Why Its Not Okay to Lecture Strangers on Having Children

Last weekend, Jeff and I decided to go the local home show, see what there was to see, learn what we could learn. The convention center was lined with multiple rows of vendors selling everything from windows to beer making equipment. As we made our way through, stopping here and there to learn about energy, home building, and New York State wineries, we approached a vendor to learn more about water filtration. 

Not long into his sales pitch, he asked, “Do you have kids?” 

“No,” we answered, not thinking we had committed any grievous offense. 

With a disgusted look on his past-middle-aged face, “Why?!” he asked. 

“Because we don’t want kids right now,” I managed to respond without flipping my shit. 

And this guy, colorful language, and spit flying from his mouth, went off on us. Sternly lecturing on the importance of having children and why we should have as many as possible. How he would have had more than his three if only his wife had agreed, but of course—and these were his words—he wasn't the one pushin’ them out, as he proceeded to slap his belly and show us his interpretation of a woman giving birth. 

Now, I don’t disagree that children are a blessing. They are wonderful, imaginative little creatures capable of spreading joy with barely a giggle. As a thirty-year-old woman who has been married almost seven years, I am used to the children question from friends and family— when we think we might have them, etc. And although its really nobody’s business, I can handle the generally kind questions and prodding from family and friends, who are mostly just gushing over their love of babies. 

But strangers, crass salesmen at a freakin’ home show, asking why we don't have children and then lecturing us?! That I cannot tolerate. Maybe we don’t want children, maybe now isn’t the right time. This guy has no idea what our story or situation is. There are so many men and women who have struggled to have children, or cannot have children, or absolutely do not want to have children and yet society at large believes its okay to lecture and shame people.

Interestingly enough, later that evening as we continued our Netflix/House of Cards binge, there was a scene between Claire Underwood and the wife of a competing presidential candidate who was staying in the White House. As the wife’s children ran around them, playing, Claire remarked that they were adorable or something along those lines (I’m paraphrasing). The wife asked Claire, “Do you regret never having children”? Claire paused, produced one of her classic you've-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me stares before responding, “Do you regret having them?” 

When the question is turned around, it becomes clear how personal, insensitive, and frankly insulting it is to ask women (and men) about having or not having children. Not everyone wants to be a parent, not everyone can be a parent, and we certainly don't want to be dictated to about how, when, or if we decide to procreate. 

So please, dear strangers, have a little class and compassion.