
    Me: no, we’ve decided not to have kids
    Idiot: why not?
    Me: we don’t want them
    Idiot: but what about your mother? Doesn’t she want grandchildren?
    Me: here’s a fun thought experiment. Would you rather be an adult who never got the grandchildren she hoped for, or a child whose parents never wanted him?

  • Trish December 3, 2018, 2:05 pm

    Such an invasive question, usually designed to pressure or persuade you vs. actually wanting to know what you’ve chosen for your life path. Ugh.

    My 15 year old nephew has asked us twice in front of the whole family, completely at random, when we were going to have kids. The second time I pulled him aside and explained that isn’t an appropriate question ever, much less from a child to adult. I also explained that you don’t know the circumstances and that question can be very painful for some people. Also bottom line – it’s none of your business.

    I wish I could pull adults aside and educate them like that. When it’s your elders it’s much more difficult to deal with.

    I like the admin’s advice about using humor or something ridiculous to deflect the question and also show the person how inappropriate their question is in a non-direct way.

    My favorites are:

    1. We have to raise ourselves first!

    2. Our cats told us that they didn’t approve.

    3. The doctor said I was prone to having quintuplets so that did it for us – no kids ever.

    3. My favorite of all, which works VERY well on my husband’s very religious family:

    Only God knows.

    That always shuts them up quick!

    Best of luck. ??

    • Anonymous December 3, 2018, 4:29 pm

      My favourite (smart-aleck) answer is, “we’ve been TRYING forever–we’ve been lighting candles and praying, in BOTH of our bedrooms!!!”

      • AM December 4, 2018, 5:03 pm

        Love this. Reminds me of my dad’s response when asked why they only had one: “We figured out what was causing it and put a stop to it immediately!”

        • Anonymous December 4, 2018, 6:40 pm

          I can’t take credit for that answer–I think I saw it on here.

        • Queen of Putrescence December 4, 2018, 9:46 pm

          My husband’s mom is one of 7. His Grandpa always said that after the 7th was born (7 in 10 years) they finally figured out what was causing all of those babies!

  • Shoegal December 3, 2018, 2:31 pm

    Husband and I don’t have kids and never intend to have kids – plus its a little late now. Although with women having kids in their fifties – I suppose it is still possible. We never get asked that question to be honest. Our families understand it is our choice and respect that. I’m amazed that people can be so intrusive and rude. It absolutely none of their business unless the couple brings it up themselves.

  • Lolkay December 3, 2018, 2:59 pm

    I’m only in my late 20’s, and while I want kids later, I heard the best answers from those who don’t:

    We’re better as Aunts/Uncles
    One of me is bad enough
    My furbabies are all the kids I need
    Don’t need to have them.

  • ALM December 3, 2018, 5:23 pm

    I’m a rather homely woman who spent my youth trying to get a graduate education far away from my relatives, so I have mostly been spared this. I can only assume my relatives all acknowledge that I am in fact not pretty enough to find an acceptable spouse and not stupid enough to settle for someone I’d have to drag along as opposed to having an actual partner, or they have the misconception that I’m a lesbian and just have no clue what to do with that. (Honestly, I think it’s mostly the former). You might think they are very enlightened people, but no, they ask my relatively prettier sister about her dating life and try to set her up with people. Because I have not managed to partner up, I am also spared the reproductive question game. However, I did have one of my older aunts (who is ALMOST old enough to be my grandmother), once tell me if I didn’t find someone soon, I’d have to get artificially inseminated. As if I couldn’t figure that out on my own, being a graduate student in biological sciences. Some people honestly think they need to share their ‘wisdom’ with you and convert you to their thinking.

    I have found that when family continually persists in treating you in an unacceptable manner, it’s time to stop treating them to your presence. If they are really that uninterested in you living your own life, don’t worry, they won’t miss you when you aren’t there.

    • Redblues December 5, 2018, 8:42 am

      “I have found that when family continually persists in treating you in an unacceptable manner, it’s time to stop treating them to your presence. If they are really that uninterested in you living your own life, don’t worry, they won’t miss you when you aren’t there.”

      Bless you ALM! You *can* choose your family, and they may or may not be related to you. The rest of them are not worth your time.

  • Maggie December 3, 2018, 5:47 pm

    First, I love the “Why do you want to know?” responses above!

    Second, my tactic is usually to pause while looking right at them (so they know I heard the question), then talk about something entirely different (I admit, that’s generally rude, but it gets the point across):
    Interrogator: When are you having children?
    Me: (pause) Ugh – it’s supposed to start getting cold again tomorrow, isn’t it?
    Interrogator: Why don’t you have kids?
    Me: (pause) Any plans for the holidays?

    It makes it difficult for them to push further without looking like a jerk.

  • TTFK December 3, 2018, 9:48 pm

    A simple answer: Unfortunately, the doctors say I/he/we’re sterile, so children are not in our future.

    This stops most of the nattering, especially the “God always finds a way” crowd.

    • Calli Arcale December 4, 2018, 12:54 pm

      I once tried explaining that there were complications with both of my deliveries, so I didn’t think it was wise to get pregnant again. So she started hounding me about adoption! There’s no winning with some people.

  • Firecat December 3, 2018, 9:57 pm

    I’ve used this in the past:

    Rude Person: “But why aren’t you having kids?”
    Me: “Do you remember ‘Calvin and Hobbes’?”
    Rude Person (puzzled): “Yes??”
    Me: “It’s because I’m afraid I’d have Calvin.”

    I’ve also said: “Because when I was a teenager, Mom kept saying she hoped I’d have one just like me someday, and I’m not going to risk it.”

  • Marno December 4, 2018, 12:10 am

    “Oh no, we can’t continue the bloodline according to The Prophecy and [drop voice to a whisper] it is dangerous to talk about The Prophecy.”

    If they question this, look nervous, dart your eyes around and say, quietly and urgently, “Shhhhh….. we mustn’t talk about it. It will only invite disaster!”

  • Elodie December 4, 2018, 7:49 am

    I’ve been clear since my teens that I have no interest in getting married or having children, so I don’t get this from my family (apparently my dad does from my grandma on my behalf). And my friends know I know my own mind enough not to pry. But I did have the following exchange with a friend of a friend at a party:
    ‘What about you? Do you have/want kids?’
    ‘No, I don’t want children’
    ‘I find a lot of women say that at your age. They change their mind’
    (nods, completely innocent expression) ‘I find a lot people patronise me when I say I don’t want children’.
    She shut up after that.

    • Liz December 4, 2018, 12:28 pm

      Oooh, good answer! I really really really despise, loathe, and hate people who say stuff like that “oh you’ll change your mind” really? Are you inside my head then, and KNOW what i’m thinking? Or want or don’t want? No, you are not.

      No, no I won’t. Just because the societal “norm” is to get married and have kids, DOES NOT mean everyone has to or should be doing so.

  • Eliza December 4, 2018, 12:17 pm

    I think the O.P. should just be honest. We don’t have kids because we don’t want them. We don’t like them. I have kids and like kids. But I’m not going to get in a snit if someone tells me they don’t want them or like them. Someone getting in a snit over this response, that is their problem not yours.

  • HenrysMom December 4, 2018, 1:03 pm

    I used to get this all the time, and my response would be “we have a dog” repeated ad nauseum. My family mostly accepted it, while people from my church thought I/we were “unchristian” and “unnatural” for thinking that way.

    I have to say, in light of my rather bitter divorce, I don’t regret not having children with that man. The thought that I could have been tied to him forever through children makes me shudder.

  • Nancy Hesler Fuchs December 4, 2018, 1:45 pm

    I personally like to state the obvious.
    “When are you going to have a baby?”
    “Probably about nine months after I get pregnant…”
    Maintain eye contact. Ignore any further questions.

  • MamaToreen December 4, 2018, 2:49 pm

    I am a singer. I used to tell people I was working on a Bouncing Baby Music Career. Say that to one musical Great aunt and all the questions went away

  • Pat December 4, 2018, 2:50 pm

    I’m childless (not by choice) and when people ask that question it’s very painful to me. That being said, I think playing games and making up stories is an awful idea. Say, “That’s a very personal question” and repeat as needed while looking the person in the eye.

    • EchoGirl December 8, 2018, 10:54 pm

      I was going to mention this. Apart from the fact that it’s horribly intrusive, you never know if the person you’re talking to is childless by choice or if you might be opening up a metaphorical wound for someone who wanted children but couldn’t have them. (This isn’t my story, but I know enough people who’ve experienced this to be aware of that additional layer.)

  • Kitty December 4, 2018, 6:01 pm

    Bluntly tell them you don’t want kids. Being polite and vague has not achieved anything, so I suggest you go for the blunt route. If they don’t like it? Well, that’s none of their business, quite frankly. That’s your sexlife and your family-planning; and if the two of you are absolutely happy with your family consisting of only the two of you (and any pets you might have), that is absolutely okay.

  • Mary Sgree December 4, 2018, 6:18 pm

    I have kids and I DO ask the question ” are you having kids?” And when someone says “no” it bothers me not in the least. I’m perfectly fine whether someone has them or not. But I would hate for someone to be offended and haul off with some harsh response when I’m just asking a question. To me, I’m asking the question in the same way as if I’d asked, ” you guys getting a pet?” Or “you guys buying a house?”

    • CookieWookiee December 4, 2018, 8:01 pm

      I appreciate your position. But respectfully, I disagree that asking about someone’s reproductive plans is on the same level as asking if they’re adopting a pet.

      Part of it is because the status of one’s reproductive organs is a personal issue that not everyone is willing to talk about. The other part is that the answer isn’t always as simple as yes or no, and that person may not wish to explain themselves.

      (I might even add that asking whether they’re going to buy a house could be considered a bit invasive, since it involves private financial issues.)

      • Redblues December 5, 2018, 8:51 am

        I’m with you CookieWookie. Asking about the weather is making conversation. Asking about reproductive choices is not. You have no idea what people are going through. Maybe they don’t want kids. Maybe they do and can’t have them. Maybe they are arguing about it. Maybe they hate kids as much as they hate intrusive questions from people with no right to know. (Everyone other than the couple are in the category of people with no right to know.) People will talk about it if they want to. It bothers me not in the least if someone is offended by a harsh response to a question they have no right to ask in the first place.

        • CookieWookiee December 5, 2018, 2:07 pm

          “Everyone other than the couple are in the category of people with no right to know.” Amen.

          I say the same thing about pregnancies, especially to those who want to ask the woman at issue before there’s an announcement–if you weren’t there at the conception, it’s none of your business.

          There’s no way to know whether the person asking the question will let it lie after an answer, especially if it’s a “no.” “But why not?!” “But IVF!” “But adoption!” None. Of. Your. Business. If you’ve got a few tens of thousands of dollars to spare for fertility treatments and/or adoption fees, good for you–not everyone does, and not everyone wants to go those routes. I know people who have done IVF, and it’s very difficult, never mind that it may not work. And from what I understand, the adoption process can be heartbreaking.

          I was once told–at work, mind you–that my marriage “didn’t count” because we don’t have any kids. (I think we’d been married around 10 years at that point.) I kind of lost it, and told him (yes, HIM) that if he didn’t know why we didn’t have any, it was because it was none of his damn business. I stormed off and he avoided me from then on, I think because he was praying I didn’t report him.

          I’ve had (former) family members accuse me of selfishness and greed, because we have no children but we do have a house. (The people in question were a family of 6 living in a 2-bedroom apartment. She was a teacher, I think he was a stay-at-home dad.) Good for you if that’s the life you want to live, but it’s not for me, thank you. And also, your resentment is showing.

          There is a whole lot of judgement pointed at childless women and childless couples. Somehow I haven’t found nearly as much sniping at childless single men. I wonder why that is?

      • Pat December 5, 2018, 10:12 am

        I agree that this is a very personal question that should not be asked. If someone wishes to inform you of their plans or discuss this subject with you, they will bring it up. Otherwise, it’s off limits.

  • Jamie in PA December 5, 2018, 11:42 am

    35 years. We have been asked this question every year. We started with polite answers, then a little firmer answers then finally said we didn’t want kids. Oh the backlash we got until we informed the entire family on both sides that enough is enough we don’t want any so stop asking,

  • Lara December 5, 2018, 12:52 pm

    I never ask people about having children unless they bring it up. Having been through multiple miscarriages on my way to children, I know how painful a subject it can be. I remember also when my brother and sister-in-law had been married a few years. She really wanted a baby, but he wasn’t ready yet. It was very hard for her to wait, and dealing with questions about it was painful for her too. (They have 6 now.) There are so many circumstances that can make the question of having kids a hurtful one. And it’s always personal.

    As for answering the questions of relatives, I understand that you don’t want to just trot out “we don’t like children” to people who have children of their own, but if they press you on it, then you absolutely should tell them. These are people who you will be seeing on a regular basis, so they might as well know. As long as you’re always polite to their kids, they have nothing to complain about. And it could have the additional benefit that they will never expect you to babysit or attend ball games, etc.

  • Kat December 5, 2018, 5:07 pm

    “When are you having children?”


    “But why?”

    “Because I don’t want to.”

    “But why not?”

    “Because I don’t want to.”

    “But why NOT?”

    “Why haven’t you become a fireman yet?” (Or accountant, or any other profession that they are not.)

    “What? I never wanted to become a fireman.”

    “See, you DO understand what I mean!”

  • Queen of the Weezils December 6, 2018, 3:15 pm

    Yes, I know this problem all too well! It sort of resolved itself when we turned 40. I guess people thought that if we weren’t having kids by then, we either couldn’t or wouldn’t.

    My standard response to the dreaded question became “We’ve decided not to.” and then beandip away! If you ask a follow-up question about their kids or their interests or their lives, most people aren’t going to resist that bait to continue to question you. If you don’t make this a topic for debate, then people can’t argue against you about it.

    If you want to try humor, you can try to defuse it that way. It works better with some phrasing of the dreaded question than others.

    Fact is, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. At all. This is 100% your choice and it doesn’t matter if reason is that you are trying but there’s a medical problem or you have an intense dislike of children or anything in between.

    Does family mean parents? I think if this is your parents asking, you should have a conversation away from the holidays that lays out that you aren’t having children, especially if they have no other hope for grandkids. Let them scratch that itch in other ways.

  • BMS2000 December 6, 2018, 5:03 pm

    I used to respond, “Well, are you using your spare room right now? We could go work on it for you!”

    That usually got them off my back. We couldn’t do things the old fashioned way – our kids are adopted. Glad of it too – didn’t want to pass on the nosiness genes.

  • Bobby December 7, 2018, 4:16 pm

    For me it has always been a situational answer, depending on the person asking, they will get one of these replies
    1) I have testicular cancer, but I finally beat it, but I cannot produce sperm
    2)Wife is barren
    3) I can barely look after myself, how can I look after a child?
    4) They cost a lot of time, money, and energy. Three things I would rather spend on myself
    5)By not procreating, I am doing more for the environment, than you could dream of
    6) My first wife and kid got killed by a drunk driver, I just cannot deal with it again

    #1,2, and 4 are my usual go to ones, but if the person is pissing me off, I will go with some of the other ones

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