No matter what kind of wedding you had or what kind of marriage you plan on having, if you're a newlywed, I'm willing to bet that at least a few people in your life have started acting a little weird. "Weird" might not even be the right word, exactly — it's not like they're acting like they don't like you or anything. They've just started treating you a bit...differently.
This phenomenon can manifest itself in a wide variety of ways. Perhaps your best friends, who know that your entire financial philosophy is "never open any bills and hope everything somehow turns out alright," suddenly assume that you're together enough to buy a house. Maybe your old roommates expect you to now be a design blog-obsessed aesthete, instead of someone who keeps all her underpants in a cardboard box under the bed. Your buddies assume that marriage has changed you, and they're still trying to figure out exactly how.
Which is all pretty understandable — marriage is a change, and it's a different change for every person who does it, so it makes sense that people end up asking you some strange questions as they try to make sense of it. I am recently married, and I've had a few friends assume that I would be giving up some cherished activities — like hanging out one-on-one with my close male friends, or taking vacations with my female friends — just because those didn't seem like things that a married lady would do. While marriage doesn't change anything about those activities for me, I know it does for some people, and so asking those questions totally makes sense. There's no shame in trying to feel out the parameters of what someone's life changes mean. However, there is one question that you want to steer clear of when asking your newly married friend about their plans for the near future:
Now, I'd argue that there is actually no time when it is a good time to ask someone when they're going to have a kid. But even if you think there might be times when it's OK to ask, I'd like to make the case for not asking your newly married friends when they're going to start making some fruit of their loins.
1. It's None Of Your Business
No matter how close your are with your friend, you must trust that if and when they want discuss having a kid, they'll bring it up. You probably have no idea if your friend is struggling with infertility, doesn't want kids, or wants kids but feels that they can't afford them. You have no clue if this very topic is a hot button issue between them and their partner, or between them and their partner's family, or anything else — honestly, the number of ways this question could touch on something that makes the askee uncomfortable are infinite.
But most people who bring up the pregnancy question after you get married, I've found, are not actually people who are close enough that you'd ever tell them about your own baby plans (or lack thereof). Rather, it's usually people you barely know, trying to make small talk.
So let's all agree, right now, that someone's future parental potential is not a good topic to bring up when you've run out of questions to ask about their honeymoon pics. I know I'm not an official etiquette columnist, but I feel like Emily Post would have my back on this one. Allow your friend to bring up their own plans for parenthood, or lack thereof, on their own time.
2. It Supports The Idea That Adulthood Is A Contest
As you surely know by now, adulthood isn't a contest; it's an unremitting nightmare. Kidding! (sort of) But this doesn't stop lots of people from treating adulthood as some kind of relay race, where instead of trying to be the first to hand off your baton, you're trying to be the first to update you "Life Events" with graduate school graduations and weddings, babies and cool new jobs.
And the second you get married, people start trying to sweep you up into this thinking, whether or not you like it. They start asking you, "Now what?" or "What next?" — implying that now that you've crossed this one off your list, it's time to get chopping on some other adulthood to-dos. Better get crackin' so you can have something else to post social media updates about!
Asking people who've just gotten married if they're now going to have kids plays right into the hands of this kind of thinking. This question makes the "adulthood as relay race" philosophy seem not just sensible, but almost aspirational — "Hey, you've knocked one thing off the list! Great work! Now take off your pants and knock another thing off the list, cowboy! I'll just wait out here while you try!"
We should fight this attitude for a lot of reasons. To begin with, even a small wedding is a big deal emotionally (if not financially), so let people chill for a minute before you start trying to peer pressure them into some other life choices. If two people are getting married and having a wedding, getting married and having a wedding probably feels pretty meaningful to them — so don't urge them to stop thinking about it and move on to the next thing.
And furthermore, this attitude suggests that no matter what you do, it's never enough for people to view you as "accomplished" — after you get married, it's time to have that baby, and after you have that baby...time for another baby! Also maybe you should go back to grad school. The Committee Of Strangers Who Have Decided They Should Run Your Life will let you know when they decide.
So don't treat your friends' lives like some checklist. Let them abide by their own schedule. Don't act like getting married, in and of itself, is somehow not enough in this moment.
3. It Implies That There Is Only One "Correct" Way To Approach Marriage & Parenthood
Asking your newly married friends when they're going to have a child implies that there is a "right" order in which to do things: marriage, then kids, then...I don't know, try to pay off your mortgage and then wait to see which one of you is going to die first?
This kind of thinking isn't only potentially shaming (implying that folks who don't follow the "love, marriage, baby carriage" order of operations are somehow doing it wrong) and a bit naive (how do you know that your newlywed friends weren't already trying to conceive for months, even years, before they picked out china patterns?). It's also totally out of step with how people live their lives now — today, nearly half of all first children are born to unmarried women in the U.S.; 40 percent of marriages involve children from a previous relationship; and on the flip side, 6 percent of married women have no children at all.
There's often a subtext when folks ask the question from this specific angle — there's an implication that doing it "right" will keep your marriage together, while deviating from the "proper" way to be a married person will ensure your relationship's doom. This kind of thinking also often stigmatizes families the involve children from previous relationships, pressuring the couple to add to their family by having another child that is "only theirs."
But guess what? Your marriage license doesn't expire if you don't have a fertility plan in place within your first 90 days of wedded bliss. (And plenty of couples with children end up divorced, anyway). You're not helping your friends by drawing them into any baggage you may have about how children are the only path to marital happiness.
4. It Just Doesn't Matter
Why does it matter? What do you even get out of asking? Do you think your friends are trying to slip one by you? Do you fear your friends will adopt a very hip baby and then refuse to introduce you to said hip baby because you're so uncol? Do you think your friend is going to get pregnant and just spend all nine months holding a giant purse in front of her stomach, like they do on TV? And then one day, she's gonna just show up with a baby, and be like, "LOL this dude was in my ute the whole time, SUCKER" and you're gonna be like, "OMG, I feel sooooooo dumb"?
If you ever ask people who've just married if they're going to have kids soon, I urge you to get up right now, go look in a mirror, and ask yourself: What is my end game here?????
Now, I know that many of you who ask this question aren't trying to imply all of these things — maybe you feel like your friend's new marriage is the elephant in the room, and you're just not sure what to say about it. Maybe you think all people get married because they want to have babies, and you're just engaging the couple in talk about their interests — which you were raised to believe was polite, thankyouverymuch.
But trust me: if and when your friends want you to know about their reproductive plans, they'll tell you. And if you actually just want to make some small talk with people who've recently gotten married, ask them about the real thing all married people are dying to talk about: their helpless rage regarding the exorbitant cost of wedding floral arrangements.
Images: Brandon Morgan/ Unsplash; Giphy