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Brianna Parkins: I’m sick of being asked why I don’t have kids

The kid question is not really a straight request for information. It’s asking someone ‘please justify to me why your life does not look like mine’

There are a few ways to respond to the question “Why don’t you have kids?” My current favourite is “Judge said I’m not allowed”. Sure, it’s a conversation killer and it might impact your entire social standing but that’s showbiz, baby.

Sometimes I go for the classic “Nah, I’m ‘right thanks” as a more polite way to deflect a question that really has no business being asked in the first place. Especially if it’s from someone who I haven’t spoken to in years, or ever, until now, when they decided my reproductive choices was a good topic of small talk.

But people don’t always take the hint and keep on asking anyway like they’re at a Q&A session at an author talk instead of a backyard barbecue.

Have I ever thought about having kids? Would I not want to get a wriggle on lest my ovaries turn to dust? Who would look after me when I’m old if I didn’t have them? What’s wrong with having kids? Would I not get married? Wouldn’t my partner like them? Would I ever really know the meaning of love if I didn’t have to wake up at 6am to wipe sticky jam-drenched hands for years?

In my pre-hag years when I was a soft, little people pleaser I used to give vague answers about “I’d love a baby one day” and “can’t rush God’s plans” while looking out wistfully in the distance so they’d leave me alone. But now, depending on who’s asking, I let them know either through a tactful joke or a straight-out statement that I don’t want to answer such a clawing personal question standing over a buffet table of cheese cubes and mini quiches.

I’d rather someone go through my handbag or my tax return or ask me what size bra I wear because the kid question is not really a straight request for information. It’s asking someone “please justify to me why your life does not look like mine” and stepping back while they squirm out an answer.

We don’t question it because it’s in line with the natural order of things. It’s a bit like asking why we all have one plastic bag filled with loads of other plastic bags. It’s just what you do

Next time, I’m going to turn the tables. It’s time to start asking people why they had children. Let them explain to us why they decided to have unprotected sex.

Did you decide to have kids to heal your own childhood issues or was it a last bid to save your failing relationship? Did you not think about all the money it would cost or the lack of sleep, or the build-up of resentment between you as partners? What will you do when you’re older and they’re trying to put you in a home? Aren’t you worried about putting your heart, soul and financial resources into a child who might turn out to be zero craic? (My greatest fear.)

I would love to lean in with the same face of faux concern I’ve had to deal with for years and say “You know you could have frozen your eggs and kept them that way” to someone wrestling a toddler into shoes.

But that’s not how it works. People rarely have to explain their big decision to bring another life into the world. They’re more likely to be questioned over why they went for a Dyson hoover or a hybrid car than how they decided they were responsible enough to keep another human alive.

We don’t question it because it’s in line with the natural order of things. It’s a bit like asking why we all have one plastic bag filled with loads of other plastic bags. It’s just what you do when you hit a certain time of life.

This is why it’s okay for people to ask me why I don’t have kids or a husband.

I would never dream of asking someone why they haven’t achieved the same things that I have because a) it’s a bit of rude thing to do and b) I don’t presume people want the same things I do. Could you imagine standing next to a great-aunt at a family function going, “I might be wilfully barren, Agnes, but when are you going to have a column in a national newspaper that people use to catch their weekend toast crumbs on before firing into the bin, huh?”

“When are you going to annoy people enough to make them take time out of their day to write mean comments under your work, Agnes? You might want to hurry up with your biological clock.”

Children are great. I have no problems with people who are into that sort of thing. I just feel the same ambivalence about having children as I do about having a swish boiling water tap in the house – it might be nice some day if I have enough money but at this point I’m not really sure if it’s worth the hassle. Just let me and the other child-free women enjoy our mini-quiches in peace.

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