I have been married for what will be ten years next month, and my husband and I don't have any kids yet. Usually when I tell people that, I receive all types of reactions, comments, as well as unsolicited advice about what I could or need to do to have a baby. They make assumptions without even knowing if it's because of choice or chance (out of my control)…until I reveal to them that we've been proactively trying to have children for at least the last five years or so.
I, like many women, are often made to feel guilty or experience forms of "women shaming" for a variety of reasons, including not having children. So, in an effort to help reduce the amount of judgment that often comes our way, here are five phrases and questions you should avoid saying to other women who don't have kids.
"You better give that man a child."
When my husband and I first got married, I was adamant about waiting to have a baby. I can admit that some of it was due in part because of my childhood experiences, but it was also because I wanted to get used to being married and enjoy getting to know each other first before we brought kids into the picture.
However, people often demanded that I "give him a child" because they knew how much he wanted them. They said things like, "Usually, it's the man who wants to wait (or doesn't want) to have kids." Statements like these often implied or made me feel as if it was my sole responsibility as a woman or as a wife to birth a child, merely for the benefit of my husband. It supports the notion that a woman should give her man whatever he wants whenever he wants it regardless of, or without consideration of the situation, circumstances, or even the plans for her own life as well.
I understand and appreciate the God-given role that we as women play to bring forth new life. I understand that men consider it important to carry on the legacy of their family name, but I also realize that babies are not merely a "gift" to men; rather they are a gift from God for both parents.
"Don't wait too long. You're not getting any younger."
While this may be true, don't underestimate the power of prayer, miracles, and even modern technology and advancements, as well as adoption as an option. I know women personally who have had children later in life – and there are many celebrities as well (Janet Jackson, Halle Berry, Iman, Eva Mendes, Mariah Carey – just to name a few). Age doesn't always have the final say, and we can't allow other people's expectations and timelines to control our lives.
Their timeline is not my timeline.
Gabrielle Union recently shared more about her infertility struggles at the BlogHer conference. Prior to revealing her adenomyosis diagnosis, she explained how people formed their own conclusions and tried to explain the logic for her infertility by saying things like, "Well, you've waited too long and now you're too old, and that's on you for wanting a career."
Infertility alone can be emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining, and it's natural to feel like something is wrong with you or your body without being made to feel that way by everyone else. So, consider that you may not always know the full story or what someone may be dealing with privately.
"So, you don't want to have kids…"
Why must one assume that you don't want to have kids simply because you don't have any? It can be especially hurtful for women who are actually trying (and have been for a long time), but are experiencing fertility issues for whatever reason.
Furthermore, if a woman has in fact decided that she doesn't want to have children (i.e. Oprah), that's HER decision to make – not yours. As fulfilling as it is to experience the miracle of motherhood, it doesn't make any woman less or more of a woman either way. As Oprah once said in an interview with Good Housekeeping in 2017:
"…I feel like I am a mother to the world's children… It doesn't matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works."
"Have you tried X, Y, and Z and have you consulted with a specialist?"
For someone like me who already consulted with a fertility specialist, I find that people will still offer up possible options and solutions even if I don't solicit their input. It's as if they think you're not okay with where you are in your life. Although people often mean well, sometimes it can make a woman feel as if she's to "blame" for the infertility, or as if she hasn't done enough to make it happen. However, the reality is that even though certain tactics may have worked for you, that doesn't mean they'll work for someone else. Throughout our personal journey, my husband and I have realized that as much as we want to try and control this process, at the end of the day, God is ultimately in control.
"You're missing out."
How do you know what my life would be like if I had kids right now? As much as I love being married, I wouldn't tell a single woman that she's "missing out" simply because she's not married, especially if she's choosing to be single.
You never have to worry about missing out on life when you start to embrace the life you were given. Oftentimes, we're too focused on what the future is supposed to look like that we miss living in the now. I have to remind people that even though my husband and I are still trying and waiting, we're not going to stop living and enjoying our lives. Besides, life wouldn't be as interesting, significant, and purposeful if I lived it exactly like everyone else.
Having children is a beautiful thing, but remember that it can be a sensitive and difficult topic for some people. So, let's strive to be more considerate and mindful of what we say, and how we say it, to our fellow sisters who don't have children. Before asking or judging, consider her privacy, her situation, and respect her journey.
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