Welcome to “Ask Ada,” a weekly series in which we answer all those burning questions you’d rather not share aloud. Buckle up for some brutally honest advice! Today, we hear how to get nagging elders off our backs when we say we don’t want children.
I’m a young woman who doesn’t want kids. I don’t have any medical issues or weird sex hang-ups; I just don’t want to have any. People keep telling me that I’ll change my mind, though. I am so sick of other people voicing their opinions about my decisions, and the worst part is, I can’t even properly get mad at them. How do I get these people to stop sharing how they feel? Is there anything I can do to handle this situation gracefully?
Your parents, relatives, and doctors are being really f*cking weird about your choices and should really lay off. Why should you handle any of this gracefully? Get mad. As a matter of fact, get as mad as you want!
I know it’s hard to know what to do here. After all, these people are just trying to be helpful! Why, your parents are just a sweet old pair longing for grandchildren. Can you begrudge them this little hope? They’ve lived for so long! Besides, what harm would having a child cause?
Look, I’m not starting a class war here, but I will say this: There is a group of women for whom pregnancy poses relatively little risk, either because they can afford good care or because their privilege earns them medical professionals’ benevolence. These women’s pregnancies are seen as natural, nay, desired in our society. Everyone else – the poor, the sick, the gay – should keep their legs closed, and if they die from an entirely preventable condition, that’s their own damn fault.
Forgive the digression, Bio-clock-broke, but it is relevant to your question. Right now, you’re gaslighting yourself. At a time when nearly everyone assaults our reproductive freedoms, you are telling yourself that this micro-aggression isn’t worth getting angry about.
I’m telling you, it is.
Here’s what “You’ll change your mind about children” means:
You silly goose, of course you will change your mind! You know that we deserve to be grandparents and that you will do your duty to us like the good girl you are. It’s not like you have other accomplishments, hopes, or dreams! The pinnacle of your existence is to produce a cute little grandbaby whom we will spoil and you will do all the hard work of raising. And if you happen to be gay, transgender, or disabled, we will mourn the loss of these children until we are old and senile, and you are forced to wipe our asses because your ‘normal’ siblings have ‘real’ families.
OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating. I don’t even know if you have siblings.
Regardless, this whole insinuation is still pretty insulting.
The bad news is that you can’t really make all these people stop. You can point out how racist, ableist, transphobic, and misogynistic they all sound, and they will just wave you off as a “special snowflake.” You could also try to explain how you feel, and they will likely argue with you until you are too tired to respond. Finally, you can hang up on them, but they will complain about what a jerk you’re being to your extended family until they pressure you to respond.
The good news is, you don’t have to engage at all. The next time that someone tells you that you’ll change your mind about children, say, “Sure.” The trick is to be non-committal and very, very boring. People want to tell you how you feel? Sure. People want to tell you that you’re wrong? Sure. Give them nothing, and save your energy. Get your message across by living your awesome life and finding friends and partners who share your values.
Your parents will know that you are serious when those grandbabies don’t materialise.
They’ll feel how they want to feel about it, but their feelings are not your responsibility.
Yours, in solidarity,
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