The Great Child Debate

Question

It is an absolute fact in lady-land that at some point you will start to be asked when you are having children, or why you haven’t had them yet.

The amazing thing about the Great Child Debate is that these questions do not necessarily come from your family – or, as most would have you believe, your mother. Often these intrusive, personal questions come from colleagues, acquaintances, or comparative strangers – and almost exclusively from other women. Would one approach an unknown male and ask if he has started having regular prostate checks? And if not, why not? Surely because that would be none of your damn business – and quite frankly, neither are other people’s reproductive resolutions.

Inevitably, this is a hot topic amongst we ladies (and gents) of the thirty-something age bracket. Of course we discuss it with each other – in the same way we discuss mortgages and whether or not we can still manage two nights out on the trot – but we are doing so with friends who know us fully as people and our individual circumstances. This does not mean the conversation is up for general discussion with any other human who has a pair of ovaries and has already successfully reproduced.

Upon reaching the grand old age of thirty, a colleague of mine innocently asked me when I was going to think about adoption as I’m “knocking on a bit” and didn’t at that time have a “steady man”. I was gobsmacked. Firstly, I am not personally at a stage where I am financially or emotionally ready for children – and as I sit sipping a drink in my peaceful flat listening to the neighbour’s child making exorcist-type noises I am quietly grateful that I am beholden to no one other than my slightly pushy cats. That’s me. That’s my personal circumstance. Now, three years later, another colleague is pregnant – for whom I am delighted – and a well meaning assortment of randoms daily tell me “It’ll be you next!” or ask “Don’t you want kids?”. I always have a two word answer very close to my lips.

On the flip side, many people I know are keen to have children (or more children) but for various reasons can’t, or haven’t yet. Some cannot afford to have another child in the current climate, so want is not the issue. One of my friends learned some time ago that she simply cannot conceive due to a medical condition. How excruciating in that circumstance to repeatedly be asked that question? She is, however, extremely direct and tells people why – which is definitely not what they expect or are comfortable hearing. Well you asked!

Of course, some people do like to share. People like to announce that they are ‘trying’. What they perhaps do not think of when declaring this intent are the soul-crushing questions they will hear over and over until either they produce offspring or start to receive the sympathetic stares.

Each to their own of course, but I honestly cannot understand why people feel compelled to ask. If you are close enough, the person in question will tell you. If not, it is probably a good time for you to start minding your own business.

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About Deborah Klayman

Deborah is an actress, musician, voice artist and writer based in the UK. She trained at the University of Northumbria, where she gained a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Performance, and at Drama Studio London (Postgraduate Diploma in Acting). Deborah has performed in the UK and overseas in a variety of roles which include Emilia in 'Othello' and Juliana Tesman in 'Hedda Gabler' in rep, Regan in 'King Lear', Mrs Pugh/Polly Garter in 'Under Milk Wood' and Fluellen/Alice in Henry V. An accomplished cellist and singer, the projects she undertakes frequently utilise her musical talents. Film and TV roles include: Geordie in a TV pilot for 'Dead Man's Cardy', Reporter in 'Mission London', Sarah in 'For Better or Worse', and Nurse Tremaine in 'Another Day. Deborah is also a successful voice artist, recording projects for companies such as M&C Saatchi/Silverfish Media, BP, Oxford University Press and The Scottish Sunday Express. Deborah is a talented writer, penning plays and screenplays primarily on issues surrounding social justice. Her first play, 'Janetarium', was one of three selected through the Traverse Theatre's Class Act project and was subsequently staged at the Traverse and published in Theatre Scotland Magazine. She later joined the theatre's Young Writers Group, and continued to write and devise plays throughout her university and drama school training. In 2005, she co-authored "Eve & Lilith" with Jessica Martenson which was produced at that year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2011, Deborah co-founded Whoop 'n' Wail Theatre Company with friend, collaborator and writing partner Ali Kemp. Their debut production, 'eXclusion', was produced in association with UK charity Women In Prison and toured to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, London's Waterloo East Theatre, and Bracknell's South Hill Park Arts Centre. Their latest venture, "Whoop 'n' Wail Represents...", showcases new writing that puts gender equality centre stage, working with even numbers of female and male writers and directors to stage plays that pass the Bechdel Test. Deborah was one of the Traverse Theatre's 'Traverse Fifty' (a year-long writing attachment in 2013), and Whoop 'n' Wail's play 'My Bloody Laundrette' recently won the Cambridge University Press "Channel the Bard" competition. View all posts by Deborah Klayman

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