*When* You Have Kids…

Why do people say, ‘When you have kids…’ as though they know my future?

It’s just as annoying as, ‘When you get married…’

Such blanket statements bely an assumption that we are all the same and will all follow the same trajectory in life: get married, have kids, raise them, kick them out of home and retire happy. That’s the mainstream road.

What if some of us follow a different path?

What if some of us follow a different path?

Some of us will never marry. Some marriages end in divorce. Some people wind up being childless or childfree. Some people do wild and imaginative things with their lives: championing a cause, becoming a missionary, learning ballet as an adult, writing a book, undertaking a career change.

Not all of us do what society expects of us.

Not all of us do what society expects of us.

So how do we explain this to people who assume we’re going to get married and have kids? How do we politely (or not-so-politely) let people know we are not ‘normal’, when they may be just trying to make conversation?

I have a few responses in mind when people say ‘When you have kids…’:

  • That’s ‘If’. If I have kids.
  • Actually, I may not have kids.
  • I already have kids. Furbabies count, right?
  • I won’t be having kids. I’m childless.
  • Do you know something about my future that I don’t?
  • Is that a prophecy?
  • Did you know childlessness is on the rise in society? (Same goes for singledom too!)
  • Perhaps you don’t know everything about me.
  • Have we met?
  • Let me stop you right there.
  • I just need to let you know that the subject of kids can be painful for me.
  • Have you heard of pronatalism? (Hint: it’s the social favouring of child-rearing and parenthood.)
  • That’s a pronatalist projection.
  • I may do something else with my life.
  • We can talk about ‘When I have kids’ if I can talk about ‘When you get old…’
  • Um, no.

Hit me with yours. I want to hear them!

What they’re saying is unhelpful and can be painful for us.

Sometimes we need to let people know that what they’re saying is unhelpful and can even be painful for us. We can name these pronatalist assumptions, especially when they are being projected on to us or others. We can raise the profile of childlessness and singledom in our churches and communities.

Or just point out they’re wrong.

Have you had the ‘When you get married’ or ‘When you have kids’? How do you respond to that? How do others respond to you? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.

Join the conversation