Why You Shouldn't Ask Couples When They're Going to Have Children

Asking couples when they're going to have children may make them feel pressured or uncomfortable, so it's best to avoid this question.
Why You Shouldn't Ask Couples When They're Going to Have Children
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 11 October, 2022

When two people have been together for some time or are approaching a certain age, it’s common for those around them to begin to put pressure on them to have kids. When asking a couple when they’re going to have children, there’s usually no malicious intent. However, it demonstrates a lack of awareness of what this question may mean for them.

Sometimes we take for granted that our way of living and seeing the world is the only valid one and that our experiences are the same as those of others. However, we don’t know the circumstances that the person in front of us is facing. Therefore, these types of comments can be disrespectful and hurtful.

Why shouldn’t you ask a couple when they’re going to have children?

It’s likely that with this question, you’re just trying to make conversation, take an interest in others, or be polite. And while in some contexts it’s not a problem, in other contexts, it is. If you’re talking to people who aren’t part of your inner circle, whose preferences or circumstances you don’t know, it’s best to avoid asking about it for the reasons we’ll talk about below.

Having children is a choice, not an obligation

Although we’ve advanced as a society, we still fall into the error of considering that there’s only one valid way of life for everyone: Getting married and having children. However, parenthood is a choice and also carries with it an enormous responsibility. Not everyone wants to start a family and not everyone feels this is their goal. And that’s totally respectable.

When we ask a couple when they’re going to have children, we take it for granted that it will or should happen. Thus, we rush them because they’re running out of time. But, in reality, we should be open to considering the different life projects that each person may have, to validate them and support them on their own path.

Wanting isn’t always enough

A concerned man holding a woman's hand while she looks away and cries.
Some couples wish to become parents, but find it impossible for different reasons, such as infertility, health problems, or financial inconveniences.

At the same time, even if you’re sure that a couple wants to have kids, you shouldn’t ask them this question. There are many situations that can delay or hinder the achievement of this goal. Thus, by asking them when they’re going to have children, you’re only reminding them of a reality that, in itself, can be very painful. The following causes are some of the most frequent:

Economic instability

Although it all depends on the country of residence and personal circumstances, nowadays it’s not easy to achieve economic stability. High youth unemployment rates, job insecurity, and short-term contracts, among other reasons, prevent many current couples from having a secure financial future. This creates a climate of instability that isn’t conducive to parenthood. Perhaps a couple strongly desires to have children but doesn’t consider it responsible to do so under their current conditions. If they’re pressured, that frustration and discomfort can become even greater.

Infertility

This is one of the most painful realities that a couple who wants to have children can face. However, it’s quite common. In fact, it’s estimated that the average global infertility rate is 9% and can be as high as 16% in developed countries.

Many of those couples you’re questioning about when they’re going to have children may have been trying for some time. They may even have already received a devastating diagnosis or have invested a lot of time, money, and hope in becoming parents.

Health problems

In other cases, there may be health problems that prevent or make it difficult to have a child. For example, there may be autoimmune diseases or genetic disorders. Or, without going any further, one of the members of the couple may have a mental health problem that influences their decision.

Gestational loss

This is, without a doubt, another of the most painful situations. Many couples lose their children during gestation. Often, it occurs so early in the pregnancy that they hadn’t shared the news with friends and family yet. Moreover, according to recorded data, 80% of miscarriages are early and occur during the first trimester.

Perinatal loss causes great emotional pain and requires a period of mourning and recovery. Thus, by asking a couple when they’re going to have children, you may be touching on that still open wound that you’re not aware of.

Two couples having a conversation.
In a conversation, it’s preferable to ask open questions so that everyone can express themselves freely on the topics they wish to share.

Asking a couple when they’re going to have children isn’t the best option

As you can see, this question can trigger wounds and pain that other people experience without us being aware of it. By questioning them, we can make them feel invalidated, frustrated, distressed, and even deeply sad. This’s why it’s important that we opt for a change of discourse.

Of course, you can take an interest in those around you, but it’s preferable to ask more open questions that allow everyone to express themselves more freely. Instead of questioning when they’ll have children, you can ask what dreams or goals they have in mind. If parenthood is one of them and if they want to share it with you, they’ll surely do so happily. And, if not, they won’t feel obligated, pressured, or cornered.

Avoiding situations that make others uncomfortable, hurt, or harm them is a matter of responsibility and empathy. Therefore, before you start asking questions, consider the possible scenarios and how you can make the other person feel with your words. Let’s take care of one another!

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  • Rodríguez, C., De los Ríos, M., González, A. M., Quintana, D. S., & Sánchez, I. (2020). Estudio sobre aspectos epidemiológicos que influyen en el aborto espontáneo. Multimed24(6), 1349-1365.
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The contents of You Are Mom is for educational and informational purposes only. At no time do they replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. If in doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.