Friday, April 25, 2014

An alternative to "Do you have kids?"

*National Infertility Awareness Week 2014*
(For our story with infertility, read here.)

The question "do you have kids?" might seem innocent, but it can be a heart-wrenching one for couples struggling with infertility. Well-meaning people have asked this question of my husband and me many times, but our "no" answer seems to effectively end the conversation. "No" is not the answer most question-askers expect of a couple in their late 30s, and I suspect that it leaves them feeling as awkward as we do.

The main problem with "do you have kids?" is that assumes a "yes" or "no" response. A "yes" answer leads to all kinds of follow-up questions; it continues the conversation. A "no" answer, in my experience, usually leads to silence. And, frankly, the people asking this question are typically acquaintances, and thus not necessarily people that we want to open up to about our experience with infertility (at least not yet).

I'd like to propose an alternative that doesn't limit itself to a "yes" or "no" answer but still allows for relationship-building:

"Tell me about your family."

This statement is open-ended; couples with children will certainly share details about their progeny. But by not limiting the question specifically to kids, those without children (this might include single adults, couples who don't want kids, and/or LGBT couples, too) have the opportunity to provide a positive response. Some might talk about their parents, their pets, those friends who really are family, etc. Some might even say something along the lines of "oh, I'd rather not. They're quite crazy!"

No matter what the response, conversation can continue to flow.  Infertile couples don't have to provide a negative response, and the positive response can even remind us that our lives are defined by more than just our infertility.

So, next time you're tempted to ask someone if they have kids, try asking them to tell you about their family instead.