What do you say when someone asks you, “Do you have children?” Such a simple but loaded question can be complicated to answer at times. I tend to be a private person who says as little as possible when this question comes up. I have to say that I have started to have a change of heart regarding how I answer this question. I am not ashamed of my decision or of how my life has turned out by the choices I have made. This question on one level is intrusive however the mythology being disseminated about the childfree is perhaps more troubling. It is sad that in this day and age that so many people do not even realize that one can live a full and complete life without having children. Maybe it is time to start a dialog with the public one person at a time. “Do you have children?”
For the childfree this question can be a bit tricky. The reasons why we do not have children are personal and may range from infertility to just not having an interest in becoming a parent. What does this line of questioning say about the person asking it? Do they want a sincere answer or are they asking because it is a well practiced question that tends to elicit a usually predictable answer. In the case of a childfree individual the answer is not predictable and often leads to another round of questions or the dreaded silence or deer in the headlight stare. People will want to know out of curiosity. Sometimes they want to know the answer to validate their own decision to have children. I have been surprised that on several occasions the questioner has told me in confidence that if they had it to do all over again they would have chosen not to have children. They did not know it was an option. Sometimes the asker cannot handle that there are people who make different decisions and may react with hostility or avoidance. Sometimes it will lead to statements that the childfree term the “Bingo”.
On the site The Childfree Life there has been much written about the “Bingo” and how best to respond to them. In this case the asker of the question most likely is not asking for the purpose of making a judgment, although some could be. We as childfree perhaps are more sensitive about this because it happens frequently.
How best to prepare for the question? Would a well-rehearsed statement help?
This question will probably be asked in every new setting we encounter and with every new person we meet. The question of children may even be the second question after the introduction. It has really become part of a non-thinking dialog or a traditional conversation starter.
In my own life I have probably answered this question thousands of times and have probably given at least a half dozen unique answers to the question depending on my mood, the person asking, and the degree I wished to disclose. The full answer to this question on my part is actually quite complicated but the most simple answer is no.
This simple word usually works these days now that I am in my later 40s but would often require further explanation when I was in my late 20s until my late 30s. For those of you on the fence this can be a particularly difficult question to answer. For those who may have had children but have chosen to give them up for adoption or may have chosen to terminate a pregnancy this question might also sting.
The main reason I can come up with for elaborating about the childfree choice is to begin educating those around us that it is an option just like having children is an option or choice. If we do not speak up how will others know that for some not having children is normal and it is the right decision. So often you hear the myth that those that choose not to have children will regret their decision when they are older. So far the people I know who are older are actually quite happy with their decision.
So how will you answer this simple question? I look forward to your responses in the forum. If you have had an experience in answering this question recently I hope you will share how it turned out.
Do you have children?