Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Casual Cruelty of "So, When Are You Going to Have Kids?"

Within the last couple of weeks, two wonderful people that I am lucky to call friends were married. During their reception I started thinking about how often you hear this evil phrase. Especially, soon after marriage. My friends and their own plans had nothing to do with this blog post. Except for giving me cause to remember my own experiences. I just started to wonder how long it would be before well meaning people would start asking them.... a phrase that I grew to hate (that isn't even a strong enough word) in my first marriage. "So, When are you guys going to have kids.?"

To this day, I always want to lecture people who ask that question. I know that it almost never is meant maliciously. I think that makes it worse, because it is almost always asked from a lack of conversation. As a filler. Or genuine misplaced curiosity.

When you think about it, the question is insanely rude. You are basically asking the couple, or at least one person in the couple, about so many private things. Also, about subjects that are normally off limits and considered taboo. You are asking about the couples sex life. Their personal health. Their finances, and how secure they are. Thousands of other questions that are none of your business. Especially since fertility issues are painful enough without being reminded of it regularly.

As for why I hate it so much. Well here's my personal story.

My ex-wife and I eloped. Not because we had to, but because her mother had started trying to dictate what, when, and how we were going to get married. That, coupled with the normal stress of planning a wedding, made us decide to elope and not include her. (At this point in time I know how bad of an idea that was, my only excuse is that I'm not always as smart as I should be. It is also a major reason I was firm about wanting a decent sized wedding when Maria and I wed.) The day after we did, people started asking us that dang question. "When are you going to have kids." All too many of them having decided that the only reason we rushed things was because my ex-wife was pregnant. Which could not have been further from the truth, we did it out of spite.

The truth is, my ex-wife and I had decided not to have children at that time, because we were not financially secure. We were young, and there was plenty of time to change our minds. We still got the damn question constantly. I got so very tired of answering that question. Being asked that question so much definitely influenced our decision to wait.

Then, things went sour. Our relationship became toxic. It was patterned by verbal and emotional abuse. It was a classic emotionally abusive relationship.

One day the ex told me that she had decided that we should try for a child. She wanted to discontinue her birth control. I was okay with it... She left me before the birth control she had taken truly had time to wear out. I later found out that the reason she wanted to have a child is to force her idea of maturity on me. "To make me grow up."

So, in that entire marriage. While I was asked that question constantly, the only time that we had actually tried to have children. It was for all of the wrong reasons. To this day I thank the Divine that we were unsuccessful. If we had had a child, my life would still be miserable. There is what I personally would point to if I was asked if I believed in Divine Intervention.

The one upside to having been through my first marriage was that it showed me how horrible a person I could be. My Quest to be a better person has led me to so many good places. It made me good enough for Maria to fall in love with me. Something that I thank the Divine regularly for. It led me back to Quakerism. Which I find incredibly fulfilling spiritually. The Quest is never ending, but the joy and treasure along the way is worth it.

As a postscript. My wife Maria and I are very happy together. I know exactly how we feel about having kids, and what our plans are. Which is nobody's business. If you ask if we are having children. I can and will lecture you about how cruel and rude the question is. A lecture I have been giving since well before I met Maria. You could argue that I am not being a good Quaker when I give it. I might agree, but I feel that I am helping you be a better person by pointing out a common cruelty.