How to Cope When People Ask When You're Going to Have Kids

friends in a cafe, someone just asked when are you going to have a baby

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"When are you going to have kids?" Or, "When are you going to have more kids?"

If you have not been asked yet, consider yourself lucky. Unfortunately, just about every couple going through infertility deals with touchy questions and comments.

If you're unsure whether you're ready to have a baby or another baby, it's an uncomfortable question. It's even harder to respond when you're trying to have children unsuccessfully, or if you are unable to have children due to an underlying medical condition.

So how do you answer, or do you even have to answer? Read on to find out why people ask, why it's not okay to ask, and how you should respond.

Why Do People Ask

Many people don't mean anything by the question—they're just trying to make conversation. They see it as the small-talk equivalent of "How do you like this weather?" Or, they want to ask you about your (possibly new) relationship or marriage, and this is a sideways method of inquiring.

"They don't quite realize what a personal and painful question it can be," says Lucille Keenan, MS, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Raleigh, NC, who specializes in fertility and reproductive health issues.

When family members ask, though, they may be asking for purely self-centered reasons. Your parents, for example, may want to be grandparents. Your sister may be waiting to become an aunt, although it's not your responsibility to "give" them these life milestones.

Why It Hurts

If you're feeling defensive or uncomfortable when people ask, consider yourself 100% normal. Even if someone asks in a completely innocent way, or is just being nosy, the question implies that when and whether you have children is someone else's business...and it's not.

For a couple who chooses not to have children, or who are intentionally delaying having children, it's a personal question, but probably not a painful one.

When you're coping with infertility, though, being asked a question like this reminds you of your pain and loss. With infertility, wanting to have kids, and trying as hard as you can to have them, comes with no guarantee of success. This kind of question can remind you of your lack of control.

You may be asking yourself, "When are we going to have kids?" When someone asks you a question that implies you're choosing not to have kids, it stings.

It can also be painful for those who desperately want to have a baby but can't due to medical reasons, notes Dr. Keenan.

Coping With the Question

You may be burning mad or feel like you want to give the person who posed the question a piece of your mind. But, with practice, you can learn to stop yourself from going that route. After all, your emotional energy is best directed elsewhere. Here's more advice on coping with the question of when you're having kids (or more kids).

Assume a Positive or Benign Intent

The majority of people will ask this question innocently, unaware of the hurt their question may bring to you. Others simply aren't sensitive to boundaries. "If you know that someone is well-meaning, well-intentioned, or just doesn't know better, it may be easier to deal with this question," says Dr. Keenan.

Have a Canned Response

Since you know that you'll likely get asked this question, it's best to prepare so you're not caught off guard and left feeling like you need to explain yourself.

Try taking a deep breath, and then keep the answer simple and switch the topic. Here are a few canned responses to have at the ready:

  • "Not sure. So, how's your new job?"
  • "Ask the powers that be because I don't know."
  • "I'd rather not talk about it, thanks."
  • "That's a complicated question."
  • "Oh, that's something I don't want to talk about."

Or, if you want to go for something gutsy, you might answer:

  • "That's a rather personal question, don't you think? Anyway, how's your new job?"

If you have already decided to start telling people about your struggles, you may use this as an opportunity to share with a friend:

  • "Actually, it's interesting you ask...we've been trying for a while now."
  • "It's a complicated question. I'm not at a place to talk about it right now, but if you want to make a date for coffee we can talk more about it."

Keep in mind that deciding whether to tell someone about your infertility is tricky. You may not want to make that decision on the spot, when you're under pressure or without thinking things through first.

Don't Answer at All

Another completely legitimate response: You can choose to not answer at all. You can pretend you didn't hear them ask, just smile, and switch the topic. You don't have to say anything. Most people will take the hint.

Play the Broken-Record Trick

If you find yourself dealing with someone who is relentless, you may need to repeat yourself. "If you're trying to get someone to change their behavior, you often have to deliver the same message four times," says Dr. Keenan. For example, you would say:

  • "I really don't want to talk about it."
  • "Actually, no, I'd rather not discuss this now."
  • "I'm wanting you to hear that this is a topic that I'm not willing to talk about."
  • "I don't know if you're hearing me, but I don't want to talk about this."

And if this still doesn't help, you have every right to walk away, especially if someone gives unwanted advice, makes blaming comments, or otherwise responds negatively.

Follow Up If You Do Get Reactive

"If you do launch and lose it, burst in tears, or have to turn away abruptly because you don't want to show your tears, you can come back and repair," says Dr. Kennan. She recommends sending a text that says something like: "I left abruptly because that question brought up a lot for me. It's just not something I can talk about, but I know you are well-intentioned."

Reach Out for Help

If you're having a hard time dealing with this question, and or are struggling mentally and emotionally with infertility or an inability to have kids, reach out to a mental health specialist. Dr. Keenan also recommends resources like the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.

A Word From Verywell

The bottom line: You don't owe anyone any explanations. If it feels right, you can try explaining why questions like that are inappropriate. But most of the time, it's better to smile, give a polite and short non-answer ("I really don't know"), and walk away. Or change the subject.

Coping with infertility or the inability to have kids is hard enough. Engaging in a long, drawn-out conversation, triggered by nosy questions or individuals (even if they might be family), is not helpful and you have every right to set boundaries.

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Article Sources
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  1. The National Infertility Association. What to say (and not to say) to someone living with infertility.

  2. Nagy E, Nagy BE. Coping With Infertility: Comparison of Coping Mechanisms and Psychological Immune Competence in Fertile and Infertile Couples. J Health Psychol. 2016;21(8):1799-1808. doi:10.1177/1359105314567206