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Good answer for the question "When are you going to have children?"
September 11, 2006 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Snappy comebacks, please, for the question: so, when are you going to have children?

Honest answer: I have no idea—maybe never. Believe me, no one likes this answer and it rarely goes unchallenged. I have no desire to discuss it with anyone, but it's not a question of infertility or anything like that.

My best answer so far is: well, we're waiting to see how yours turn out before we decide.

Possibly relevant details: I'm married, female, and starting to get toward the age where people are wondering if I'm EVER going to do it.

I don't want to be rude to people, though it's hard to imagine a ruder question, really. I'd love to get away with a funny answer that makes them laugh but still realize how incredibly intrusive and none-of-their-business that question is.
posted by chippie to Human Relations (87 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
"As soon as they're worth more on the black market."
posted by Nematoda at 7:45 PM on September 11, 2006 [5 favorites]


"Never. Maybe I'll adopt. There are literally millions of unwanted children in this world and to bring any people more into the world is probably the most irresponsible thing I can possibly imagine doing, socially, economically, and environmentally. The only possible reason for spawning more humans - propogating your genetics - is nothing, and I mean nothing, besides pure, unadulterated vanity.

So how are your kids?"
posted by ChasFile at 7:46 PM on September 11, 2006 [10 favorites]


"Why do you want to know?"

This is my standard answer for all nosy questions. I promise it works every time: the rude person doesn't have a good reason and will be ashamed into silence.
posted by Violet Hour at 7:46 PM on September 11, 2006 [8 favorites]


"As soon as I figure out how."
posted by Wet Spot at 7:47 PM on September 11, 2006 [12 favorites]


"I'm waiting to meet Mr. Right."
posted by hermitosis at 7:49 PM on September 11, 2006


I like "As soon as I figure out how" -- maybe add, "Any tips, suggestions, or favorite positions?"
posted by occhiblu at 7:50 PM on September 11, 2006


My standard response to questions like that is to make up something so horrific that they'll never ask the question again (so long as they aren't someone I have to deal with regularly). Say it sadly, look off into the distance, and hopefully shame will take care of the rest. It's more suited to nosy people at parties and telemarketers, but hopefully you can spare their next potential victims, who might be quite a bit more sensitive about the topic than you are, some pain. If you're funny about it, people will assume that it's "okay."

I'd suggest something really insensitive, but, yeah, it'd be mean. In my case, I really can't have kids.
posted by adipocere at 7:56 PM on September 11, 2006


"When they come with a guarantee."
posted by trip and a half at 7:58 PM on September 11, 2006


"I'm part of the The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement."
posted by Nematoda at 8:01 PM on September 11, 2006


"Well, I can't find my cookbook ..."

"Well, I would, but how how am I gonna tell the kids that Mommy and Daddy and the Little Blue Pills love them very much?"
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:01 PM on September 11, 2006


To adipocere: tell me your mean comeback. I would love to spare you the pain that these dumb folks would otherwise inflict on you.

To all: ideally my answer wouldn't imply a hatred of children. But you're making me laugh!
posted by chippie at 8:02 PM on September 11, 2006


"Right after I kick this habit I have for the wicked powerful painkillers they dish out after an abortion."

... or ...

"Just as soon as I can ... stop ... miscarrying them." Then choke back a sob.
posted by adipocere at 8:07 PM on September 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


"What? I hardly know you!"
posted by 4ster at 8:11 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Hubby and I will consider having children when everyone else in the country who wants to give birth is legally able to."
posted by evariste at 8:14 PM on September 11, 2006


"When cannibalism is legalized...." *licks lips*

"When I can be sure of doing a better job of teaching manners than your parents."
posted by fuzzbean at 8:21 PM on September 11, 2006 [4 favorites]


"When I can check them back in to the warehouse at the end of the day."
posted by pdb at 8:21 PM on September 11, 2006


"There are thousands of couples, desperate to have a child, who struggle with infertility, mostly in silence. Every time they see smiling mommies at the playground, or go to a baby shower, it's a traumatic experience -- reminding them of the joy that they can't have.

I'm not going to tell you whether we're one of those couples or not, because it's not your business. I'm just going to tell you how hurtful your well-intentioned question is to someone who is.

Please don't ask me, or anyone else, again."
posted by toxic at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2006 [8 favorites]


when are you *not* going to have children?
posted by petsounds at 8:24 PM on September 11, 2006


After we stop practicing.

Why, are you selling some?

When I grow up.
(that was NOT meant as an insult)

Been saving up to buy a dozen.

When? Oh about when I'm 56 or so.

What? And give up alcohol(or drug of your choice) for a year or more?!
posted by edgeways at 8:24 PM on September 11, 2006


Wow, adipocere, good ones.

I'm hoping for funny as in "ha ha, I guess I shouldn't have asked that question," not funny as a way to reward them for asking the question.

I could maybe get away with, "(sigh) If only I were assured of getting one as perfect as your little Britney." Laughter would be shared later with husband at home, but I guess no lesson would be learned by rude person.
posted by chippie at 8:25 PM on September 11, 2006


I'm with Violet Hour; I put on a mild smile, tilt my head, and ask pleasantly "Why do you ask?"

I'm often treated to a delightful shift in expressions, from confusion to surprise to (sometimes) embarrassment that they've stepped so far over the boundary. The good-humored often laugh at themselves.

Once in a while, someone gets angry at my question. Yes, at "Why do you ask?"

It's not a disingenuous question, either. I genuinely want to know why they have asked. From an acquaintance, it's a very personal question and might suggest he or she wants to escalate the friendship.

From one of my close friends or family members, it's a reasonable curiosity (to me, at least), but the question itself lacks nuance. It would be more to the point to ask "Have you and the fella talked about kids?" or "Do you worry about fertility at your age?" or "Do you regret not having kids?"

Years ago, just after my partner died, someone who didn't know me well enough to know of my bereavement (but evidently thought she knew me well enough to inquire about my plans to reproduce) asked me when I was finally going to buckle down and have some kids. I burst out crying.

I'd wager she hasn't asked that question much in the last decade.
posted by Elsa at 8:26 PM on September 11, 2006


"Just as soon as you learn to mind your own business."
posted by scody at 8:26 PM on September 11, 2006


"Why? Are you finally sick of talking about yours?"

"As soon as yours die."

"When God finds a way to undo tubal ligation."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:26 PM on September 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


"Not for at least another nine months."

"Just as soon as I can direct some sperm to my eggs. Trouble is, it just tastes too damn good."
posted by flarbuse at 8:29 PM on September 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


"I had 2 this morning, they were delicious!"
posted by mattholomew at 8:31 PM on September 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


I'm usually in the "Why do you ask?" camp of gentle table-turning. Works great when people genuinely don't realize they've asked something rude. But I'm almost positive that had I used that with some of these people they would have said, "Because you're getting kind of old." Or maybe "Because you've been married a long time."

My aim is to abruptly stop the line of questioning. Now I'm liking the reply: You know, I think I'm ovulating right this second! Gotta run! (Then grab my husband's arm and get the h out of there.)
posted by chippie at 8:35 PM on September 11, 2006


"As soon as the house is paid off" works for us.
posted by pompomtom at 8:37 PM on September 11, 2006


Just look really sad and stricken and say "I can't, not after the accident... Oh, shit, I'm sorry, I thought I was over this..." and then quickly go to the bathroom to pretend to cry.

For added effect, have your boyfriend/husband/whatever escort an obviously-shaken-up you out the front door, shooting dirty glances at whoever asked you.

That'll larn 'em.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 PM on September 11, 2006


"Oh you know, whenever. Unlike other couples, we like to march to our own beat, so when the timing's right, we'll know it for sure. Until then, no rush."
posted by invisible ink at 8:40 PM on September 11, 2006


When I'm ready to give up ever improving myself or achieving something great. When I get there, I'll be just like you and probably thinking of getting pregnant, but thanks for asking!
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:43 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


... they would have said, "Because you're getting kind of old." Or maybe "Because you've been married a long time."

Yeah, and I answer "You're getting long in the tooth, there, girlie!" with the same mild smile, tilted head, and a cheerful "Oh... thanks for your advice." Most people get it.

To be fair, my sister-in-law recently pointed out that I have a sort of wide-eyed quality that lets me get away with things like this. YMMV.

But so far nothing has beaten the sobbing. That was a winner.
posted by Elsa at 8:44 PM on September 11, 2006


"I won't need a new kidney for a coupla years yet."
"I have all the children I want...in Thailand."
"Why, you lookin' to buy?"
"We're trying to give up meat."
"I just set fire to half my paycheck every week and set the alarm for 1 am, 3 am and 5 am. It's cheaper than kids and I get more sleep."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:46 PM on September 11, 2006 [4 favorites]


Miss Manners recommends a frosty look plus "One never knows, does one?"

Or "only time will tell".
So far, of the above, I'm voting for "Why, are you selling some?"
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:50 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Elsa, I've never been described as wide-eyed. I'm just a touch too smartassed to get away with that, I think. It's a credit to you that you can pull it off. Also, I'm sorry about the horrible situation you went through. I hope that woman learned her lesson.

Also? What kind of answer are people expecting, anyway? Do they honestly want to hear that people are "trying"? Ewww.
posted by chippie at 8:52 PM on September 11, 2006


"As soon as I get a van with no windows."
posted by Marky at 8:54 PM on September 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


My favorite answers:
"Never, I think." [looking thoughtful] "Yes, never."

"Why, is there a shortage?"

"Excuse me?" (if necessary, I follow this one with an incredulous "Why are you interested in that?" And if the person blithely persists past that I read the situation back--"You noticed I never talk about it. And you thought you should ask. I see."--and then change the subject or find an excuse to leave.)
posted by Tuwa at 8:57 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Table turning better than funny: "Why, I don't know, what do you think?"
posted by scheptech at 9:01 PM on September 11, 2006


"As soon as the husband gets over his fetish for 'backdoor' lovin. If you know what I mean."
posted by filmgeek at 9:06 PM on September 11, 2006


"Well, you see, I'm not planning on having any children because the technology's nealry here, and when it arrives, I shall clone myself."

Then, smile, and look wistfully off into the distance.
posted by furiousthought at 9:07 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


`About nine months after conception'.
posted by tomble at 9:22 PM on September 11, 2006 [3 favorites]


Or...

"So, when are you planning to have kids?"

(looking absolutely horrified) "I... I'm sorry... What did you just say?!"

"I asked.. um.. when you were planning to have kids"

(Slightly stunned yet awash with relief) "Oh! Oh.. wow. I'm sorry, I thought you said something else then, and I was kind of shocked"

Then NEVER disclose what you thought they said.

This works in all sorts of situations.
posted by tomble at 9:29 PM on September 11, 2006 [5 favorites]


I actually saw this in real life and it was brilliant: clench up your face for moment as if struggling with constipation, raise a finger as if being disturbed while on the phone, and say "Hang on... uh, nope, not yet."
posted by dong_resin at 9:37 PM on September 11, 2006 [6 favorites]


"I can't bear children." Say it so they don't quite know which way you mean it.


Or there's always, "When are you going to have manners?"
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:40 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I just say, "Oh, I can't bear children."
posted by bink at 9:43 PM on September 11, 2006


"i don't know" ... *gets out cell phone* ... "let me call my husband and see if he knows"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:51 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


"5:32 am, October 17th, 2013"
posted by winston at 9:54 PM on September 11, 2006


"Have children? With today's diets? You're insane. Beef is much healthier."
posted by Malor at 9:54 PM on September 11, 2006


"When are you going to have children?"

"I guess I never considered it. Are they that good in the sack?"

"When are you going to have children?"

"Jesus. I gotta cut back on the ice cream."
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:58 PM on September 11, 2006


"When our long national nightmare known as George W. Bush is but a faded memory." Then set fire to a flag.
posted by Futurehouse at 8:26 AM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


I always just tell people that I "shoot blanks". It might not work if you're not the shooter. Or it might work better, depending on your delivery.
posted by jmevius at 8:40 AM on September 12, 2006


"I can't have my own children, men hate me, and I can't afford the kind you pay for."
posted by jessamyn at 8:50 AM on September 12, 2006


Another Miss Manners answer:

"When are you going to have children?"
"How soon do you need to know?"
(have used that, it works)
posted by plinth at 9:11 AM on September 12, 2006 [6 favorites]


If you give an asshole response, the person you're saying it to will just write you off as an asshole and ignore you. They might back down from asking you right then, but they won't have learned anything.

I like toxic's suggestion:
"There are thousands of couples, desperate to have a child, who struggle with infertility, mostly in silence. Every time they see smiling mommies at the playground, or go to a baby shower, it's a traumatic experience -- reminding them of the joy that they can't have.

I'm not going to tell you whether we're one of those couples or not, because it's not your business. I'm just going to tell you how hurtful your well-intentioned question is to someone who is.

Please don't ask me, or anyone else, again."
This will get them to actually think about the rudeness of what they're doing.
posted by raedyn at 9:14 AM on September 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


"The jerk store called, they're running out of you!"
posted by tfmm at 9:16 AM on September 12, 2006


"When social services give me permission again"

"Every time I get asked this question I put it back another year"
posted by knapah at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2006


There's clearly two categories of people here who ask that question - people you know (and who know you) and people who don't.

The sarcastic, mean answers are pretty good for most people you'll never have to deal with again, not so much with some elderly relative ( maybe you want to joke about cannibalism with your elderly in-laws. Me? Not so much... )

So far, it looks like Miss Manner's are the best for the people you do know, who just happened to get nosy. Like in-laws, relatives, whatever. If there are more family-appropriate ones, bring 'em on.
posted by canine epigram at 9:21 AM on September 12, 2006


How about, "If you want to know how often we have sex, you can just ask. You don't have to be coy about it."
posted by el-gregorio at 9:22 AM on September 12, 2006 [3 favorites]


...clench up your face for moment as if struggling with constipation, raise a finger as if being disturbed while on the phone, and say "Hang on... uh, nope, not yet." -- dong_resin

I find this approach works particularly well because people ask me (a male) when I will have kids. So it works for everyone.
posted by maxpower at 9:24 AM on September 12, 2006


It would be really funny to pretend to be the husband from Catch 22 who didn't know how babies were made. He went to the doctor and asked, and then came back a few days later and punched the doctor in the face for being a wise guy.

So you could pull your questioner off to the side and tell them the story of this pervy doctor you had to deal with.

Or just tell them you have a sham marriage to cover up your scandalous sexual habits.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:26 AM on September 12, 2006


"When I'm blessed by His Noodly Appendage."
posted by Durin's Bane at 9:29 AM on September 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


'I'm sorry, but if I told you,.... I'd have to kill you.'
posted by maxpower at 9:30 AM on September 12, 2006


"We're trying tonight if you MUST know!"
posted by knapah at 9:45 AM on September 12, 2006



My standard (male) response is 'It's not really up to me. I don't have the womb.' Works for all people and the womb/room pun keeps it light.
An occasional alternative is 'I love kids but hate parents. I'm sacred of what I'll become.'
posted by i_cola at 9:45 AM on September 12, 2006


"When people stop bugging me about it."

Most people are well-intentioned and it's a conversation starter/recharger. I get the same questions about getting married and I usually say, "oh, you know, someday. We're happy right now and because of XYZ, it doesn't make sense to/we don't want to/there's no reason to at this point." It's not snappy but might work.

I also tell people that I'm waiting for everyone else to do it now and get it over with so that when/if I do it later on down the road, I will be the big star since there won't have been a wedding/baby in so long. I also tell them I'll get more/better gifts that way. That one usually shuts them up since they can't tell if I'm joking or serious. :)
posted by ml98tu at 9:47 AM on September 12, 2006


"What's children?"
posted by Durhey at 9:49 AM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


i have a whole page about this with lots of good links.

it is a really, really rude question.
posted by sdn at 10:04 AM on September 12, 2006


Have children? What do you think I am, a pedophile?
or
When I stop being hassled by social conformists.
or
Well, I don’t have any children - that I know of.
(works well ‘cause you’re a woman)
posted by Smedleyman at 10:07 AM on September 12, 2006


"Oh no thank you, I'm still full from dinner." (to riff on the earlier cannibalism bit)

I don't usually respond to rude questions like this at all - I just keep looking at them and smiling, in silence. Sometimes the reality of their impertinence comes to them, sometimes they re-ask or ask if I heard, at which point I say something along the lines of "Wow, I was so sure that I'd misheard and that you hadn't actually asked me that."

Then I either walk away or start talking about something completely unrelated.

On a few occasions when I've been in a more generous (drunk) mood I've just completely ignored the question and kept on talking about something else. I don't want to be rude to anyone in return but I feel zero need to provide levity and/or perfect ease in response to rude noseyness.
posted by phearlez at 10:28 AM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Say: "Already have one," and point to husband.

"When you offer to come over every day to change the diapers."

"As soon as we're ready - you'll be the third to know."

"Probably sometime in the next 50 years."

"When genetic engineering becomes more advanced."

"As soon as Johnny Depp offers to sleep with me."
posted by epimorph at 10:30 AM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Hopefully a couple of years before I need that transplant."
posted by callmejay at 10:46 AM on September 12, 2006


Along the same lines as ml98tu, the more patient answer is of course "Ah well, we're just not sure yet" or "You know, there are a few things we have to work out before then". But this only works if you can then very firmly change the subject. If you don't, the nosy person will take it as a cue to discuss what aspects you're not sure about.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:16 AM on September 12, 2006


it is a really, really rude question.

Amen.

No matter the reason why people don't want or can't have kids, the question is just rude.

I wanted kids, can't have them. I've been married almost 8 years. So, of course I get asked this all the time. I'm blunt now. "I can't have kids and I do not wish to discuss this."

I say that to everyone who asks. I don't care if it is a relative or a stranger. Hopefully, the people who ask me, will not ask someone else who is dealing with the same thing.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:57 AM on September 12, 2006


I can imagine a ruder question. It is "When's the baby due?" when you're not pregnant but just getting lax with the crunches because you'd rather sit on your butt and watch HBO. Not that that's happened to me (this week).

For the topic of "When are you gonna.." I've found that the people clueless enough to ask you that will be more than clueless enough to repeatedly toss your snappy response back in your face if you become visibly pregnant. For the record, it's even more annoying the second time and will make you feel stupid while they feel vindicated (ugh. and why, I don't know. Your decision has nothing to do with them and yet The Clueless always act as if it is).

My now standard response to questions I find intrusive is a small shrug and silence. Let the silence expand to vast gulfs of emptiness. Repeat as necessary until the topic changes. There's not much The Clueless can do with that.
posted by jamaro at 12:06 PM on September 12, 2006


"When are you going to have children?"
When are you going to stop asking questions about things that are none of your business?

"When are you going to have children?"
Tomorrow.
posted by geeky at 12:30 PM on September 12, 2006


It's going to get worse when you're "too old to start a family." They'll be asking, "Why didn't you have children?"

You can't simultaneously make 'em laugh and make 'em realize they're asking too personal a question. I tried from the day I got married till I was 43 or so.

If there were other people there, I would usually end up making a joke or just saying "No plans at the moment," and changing the subject. But if I was alone with the asker, I'd give a thoughtful pause and say kindly, "Well, the answer to that is a little bit personal." Some people got slightly flustered, but they recovered quickly. I guess it worked because it was true, and because they didn't infer that I was faulting them for asking. At any rate, none of them ever asked me again.
posted by wryly at 1:08 PM on September 12, 2006


Let me just say that
"Every time someone asks me that I put it off another year" has got to be the best responses so far, if only for the guilt content of the person asking not knowing if you're actually serious or not.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:59 PM on September 12, 2006


Since most of the people asking me this question are related to me, I've been going with the relatively mild (and non-specific) "when we're ready." There is really no reply they can make to this.

Should a relative stranger ever ask me this, I plan to summon my drama skills, make my eyes well up with tears, and burst out "we've been trying!" and rush off (hopefully causing said person to never ask anyone again). However, no one I feel I could do this to has asked yet.
posted by timepiece at 2:47 PM on September 12, 2006


Toxic's answer is great. You could also try just replying with "How much money do you make, and how much does your spouse weigh?" I find myself using that as a reply often when people ask things that are none of their business.
posted by anildash at 2:57 PM on September 12, 2006


"Well, the answer to that is a little bit personal."

That is a VERY good response, wryly, and I might add a "and I'd rather not discuss it" to hammer home the point.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:33 PM on September 12, 2006


Glance around a bit to see who is watching / listening. Then:

"Its not in my nature to be mysterious, but I can't talk about it and I can't tell you why."

- its from ocean's 12
posted by maxpower at 5:59 PM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Not while Michael Jackson is at large."

- Or -

Pretend to take your temperature, loudly announce, "Actually, I'm ovulating RIGHT NOW! Hone,y GET OVER HERE!" and start disrobing. That'll get the party started.
posted by mikewas at 6:42 PM on September 12, 2006


obiwanwasabi's "You lookin' to buy?" is my fave so far.

Another thought: "My biological clock is analog. You try to read it."
posted by rob511 at 7:36 PM on September 12, 2006


"I'm not sure anymore. I had one last week and I don't think it's for me."
posted by Foam Pants at 9:03 PM on September 12, 2006


Along the same lines as "Every time someone asks me that I put it off another year" - I always say "Five years after the last person asks me that question." Most people see I'm being snarky (a winning smile keeps it from being snide) but occasionally someone interprets it as meaning I have an actual five-year plan, which is hilarious.
posted by jessicapierce at 10:38 AM on September 17, 2006


"When I decide if I even WANT them"
posted by electric_bonzai at 11:33 AM on July 2, 2007


"Once in a while, someone gets angry at my question. Yes, at "Why do you ask?"



Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!! What did they say?
posted by electric_bonzai at 11:41 AM on July 2, 2007


I think Dear Abby recommended saying, "I know you didn't mean to ask me such a personal question." Followed by an immediate segue into another topic of discussion.

Miss Manners gives similar advice apparently.

Most people I just tell them I got a vasectomy. However, I'm not telling my grandmother that, and she persistently asks me (less so now than she used to). She also hints not very subtly that I'm missing out. My wife and I have concocted a plan to tell her we are going to adopt an African child from an AIDS orphanage if she asks again. Sadly, this will horrify her (and is not true).
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:36 PM on July 2, 2007


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