If you’ve been around my blog long, you know I struggled with infertility before having our sons. And if you’ve known me during the earlier duration of my marriage, you know we waited several years before deciding to start a family.
All this to say, I have years of experience on the receiving end of awkward comments about having children. Crazy awkward. The kind of comments that come from good intentions but leave the recipient feeling misunderstood, annoyed, and sometimes, in tears.
10 Things Not To Say To A Childless Woman
1. “When are you going to start having kids?”
You’d be amazed at how freely people ask this question. It started at our wedding reception and continued every time anyone found out we were (a) married or (b) married for longer than a year or two. Guess what world? This is a highly personal question! I promise, when someone has a kid, they’ll let you know. And it’s an especially painful question to answer when you’re secretly—and so-far unsuccessfully—trying to have a kid. What strikes the passive conversationalist as a fun question pours salt on an open wound in a barren woman’s heart.
2. Anything about time.
Seriously. No need to mention that she has time, that she’s running out of time, or anything about biological clocks. Believe me. She knows. She’s well aware of whatever time she has or doesn’t have, and she’s dealing with her own unique timing the best she knows how.
3. “You’re missing out.”
Some women don’t want kids. Not now. Maybe not ever. Don’t put your experiences and preferences on her. That’s like telling a mom she’s missing out because she can’t sleep in, stay out late, or wear fancy clothes without the risk of getting spit up on them. We’re all free to make our own life choices and what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for someone else.
4. “You’re lucky.”
We know having kids is hard. They’re messy, loud, and needy. Having kids screws up your body and your hormones. But a childless woman is either without child intentionally—no luck about it—or unintentionally and she wishes her luck would change. I would have taken every stretch mark in the known universe if it meant I could have a child (thankfully God didn’t take me up on that bargain).
5. “Just keep having sex and it will happen.”
This may be one of my biggest pet-peeves. No. It. Does. NOT. Always. Happen.
Certainly for some people. Heck, I have friends who practically look at their husbands and get pregnant. But that’s not the situation for everyone. It takes the average young healthy couple 6-12 months to conceive. Longer if you’re older or have health issues. Sometimes assisted fertility is the only option. It’s no one’s preference or first choice, but ignorant advice doesn’t change the facts.
6. Alternate solutions.
I have the most compassion for well-meaning comments in this category, but they’re still not helpful. Once you find out your dear friend is having a hard time conceiving, fight the urge to offer the following:
- Suggestions for adoption
- Questions about fertility treatment options
- Advice about sex
Trust me, if she wants advice she’ll ask. Without the invitation, these alternatives tear at the deepest desires of her heart. Struggling with infertility means she’s already thinking/stressing/worrying/hoping against the alternatives and many women are not willing to look at adoption or treatment unless medically necessary.
7. “Oh, you can’t get pregnant?”
Believe it or not, this is a common question posed to women considering adoption—especially if they don’t already have a biological child. Some women are called to adopt. Their children grew in their hearts instead of their stomachs and to assume their chosen path to parenthood is Plan B is downright offensive.
8. All things baby.
We get it, you’re excited. Your children represent a huge part of your life now and that’s fantastic. Like any true friend, we’re happy for you. But please don’t only talk baby stuff when we’re together. Make room in your life to talk about the things we discussed before. Focus on areas of common ground so we can build our connection and relate on topics that are important to both of us.
9. No things baby.
Just because we don’t have kids, that doesn’t mean we want you to pretend like you don’t either. Avoiding all baby talk makes things awkward and we care about your kids because you do. If you’re concerned about how your baby news may affect us, give us time to process in private or through one-on-one conversations and not group announcements. Don’t assume we can’t handle being around your kids or attending children’s birthday parties. Even if we will opt not to come, it’s painful to be excluded. Shielding us from this part of your life will only hinder our relationship moving forward.
10. “When are you going to start a family?”
I know, sounds awfully similar to #1, but it’s different. See, the implication here is that kids = family. Related phrases are, “We always wanted to have a family” or “Things will change when you have a family.” Guess what? She already has a family. Maybe it’s the one she was born into, a circle of friends, or the family she’s created with her husband. Either way, don’t negate the value of her family just because it doesn’t include strollers or car seats.
Then, what do you say?
Here’s my #1 do: Communicate love and acceptance.
Having—or not having—kids is only part of our lives. Focus on the positive. Support and encourage. Avoid painful or contentious baby conversations. If she needs to talk about it, she’ll bring it up. Allow one another to be who you are and the way you consider her will speak volumes about your friendship.