If you've recently entered into a marriage, naturally, the next thing people tend to ask is when you plan on starting a family. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes such and such pushing a baby carriage, right? A seemingly natural progression for most, but not everyone is on the same timeline. Increasingly so, we 30-somethings are veering away from parenthood altogether.
There are plenty of people like me advocating alternative lifestyles and being true to one self when the topic of family planning arises. More than ever, women are choosing not to have children -- an ever-growing statistic we see published a lot these days. Fortunately some of these women have taken on the brave task of explaining their choices to the public, thus giving a voice to those of us unsure about motherhood. But why should they?
Why is it always women who have to explain their choice not to have children? Are men prodded with the same line of questioning and expected to explain this choice like women are, or is it perfectly natural for men to feel unsure about fatherhood?
As a newlywed (like, really newly wed) I find it odd that most people direct that question at me. As if to say it's solely up to me or my husband has no say in the matter? Going forward, I'm going to suggest that all inquiries involving the utility of my uterus go directly to my husband. I'm tired of crafting clever responses.
In related news, it occurred to me while reading a review for Jessica Valenti's new book Why Have Kids? that it's uncommon for people to ask new parents why they decided to start a family in the first place.
Is this an inappropriate line of questioning? Should it be assumed that people who choose to be parents have always dreamt of having a family? I thought about surveying the small segment of my friends who have children already, but I suspected I wouldn't get the most authentic answers, so I put it out to the Twitterverse. Here's what I got:
"I like the idea of a full dinner table at Christmas."
"I honestly have no answer to this question. It just happened."
"I can't imagine not having grandchildren one day."
"I never really questioned it, I just accepted it."
"I always knew I wanted to be a mother."
I was compelled to write about this, not because I'm sick of people asking me when I intend to launch into motherhood -- although, it is getting old -- but because I'm curious if parents or parents-to-be find it rude or intrusive when people question their choice to start a family. Isn't it the same as asking a childless woman in her 30s why she's decided to skip out on child rearing? Or is it a more sensitive topic?
I'd love to hear what you think. Post a comment and let me know your thoughts.