September 08, 2007

Top Ten Tips

How to Survive The Question: "Do You Have Children?"

1. At all costs, resist answering, “No, do you?” You will regret it immediately if you and this person are total strangers.

2. If applicable, turn to your spouse and say, “Honey, this one’s for you.”

3. Roll your eyes and say, “I’ll take History for $200”.

4. Get a wistful look in your eye, pause, then tilt your head in a thoughtful way and say,

“Just once, I wish someone would ask me if I am childfree.”
Be on your toes, and be mentally and emotionally prepared for whatever comes next.

5. Instead of replying, ask them a question: Any question, such as, “how do you know the host”, or “what got you involved in __________”. This will subtly communicate what you shouldn’t have to say: “I am not comfortable with your personal question”.

6. Answer honestly, and give them a “handle” to grab onto conversationally. The handle would be what you do spend your time doing since you don’t have kids.

7. Just start laughing and say, “Why would I want to do that?” Don’t be surprised if they agree with you, they may have teenagers.

8. Raise your eyebrows and make your eyes really big and say, “U-oh, gotta run…” Walk quickly the other direction. This is a not-so-subtle way of communicating that you don’t appreciate their personal question. Works like a charm on relatives who ask, “So, when are you and ______ going to start a family?” too.

9. If someone ever does ask you if you are childfree, they have taken the time in conversation to get to know you first, and made an accurate assumption. Immediately embrace the Purple Man or Woman!

10. If you’re really caught off guard and cannot for the life of you remember items 1 though 8, fake an allergic reaction to “fill-in-the-blank” and begin a mock sneezing fit. Walk quickly toward the bathroom. Re-group and come out swinging – socially speaking of course!

Flickr photo by by ores2k (cc)

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Angry Grrl said...

You know, I really think this is the main reason why I don't like to go to big social functions where the majority of attendees are strangers to me. I just hate answering "that question"!

jess said...

I just happened here from a BlogHer link. I just answer, "No, and if I have my way, I don't plan to." No use lying or making excuses for me! *laughs* Plus, I get some pleasure from seeing the look on someone's face when they realize I'm serious.

Strangely, we have yet to run into strangers who get upset with this. Yet. Maybe because "we're young and may change our minds." I doubt it. Highly doubt it. (Especially since I don't think 27 and 28 are too "young" to know our minds on the matter.)

I'll have to bookmark you and keep reading. Purple women, eh? Hmmmmm...

Tanya said...

I tend to be slightly more flippant.

"Do I have kids? OH CRAP I DO! Where are they? Dammit, they keep getting away on me!"

"Oh, I would but my husband is not a kid person and he is forever trying out new recipes...."

"No, I do not. I have a husband and we're a couple. Having kids means one of us has to go and I am just getting him broken in. Thank for asking though."

jess said...


*chuckles* I really like that last one. I would love to see people's faces when you say that. "We can only have two people in the house at a time, and I'm kinda attached to my husband. Besides, where would he live if I had to kick him out to make room for the baby?"

Now I want to try "But where would I keep it? See...this is why I don't have a dog. I'm always losing things because I don't know where to keep them."

Feh23 said...

Do you have children?
"No, thanks anyway"
"I have to stand over here now"
"I can't bear them"
or my favorite...finish your adult beverage in one gulp (works best with full beverages), look at them with your best drunken stare and say "Why? You want some?"

Tanya said...

Or you can try my husband's favourite response...

"Do I want kids? No, I really can't eat a whole one, thanks."

And people wonder why I love him so much.... :)

Michelle L. said...

I think this is the reason that I don't really like to participate in social functions with people who have children. No matter how I answer, if I answer honestly or humorously, I get one of two reactions....pity or hostility. Can someone explain to me why my being childfree is something threatening?

Angry Grrl said...

michelle l., if I had to take a wild stab at it, I'd say that perhaps some of the childed are feeling pity under the mistaken impression that Motherhood Is The Greatest Job In The Whole Wide World (gag), and thus they are feeling sad for us that we have chosen to cut ourselves off from the undending stream of rainbows, unicorns and delight that is Childrearing -- and thus, we are not, and never will be, "whole women"(tm).

The ones feeling hostility? I'd call a spade a spade and say it's more likely to be jealousy of our freedom and unrestricted lifestyles. No 2am feedings! No need to trade in the zippy little car for a soccer-mom minivan. Whose boobies aren't sore and sagging from breast-feeding countless sproggen? Whose husbands still find us sexually desireable?

Teri said...

Speaking of breasts...check out today's post about the Empress of Breast Health. Let's not villify body parts PW, we are all going to get wrinkles and saggy breasts eventually. Frankly, who cares? I say why spend good money to prevent the inevitable? I don't look so good in a bikini any more (still own several pairs) but I still go swimming.

It really is hard to understand why being childfree does engage such hostility. I have no answer. We can only shed light on what it is to be childfree. A possible reason could be stemmed from hard-line religious zealots as Shelley recently wrote about.

I think we sometimes surprise women who didn't make a choice. These are the ones who just meander through life unconsciously doing what everyone else is doing. It may be exactly the right path for them, but they realize too late that they really did have a choice to make.

Women have more choices than ever before, but it's still hard to get two people to agree.

Michelle L. said...

I have also found that sometimes people think that because you are childfree that simply must mean you are anti-child. And for me that is not the case at all. I enjoy time I spend with my neice and nephew. But I also enjoy sending them home. I am just self-aware and know that child rearing is not something I am interested in. But because I have decided that I don't want children, doesn't automatically equate with hating children or thinking other people shouldn't have them? Of course not! I know a lot of childfree people who are teachers, or in other positions where they interact with children every day. I hate to say it, but I'm not anti-child so much as I am anti-parent. So many people treat "parenthood" as some kind of special status, one you cannot possibly understand, so fulfilling, blah blah blah....I just get sick of hearing it. Wow, that was a rambly comment for a new poster! My apologies if I got out of hand!

Kate said...

Same answer I give to the equally intrusive "Are you married?" or "Do you have a boyfriend?" Just plain, emphatic "No," without an explanation. Although I do, in professional settings, pointedly change the subject as suggested in the post.

Honestly, why is it hard to believe that I'm happily single and not childed?

Anonymous said...

I think that the more comfortable I am with my choice, the less this question bothers me. People will always make assumptions and ask the same social questions that we all ask. What about them cowboys in last night game or what about the weather. They are just trying to make a connection and children seem to be the easy glue.
I am a teacher, and most assume that I would have children, and I am asked this on a daily basis by everyone. My answer," No I do not". is my simple and direct reply. It is nice, no extra tone nothing. It stops people dead cold. I smile and the conversation goes another direction. They are caught off guard- that I don't have an excuse or a reason, and don't imply any sort of tone. It works great. I think lack of tone keeps them from thinking they can attack- because they never do.
I also get this from Kids on a daily basis. I work with teens and I love them. I love everything about teens. But I am happy at the end of the day not to have one at home. They ask me both male and female- do you have kids? I add more to my normal punch line- it changes with my mood - but it might go something like this" nope love teens, but you guys are enough to handle- don't want a house full" they laugh and get the point better than most adults. Or I might say, nope I have other interests and I am happy with my choice. Some times if its a girl she might add that she would like not to be a mom, and I encourage her to do what is best for her.
My am a walking living example to everyone that the choice to not have my own children is just fine. I live a more than active life- work, husband, extended family, full time graduate school, and Phd research. So the next time some asks, maybe just smile and know they really deep in side wish they had the courage to find what they really wanted before they fell in line with the tribal drum beat of "have kids or your life is over."
I say bring it on and ask me all you want- I have all the answers to make your head spin. I am a purple woman -you see!!!!

LauraS said...

I identify with anonymous'. I have met quite a few childfree teachers and I share her reaction to "the question."

I respond one of two ways depending whether or not I am responding to acquaintences or strangers.
Strangers: No, I don't
(no tone--then I wait for their reaction--it's either the pity look or, more often, a comment like "lucky you...")
Acquaintences: No, I'm choice (with a shameless, wicked grin).

I enjoy teens, too, but I don't want to own one.

Longing for Home said...

i know this is an old post but i just found your site... i'd love to use this response, but i doubt if my sarcasm would be appreciated:

"we're planning on starting on kids when the padded, sound-proofed nursery is ready and we've finished interviewing nannies. do you have any leads?"

Anonymous said...

I always just say no, but I have two dogs, and those are enough! I usually just get a laugh and the conversation moves onto pets or another direction altogether.

D 'n' L said...

Ehm, what a beautifull being parent...