Oh, you don’t have kids?
Let me shut up right now.
It’s really easy for the topic of children to come up in any conversation I have with anyone. Typically, my kids inject themselves into the dialogue by taking the phone, jumping on my shoulders or tugging at the pants leg of my conversate-mate. Inevitably, the person makes a comment about my children, and I nearly always ask, “Do you have kids?”
I ask the question mostly because I am hoping that the person can sympathize with my current state of chaos. If the person answers that yes, they do have children, then we can banter about how crazy life is with kids.
But if they answer no, I change the subject instead of prodding with, “Well, do you WANT kids?” or “Why don’t you have them?”
It is none of my business as to why someone doesn’t have children.
It has taken me a while to learn that lesson, but I finally did. After my miscarriage, I never wanted anyone to ask me about anything that could remind me of that pain. I have also watched how my friends who struggle with fertility deal with the issue in private and stumble to answer someone who is demanding to know why they haven’t yet procreated.
Maybe you don’t have kids because you desperately want them but your body won’t let you. Maybe you don’t have kids because you have yet to meet a partner. Maybe you don’t have kids because you aren’t sure if you are ready.
I understand all those situations, which is why I don’t ever press someone on the issue. If you want to volunteer that information, then I will be all ears. If not, then we can talk about something else. Like coffee.
So, yes, my initial reaction is to shut up and sympathize.
But then I remember that sometimes people don’t have kids because they don’t want them.
And I have to tell you: For a split second – a teeny, tiny, blink-of-an-eye moment – I am slightly jealous of those people.
I mean, sure, my life is infinitely better with my kids around and I would not have it any other way.
When someone tells me they don’t have kids, no matter the reason, I automatically start assessing them: their perfectly coiffed hair, their matching clothes that lack any sort of spit-up stains, their well-rested faces.
I don’t just listen – I really hear what they are saying. They took a road trip on a whim this weekend. They registered for six upcoming road races. They spent the WHOLE DAY watching that new show Netflix everyone is talking about and I have never seen a second of.
Yes, a little jealous.
Then I immediately return to sympathy/keeping my mouth shut mode. I know that people who don’t have kids and who want kids would trade all of that stuff for a baby. And I know that people who don’t have kids and don’t want kids don’t need to listen to a tired mother whine about my lack of free time.
So, when you tell me you don’t have kids, I’ll just smile and move on to the next topic.
Unless you decide you want to talk about it. Then, I’ll listen.
Originally published on ModernParent.