May 11, 2013

A Crystal Ball Maybe?

Posted in Journey, ME/CFS tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:41 pm by Reva

Tonight I was at dinner with some colleagues. Towards the end of the dinner one person “shushed” the rest of the group and when everyone was quiet she asked “when do you girls plan on becoming mums?” I find this to be an inappropriate question to ask a group of people that are colleagues, not close friends. And to be honest there were probably only one or two people there that I’d consider to be friends. I’m not sure if it’s just because I didn’t know how to answer, or at least I didn’t know how to answer in the company of this particular group, but I think it goes further than that.

I think that this is such a personal thing. I hear friends who get frustrated being asked the question “so when will you have kids?” when they’ve barely finished walking down the proverbial aisle. How do people feel it’s their right to know? How do they know that the couple haven’t made the decision that having a child isn’t for them? Or even more awkward, they have been trying for years and been experiencing heartbreak for years.

A few years ago my friend went with her mum to an afternoon tea. She took along her young son who played quietly. One of the ladies, innocently I’m sure, told her how wonderfully behave her son was, then asked when she would be giving her mother another grandchild. My friend had a difficult pregnancy and didn’t have an easy time when her son was an infant. On top of this she has her own chronic health problems. Even if this wasn’t the case she was well within her rights to respond as she did. She told her mother’s friend (and everyone else in the room who’s ears likely pricked up at the question) that she in fact had been going through IVF, and until the week earlier had been pregnant. I was so proud of her putting up this response in the hope that maybe, just maybe these ladies might think twice before asking such intrusive questions to other women in the future.

This evenings question has made me think that maybe I need to come up with my own response to these questions. What’s a concise way of saying that I’m single and in my 30s? I have chronic health condition that seems to send men running. I don’t really get out much and when I do I don’t tend to meet many new people anyway (meeting new people is EXHAUSTING). Sure you don’t need a man to have kids these days, and it’s crossed my mind to go it alone. But I also don’t think I have the capacity to go it alone. I’m sure I could emotionally, but what about those days that I can’t move from the couch? I can ignore the dog crying at the door but I couldn’t do the same to a child. I know some amazing people who have similar medical conditions to me who do have loving partners and families, so I know it can be done and I’m absolutely not ruling out becoming a mother. But if I am to have children, first I need to find a man who loves me, and who I love. I don’t need a perfect man but I do need that man to be supportive, one who sees bringing up children as a joint role, not one left entirely to the mother (yes I have met men who still believe that it’s the mother’s job). I’m almost certain that if I have children I won’t be able to work so that man would also have to be prepared to live a single-income lifestyle, one where money and possessions aren’t everything. I need a man who can accept that sometimes I can’t always follow through and do the things I want, that sometimes I have to cancel plans at the last minute, that I can’t always be as spontaneous as I might like.

So when will I become a mum? I’ll become a mum when and if I’m ready. And if that window of time passes before I meet that man, or I meet that man and we decide not to, or can’t, have children, or I never meet that man, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve been assured that my Goddaughter will be coming to live with me when she hits the rebellious stage so it looks like I will be lucky enough to have the experience of dealing with a difficult teenager (or preteen if she follows in the footsteps of her cousins) even if I skip the infant/toddler stage. In the meantime I’ll appreciate my quiet morning breakfasts spending hours reading the paper over coffee, I’ll appreciate being able to come home and reheat leftovers if I can’t be bothered cooking, or can’t find a vegetable in the house, I’ll appreciate watching what I want to watch because hopefully one day I won’t get to do it anymore.


  1. ABE said,

    I think the answer to the question should be something like, “Why would you ask such a personal question?” with a look of disbelief on your face. Or, if you can say it with conviction, “When God decides – why?” which depends on your personal belief system.

    The “well” are such idiots sometimes, even to each other. Not that being disabled automatically confers saintliness on us, but we do have to deal with a lot more than other people, and often can’t do anything about it.

    If you like this person, you can try educating her, publicly or privately. If not, the right response should at least tell her she’s trespassing.

    Having or not having children isn’t always entirely within your purview, is it? And it is nobody’s business but yours. If you can’t have children for some reason, and you desperately want children, you have a problem – but it’s still a personal problem.

    The final answer would be, “How nice of you to ask! I just ordered two from Macy’s, and they arrive tomorrow complete with Nanny!” or, equivalently, if you didn’t want any, “Well, I tried several out, but they were unsatisfactory, so I had to send them back. Thank goodness they were still under warranty and I got all my money back. I won’t be trying THAT again.”

    Or just, “None of your business.”

  2. hayley said,

    I have friends that fell out permanently over this very polarising topic. My own circumstances have led me to the acceptance that I won’t be a mum; I assume I’m capable biologically but the planets didn’t come into line and I never felt strongly enough to force it. Interestingly, off the cuff I can think of seven other 40+ women in my extended circle who are in a similar boat, some of whom would have dearly loved to have children. Insensitive questions are fortunately very rare these days and I was amazed to hear that it came up at your work dinner. As you say, it has provided the opportunity to form a response for next time. Great post.

  3. fiona said,

    I have a good answer (which I’ve never used, given I usually, regrettably, bow to politeness rather than confrontation): With a pleasant easy smile, ask: “Why do you want to know?”. Add: “that’s a rather personal question” if feeling flummoxed! I imagine the person who asked this question already knew the difficult position it would place some in. Does this person have a child herself or is she is a relationship with the possibility of one? She sux.
    See you tomorrow for good company, food and laughs and none of those sort of questions. – Fiona.

  4. Vicky said,

    Thank you for addressing this. I too am in my 30s and I am currently not in a position to be having a child either due M.E. and other health problems, and also I am not married/living with someone. I haven’t made up my mind if I even want children and I don’t have a strong urge. I have thought about doing it by myself, but then because I don’t have the strong urge, I wonder if I would just be doing that because the clock is ticking and there’s peer pressure to fit in.

    It’s just another instance of life setting me apart from everyone else – not to be negative, but that’s how I feel. Having M.E. for years has already set me apart so much – work/career-wise, money-wise, social-wise… this is like the icing on the cake.

    I think what people forget as well are the things you mentioned: when you have M.E. it’s harder to form a family because most of us struggle or are unable to work so would have to find someone who is prepared to work while we ran the home/raised the child (more unusual these days!!), it is harder to meet a partner/husband/wife and ask them commit to this type of ‘lifestyle’, and we don’t know if conceiving/carrying a child will make our M.E. worse, let alone what the strain of raising one would do. It’s very complicated, so facing nosey people asking rude questions is just too much!!

  5. I can’t believe that such a personal question was asked at a work dinner. That’s terrible. I love the cheeky responses other readers have commented. The subject of having children has been playing on my mind a lot lately. Even tho I’m ‘only 29’ several of my close friends have recently had babies and it’s making me broody and pine for that life (or any life other than the one I have I guess). ME / CFS makes it very hard to consider and plan a future of any kind but especially something as potentially exhausting as a baby. It doesn’t help me to worry about it now so back in the box in my head it goes. But as time passes the harder it is to squash those feelings. Great post Reva, thought provoking and interesting as always.

  6. E. Milo said,

    Are you doing ok? You’ve been gone a while…

    • Reva said,

      Hi! Yes just a little overcommitted and been rationing my energy. I’ll update properly in a few days. Thank you for checking up on me 🙂

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