The holidays are all about meeting up with friends and family, including those you only see once or twice a calendar year. And catching up, unfortunately, can sometimes bring intrusive questions, including those about when (or if) you plan to have kids.
While questions about family expansion may seem inevitable for adults of a certain age, especially if they’re recently married or in a relationship, that doesn’t mean there aren’t options when it comes to maintaining your privacy. Here’s what the experts say.
Why the holidays are the best time for embarrassing questions about having kids
Asha Tarry, a psychotherapist and mental health advocate, points out that the holidays often bring people together who tend not to see each other very often, making holiday get-togethers a “fast track for people to route their questions to you until the next meeting.”
But that doesn’t mean people have bad intentions.
As Dr. Tamar Gur, a women’s health expert and reproductive psychiatrist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center notes, the holidays tend to be all about updates: Many people even send out cards that include details of their family life throughout the year. . Because of this precedent, people may feel more comfortable asking about personal details than at other times.
There’s also the general idea that, when we get together with family and friends, we want to check out some “milestones,” she says.
“We all remember when we were in high school, people were asking ‘Where are you going to college?’ or, when you’re in college, “What are you going to major in?” Then, when we chose our major, ‘What do you do after you graduate?’ People have a natural curiosity about our life’s milestones,” Gur explains. have children?’ I think as a society, we expect people to hit these milestones, but just like anything in life, when we don’t hit our milestones on someone else’s calendar or someone else’s timeline, it can be very stressful and difficult.
Tarry points out that while it’s possible for many people to be “genuinely curious,” it’s important to listen to your gut feeling about the intent behind the question.
“We know there are those people who are just looking for gossip to share when they get home or see that person who didn’t attend the meeting,” she shares. “It’s important that you pay attention to your intuition on this. If it feels like snooping, it probably is.
Why it feels uncomfortable talking about pregnancy and why we need to stop asking
“To have children, you have to have sex,” Gur points out. “You’re literally asking someone, ‘Are you having sex right now?’ If it’s not someone you normally discuss your sex life with, this is a sudden and incredibly personal question.
There is also the fact that not all wants have children – or, at the very least, according to the schedule one might expect of them.
And for those who do, a healthy pregnancy and delivery aren’t always guaranteed.
“One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and infertility is increasingly common in this country, especially as couples wait to have children until they are financially stable or finish school,” Gur notes. “People are taking longer to get pregnant and there is an increase in the use of things like [IVF to conceive]. It has truly become a medical procedure in many situations.
In addition to having the ability to conceive, Gur says asking about children can raise issues between partners, who may not be on the same page about when — or if — to have children.
“All of those things can make that question painful to ask,” she shares.
How do you navigate an awkward conversation about having kids?
Gur says “boundaries” are important to establish when you find yourself in these uncomfortable scenarios.
“Borders are your best friends,” she shares. “Boundaries are healthy barriers between you and the person next to you, to allow you to have a healthy relationship.”
One way to set more “confrontational” boundaries, she adds, is to ask why a person asks when you have kids in the first place.
“You’re calling their attention to the fact that this is a very personal question,” he notes. “You can say something like, ‘I didn’t realize we exchanged details about our sex lives like that.'”
Tarry says one way to make these conversations easier is to prepare before the actual meeting.
“I often advise my clients to consider who might be attending holiday meetings, and to rehearse some standard, short statements ahead of time to use and use repeatedly if you think someone will ask you about family planning,” she explains. When you’re in the conversation, she recommends pausing to give your body “time to recover your mind” and what you “might interpret or respond to regarding an invasive question.”
Tarry says that when appropriate, you can try a gentle response, such as, “I appreciate that you’re curious about my family planning, but I don’t feel comfortable bringing it up here or talking about it today.” Or, “I’m sure you’re asking me about family planning because you really want to know, but right now, my partner and I would rather steer clear of this topic, or at least until we’re ready to discuss it with everyone.”
She adds that it’s also acceptable to let it be known that the question makes you uncomfortable and change the subject accordingly: “Pass the cake!”
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