I was going to write a long post about this after seeing it on Facebook the other day, but I decided to just put it up on the blog instead. I have thought about writing about this for so long now but I have always felt a bit unsure about it simply because it is a weirdly sensitive subject matter, I will explain why I say it’s weirdly sensitive later.
But just some context, if you are a friend or have been following my blog for the last seven odd years, perhaps (or maybe not) you would be wondering why JG and I don’t have kids yet. I am sorry to say that I will not go into details as to the why and how, but we don’t.
The reason I will not explain why, is because I very much agree with the article. I may not say out-loud or as straight-forward as she did in the article, but yeah… what she said.
I’m not sure how it is in your country, here in the Philippines, asking about how many kids you have, more importantly the lack thereof is a normal, casual, common question. And because I have yet to have them, I do get them a lot. We have a very in-your-business culture and so I think void of a tragic death, no topic is off-limits, even in the most mundane conversations.
And even though I grew up around this way of life I have always been very uncomfortable with it. Perhaps because I am (to my utmost aversion) too sensitive, I am often taken-aback at comments, however slight. This is why I do my best to practice not making such comments simply because I do not want to make others feel what it makes me feel when it is said to me.
Common examples are, “Uy tumataba ka ata.” (You look like you gained weight), “Nag-swimming kaba? Umitim ka.”(Did you go swimming? Your skin got a bit tanned), my personal favourite, “Hoy, balita ko mayaman ka na daw…” (I heard you’re loaded now).
And then of course there’s the, “May baby ka na?” (Do you have a baby now?) And if you say no, “Ay, bakit wala pa?”(Why not?). Sometimes, I would explain, but there are days when I wouldn’t be able to because the follow-up comment taps it off, “Dapat meron na!” (You should have them!)
Just because it is our culture, doesn’t make it okay for you to ask, because it is, to be honest, a very sensitive issue. As explained in the link it is sensitive because, there could be several reasons why, and none of them however simple or complex is any of your business. And getting someone in that kind of thought provoking situation, where in you put them in the need to explain themselves, is neither respectful nor kind, no matter how good your intentions are.
And personally that is where my problem lies. I really don’t mind being asked, I have the patience to explain, and will really gladly do. But why do you ask? What is your main objective in wanting to know? What are your intentions? Because if you are trying to be nice, why not just ask me about my day? (As the article mentioned). In this regard, a simple “How are you?” always works just fine.
And like I said, I don’t mind being asked, it’s a valid question and no harm in setting straight. But asking me about it when you just bumped into me at the mall, or casually adding it to a comment on my Social Media posts, or dropping it on me when I meet you at a party after not seeing each other after a number of years is truly not cool.
A question such as that needs to be asked in an appropriate time and place, and in a properly timed manner. I can think of a number of times I was asked in what I felt the right way, but my most recent experienced example is a couple of months ago. I was having coffee with some close friends. It was a rainy evening, and we have been talking for hours by then, our conversation gradually drifted to life choices, regrets, the heavy sort of stuff, and one of my friends then said, “If you don’t mind me asking, is you and JG not having kids yet intentional?”. I have known that friend of mine for years, but we aren’t the closest in our small group, but I know him, and I understood why he was asking, but he still asked politely without a hint of mischief or offhanded care. And so I happily explained everything to him, and it felt good to have done so, without feeling like defending myself or being embarrassed about the choices my husband and I make in our married life.
And another thing, sometimes these awkward conversations are really unavoidable and I get that, and I also have the right kind of attitude to politely let it go as well. Like I said because it is in our culture there are times when people would ask out of habit, and realize they stepped over a line. You could see it in their apologetic faces, wanting to be able to take back what they said. And when that happens I think it’s completely okay. And sometimes, they do apologize, or to both our relief just try and change the subject.
However there are those who try and fail to salvage the situation:
Person: Uy! May baby ka na? (Do you have a baby yet?)
Me: (With a shrug) Wala pa eh. (No not yet)
Person: Bakit wala pa? (Why not yet?)
Me: (Sometimes I would explain, sometimes I would just say) Ganon talaga (That’s just how it is)
Person: Magkakaron din yan! (or) Darating din yan! (complete with thumbs-up assurance style gesture as if to say “trust me, I know.”)
Saying the phrases “Darating/Magkakaron din yan.” (It will happen/It will come) is the worst thing you can possibly say to a person who has yet to have kids. Because again other than God, their physician, and the two people who will actually procreate, you have no means to actually do anything about it or even know for sure if it is ever going to happen or not.
Because you are the least credible person to make such a cavalier prediction makes you seem like mocking either their choice of not wanting to have children, or if in cases that they are having a hard time conceiving for whatever form of reason, making fun of their difficult reality.
And with all due respect, just because it worked out well for you, doesn’t necessarily mean it can happen to others as well. Nor is it a bad thing if it doesn’t.
Some days when it really catches me in a bad mood, whenever they would say, we should be having kids because it’s such a great experience, or when we’re given the seal of assurance that it sure will come about, I often want to bite out with every bit of bitter sarcasm, “Requirement?!”. Which is the worst thing for me, because it always makes me feel that I let callous and unthoughtful people get the better of me, and that makes me worse than they are.
Think of it this way, what if we ran into each other one day and after saying hi I just blurt out,
“Ikaw kamusta mga utang mo? Nabayaran mo na ba?” (How are your debts? Have you paid all of them?).
If I did this, you would probably be blind-sided as to where the heck did that question come from? Because it is the same as asking someone whether they have kids or not. Your debts whether you have them or not, is none of my business. And I bet, that you would be uncomfortable in simply trying to explain the complexities of having them, why you haven’t been able to pay, and how you plan to pay them. Or where do you begin to say, that you are not the type of person to have debts?
And most important of all, asking about your debts doesn’t necessarily mean that I would be offering to help you pay them. I was simply trying to be “nice”, curious, and starting conversation.
This is why it is even more unnerving to be asked about the baby thing, because not only will you not be able to do anything about it, there is no way you could contribute in improving the situation.
In the beginning of this post I said that this is a weirdly sensitive topic. It feels weird because I am baffled as to why people like me who are eligible but yet to have kids are automatically put on the defensive, even if you don’t mean for them to feel that way, when asked why? And if you declare that you mind being asked you risk being called jealous or bitter, or in my case just really fed up with the insensitivity and manner of asking. But once you really think about it, we really don’t need to explain anything to anyone, and yet we forced to do so. To the point when articles and blog posts have to be written why it’s quite rude, not okay, why you shouldn’t ask someone why they don’t have kids.
When all it takes is just a bit of courteous respect, and not asking at all.