I recently was watching a daytime talk show that had a caller talking to the hosts through a video. One of the hosts, on live TV mind you, decided to ask the caller if she would be having another baby. And I instantly cringed for this woman.
Whether you're getting older, just started a relationship, or just merely that people identify you as a woman, chances are that someone has asked you about your family planning. Of course, it didn't sound this formal. It probably sounded more like, "When are you going to start having children?" But what people may not understand is how triggering and intrusive this question may be for some people.
Let's start with the basics. The question itself assumes that all women want to have kids. And the truth is all women do not want to have kids. Yet many feel the societal pressures that they should want to have kids. Bravo to those who don't want to and give the middle finger to these pressures. It's not easy. It should be a choice that all of us can make for ourselves, right? Asking this question not only can perpetuate those feelings of being pressured to procreate but also now it's on this person to either lie, put a potentially uncomfortable boundary, or explain to you their personal choice on the matter.
But not having children is not a choice for some. There are many women that want to have a child... but haven't been able to or can't. Maybe they have tried repeatedly and keep having miscarriages. Maybe they try and a pregnancy just doesn't seem to come to fruition. Or maybe they had a hysterectomy or another medical procedure that you were not aware of that caused them to not be able to birth a child. There are many other scenarios but you've now potentially opened up an entire emotional can of worms. Just seeing a woman who is pregnant, children playing, or their friend's social media announcement about their family addition can be challenging. So you asking them directly is no different and possibly even harder as you stand before them smiling, waiting for a response. If we're not close enough to this person, answering this question takes getting personal to another level that they might not be at with you. I'm all for people being able to open up and be vulnerable... but as long as they're choosing to be. And then here comes that potentially uncomfortable boundary setting again since letting someone know that you find their question inappropriate takes a level of courage that some people haven't built yet.
Keep in mind that this question connects to many other parts of this person's life. Their body and whether it is able to reproduce. Their choice and if they want to reproduce. Their finances, citizenship status, or legal history on whether they can access alternatives if they can't or choose not to reproduce biologically. It can even get into the status of their relationship or emotional well-being as they may not feel they are in a space where it's a good idea to bring a child into the family. And I'm not even going to start on how men are typically not asked these questions because that would be an entire post in itself.
Yep, I figured you didn't realize how complicated and emotional this question can be. We all make mistakes and missteps. But we can also all try to be cognizant of how are questions can be doing a very deep dive into someone else's personal life.