Last week, Singletude reader Ami was in search of memorable replies to singlist questions. With the help of other readers, Singletude offered some possible answers to one of those questions in "Advice Q&A: How to Answer "Why Are You Single?" Suggested replies ranged from informative to tactful to (hopefully) funny. (If you have other ideas, it's not too late to add them to the comments!)
Ami also asked about how to answer those folks who think just because they know, courtesy of Twitter, what half the world is planning for the weekend, they also have the right to know what you're planning for your womb (or someone else's womb if you're a guy).
Q: The following are questions people ask me frequently. I would love to have some better, newer answers. Any and all suggestions appreciated.
2. "Do you have children?" I used to say a simple "no" and leave it at that. But, I adore children, and I sensed some parents were a bit offended. Lately I say, "No, I just have doggie-kids. I love my dogs. I have lots of nieces and nephews, though. I just love being an aunt." Or, if I know the person is single and childless, I simply say no. That one isn't too bad. But parents tend to ask part two of that question, which is...
A: It's understandable that this question makes you feel defensive. Asking why you don't have something implies that you should have it, that you are not the norm if you don't. That is rude and offensive. Beyond this judgmental implication, the question is also impolite because the decision to have children is such a private one. Finally, magnifying the insensitivity to the nth degree, this question rubs salt in the big, gaping wound of anyone who wants kids but, for one reason or another, can't have them.
As with questions about why you're single, the question of why you're child-free presents an opportunity to broaden your interrogator's mind and help him or her understand that parenting is not for everyone. Just like married couples who don't get why some singles wouldn't want to have the pleasure of living on top of someone else 24/7, some parents can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to wipe snotty little noses and drooly little mouths as a prelude to morning coffee. Or, worse, they equate this lack of interest with a fatal character flaw like selfishness, egotism, intolerance, or--the very worst of all--an irrational hatred of cute, cuddly poo factories.
Seriously, though, there are plenty of singles who like kids just fine but don't want to raise them or simply don't want to raise them alone. That's a valid reason not to have a baby and one that other people should be expected to accept. As you noticed, though, sometimes parents bristle because they misinterpret a choice not to parent as a judgment on them for choosing parenthood or even a judgment on their children. So, if you want to explain your decision to a parent, it's good to phrase it in a diplomatic way that makes it clear you're not condemning their lifestyle. For example, you might say, "I love kids and spoil my nieces and nephews rotten, but I don't have any myself. I admire people who take on that commitment. It's such an important job. But I've always felt driven to dedicate myself to (fill in the blank with some of the pursuits you love). I believe that's the best way I can give of myself."
However, questions about your childbearing plans, even more than questions about your marital status, are highly personal, and you certainly don't owe anyone an answer, no matter how innocent their intentions. On the contrary, since this line of questioning can be embarrassing and even painful, it makes sense if you'd rather discourage it entirely. So...bring on the one-liners!
Significantly, I think, a Google search revealed few sources that address how a single woman might answer "Why don't you have kids?" So, some of the following web pages were intended for infertile or childless couples. Nevertheless, most of the responses are adaptable and span the gamut from, as you said, polite to vague to witty and sarcastic. Feel free to look them over:
"Great Comebacks for Questions and Criticisms for Not Wanting Kids"
"How Do I Answer the Following 'Rude' Questions?"
"No Kids? There's Gotta Be a Snappy Comeback"
"When Are You Going to Have Kids?"
Some other comebacks I've heard or thought of over the years:
"That's not what life had in store for me."
"Some people don't. Guess I'm one of them."
"I used to ask myself that question. Now I know the answer. I made the best choice for me."
"I wanted to save them from a lifetime of therapy."
"My therapist tells me I should kick the drug habit first."
"Because I wouldn't force my worst enemy to relive my adolescence, much less my own child."
"I can't even feed myself three square meals a day!"
"I used up my maternal instinct on my dogs/cats."
"I don't? Oh, no! I must've left them at the mall/the doctor's/McDonald's/etc.
"Kids? What a great idea! I'll pencil that in between my hour-long commute and 10-hour workday...or before my Wednesday night class...or after my weekly co-op board meeting...or maybe on Saturdays after the soup kitchen."
"As you can see, mom jeans just aren't 'me.'"
"I consider it my own contribution to carbon reduction."
"Because I really like sex."
"Because I know how to use birth control responsibly."
"Because I don't believe in 'accidents.'"
"Why, are you volunteering free childcare?"
"Why don't you ask my ex?"
"I did." (meaningful silence)
"Not everyone has that option."
"Because I've been waiting to see how yours turned out first!"
When we return to "Singletude Q&A," we'll brainstorm some more creative answers to matrimaniacal questions, so keep your thinking caps on!
If you're a child-free single and feel comfortable sharing, do you hope to be a parent someday? If you're child-free by choice, how did you reach the decision not to have kids? How would you advise Ami to answer people who ask, "Why don't you have children?" Can you think of any witty one-liners?
Fun Link of the Day
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Disclaimer: Clever Elsie is not a licensed mental health professional and does not give professional advice. Her answers are based on experience and what she hopes is more common sense than displayed by her eponymous Grimm Brothers character. She cannot be held legally responsible for your choice to follow her advice, although she thanks you for thinking it clever.
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