Why You Should Never Ask Someone, "When Are You Going to Have Kids?"

6 Reasons Not to Ask This Personal Question + The Only Time You Should

Woman with her hand over her mouth
If you're feeling tempted to ask someone when they plan to have kids (or another kid), stop yourself! You're entering very sensitive territory. Stock Shop Photography LLC / Getty Images

The best conversation starters are inviting and non-threatening. That’s why talking about the weather – as cliché as it may be – is such a popular way to start chitchatting. Very few people feel uncomfortable talking about the rain, the snow, or the temperature outside.

You may be under the impression that asking when or whether a person is going to have a child – or another child – is a safe way to start a conversation.

Perhaps your friend got married in the recent past, and it just seems obvious that the next step is having a baby. Or your friend may have a two- or three-year old child. The question of when they’ll be having another seems innocent enough, right?

Here’s the thing: asking someone when they plan to have kids or when they plan to have another kid is never a good idea. Never, ever, ever a good idea.

It’s a sensitive and personal topic, in ways you may not have considered.

They May Be Struggling With Infertility (or Secondary Infertility)

The person you’re asking may be trying to have a child right now – but you don’t know it. They may be dealing with infertility.

Considering the fact that 1 in 8 couples face infertility at some point in their lives, this isn’t an unlikely scenario.

Infertility can affect couples who have never had a child and couples who have had a child or children already. (This is called secondary infertility.)

While pregnancy can be seen from the outside, you can’t see someone struggling to conceive.

When you look at a person, you can’t see the months or years of struggle. You can’t see the doctor appointments, the invasive fertility tests, or the stressful fertility treatments. You can’t see the early miscarriages or losses they’ve had.

Your innocently intended question of when they plan to have kids can cause them emotional pain. Of course, you don’t mean to hurt them. You may also have had no idea they were struggling.

But this is why you just shouldn’t ask the question of anyone – ever.

Also, don’t assume that you’d already know if your friend was dealing with infertility. Many couples struggling will tell no one of their problems – not even their closest friends, parents, or siblings.

It’s personal.

They May Be Pregnant Right Now

Your friend may be expecting right now, but she may not be ready to share that information.

People have all kinds of reasons for not sharing early pregnancy news. For some, it’s a cultural decision. They prefer to wait until the pregnancy is visible to others before telling people.

Some may have experienced previous pregnancy losses and want to wait until they either see a heartbeat on an ultrasound or until they get into the second trimester, when the risk of miscarriage goes down significantly.

If you ask them when they are going to have another kid – and they are pregnant right now, but not ready to share – you put them into an awkward situation. They either have to lie or reveal information they didn’t want to share yet.

Are you suspecting that they are pregnant? So you’re asking as a way to get the information out of them?

Don’t do it.  Not even then. (Perhaps especially then.)

When they want you to know, you will know.

They May Have Just Lost a Baby

It’s possible they have recently lost a pregnancy. You may not know this if it was an early miscarriage. Sadly, these losses frequently remain private.

By asking about when they plan to have a child, you’re not just bringing up the issue of them possibly struggling to get conceive, but you’re also triggering their feelings of grief.

Don’t ask!

They May Not Agree as a Couple on This Topic

The decision of when and whether to have children is one that is made (usually) by two people.

It’s not uncommon for a couple to disagree on when the right time is.

Of course, this disagreement is private.

If you ask someone when he or she plans to have kids, and they are the one that wants to try now, you’re stepping into a landmine.

Besides the painful feelings that you may bring up, your question may lead to the couple arguing. Do you really want to start that?

This May Not Be the Right Time for Them

It could be that the person you’re asking wants to have kids now but this isn’t the right time.

There are all kinds of reasons people wait to have kids or wait to have another kid. They may not feel financially stable. Their job may be at risk. They may be in the middle of a move or other big life change.

They may be going through difficult time emotionally. They may be overwhelmed and not ready to have a child or another child. They may have health issues that you don’t know about that must be taken care of first.

They May Not Want Kids… or More Kids

Society has “rules” on when you’re supposed to have kids.

If you get married, you’re expected to start thinking of children within the first few years. Some cultures expect you to conceive as soon as possible – the wedding night being “ideal.”

Societies may also attempt to dictate how many kids are acceptable. In some cultures, that’s about 2.5 kids – and having more than 4 deems you as “crazy.” In other cultures, you’re expected to have no less than 4 or 5 kids.

You’re “supposed” to have your children spaced out by a couple years... but not too many years.

The fact of the matter is there are no real rules.

Some couples will decide to have only one child. Others will choose to have big families. And others will decide to skip the having-children-thing altogether.

Your friend may not know what they plan to do. (Or they may know exactly what they want and don’t want to talk about it.)

If you’re a close enough friend, they may discuss their decision with you. It’s not your job, however, to start the conversation.

If they want to talk about it, they will.

"But I’m the Future Grandparent/Aunt/Playmate Buddy! I Need to Know!"

So you read all these reasons, and you see the point… but certainly this doesn’t apply to you!

You’re their best friend! You’re their mother or father! You’re their mother-in-law! You’re their sister or cousin or brother, and certainly you can ask these kinds of personal questions if you want.

I don’t care who you are; listen when I tell you that all of the above reasons apply to you as well.

If you want to be a good friend, a good sister, a good aunt or uncle, a good in-law… if you want to have a good relationship with your adult children, just don’t ask.

The Only Time It’s Okay to Ask "When Are You Going to Have Kids?"

When’s the only time that question is okay to ask?

When you’re asking yourself or discussing it with your partner… as in, “When do I (or we) want to have another kid?”

That’s it.

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