“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.
Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.
This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.
Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.
The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”
I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.
This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.
So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.
The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.
1) There are many different paths to happiness
Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.
For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,
“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah
Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.
There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.
- Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.
- Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.
- Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.
And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.
Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.
2) You may well cause hurt and pain
Secondly, you never know what others are going through.
Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,
- Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.
- The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.
- Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.
For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.
And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.
While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,
“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”
3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids
Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.
Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.
Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.
Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.
And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.
4) Some couples could still be thinking
And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.
For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.
For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.
Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.
“So, when are you having kids?”
“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”
It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.
It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.
The decision to have kids
Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.
It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.
Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.
It will be the couple.
And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violence, abuse, and anger.
We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,
“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”
Stop asking couples when they’re having kids
So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.
The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.
If they don’t have kids, it’s either because
- they really don’t want kids,
- they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
- they want kids but they are facing some struggles.
For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”
The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.
Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.
If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.
Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.
For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.
In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂
By Leo Babauta
Contemplating on how I want to live recently, I became clear in the last few months that I needed to create more space in my life.
My life is full, which is a wonderful thing — I have lots of people in my life who care about me, want to spend time with me, want to work with me. Amazing!
And yet, it’s become clear to me that in order to show up fully for everyone I’m serving … I need to also have space to replenish. To fill up my tank.
So I set out to create that space.
Here’s how it looks for me at the moment:
- I’m taking Decembers and Junes off, mostly: I had to talk with all of my clients and shift my programs so that I could do this, but it’s happening! It also means I did a bunch of writing ahead of time. I am still doing some work, including creating a new course and setting intentions for 2021, but I’m not doing client calls, webinars or meetings. This month is the first time I’ve ever taken off a full month!
- I cleared Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays: I used to have meetings on Fridays and Saturdays, but now I keep those days clear. I still do some work, but it’s much more spacious and I can take the days completely off if I feel like it.
- I’m leaving the other days more spacious as well: I only do about 3 calls a day (down from 5-6 calls a day at my peak) and I don’t block off every hour anymore, so that I can have a greater sense of spaciousness.
What do I do in those spaces?
Anything I feel like!
Here are some of my more common ways to use the space:
- Head out to nature & spend some time in solitude
- Listen to a podcast
- Read with my kids
- Hang with my wife
- Call my mom, grandma or siblings to catch up
- Read a book
- Reflect on bigger picture stuff
- Take care of chores
- Write a book about my grandmother
- Or do whatever work I feel like
I’ve found that this kind of space is incredibly nurturing, replenishing, life-giving. And so few of us take it for ourselves.
I know that not everyone has this kind of freedom, and I am grateful that I can do it. But I challenge you to see where you’re cutting this possibility off for yourself, and see if you could create it. It might take a few months to create, but if you stand for this possibility for yourself, you might surprise yourself.
As you socialize with men, you might try to figure out who’s romantically interested in you. “What are the obvious signs that a guy likes you?” you might ask yourself. The answer is multifaceted, but jealousy can definitely mean that he desires you intensely. His jealous actions reveal that he wants to chase away rivals …
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott
Have you been doomscrolling at night, feeling overwhelmed by the news and everything that’s going on in the world? Even if it’s not that deep for you, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of endless scrolling due to boredom or procrastination.
Many of us are craving a way back into simpler times when technology didn’t rule our lives. The only problem is that unplugging might leave you feeling disconnected. Especially right now when many of us can’t see our friends and family, wanting to go offline might make you feel like an outsider.
The truth is that we all need healthy time away from social media and the internet. Ultimately, we need to figure out what we want to plug into instead. In this post, I’m sharing tips for how to unplug without feeling isolated or left out.
The Effects of Staying Plugged In
Plugging in affects your mindset
The internet can inspire you, help you make connections, and allow you to document your life to look back on someday. But it can also mess with your mindset and make you forget what real life looks like.
Being plugged in all the time has given us all a weird sense of reality. People now seem to post things for the sake of keeping up with an algorithm, rather than sharing what’s actually happening in their lives.
I often feel pressured to share my own life on social media, yet I struggle with this because I’m quite a private person. Sometimes I wonder if people from high school have forgotten about who I am because I’m never posting on social media. But then I think, ‘Who really cares?’ I’m not here to impress anybody.
I’m part of the generation that knows what things were like before social media, yet I’ve also grown up with it being a big part of my life. I remember having to wait until I got home from school so I could check Myspace and re-arrange my top 8. There was no way to check things on my phone back then. Distractions from social media didn’t even exist, and it didn’t have the same effect as it does now on my mindset.
Plugging in keeps you charged
Staying plugged in might be a way to keep ourselves charged in some way. We feel charged when we get likes from others, when we’re in on the latest drama, and when we learn new information. But is that the kind of charge we really need?
Being online all the time puts us at risk of living our entire lives through screens. You might think you’re close to other people (especially influencers and celebrities) because you follow their daily lives, but you don’t really know them. This can make you forget about what’s actually happening beyond the screens.
Though I’m conflicted in my thoughts on social media and the internet, I am certain that being mindful of the way you use them is the best way to approach things.
How To Unplug When You Need A Break
Awareness is key to making changes. If you can find healthy boundaries and set intentions with the time you spend online, you can make sure you don’t lose a sense of yourself. Here are my favorite tips and examples of ways to unplug:
1. Address your mindset
Wanting to unplug can make you feel like an outsider. When your friends are always on social media and don’t seem to notice their addiction to it, you might feel weird for not being as into it.
You might also start to create stories in your mind because you’re not as active on social media as others are. For example, I’m usually the last to respond in a group chat because I don’t have notifications on my phone.
Sometimes I worry my friends are going to think I don’t want to talk to them. This is a story I create in my mind. Can you imagine if my friends of ten years stopped talking to me because I was late to respond in the group chat? If they did, they weren’t my friends to begin with.
Some things to think about:
- What are you afraid of missing out on if you unplug?
- Do you fear that people will forget about you?
- Do you worry you’ll offend other people because you didn’t react to the meme you sent them?
- Will people not want to work with you because you didn’t respond to their DM?
Notice when these fears creep up. Question whether it’s part of a story you’re creating in your mind. When you realize these fears aren’t warranted, you can begin to let go of them.
Related Post: 5 Daily Habits For A Healthy Mindset
2. Set boundaries & intentions
Most of us can’t unplug from the world completely (and we don’t really want to). In that sense, it’s better to focus on being intentional with how you use technology, rather than trying to remove it from your life.
Here are some things to think about:
- What do you use different apps for? Is Facebook for connecting with family? YouTube for entertainment? Pinterest for inspiration?
- What do you WANT to use different apps for? If you can create separation between platforms, you can better avoid endless scrolling when you’re bored or frustrated. For example, if you’re in need of a mood-booster, you’ll know to go to TikTok instead of aimlessly scrolling through Facebook.
Curate your following list
The people you follow and listen to WILL have an impact on your mindset. The best way to be intentional with this is to curate your following list.
Here’s an exercise: Make a list right now of people you enjoy following. Do this from memory, without actually going on social media. You’re going to forget people and that’s okay. The ones that you remember are the ones to keep on your feed. Mute everyone else who’s not on that list.
Stop seeking out your triggers
As humans, we love drama. Sometimes we seek out drama to feel better about ourselves, and other times it’s to feel intense emotions (good or bad).
You probably know what your triggers are. To have a healthier relationship with social media, it’s important to be aware of your triggers and stop yourself before you seek them out.
For example, I gravitate towards the comment section of videos, especially when I know they’re going to be triggering. Instead of automatically going to the comment section, I’m learning to watch the video without reading the comments.
Also, stop visiting the profiles of people who you know are going to trigger you. That includes your ex and public figures you disagree with.
3. Create an unplugging system
The tricky thing about technology is that it’s created to be convenient and distracting. In order to unplug, you have to make it inconvenient to access apps and platforms.
Here are some ideas help you unplug:
- Delete social media apps on the weekend (Venetia La Manna does this with her #Offline48 challenge)
- Go offline one day a week (Tiffany Shlain talks about this in her book 24/6 which I wrote about here)
- Have someone else change your social media passwords until Friday (James Clear recommends this in his book Atomic Habits)
- Move social media apps to the last page on your phone screen
- Log out of all social media on your computer
- Put your phone in another room while you’re watching TV
- Turn off notifications for social media apps (I personally do this)
Of course, one of the hardest things about unplugging is setting expectations with other people. Let them know your boundaries. People may think it’s odd, but you might inspire them with your actions if they see it’s working for you.
Tell people that your phone is on ‘do not disturb’ mode, but they can call you if it’s a level 8 emergency. Tell them you’re taking Sundays to be offline and you won’t be checking emails. If you own a business and clients tend to DM you, set the expectation for them to email you instead of messaging you.
Setting these expectations will help everyone involved avoid miscommunication and unnecessary panic.
Plug into what matters
If we’re going to unplug, it’s important to plug into something that matters. When you unplug, you’re giving yourself permission to focus on the things you actually want to focus on.
Think about what you could do with the time you gain from not spending so much time online. You might choose to plug into your relationships, hobbies, health, self-care, etc.
“Unplugging is an act of separating ourselves from what doesn’t align with our values and our heart-centered desires.”
My question to you: What do you want to plug into?
I hope this post has encouraged you to make unplugging part of your regular life. The way you use technology is ultimately going to determine your relationship with it. Most importantly, think about what you want to plug into so you have a reason to stay accountable.
Leave a comment below! What are your tips for unplugging?
The post How To Unplug From The World When You Need A Break appeared first on The Blissful Mind.