I do often ask the question ‘Do you have children?’

By Nina Steele 

I am one of those people who takes a genuine interest in the lives of people I meet. I like to know everything about them (well, almost everything), and would often ask questions that others may find intrusive. One of the questions I ask quite often is ‘Do you have children?’. I didn’t think much of this, until I read Victoria Fryer’s article the other day.

I suppose I can see why it can be seen as an uncomfortable question, since as the article points out, it can be a difficult subject, particularly for people who are still grieving the fact that they are unable to conceive. Whenever I ask that question to people who happen to be childless and I detect a certain irritation, I am quick to tell them that I too am childless, and I can immediately see a look of relief on their faces.

In my experience, people who don’t have children, often find this question annoying because of the automatic assumption that the person asking it must have children, otherwise they wouldn’t bother asking.

The obvious reason why I ask the question is to see how many people are like me if you like. When you are in the minority, it is reassuring to know that there are others just like you out there, who have often been through many of the experiences that you have.

I sometimes see people and immediately, something about them will suggest to me that they are childless, and I am often spot on, although I have had a few instances, where my guess has been wide of the mark. I suppose, it is easy for me as a childless person to get away with asking other childless people whether or not they have children. I suspect that someone with children will not be so easily forgiven.

The other thing that I know from experience is that when you have come to terms with not having children of your own, being asked that question no longer matters. In fact, I like it when people ask me whether or not I have children, because it gives me the chance to tell them how well we are getting on with our life. People are often taken aback by my enthusiasm. They generally expect a childless by circumstance person to be sad and bitter about their life.

Do you mind being asked whether or not you have children?

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