Stop Asking Why I Don’t Have Kids

by Stephanie March

I am a single 30 (something) year old female with no kids. In the dating world this makes me some kind of anomaly—a unicorn prancing about in a sea of moms. I get poked and prodded with rude and invasive questions like I’m some kind of science experiment. No matter how many times this happens to me I am always surprised at their surprise. Women without children exist and we are not damaged or broken because of our lack of kids. Our reasons for not having children may differ, but our right to our bodies and privacy is the same.

Case in point. A few months ago someone I met on a dating site asked me, during our first phone conversation no less, if I didn’t have kids “because you are infertile or something.” It was dropped in there as casual as a comment about the weather. Mouth agape from the slap that was his question about the condition of my ovaries, all I could utter was “WOW.”

For the record, infertility is not my problem or issue or reason for not having kids. But what if it was? There are millions of women, approximately 6.7 million of them according to the CDC, that battle the heartbreak of infertility and a question like that is never okay outside of a doctor’s exam room. Not ever.

In addition to my fertility being questioned, I often get asked why I don’t have kids like there is something seriously wrong with me and my life choices. As if the only way I can be an actual woman is by having a kid on each hip. And while I admire moms everywhere, being a mom is not the only criteria that makes a woman a woman. We all follow different paths and mine has not led to me having children (yet). I put education and finding a suitable and stable partner first, one which I accomplished and the latter of which I have not.  I’m not some strange cyborg because my past relationships didn’t make me a parent.

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With marriages on the decline across America for the last four decades, you would think that coming across a single woman without kids in her thirties would be less of a shock. But the responses I get are similar to those received by women in my circumstances everywhere. It’s a question that has been front and center in nearly every interview of female celebrities of childbearing age, most notably Jennifer Aniston. She has been asked so many times why she doesn’t have kids we might as well dub this the Aniston problem.

I know that people are going to wonder when they meet me and it is a valid curiosity to have when you are dating someone. However, bringing it up before you have even met the person or in the first meeting or in casual conversation seems a bit brash and insensitive. There are literally dozens of questions one can ask about a woman’s career or hobbies or things that matter in her life beyond her non-mom status. A status which trends show is continuing to rise in prevalence. Eventually, the conversation will reveal why she doesn’t have children.

Maybe the response to questions of this nature is to turn the tables on the person asking them. Demand to know why they have children. But this approach, while entertaining, would only add to the plethora of questions that just shouldn’t be asked. You can assume from conversation why they had children…and from common sense. Whereas asking why they don’t could open up a floodgate for someone that has had a miscarriage or can’t conceive or whose circumstances have not permitted children despite her desire to have them.

So, to all of my fellow unicorns, I feel your frustration. I really do. Whatever your reason is for not having children is exactly that—your reason. Perhaps that in itself should be answer enough to anyone that pokes and prods in areas where they shouldn’t. Maybe it’s time we unite and refuse to comment on subjects that don’t define who we are as women any more than a sperm count defines a man. After all, the only thing better than a unicorn is watching one run away from disrespect to go in search of the magic they deserve.

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published January 5, 2016

Header image: DeviantArt/qwerpy5485

Images via Flickr/Beckie, Flickr/Cristee DicksonFlickr/Kenneth Baruch

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