As soon as you get back from your honeymoon, it’s time to brace yourself. The baby questions are coming. In fact, there’s a good chance that they start coming before the honeymoon. Because as soon as you’ve reached the status of newlywed—and even when you’re leading up to it—suddenly people feel a weird entitlement to ask you when you’re going to get pregnant. It’s invasive, it’s awkward, and yet, for some reason, people find it socially acceptable.
“I think newlyweds are pressured to get pregnant for two reasons,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Brides. “The first one, which is more ‘generous,’ is that people love big events and celebrating. They enjoy weddings and the next natural step is for the newlyweds to have a baby. Often friends and family members are swept up in the wedding frenzy and want to extend the good news and celebration to the next milestone. Hence all the questions.” But that’s only part of the issue.
I remember finding it so uncomfortable when my first boss was trying to get pregnant. Every week people in the office would ask her about it and they’d have long conversations about how much they were ‘trying’ or not ‘trying’. I would just sit there quietly, feeling really awkward about the fact that it’s apparently normal to talk about how much unprotected sex you're having—and to ask other people about it—as long as it was all about ‘trying’ to get pregnant. Isn’t that private information?
If you feel comfortable discussing it, that’s great. Some people want to share every detail of how and when they’re trying—or when in the future they’re going to try. But if you don’t want to, that’s OK too. You have every right to tell someone to back off. The problem is, as often these questions come from friends and family, it can be difficult to do so politely. You need to find the way to be firm without offending anyone. Here’s what you need to remember.
The Honeymoon Tradition Looms Large
The truth is, most of the people asking don’t mean any harm. Relatives and friends—especially older relatives and friends—just think it’s normal. Because, weirdly, it is normal. It happens all the time. As soon as you get married, everyone jumps into a time machine back to the 1950s and assumes that the natural next step is for you to start having children. Many of them would have have faced the same questions. “The other reason is that many people, especially older ones, are more comfortable following traditional scripts,” Hartstein says. “Traditionally, if someone is getting married, a baby wasn't far behind. Nowadays of course we have so many more options and time lines to choose from that it's often not the case.” But honeymoons were historically meant for people to get pregnant and some people haven’t realized how much we’ve moved on.
It doesn’t make it any easier, of course. They have no idea what you’re dealing with, what they could be prying into. It could be that only one of you wants children and it’s a sore spot, maybe you’re struggling to get pregnant, or maybe you just really have no interest in children. None of this is any one else’s business besides you and your partner. But it can help to remember that to some people it’s just their norm to ask the question.
You Can Tell Them to Back Off...Politely
For years, women have been coming up with ways to dodge the question. “The best thing to do is sort of mumble a vague answer such as ‘Who knows’ or ‘Not yet’,” Harstein says. “And I would recognize that as annoying as these questions may be, they often are asked as sort of a knee-jerk polite way to make conversation. Rather than an actual expression of pressure.” Because it’s true, most of them are asking it almost as a rhetorical question, albeit an invasive and potentially insensitive one. And if they do try to put some real pressure on, then you can be even more firm. A joke can always help, making it clear that you are so not ready for a child. Hopefully, if you make it clear enough times, they’ll get the point. Hopefully.
You shouldn’t have to answer to anyone about your sex life or your plans for children. It’s deeply personal information. But the questions keep coming, because we still associated honeymoons with getting-pregnant-moons. So feel totally free to turn them down with a smile. And if you can laugh it off, all the better. It’s nobody’s business but yours.