*When* you have kids


#1

If anybody remembers from my last post, due to biology beyond our control my wife and I may not be able to have children -- and we're perfectly fine with that. That's about as much information as most people get regarding the subject, as frankly any other medical details are just not anybody else's business. Yesterday, there was a an odd situation that sort of amused me, but got me thinking.

A relatively new coworker who I haven't yet interacted with too much was chatting with me while waiting for something to process. She has a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old and was gushing about every detail of their lives in the manner that new parents tend to do. I was politely listening, but not really paying too close attention, because frankly, I don't care. In the corner of my eye, a second coworker (who I am friends with outside of work and knows more about my situation than most people) was becoming a little visibly annoyed with the parental rantings. Then, the coup de grace -- the rambling coworker asked if I had any children. "No", I responded succinctly. "Oh, well, when you have kids, you'll know that blah blah blah", she continued rambling. At which point, the second coworker actually twitched in embarrassment. I just shrugged and let her continue -- eventually what we were waiting for was done, and she went back to her work and I to mine and I thought nothing of it.

Several hours later, the second coworker came up to me and apologized on behalf of the first for her faux pas of assuming that I would be having children and it was only a matter of when. I assured her that I was not offended as most people assume the same and I've gotten used to it over the years. She had said that after getting to know me, she became more aware of people who assume that everybody will eventually have children and how it can cause some awkward situations.

Now, I know that it helps that I try to follow the serenity prayer* and let that which doesn't not matter truly slide, but I know I'm in a very small minority. However, does anybody else think that we could slowly change the societal politeness to not assume that everybody will have children eventually, or at least not to say it out loud? I'm sure there are many stories just on these boards of people who desperately want to have children, but have had difficulty -- and hearing somebody flippantly say "Oh, when you have kids, you'll know...." might be a bit more emotionally damaging than intended.

*Serenity prayer, for those who aren't familiar:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.


#2

Well you know what is said about assuming......


#3

I do think it’s a good thing to attempt to be sensitive to those around us. But it CAN reach the point of absurdity. Are you terrified to speak to random strangers you meet because they might be deaf and you might be offending them by assuming that they can respond to you? I doubt it.

I think you had great instincts before your second coworker talked you into being an ‘offended minority.’ The usual function of marriage leads to kids. She made no more offensive assumption than you do when you talk to a stranger.

But you have nothing to be ashamed of either. Feel free to just say “we can’t have kids” if you want her to shut up. She’ll feel dumb, but that’s not your fault, nor hers. It’s just life. But I’m not sure it would be healthy to remove what little remains of societal expectations that marriage is at least vaguely associated with having kids. It’s eroded badly enough as it is!

I pray God will simply bless you and your wife in other ways.


#4

I don’t know if it will happen. People are idiots (myself included now and then). I do try to change that societal assumption in my little way. I happen to have had an easy time getting pregnant so far. But that doesn’t mean I will always have an easy time the next time I try. There are a number of things that could prevent me from being able to have more children. In fact, while it might be more likely that a childless couple is suffering d/t infertility, it is also entirely possible that families with several children are also suffering as well. You just don’t know what is going on in a person’s life, and the past is not a certain predictor of the future. Therefore, while of course I try never to make an assumption about someone else, I also am careful not to speak about myself presumptively. I HOPE to have more children, but I don’t know that it’s going to happen. I say “if” I get pregnant again, not “when” even though I strongly suspect another pregnancy is in my future. I could be wrong. Presumption is just stupid.

Just like you should NEVER ask a woman if she is pregnant or when she is due, unless she has informed you of the pregnancy, you should also NEVER speak to a person as though you know they are going to have children, or as though you know they SHOULD have children. Or more children. It is just bad manners, and potentially hurtful.


#5

Oh, yeah! Even a blundering oaf like me knows THAT one!


#6

[quote="manualman, post:3, topic:251615"]
But I'm not sure it would be healthy to remove what little remains of societal expectations that marriage is at least vaguely associated with having kids. It's eroded badly enough as it is!

I pray God will simply bless you and your wife in other ways.

[/quote]

This.


#7

[quote="manualman, post:3, topic:251615"]
I do think it's a good thing to attempt to be sensitive to those around us. But it CAN reach the point of absurdity. Are you terrified to speak to random strangers you meet because they might be deaf and you might be offending them by assuming that they can respond to you? I doubt it.

I think you had great instincts before your second coworker talked you into being an 'offended minority.' The usual function of marriage leads to kids. She made no more offensive assumption than you do when you talk to a stranger.

But you have nothing to be ashamed of either. Feel free to just say "we can't have kids" if you want her to shut up. She'll feel dumb, but that's not your fault, nor hers. It's just life. But I'm not sure it would be healthy to remove what little remains of societal expectations that marriage is at least vaguely associated with having kids. It's eroded badly enough as it is!

I pray God will simply bless you and your wife in other ways.

[/quote]

100% with manualman on this one. Second time in 2 days, i should go to your fan page lol


#8

[quote="manualman, post:3, topic:251615"]
But I'm not sure it would be healthy to remove what little remains of societal expectations that marriage is at least vaguely associated with having kids. It's eroded badly enough as it is!

I pray God will simply bless you and your wife in other ways.

[/quote]

I agree with this as well. I find myself TOO sensitive to the topic sometimes because most of our friends are not Catholic and see nothing wrong with taking "the pill' to delay pregnancy. I have a friend that will be getting maried in a couple of months and they plan to wait a few years before they have kids. I am too timid to speak my mind on the subject more than just suggesting they at least not use the pill because of the medical effects it could have on my friend.

My point is that, just as manualman said, the assumption that when you get married that naturally leads to kids is already eroded enough as it is.

I do think, though, that people maybe should ask first, and not assume.


#9

[quote="1inICXC, post:7, topic:251615"]
100% with manualman on this one. Second time in 2 days...

[/quote]

You should be more scared than me....


#10

I think marriage generally results in kids, so I wouldn't be offended since it was really just mentioned in passing and she wasn't grilling you on when you'd have kids. :shrug:

KG


#11

No.

We shouldn't make an effort to change our language or mannerisms just because we might, possibly, maybe, offend someone. That's called political correctness and we don't take kindlty to THAT bs here where I'm from. You deal with what people say instead of whining about how THATS NOT RIGHT to assume. Um, HELLO? it's normal to assume with the majority GET OVER IT


#12

It's one thing to not pussyfoot around the reason for marriage, and another thing to predict the future. I don't think it's necessary to say things like "when you have kids" to defend the true meaning of marriage. To say "if you have kids" is simply reflecting a reality - that the person may or may not have kids in the future. It's not making a judgment. But if you say "when you have kids" to a person who doesn't seem actively attempting to conceive, simply because you want to transmit the fact that marriage is ordered towards procreation, you aren't as likely to transmit that message. You're more likely to transmit the message that you are either

A-out of touch (like being in denial of the reality that married people don't always have kids)
B-not a good listener (if the person in question has discussed this matter with you and expressed hesitation or difficulty)
or
C-insensitive to peoples' unique situations (if the person has an undisclosed reason why they can not have children).

In addition to hurting feelings, any of those reasons will discredit you as a witness to the authentic meaning of marriage - at least in the eyes of someone who doesn't already recognize it. It is completely possible to both be sensitive and an authentic witness to the faith. In my opinion, sheer honesty and recognition of reality will make you a more believable witness.

I also want to make the distinction between speaking in generalities (men and women get married and have children) and discussing a persons specific future with them (when YOU have children). Generalities reflect the truth, and leave room for exceptions. Specific predictions of the future are not useful.


#13

[quote="1inICXC, post:7, topic:251615"]
100% with manualman on this one. Second time in 2 days, i should go to your fan page lol

[/quote]

Ditto... :thumbsup:

[quote="manualman, post:9, topic:251615"]
You should be more scared than me....

[/quote]

:rotfl: Yes, we're all getting a little queasy here... :p


#14

[quote="Em_in_FL, post:13, topic:251615"]
Yes, we're all getting a little queasy here... :p

[/quote]

You hush. I can point to another suspect for YOUR queasiness. (Look down).


#15

[quote="manualman, post:14, topic:251615"]
You hush. I can point to another suspect for YOUR queasiness. (Look down).

[/quote]

:rotfl:
OMG! :eek: I'm PREGNANT!?! Dang, THAT explains A LOT!


#16

Your mom can say "wait until you have kids", because the possibility of this richly-deserved and divinely-wrought vengeance is what kept her from killing you before you reached adulthood, at least it was the first time that flew out of her mouth.

Anyone to whom you presume to give advice on the subject of parenthood can fairly retort "wait until you have kids", for similar reasons. You asked for it.

Everyone else needs to confine themselves within the knowledge that God may just have another route to sanctity in store for you.

[quote="Syri, post:11, topic:251615"]
No.

We shouldn't make an effort to change our language or mannerisms just because we might, possibly, maybe, offend someone. That's called political correctness and we don't take kindlty to THAT bs here where I'm from. You deal with what people say instead of whining about how THATS NOT RIGHT to assume. Um, HELLO? it's normal to assume with the majority GET OVER IT

[/quote]

Where is it that you're from, where polite people don't give two bits whether the stream coming from their unbridled mouths are to anyone's liking except their own? It is normal for five year olds to think everyone wants to hear whatever comes to their heads. Most people grow out of that, whether by the teaching of their mothers or by the hard school of experience.

If memory serves correctly, it was Miss Manners' opinion that it would serve a nosy person right if, after having asked a couple when they were going to start their family, the wife would burst into tears and run from the room. She wasn't being PC. She was merely wishing that people would have the good sense and civility to keep a lid on their premature assumptions.

Likewise, it is common knowledge that not everyone who wants to have a child can have one. It never hurt anyone to remember that his or her problems, dreams, blessings, trials, or outlook are not shared by the whole of decent humanity. If we are adults who have an interest in KEEPING OUR FEET OUT OF OUR MOUTHS we ought to GET OVER THE IDEA THAT WE ARE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE, take account of just how much we think the rest of the world ought to be just like we are, and learn to put a lid on it.

I would not have shouted, but I feel safe in assuming that a person from where you're from is well-equipped to "deal with it", yes?


#17

[quote="manualman, post:3, topic:251615"]
I do think it's a good thing to attempt to be sensitive to those around us. But it CAN reach the point of absurdity. Are you terrified to speak to random strangers you meet because they might be deaf and you might be offending them by assuming that they can respond to you? I doubt it.

I think you had great instincts before your second coworker talked you into being an 'offended minority.' The usual function of marriage leads to kids. She made no more offensive assumption than you do when you talk to a stranger.

But you have nothing to be ashamed of either. Feel free to just say "we can't have kids" if you want her to shut up. She'll feel dumb, but that's not your fault, nor hers. It's just life. But I'm not sure it would be healthy to remove what little remains of societal expectations that marriage is at least vaguely associated with having kids. It's eroded badly enough as it is!

I pray God will simply bless you and your wife in other ways.

[/quote]

How is it that no one thinks the co-worker was a clod for rambling on and on about a topic that interested her when she was getting not a single indication that her listener found this an engaging topic of conversation?


#18

[quote="EasterJoy, post:17, topic:251615"]
How is it that no one thinks the co-worker was a clod for rambling on and on about a topic that interested her when she was getting not a single indication that her listener found this an engaging topic of conversation?

[/quote]

Okay, here's the thing. The coworker was being a jerk. She should not have said "when you have kids" and she should not have been rambling about her kids in her workplace anyway. But I think we're reacting to the OP's post as we are because his actual questions was phrased like this:

[quote="xenophile, post:1, topic:251615"]
However, does anybody else think that we could slowly change the societal politeness to not assume that everybody will have children eventually, or at least not to say it out loud?

[/quote]

In other words, why can't we as society lessen the expectation that married couples will have children? It would be more polite.

Certainly it is true that many couples will choose not to have kids. Certainly, there are many couples, like the OP, who are unable to have kids. For many of them, infertility is a great burden and it's worth remembering in our own conversations that everyone's situation is different and that saying "when you have kids" might be emotionally traumatizing to some. Maybe this is where the "societal politeness" factors in (i.e., we have to learn to be more sensitive to the fact that not everyone can have kids). But when the OP asks whether we should work towards "not assum[ing] that everybody will have children eventually" it sounds like an attempt to normalize that which should be atypical; namely, a childless marriage.


#19

[quote="xenophile, post:1, topic:251615"]
A relatively new coworker who I haven't yet interacted with too much was chatting with me while waiting for something to process. She has a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old and was gushing about every detail of their lives in the manner that new parents tend to do. I was politely listening, but not really paying too close attention, because frankly, I don't care. In the corner of my eye, a second coworker (who I am friends with outside of work and knows more about my situation than most people) was becoming a little visibly annoyed with the parental rantings. Then, the coup de grace -- the rambling coworker asked if I had any children. "No", I responded succinctly. "Oh, well, when you have kids, you'll know that blah blah blah", she continued rambling. At which point, the second coworker actually twitched in embarrassment. I just shrugged and let her continue -- eventually what we were waiting for was done, and she went back to her work and I to mine and I thought nothing of it.

[/quote]

[quote="EasterJoy, post:17, topic:251615"]
How is it that no one thinks the co-worker was a clod for rambling on and on about a topic that interested her when she was getting not a single indication that her listener found this an engaging topic of conversation?

[/quote]

I am betting that only the OP or someone else unable to have children would have thought the co-worker was rambling on and on. Anyone else wouldn't have felt that way.

I wonder how long the conversation lasted. 5 minutes? 35 ? If it was 5, then the co-worker wasn't rambling on, she was trying to fill the time where otherwise they would have just been standing there. If it was 35 minutes, I wonder if the employer knows they waste that much time waiting for stuff to process. :shrug:


#20

[quote="nodito, post:18, topic:251615"]
Okay, here's the thing. The coworker was being a jerk. She should not have said "when you have kids" and she should not have been rambling about her kids in her workplace anyway. But I think we're reacting to the OP's post as we are because his actual questions was phrased like this:

In other words, why can't we as society lessen the expectation that married couples will have children? It would be more polite.

Certainly it is true that many couples will choose not to have kids. Certainly, there are many couples, like the OP, who are unable to have kids. For many of them, infertility is a great burden and it's worth remembering in our own conversations that everyone's situation is different and that saying "when you have kids" might be emotionally traumatizing to some. Maybe this is where the "societal politeness" factors in (i.e., we have to learn to be more sensitive to the fact that not everyone can have kids). But when the OP asks whether we should work towards "not assum[ing] that everybody will have children eventually" it sounds like an attempt to normalize that which should be atypical; namely, a childless marriage.

[/quote]

Traditionally, the taboo on personal comments, particularly comments that make assumptions about other people's private lives, was not "normalizing" anything. It was simply respecting other people's privacy. It's not just that "when you have kids" is traumatizing to the childless who know they will not have children. It is that "when you have kids" comments are generally annoying to those who don't have any yet, whether or not they expect to have some. It puts the person on the spot, and it is more gracious to avoid doing that.

Besides, which of us ought to assume that the person we are speaking to assumes that this or that will come to pass in their lives?

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit"-- you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, "If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that." But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16

If the bore had only said, "When you have children--provided that you and the Lord will it--then maybe then you will agree with me that..."; then that would not be quite so bad. But if she had said, "Oh, my goodness, you have no children, then why am I boring you with all this talk! Let's find something that interests us both to talk about!" it would have been better. Better yet would be to avoid asking the question at all, saying, "I'm sorry, I must be boring you with all this talk about the goings on at my house. What would you like to talk about?" Then if the person had children of her own or questions about having children, she could raise that if she wanted to talk about it.


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