We live in a culture that seems obsessed with reproduction. We are always talking about it. One group of people is actually suing for their perceived right to give unsolicited advice to pregnant women. Even if you don’t have children, your ovaries and vagina are often assumed to be in the public forum, in need of group discussion to decide their fate. I don’t have children, but I’ve heard this attitude can get especially tough for moms. One of my mommy friends recently told me, “Having a child has opened me up to a broad spectrum of annoying personal questions.”
But here’s the problem: making reproductive decisions is tough enough without everyone you know wanting to be kept informed and to weigh in with their opinion. It’s hard not to feel personally invaded when someone forces their way in to your private life with their prying questions. “I only ask because I care!”, some might say. No, you don’t. You ask because you are nosy, and we can see through this. Or you ask because you want an opportunity to exert some kind of control into another person’s decisions. Just stop. If you truly care about your female friends and family members and have respect for their privacy then, please, don’t ever ask any of these questions.
1. When are you having kids?
The key word here is “when”. You are assuming that, because I am a woman, I’m going to have children. It is just a matter of when! Not true. Many women choose to remain childless or are biologically unable to reproduce, and they don’t owe an explanation to every person who wants to know “when” the kids are coming. Even worse is the continual pestering that comes after the question. “The clock is ticking!” or “Don’t you want someone who looks like you?” or “The longer you wait, the harder it gets!” etc, etc, etc. I am fully aware of how age affects birth. I am familiar with how genetics work. I am also intimately familiar with my own wants, needs, circumstances, health, financials, etc., and you are not. So butt out.
2. Did you know that birth control can ______?
Give you a stroke? Give you blood clots? Make you fat? Make you emotional? Send you to hell? Fill in the blank. Actually, yes, when you go to the doctor to get birth control they give you stacks of reading material on exactly how it works. I’ll discuss the pros and cons with my doctor. And I am 100% uninterested in you personal religious beliefs on the subject. Thank you very much.
3. C-section or natural birth?
I’ve been told this is a common question. I am completely dumbfounded by that knowledge. You are essentially asking the mother: “How big of an object can you fit through there?” “Do you have a scar?” “Are you all stretched out?” “What do you look like under your clothes?” There are no words to adequately express how inappropriate this is.
On the flip side are the natural birth apologists. If you want to have a natural birth with no exceptions, then that is wonderful. That desire does not translate into the right to tell every other pregnant woman that she should be having a natural birth too. If she wants information on the subject, she will ask.
4. Breast or formula?
When did a woman’s boobs become an acceptable topic of conversation? Don’t ask what a mother’s boobs look like. Don’t ask about her nipples. Don’t try to give her pressure about either breast-feeding or not. This is between a woman, her baby, and her doctor. Again, you can have a strong opinion, but it is *your* opinion. Don’t impose that on someone else. You don’t know her situation, and she doesn’t owe you an explanation of it. And she certainly doesn’t owe you an explanation for what she looks like under her bra.
5. You know how that happens, right?
This seems to be the go-to question for women with more than four children. It makes some people uncomfortable to see lots of kids with one woman. But some people like big families, so get over it. Don’t assume they are on government assistance. Don’t assume the kids are neglected. Don’t assume they are crazy religious wackos. Just be happy that they are happy. If someday we run out of room for everyone to stand, then we can worry about over-population.
6. How do you plan to lose the weight?
Will everyone please just leave us ladies alone about how we look. We know how we look. We know that pregnancy causes weight gain. We know that the world thinks we should be skinny, and we have exactly one week after giving birth to get that way! We may or may not care. Do you really think that asking a woman who just gave birth about her weight is a good idea? Are you trying to make her feel bad? Are you deluded enough to think that there might be any other outcome?
7. Was it planned or an accident?
Oh, you mean were we having unprotected sex? Were we just horny that day or did we have a reason for getting jiggy with it? Would you like a play-by-play? WHY ARE PEOPLE SO INVASIVE? There is no possible reason why you would need to know this information. Furthermore, a baby is valuable to its mother no matter how it came to be. If the mother wants people to knowhow it happened, then she will include it in the stories she tells. Women love to talk about their children so you can almost guarantee that if a certain piece of information is left out, then she doesn’t want you to know.
Additionally, just as asking about the sex that lead to the baby is too personal, asking about the mother’s sex life after the baby is too personal. There is no reason why someone’s sex life should become public knowledge just because they had a child.
With all of that out of the way, let’s end on a positive note. Here are a few questions that you can ask to show you care:
Are you and the baby happy and healthy?
How are you feeling?
Are you interested in having children someday? (and then take the answer with no judgement and no additional prying)
How can I help you?
No matter what the differences in opinion, let’s all have a little more respect for the privacy of the women in our life. If you have been guilty of invasive prying, it’s not to late to change your ways! Change the kinds of questions you ask, and the way you give your opinion. Not only will your friends and family feel more loved and more comfortable around you, but you will gain more respect yourself!
photo credit: westpark via photopin cc