Do you have kids?
This is a recurring conversation I experience.
Most recently, I ran into an old friend from college. I was walking through my neighborhood. He saw me and pulled over to say hello.
He and his family live right down the street from my husband and I and we never realized it.
The conversation was the typical banter, "How have you been?....Crazy to run into you after all these years..." And then the question that I still feel uncomfortable responding to...
Q: Do you have kids?
And then the awkward silence as the other person tries to figure out if they should ask, "Why not?...Did you choose not to have kids? What’s the deal?"
It can be especially hard when the question comes from someone who knew you back when, and remembers how much you looked forward to becoming a mother one day.
I used to answer, "No, unfortunately we have not been blessed with children." But that would inevitably start a whole conversation about "why" and lead to the well-intentioned but discouraging “it will happen for you” comments. And from there, the conversation turns to IVF and miscarriages and..."Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry."
So instead I've been sticking to "no." I don't know that it leads to better results and I'm sure some people have assumed I'm being standoffish, but at least I don’t have to describe my pain, in full detail, to a stranger or someone I haven’t seen in years.
With this new tactic. It always results in an awkward silence. I’ve answered their question. But not provided any detail. I politely smile back and either try to change the subject, or wait for them to change it for me. But, the awkwardness is still there, as they wonder..."Why don’t they have children"?
I don’t know if there is a perfect way to respond to the, "Do you have children?" question.
It's hard and it's personal. For the woman or the man who has experienced infertility it's hard to respond in a way that satisfies the other person’s usually innocent curiosity. But also in a way that protects their emotional well being and privacy.
Y’all know I am big on being transparent. I don’t hide the struggles I’ve had trying to conceive. But let’s be real. There are some days, some situations, where it's just not anyone’s business if I don’t want to share.
It’s my story; it’s my husband’s story. And we get to choose when and with whom we share it.
So I don’t have the perfect answer to that question, "Do you have kids?"
Instead, for those of you who ask that question and find yourself in that awkward silence, I have advice for you.
If someone doesn’t go into detail about why they don’t have children, then let it go.
Don’t pry. Don’t stare, waiting for them to explain.
Just let it go.
Let the conversation flow on to something else. I promise whoever you’re speaking to will appreciate it.
Those of us who have experienced infertility and who maybe haven't felt led to adopt or foster, those who have accepted God’s Will, while also maintaining a mustard seed of hope, do not want to be defined by our barrenness.
That’s what seems to happen in that awkward silence. When the conversation gets stuck on "Why? What happened? What have you tried? Oh, I have a friend who had trouble conceiving but they tried this and have twins now..."
Those comments are always meant in love, but they can be extremely discouraging. So unless your friend, your acquaintance, your coworker, your family member, that stranger you struck up a conversation with on the street, offers more details about their personal infertility journey....just let it go.
Instead, try something like..."So tell me, what else is going on in your life?" Ask them ANYTHING other than to explain why they don’t have children.
Jamila is the founder of loved+blessed. On her personal mission to leave a legacy of encouragement, she blogs about her own life lessons with the hope that it will bring joy into others’ lives and help them find the courage to keep walking in faith knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Read her testimony of how God turned her misery into ministry.