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The One Question to Stop Asking Your Female Coworkers

kids.jpegWhen are you having kids? Chances are if you are an adult female in the workplace, you’ve been asked this question. I was planning on making a whole list of questions to stop asking your female coworkers, but realized that they were all iterations of this one way-too-personal, awkward, and invasive inquiry. Please understand the panic that enters my mind when you ask when I plan on having children. 

Here are a few of the myriad reasons a woman might not want to talk about this:

  • She doesn’t want to have children.
  • It’s presumptuous. I got married in 2010, and the question that immediately follows, “When did you get married?” is, “When are you having kids?” People have done the math. It’s time, they think. Time to start an awkward conversation.
  • She might not want to think about it yet. Perhaps she cannot imagine herself as a parent. Maybe she wants to drink margaritas for a few more summers. Maybe her own parents were gone or abusive or addicted, and she’s busy dealing with that.
  • She wants to adopt. And your weird question puts her in an awkward position of correcting your assumption about her body.
  • Maybe she just had an abortion.
  • You’re asking a super personal question that involves sexuality, bodies, and health. Do you really need to know?
  • Maybe biology or relationships haven’t aligned to make her feel able to have a child.
  • She can’t afford to have a kid.
  • She might be pregnant at that very second but not in a place where she wants to share. Maybe she’s scared that she’ll be seen differently in the workplace or face retribution for taking parental leave.
  • Maybe she has a same sex partner, and the process of having a child is more complicated.
  • You haven’t asked your male coworker the same question.  

So here are five questions to use as alternative conversation starters, because if I haven’t talked with you about my pap smear or if you haven’t borrowed a tampon, chances are, I don’t want to talk fallopian tubes with you. Here’s what I would love to talk about instead:  

  1. What are you most proud of in your life? 
  2. What do you hope to accomplish by the time you’re 80?
  3. What good books have you read recently?
  4. What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?
  5. What was the most awkward moment of your life?

Ladies (and I do mean you, ladies) and gentlemen, it IS possible to talk to your female coworkers about something other than their ovaries. Let’s get this party started.

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