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How to Respond to Your Family’s Annual Holiday Inquisition on Why You Don’t Have Kids
In a sketch on the most recent episode of “Saturday Night Live,” a pair of mature women (played by Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon) were filming a commercial for HomeGoods that required them to talk about what they want for Christmas.
They pull the usual, “oh, nothing, don’t go to any trouble,” until the commercial’s director, Casey HomeGoods (portrayed by Mr. Paul Rudd), eventually coaxes them into revealing their real answer to the question: Grandchildren. These ladies only want grandchildren for Christmas from their children of reproductive age.
Though hilarious, the skit hit a little too close to home for people who have been on the receiving end of family members’ questions about their lack of children. And, depending on a person’s individual circumstances, this inquisition can be anything from annoying and embarrassing, to infuriating and downright hurtful—especially for those who genuinely want to become parents, but for a variety of reasons, aren’t able to do so.
If you are someone tempted to ask another person about their reproductive choices, plans, or challenges: Don’t. Just don’t. No one owes you this information, including/especially at the dinner table on a holiday.
If you’re the one being interrogated, here are some strategies for responding to these questions, should when they arise at a family holiday gathering.
Politely let them know this topic is off-limits
First of all, you should know that you are not required to divulge information on this, or any topic if you don’t want to. But if you decide that it’s easier to say something in response to your family’s questions in order to get them to stop, you can kindly let them know that your reproductive/parenting situation is not up for conversation. If the questions continue, you can get up and walk away, or change the subject, knowing that you’ve already responded.
Turn to humor
Ah, humor: A classic coping mechanism. Depending on your family’s dynamic, this may be your quickest route out of the conversation. For example, when someone asks Israel Gaudette why he doesn’t have kids yet, his go-to response is “As soon as I figure it out how. Got any recommendations?” In a previous interview with Lifehacker, he said that as half of a couple with fertility issues, this is the best way for them “to add humor while politely responding to this touchy and painful question.”
But what if you’re not a particularly funny or quick-witted person? According to the Childfree Holiday Survival Guide—created by the team behind “My So-Called Selfish Life” (a new documentary on people who are childfree by choice)—you can always consult your funniest friends for ideas.
Let them know that your position hasn’t changed since the last time they asked
When family members (or anyone else, for that matter) have already asked you about your reproductive plans/situation and you’ve already provided them with an answer, simply let them know that your plans and/or situation hasn’t changed. And yes: This also counts for previously telling them that you’d prefer not to discuss this topic.
Of course, you didn’t owe them any type of response the first time(s) they asked, and you don’t now either, but sometimes providing some type of answer is sufficient. Or they’ll have enough self-awareness to drop the subject and move on.
If you’d like to learn more about why people feel the need (and think it’s appropriate) to ask others about their lack of children, this 2020 Lifehacker article provides a deeper dive into the subject—including more responses to the dreaded question.
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