Donegal mum Maria Rushe explains why people should never ask about a couple's family plans.
I’ve written about this before but it seems that it’s like non parents parking in mother and baby spots or people feeling the need to comment on how your baby is fed; it doesn’t go away!
STOP ASKING PEOPLE when they’re going to start a family or going to ‘go again’.
I know people don’t mean any harm when they insist on telling you that you should “be going again” or “getting a move on”, and yet often, these innocently thrown statements can stab a couple through the heart.
Firstly, why do people think it’s OK to assume that everyone wants to have more babies? Or actually, even A baby for that matter. Many people make the conscious decision that parenthood is not for them; that they are quite fulfilled and happy as they are.
Then there are the people who, no sooner have you popped out little Charlie or Nancy, but they’re telling you it’s time to get working on Jeremiah or Jezebel. Why, oh WHY, do people think that it’s OK to ASK why a couple aren’t “going for number 3″… or 4, or 8?
And as for the people who tease a newly married couple, or indeed ANY childless couple, about ‘getting a move on’, well that is just a whole other level of silly beggar.
Here are 6 reasons to NOT comment on a couple’s NON pregnant state:
1. It’s none of your business.
2. You don’t know their situation. You don’t know if they’ve had a miscarriage recently. People don’t generally go around announcing that, do they? In fact, we good Irish still fall into the trap of thinking that we aren’t allowed to tell anyone until the sacred 12 week mark, and so when things go wrong, couples often have no one to share their grief or help them through it.
3. 1 in 6 Irish couples currently struggles with fertility. How do you know if the person you are innocently teasing about “going for another one” or “filling that big house” isn’t one of those couples? You don’t know if they’re trying EVERYTHING and being constantly heartbroken. You don’t know if she’s injecting herself daily, undergoing physical and emotional and mental turmoil to try to help matters. You don’t know if he’s struggling with the fact that his sperm count is low. You don’t know if they’ve put every penny they have (and don’t have) into rounds of treatment, over and over again. You don’t know how deep your playful, well-intentioned words can cut.
4. Not EVERY couple WANTS to have a baby, or another baby. For their own reasons. That they don’t have to explain to you. And when a couple tells you that they’re all done or quite happy with their lot thank you, do not raise your eyebrow in a smug and all-knowing, “we’ll see” or tut at their ‘nonsense’. You’re in murky waters now and you need to paddle back dear.
5. Maybe that couple is in the process of adoption, or surrogacy. Maybe that couple is at breaking point, physically and emotionally and maybe…
6. …it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!
Of course, people mean no harm when we joke about “filling that big car” or “getting a wee brother for Nancy”, but like all things parent related, innocent comments and harmless questions can cut through people like a bolt of lightning. We shouldn’t comment. End of.
So next time you find yourself about to joke or jest or ask someone about the state of their baby situation, consider this: If they asked you about the state or your uterus, or indeed your sperm situation, how would you feel? Would you be comfortable if that person sighed and answered with “Well actually, we’re on our third round of IVF and we’re emotionally and physically exhausted and I’d love to tell you about it”? Or if they said, “Well actually, we’ve had three miscarriages in the last 18 months” or “Well no, because we’re pretty sure we won’t be together this time next year.” If you would be able to deal with those answers, you possibly know the person well enough to know not to ask anyway.
If not, don’t ask and don’t comment.