When I was at Wood Badge, I read a post one night from The R House called We Can Be More Sensitive To Each Other. Lindsey makes some good points, especially this one:
The root of the word “sympathize” is “to suffer”. So, when you sympathize with someone you are saying, “I suffer with you”. We suffer when others suffer, we mourn with those who mourn because it is what the Savior did. We want to be like Him. We want to love as He did.
Our goal is to lift another’s burden that it may be light, again as the Savior showed us with His perfect example. When we ask family planning questions, we can (and I would even venture to say WE ARE) adding to their burden. All defensiveness and rationalization aside, we don’t want to do that to our brothers and sisters. We want to lift and encourage. We want to follow the example of Christ.
Some will brush these words aside and flash their over-used get-out-of-rudeness-jail-free card that says “they are choosing to be offended”. But if we are aware of something that we are saying is offensive, we are accountable for that knowledge.
Lindsey wrote her post in response to an article called So....When You Gonna Have Kids? I of course had to read that article as well, and these ideas really started percolating in my brain.
The next night, hanging out alone in my tent while Renee was socializing, I posted on Facebook this question:
I'm compiling a list of insensitive things you should never say. Things like "you look terrible-are you feeling ok?" and "when are you going to have kids?"
What should go on my list?
I was blown away by the responses from my fabulous friends! About half of the responses were related to fertility and family planning.
Family Planning is clearly a sensitive topic.
I also appreciate a few of my friends who pointed out that most of the time people do not mean to offend. I especially appreciated Kandice's comment (seriously, the sweetest, kindest, most genuine person I know) of:
"I agree with Sheryl. I feel kinda like a shmuck reading some of these because I know that SOME of them I say often out of complete sincerity, concern, joy...depending on the situation. Hmmm...oops...and sorry!"
I choose to never be offended when people ask me family planning questions. I figure that people are asking either out of love and concern OR because they are nosy OR because they are just trying to make conversation.
It can be hurtful.
It was especially hurtful in the years before we told anyone we were struggling with infertility.
All of this is coming together for me to put my personal plea out there to never--EVER--ask anyone a family planning question.
If you have a close relationship with someone, they will tell you about their problems or successes in their own time.
And, I have to share the responses from my informal and non-generalizable survey.
Carrie LeFevre Sillito "Isn't it about time your child had a sibling?" (said to me while I was having a miscarriage). "Do you want one of my kids?" "You must be infertile because you put school before family" (actually, no. I started my Masters program when I was still single, and started my PhD program my first time struggling with infertility. I went to a lot of school BECAUSE I'm infertile. Not the other way around!!). I was actually just thinking today about how many times in our 9 years married we've been asked about kids by people that barely even knew us. Yet- we've owned the same 2 cars our entire married life and no one ever says, "isn't it about time you got another car?" Why don't people ask the easy questions like that?!?!
Alison Comstock Moss And I quote, "Why don't you have more kids? It's not right to only have one." Automatically assuming it's by MY design! Lots of working mom ones too but I won't get started on those
Angie Webb Kahoush And my personal favorite......so you two are older, but haven't started a family...you must be having fertility problems...
Ann Bailey ...When Kent's co-worker told me I "Did it the easy way." (referring to adoption) I said "I had a reeeeally LONG labor, but an easy delivery."
Lisette Morgan Spencer upon hearing our children are adopted "Do you have any children of your own?". my response-- they are my own. I just didn't happen to give birth to any of them.
Amy Long Theobald "Now that you have adopted, you will relax enough to have your own children" or "I have heard of so many people that get pregnant after they adopt" ANY form of these types of comments makes me cringe!
Jennifer Taylor Watson "You're so lucky you adopted. You didn't have to go through the pain and discomfort of pregnancy." Um, no, but we went through the pain of infertility, being chosen and then a birth mom deciding not to place, 5 years of waiting, and I could go on...
Julie Peterson Smith I've been told a couple times that I never experienced child birth because I had c-sections...really? And people often suggest I should have more kids & I think that people should just mind their own business. They don't know my circumstances & I don't feel like I should have to share it with anyone. Sheesh, I'm sure glad I got this off my chest
Kaisa Richins "Wow! You look amazing!" After a person has lost weight. It's like they're saying that they looked so terrible before.
It's fine to tell someone they look great; it's when it's said with incredulity, like it's shocking how much better they look.
Here's another: after a pregnancy loss..."it's ok. At least you can get pregnant." Or, "you can have more."
Traci Rindlisbacher Erickson Are all of those kids yours? Do you know what birth control is?
Julie Cummins Cole When is your baby due? (Unless you know for sure the woman is pregnant)
Victoria Rudd When is your baby due--they might be overweight
Kevin Jordan Clark Definitely the pregnancy ones. So how far along are you? Ummm. Yeah. I'm not pregnant. (I've gotten this more than once)
New baby- "How is he sleeping? Is he sleeping through the night yet?" No! Guess what? He's a newborn! He wakes up every few hours to nurse. And then he's teething, then he has a growth spurt, then he has a bad cold, and wow, we're back to teething again. Babies don't sleep through the night people!
Some people seem to have this irrational mindset that babies should automatically be sleeping through the night by 4 months or something.
Bethany Bales Anderson When I'm really far along in my pregnancy, people tell me, "wow! You look like you're going to pop!" Or "wow! You look so uncomfortable!" I just want to tell them, you don't look at all that skinny either!
Donna Wade Smith Just snap out of it. When are you getting married? I know what you are going through.
Julianne Hall Speaking for the single people, Ive gotten lots of the usuals like "Wow. Why aren't you married?" or "So are you dating anyone?" But the best was when a guy on a first date told me "Well, I just don't think you are the type of girl I'm looking for..." Me: "So what kind of girl are you looking for and how do you know I'm not that type??" Him: "Well I mean I'm really looking for someone who wants to be a mother and have children." Me: "So how do you know that is not something that I want?" Him: "Well I mean you have a big career and stuff, so I assumed that you chose that over being a wife and mother...." (Um has anyone ever told you what happens when you assume things???)
Sydne Sabin Gooch Is it just about adoption? I have heard "so you work. is that by choice?" I feel like people are so personal and judgmental with moms who have to work
Jeff Rudd "Are you a working mother or a stay at home Mom?" The perceived difference between Mother and Mom in the phrase can be insulting. My lady is a working "Mom!" And she's awesome.
Beth Hunsaker Garn People keep asking Jay if he lost a tooth yet. No, he just has a big space in his teeth!
Adrianna Coon Laird "Let me give you some advice..."
Terra Stevens Susov "Wow, you look tired!"
Lee Crystal Edwards 'You're life is just so easy!' Drives me nuts to hear this!
Sheryl Baker Bullock Here's the thing, most people don't mean to offend when they say things like these, so when i hear them i just try and give people the benefit if the doubt and assume they've probably had a really bad day. It up to us to not get offended by them.
Angie Webb Kahoush I can give the benefit of the doubt to a point, but some people simply don't think before they speak and their remarks are incredibly hurtful, intended or not.