Surviving Questions

This week I posted on facebook about the interrogation of singles on their relationship status. As part of the post, I reflected on how ridiculous it might be if we scrutinized marrieds in a similar fashion. To my pleasant surprise I received the most comments ever in response to this particular post.

One of the commenters mentioned the fact that, as a married person, they actually got quizzed more often about being childless. Someone else “this”ed their comment. Apparently there are a few people out there who have had this experience.

That got me thinking. For those of you who are childless: have you ever been interrogated about it? I know I have. Usually it has come from well-meaning friends but, even so, I have sensed some deeper inference tucked into the back pocket of their queries.

Sometimes my friends assume that I have chosen to be childless and that I have done so for some deep psychological reason. I find such assumptions fascinating. Also fascinating is the fact that I am not the only childless person to have had such assumptions thrust upon them.

I’m curious about your experience. If you have fallen prey to such inquisition, I’d love to know how you responded. Below are a few potential replies in response to the unwelcome “Why haven’t you had kids yet?”:

1. Mind your own business.
2. Because of my own tragic childhood. There, are you happy now?
3. Because my spouse and I are actually siblings, and our offspring would almost certainly be some X-Man-type of mutant.
4. Because our friends who are parents only ever complain about their kids to me.
5. Other (please specify).

Ok, so it’s hard to reply in a loving way while retaining an inner sense of dignity about the whole business. Unfortunately, it seems that it is part of our culture to question anyone who sits just outside of the mainstream experience. On this basis alone I expect further questioning about childlessness in my future.

In the meantime, I realise that most people mean well when they ask about my life. They are not deliberately setting out to shame or ridicule me. I think it’s more often about people who sit within the mainstream lacking insight into the experience of those sitting outside. Questioning an “outsider” about why they are outside is possibly not the most helpful line of enquiry.

So, in an effort to actually be helpful during this blog, I have included some of the responses I have really used with people mid-inquisition:

1. I smile politely.
2. I tell them the truth – selectively. How much I tell depends on the person asking.
3. Ask them, “Well, why did you decide to have children?”
4. Comment on their question in order to avoid answering it. You know the sort of thing: “Mm, I get asked that question a lot. I’m curious about why our society is so interested in my personal lifestyle choices.”
5. I talk to God about it.

God, help us to love others when they ask personal and thoughtless questions of us. And God, given that I have probably asked a few personal and thoughtless questions myself, give me the sensitivity to truly care for others.

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