8. The Things People Say: I Want to Say F-You

Jun 4, 2024

Today we are discussing the tendency people have to ask intrusive and personal questions about women’s fertility status. Such questions can cause people significant pain and awkwardness. Often, people asking these questions are completely oblivious to the discomfort they are causing.

Questions like this cross personal boundaries in so many ways. Therefore, I am giving you some tips and strategies for handling intrusive questions when they arise. One of these tips is setting boundaries and communicating those boundaries to others. I also encourage those who ask such questions  to reflect on their impact and urge you to consider more meaningful and considerate conversations.

Learn more or book a free, no-obligation call to talk about what a coaching experience could look like for you HERE.

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The Things People Say: I Want to Say F-You.
Key Episode Takeaways:
  • Asking about someone’s fertility status is never ok!
  • Intrusive fertility questions can trigger pain and conflict in people’s lives.
  • Boundaries are healthy, not selfish.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Full Episode Transcript:

8. The Things People Say: I Want to Say F-You

Hi, you're listening to Childless and Moving Onward. This is the place where we talk about thriving in life when you're a woman who is childless, not by choice, regardless of the road that brought you to childlessness.   All right. Well, welcome back to Childless and Moving Onward. Today, my, the title and the topic that I want to talk about is the things people say, and in response to that, you often want to say F you. I'm going to keep it clean for purposes of this podcast, but we often want to say that in response. One of my favorite quotes that has to do with this topic is "only a few people care, the rest are just nosy." I don't know who, who the author is. I don't know who said it. I wish I could take credit, but I can't. And it may seem harsh, but in real life, it's pretty accurate way too often. Um, I'm bringing this up now because it's wedding season, which means although a well meaning family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, and even strangers will start with their questions and you know what I'm talking about. The, when are you going to have children? Um, not long ago, wasn't recently, but not too long ago, I was with a group of women who were with a bride to be, um, planning, taking part of the wedding plans and all the events that go into the wedding. And I wish I could say that I was surprised when someone started asking when are you going to have children? And then continued, didn't stop. It didn't surprise me though because there's such a lack of comprehension of just how personal that question is and how equally inappropriate it is to ask. But what's really even more stunning is that when people start asking this they're not noticing the reaction they're getting. So, in this particular instance, which was a common reaction, what happened was like, okay, just this is the definition of the response to when are you going to have children, to a new bride. And what happened was she turned bright red. She was shifting around, um, she couldn't look directly at the person, she was stammering, she hemmed and hawed and what was even more disturbing is that the person asking this didn't even notice. Didn't notice how undeniably uncomfortable the bride was. Why would she be uncomfortable? Because it's such a personal topic. Now, I get for some people, they willingly engage and talk about this. There's nothing wrong with that, if that is something you are comfortable with, that that is your norm, but not everyone wants to because it is so personal. You know, it's, it's something that some couples want to keep between them and there's nothing wrong with that, but it didn't stop there it went on with each, you know event, pre wedding event, you know shopping trip or whatever. It kept going, kept asking the same question Um, and then added in things like so you're going to have X number of children, right? And you're gonna have them right away, right? It wasn't actually a question, though. It was an expectation. It was very clearly an expectation, more like a demand. All the while, each time, the bride would be visibly more and more uncomfortable. But the person asking all of this, and it wasn't just one, there was, there were a couple people on both sides of the family. None of them were paying attention. They were all completely oblivious to the bride's reaction. And that's because the reality is that these questions don't have anything to do with caring about the person that they're asking the questions of. Well, they'll say it is. But the reality is, the questions are about the questioner their curiosity, about their need to know, about their need to impose their will on someone else and their own desires. I want to be an aunt to this many children, you know, nieces and nephews. I want to be a grandmother to this many grandchildren. And if that sounds harsh, frankly, I don't care. Because if it was truly about caring about the person on the receiving end of this, then they take notice of the obvious, the undeniable reaction that this person does not want to talk about it and they'd stop, but they don't. It's not about the person receiving the questions and caring about them. It's about the individuals who push their needs. Now I'm bringing this up now because it's wedding season, so I've noticed that this line of questioning, this invasiveness into someone else's private life is in full bloom. But it doesn't stop with newlyweds. Anyone who is childless not by choice, or dealing with infertility, or questions about am I going to have a child. Is that going to be a possibility? Everyone who's been on these roads has experienced these similar situations of really inappropriate, probing, invasive questions. And it is just plain wrong. Now here's my truth. I never understood why asking someone about their fertility status was okay. Now some people might think I feel this way because of my own situation. But the reality is that, you know, I felt this way long, long before I ever knew I would be childless. It's not a realization I came to because of any triggers from being childless. I mean, I remember when, you know, I was younger and my friends were getting married and, you know, we, I'd be in the wedding parties or you'd be going to the weddings and I hadn't, I had no idea. I mean, I still at that point had the vision of I'm going to, you know, find the perfect partner and, you know, some specific time range, age range, and I'm gonna have a family. There was never any question at that point. So this isn't because of any triggers of mine. When I would be going to these weddings or part of the wedding parties, inevitably, moms, mother in laws to be, aunts, cousins, siblings, usually, frankly, females, would start this line of questioning with the bride. And I, and I would see then how uncomfortable they were. And you'd talk to them afterwards and like, Oh my gosh, I'm being hounded by, you know, whoever it was that was hounding them. And they're like, it's so, I don't want to talk to them about it. I want to talk with my spouse. This is between us. And I did have the occasional friend who was like, Oh yeah, I don't care. And would talk about it with anybody. And that's fine. But, for many people, the decision to have a child is one of the most personal ones. I mean, certainly conceiving a child is extremely personal and intimate. So why do people think it's okay to ask about it? And again, I realize there are people who have no problem discussing their own plans and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not here criticizing those who are open about this. That's fine for them. But there are others, many, many in fact, which is why there's articles about this and people talk about it so much. Um, there's many who do consider this is a decision between them and their partner or between themselves and their doctor if they are choosing single parenthood. It's so intimate. So, private. Yet the number of people who ask, when are you having kids, why don't you have kids, when are you having another, et cetera, is astounding. But what's more surprising is that the person asking these inappropriate questions often takes offense if you don't answer them. Or if you let them know in any way, no matter how respectfully you do it, that it's not okay to ask. They're offended, as if they have an innate right to ask. No, they don't. It's not just that it's all so intensely personal, but there are other factors influencing how these questions could affect someone. No one knows what anyone else is going through, regardless of how close you are to someone. In reality, you never know what they're going through. No one is aware of everyone else's business and no one should expect to be. Now, of course, we all know and. Aunt Libby, you know, that one relative or maybe more, that friend, that coworker who thinks they have a right to ask intrusive questions. And sometimes it's even a complete stranger who you might be meeting for the first time. But there's so much in each person's lives that's personal and that isn't shared with everyone. So, consider the following situations that people may be going through that others are often not aware of and they don't need to be if someone doesn't choose to share. You know, a couple may not be on the same page about parenthood or timing of becoming parents. And if this is a stressor in this relationship. I mean, my husband and I were not on the same page. He did not want to have any more children. He had three from his first marriage and that was it. And it was a sore spot in our relationship. So when, of course, his, there would be people, particularly his family, who thought, I have every right to ask this. No, you don't. And they would bring it up, and it would cause me incredible hurt and add to the stress between us. Or there's a situation of someone could be trying to conceive, and they're dealing with infertility. Now, maybe you're at some social event, social gathering, whether it's friends, family, they've brought themselves, gotten themselves to the place where they can be there with their pain and oftentimes they are forcing themselves to be there so they don't hurt other people's feelings right? They're going through infertility and the pain that comes with that and they don't want to hurt others. So they show up to things that don't necessarily serve them. That's a topic for another another time. But now they show up And of course someone has to bring up, when are you going to have kids? Why don't you have kids yet? Imagine what that does to them. The pain that brings up. Or a partner has changed their mind about wanting a child. Again, you know, maybe they started out their, their relationship thinking they were on the same page. They were, and then that changed. And again, now you're bringing this up, you're triggering their pain. And you're triggering a challenge, a conflict that they're having in their relationship. Um, I happen to know of someone right now, and this isn't a one off, but, um, they have not, this person has told less than a handful of people that they're having a problem in their relationship. So they've decided to hold off on having a child till they either work through this and come out on the other side in a healthy place for their relationship, for their marriage, or they separate. So they've decided to put that on hold and yet every time there's a family gathering as they're working on their marriage, someone has to bring up to them, when are you going to have children? Why don't you have children yet? What's wrong with you? Why aren't you making me a grandmother? Grandfather. Usually it's the, usually it's the women who do this. Not always, but it's usually the women who are guilty of this. So it's usually, why aren't you making me a grandma? Then there are those who are single, waiting for the right partner, and struggling with whether or not to keep waiting or become a single parent. Maybe there's a single woman who's decided, you know what, I'm not waiting for the right partner, or I don't want a partner, she's trying to conceive and having fertility issues. Or someone could be having, have a chronic illness, one that's not visible to the outside world. Or maybe it is and the outside world doesn't understand how dangerous a pregnancy would make things for their lives, for their health. So, these are just a few situations, it's just the beginning of the many, many situations that people may be experiencing. So imagine you're going through all of this and someone asks, when are you going to have a child? Why don't you just adopt? Again, another topic because there's no such thing as just adopt. Why don't you, uh, you know, don't you like children and on and on and on. Can you imagine how triggering that would be? How painful that would be. Anything related to conceiving a child is so intensely personal and yet so many people don't hesitate to ask questions about it or to gossip about it. Again, a whole nother topic, the gossip thing. And if they know you've had infertility issues, you're going through that, they will freely ask you about, you know, why don't you try and then fill in the blank with whatever remedy they know someone else tried and it worked for them. Or fill it in with some of, some snake oil remedy that's not a remedy. These same people have no idea what they're talking about and yet they talk and talk and talk and never really listen and never pay attention to the other person and how they're reacting, and how they're behaving. Because again, and I know this is harsh, it sounds harsh, but the reality is, too often, the majority of the time, the people asking these things, it's really all about them and their own needs and their own expectations. You know, the favorite questions. Why didn't you adopt? Why did you just, why did you wait so long? Don't you wish you had frozen your eggs? I mean, when the article came out, uh, the interview of Jennifer Aniston, was it a year ago? It may have been more than that. I lose track of time. Um, when she came out, um, telling people that she had gone through, dealt with infertility, and gone through fertility treatments, and she said she wished she had known about freezing her eggs. And after that, I got a barrage of people, Don't you wish you had frozen your eggs? I mean, no seriously. This is something painful. Why would you say something like that to someone? In other words, you made a mistake. Don't, you know, don't you wish you had done something differently? Or we get questions about, don't you feel guilty about not giving your parents grandchildren? Who's going to take care of you when you get older? And on and on. And it's so personal, and none of it's helpful, but it is exceptionally painful. I mean, these questions, they're intrusive, they're probing, they also put blame on someone. Blame that isn't acceptable, and adds many additional layers of distress on the person being questioned. Sometimes, though, it's not about the person's curiosity, and their self centered need to know. Sometimes people simply think it's okay to make conversation this way. But here's a tip. It's not. There are so many other topics of conversation. I mean, how about, what do you love in your life? What do you enjoy doing in your free time? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you like to visit? I mean, that's, you know, just a few suggestions, but there's really no limit of topics of conversation that are interesting, not, uh, probing and actually show you care about the person. So what can you do about it? Well, Oftentimes, what we want to say in response is, F you. Again, I'm keeping it clean. Um, but for a lot of people, for some people, that's, they're fine with that. And I say, go for it. If that is you, and that's your response, I, I respect that. But it's not everybody. It's great if it is you and it's also okay if that's not your style. Don't have any problems either way. But what you should know, even if saying that is not your comfort level, know that you have every right to tell someone you don't want to talk about it. It may feel uncomfortable because you think you're being rude. And you're not. The person asking is being thoughtless and rude and frankly, unimaginative. because there's so much in this world to talk about, so many interesting things. Other than someone's personal life, their personal, uh, decisions, their private things in life, their fertility status isn't necessarily your business. So here's what I tell clients. We go into this in more detail in coaching, but have a plan. Have two things ready in your pocket, so to speak, in your brain. The first is a general response worded in a way that is comfortable for you. So something like, that's personal or I don't want to talk about it. But you know, make it wording that is your voice. I'm fine with saying that's personal or I don't want to talk about it, but someone else may need to change that around. But those are general answers that will typically let people know, no matter what specific questions they come up with, that you need to stop. The second thing to have ready are two to three topics of conversation that you're interested in, so that when you let them know you don't want to talk about your fertility status, you can then immediately change the subject to a topic that you do want to talk about and that's of interest, you know, generally to the people around you. Because what you don't want to do is then turn to something that makes others feel like the outsider, right? As a childless not by choice woman, it's so common to feel like the outsider. You don't fit in. So think about when you respond, you want to make sure you're not doing that to someone else. But an important part of this is to practice it ahead of time. Visualize yourself in these situations. Visualize yourself responding with a version of it's personal and then changing the subject. Then when it comes time, you take a deep breath to calm yourself and if you've visualized it well, that's going to help you to have that response kind of roll off your tongue more easily. Okay. And not get stuck in that stress response where you're like, I can't even think what to answer. Alright, so, three takeaways for today, but the first two are actually for those people who ask these things. Now, I know they're probably not in this audience, but for those of you who are tired of being on the receiving end, feel free to share this with them, either the whole episode or, um, you know, fast forward ahead to this point and say, Hey, take a listen to this or read the show notes. For anybody who does ask these things before asking, when are you going to have children, step back and ask yourself, or if you're asking, why don't you have children? Don't you like children? Any of those. Before asking, step back and ask yourself, why am I asking this? Is it because I care about the person, or is it because of my own need to know? Or is it because I don't know what else to ask about. I'm filling space. If it's because you care about the person, then think about how asking this will affect that person. If you truly care, then think about them first. If it's about your own need to know, then stop. Period. Don't ask. If you do go ahead and ask any of these things, read the room, meaning pay attention to the reactions you're getting. Pay attention to their behavior. Are they not answering? Are they uncomfortable? Hint, hint. If they're not answering, and or they look uncomfortable that means they don't want to answer. It means it's none of your business. If that happens, then apologize and stop and move on to another topic. Use your imagination and ask something about them that is meaningful. What do you love in life? The third takeaway is for those of you who, too many of you, who are on the receiving end. I want you to know that standing up for yourself and saying that's personal or however else you want to say it, including if you want to say F you, it's setting a boundary. Boundaries are healthy, not selfish. You don't have any reason to feel badly for setting that boundary. If someone gets upset with you for that, it's on them, not on you. Alright, that's it for today, and I will see you next week. Bye bye.   I appreciate you listening. If you liked this episode, help get the word out to others who are looking for this same help by giving it a five star rating, and please take two minutes to leave a meaningful review. It's easy to do. Just scroll down to the Ratings and Review section and tap on the stars to rate the show and tap on, write a review. I greatly appreciate it and you'll be helping others out too. Thanks again and I'll see you next time