Op Ed

Childfree or Die Hard: Snappy Comebacks to Inappropriate Questions

So, you’ve decided not to have children. I know from experience that a decision like that takes lots of consideration and thought. I hate to break it to you, but once you make this decision, you’re going to get a lot of stupid and inappropriate questions from busybodies who think your business is their business. It’s good to be armed with some idea of what sort of nonsense you’ll be encountering, and to have a few stock responses ready to go. My answers vary depending on who’s asking the questions, but I usually tend toward the sarcastic response. Keep in mind that these are all real, actual questions that I’ve been asked at some point. Some of them may seem improbable, but trust me, I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried. Here are some of the questions I’ve gotten, and some of the answers I’ve used in the past:


1. “When are you two going to start a family?” “We are a family.” Short and to the point, and it’s not rude exactly, just challenging the questioner’s idea of “family.”

2. “Why did you get married if you aren’t having kids?” Generally, my responses to questions like this tend to be non-verbal. A slightly quizzical look and complete silence really tend to leave the question hanging out there, maybe even making the asker realize how inappropriate it was. Of course, people who say things like that often never realize how inappropriate they are. Silence is a great tool, though, for the really ignorant questions.

3. “Accidents happen, you know!” This one is tricky, and my response depends on the person I’m talking to. If it’s someone I know well, or someone who’s really pissing me off, they get, “Accidental pregnancies happen. Accidental births don’t.” If it’s someone who I need to be nice to, like a client (and, yes, true story), they get the more vague, “Oh, in this day and age, it’s really easy to be very careful.”

4. “So, are you trying?” (and all of its variations). This one applies even if you aren’t childfree. I know a lot of people who want kids who are constantly asked about the progress of their attempts to conceive (or, in my case, attempts not to). This one pisses me off more than most, so it usually gets one of my rudest responses:

Me: “When was the last time you gave your husband a blow job?”

Questioner: *shocked look and/or gasp*

Me: “Oh, I thought we were asking each other detailed questions about our sex lives. Aren’t we?”

I’m also a big fan of, “Well, we keep trying, and trying, and trying “¦ I mean, we tried six times this weekend, and no baby. Maybe we’re not trying hard enough.” (Or maybe all the birth control has something to do with it.)

5. “Who’ll take care of you when you’re old?” “Whoever I pay to do it. At least that way, they’re guaranteed to do their job, instead of dumping me in a substandard nursing home to rot away like adult children usually do. How’s your mom, by the way? Still enjoying Shady Acres? When was the last time you visited her?”

6. “Is it that you don’t want them, or are you infertile?” Ugh, this one. What if I were infertile, and not by choice? What if I wanted children more than anything and your question were to send me into a depressive spiral? Who asks this shit? Plenty of people, unfortunately. In response, they get, “Oh, I can’t bear children.” It’s true on all the levels, but depending on your inflection, the resultant guilt trip may make the questioner think twice about ever asking this question again.

7. “Don’t you find life unfulfilling without children?” and, similarly, “What do you do with your time?” “No,” and, “Anything I want.” Hmm. Let’s see. I have free time, discretionary income, and no demands on my schedule (except for the dogs; they’re a little needy). What do I do with my time? Whatever I feel like. This question is always asked with a certain level of hostility, and when my answers generally involve naps , going to the beach, and more naps, I get the feeling that the questioner can’t understand how I could possibly be fulfilled without soccer practice, PTA meetings, and juggling four or five people’s schedules. Trust me, I manage.

8. “So, you hate kids?” “I don’t want to be responsible for the care and feeding of a llama; doesn’t mean I hate them.” Although, a more honest answer would be, “Some? Sometimes?” I mean, I really dislike some adults. I just dislike some people, regardless of age. And kids do a lot of annoying stuff. I don’t hate them, necessarily, I just don’t generally enjoy being around many of them. There’s this pressure for the childfree to be quick to reassure people that they love kids; they just don’t want any of their own. You know what? It’s OK not to love kids. You shouldn’t have to reassure someone who’s asking you inappropriate personal things.

However you decide to handle these questions, it’s your life, it’s your decision, and you don’t have to justify it to anyone. And, when all else fails, a well-placed Miss Manners-esque, “Why would you need to know that?” is always appropriate.

52 replies on “Childfree or Die Hard: Snappy Comebacks to Inappropriate Questions”

Because I am both infertile and my husband and I do not desire children, I often have trouble answering those inevitable questions in a way that will just turn off the questions. If I counter that I have no children because I am infertile, adoption comes up. Then I have to explain that my husband and I do not want children either. If I say we don’t want children, they seem to always imply that either I’ll be sorry for not having them, or I’m somehow being selfish. Some even react as though I hate children for not wanting them. Thanks to the post with the witty comment about the llama. I’d like to use that.

The worst part is the incredibly guilt-trippy things my MIL say to me about how I’m not “giving her grandbabies” . She’s even tried feeding me lines about how wonderful babies and children are as though I’ve never seen one throw a tantrum in a store or am somehow unaware that they too get diseases and illnesses and get hurt and can be rude or wicked or scarred for life by some childhood incident. In other words, she tries the hard sell.

MILs are a particularly hard nut to crack when it comes to this. How do you counter it and stop it without turning really mean? I’m serious, she’s ruthless. The good news is that I’m officially “too old” (43) in her book to have a child now so she may have given up hope of guilting me into it.

I am one of those people who really and truly does not enjoy being around children, and people react to hearing that like you just stomped a puppy to death in front of them. ‘But YOU were a child once!’ is the comment that always really irks me. ‘Good grief, I was? I had no idea! I bet I was a giant pain in the butt, too! Good thing I grew out of it.’ I feel like there’s no way to explain that to someone who has children without them feeling like you just said that you hate their kid, but maybe that’s just my bad experiences.

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost five years (after five previous years of friendship), and since we’re nearing the big 3-0, we’re hitting that stage where almost all of our friends are married and starting to have kids. While we do want to get married (in a couple years, after I finally finish my academic endeavors), neither of us like children. My boyfriend, in fact, was so sure of his feelings on the subject that shortly after we started dating, he decided to have a vasectomy. At 24 years old. His doctor made a huge fuss about how he was way too young and should wait, saying he wouldn’t be able to find a urologist willing to do a vasectomy on someone his age who hadn’t had at least one child. …really? He, of course, had no such trouble. I completely supported him in the idea, with the caveat that he be SURE that he was sure – I know they’re reversible-ish, but would he still be happy with the decision if he and I didn’t work out. Needless to say, we’re still quite happy in all our choices.

It’s kind of great having that little tidbit in your arsenal when the questions start, though. I can deflect most of the ‘You’re 27? Why aren’t you married yet?’ nonsense quickly by mentioning that I’m still in college – that’s an okay excuse, it seems. When people start getting nosy about baby plans, I slap them with the ‘Nope, my boyfriend had a vasectomy’ line. No one expects it and the look of shock usually makes me laugh out loud. A lot of people immediately ask how old he is, as if he must be twice my age and a grandfather to make such a rash choice. Some get all ‘poor you!’ and I counter that I was there to drive him home afterwards and we couldn’t be happier, thankyouverymuch.

He’s been grilled by all the women in his office as well and he’s more than pleased to make the announcement himself. Most of them have immediately insisted on knowing how devastated I am and are shocked to know that I approve. I actually think that men’s reactions are even more hilarious though – he’s had more than a few questions about whether or not everything still ‘works’. I find it hilarious how many men equate the procedure with losing their masculinity. Um, the ability to have sex wherever, whenever without any fear of unintentional pregnancy? What man wouldn’t approve?! lol

The biggest insult to me is the insinuation (or occasional direct comment) that not wanting children makes me a selfish, lazy, or irresponsible – the whole ‘your life will have no meaning’ spiel. Funny, I thought making well thought out permanent decisions based on me and my significant others hopes and goals for the future instead of getting pregnant because I’m a girl and that’s what girls do (even when it a ‘happy accident’) was BEING responsible. Silly me.

A few years ago, when I was in my early 40’s and newly married – I was seriously considering whether or not to have children. We were both on the fence about the whole thing and for us, at our age it seemed like it would mean infertility treatment of some sort or another. During that time I asked anyone and everyone that did not have children why they didn’t have kids. So I am guilty of asking, but I think (oh god, after reading this, I hope) that I did it in a way that they knew I actually was looking for information rather than making a judgement. I even asked if they regretted it, and the what will you do when you get old question. I thankfully didn’t get any of these snappy responses – only one asked why do you want to know. When I told them we had a wonderful discussion about it. I also asked all the people that had children why they had them as well. Many were confused by the question, as if there was no other alternative. And their answers I must say seemed less thought out than those that didn’t have children. All I am saying is not always are people asking because they are busy bodies. In my case, I really wanted to know. I understand this is probably the exception and not the rule, but maybe we are being a bit sensitive? By the way, we chose not to have children. If you ask me, I’ll tell you why….and if I find you are a bit obnoxious about it – thanks to this post I have an arsenal of snappy replies.

Most of my preferred responses are not fit for mixed company, so I had to make myself a script of sorts, tailored for my “audience.” Sometimes, though, a “none of your fucking business” would just solve everything. I was raised better than that, though. Or so I’d like my mother to keep thinking.

Great article!!! I know to many women who are having children . . . . who have NO business having children, if you know what I mean!

I think when a woman makes a conscious choice not to procreate that shows maturity and a lot of self-love. I actually think it’s much more loving than the women who just want a child, (like a new pair of shoes or that sweater on sale in Macy’s.) They never stopping to think if they should actually have one.

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