Shutting Down Busybodies

Shutting Down BusybodiesWhen I was pregnant with my first child, a friend of mine broke her leg. Within a week, she was complaining about how, just because her injury was visible, people asked her all sorts of invasive questions about what happened, how long she had to have a cast, and other personal questions. I couldn’t help myself. “That’s exactly what it’s like being pregnant!” I wailed.

With your first pregnancy, you’re so excited to finally start showing. Shortly after, you realize the downside to having that perfect little baby bump: The questions. Babies bring out the crazy in people. And I don’t mean you as parents. Parents adjust fine. It’s the moms, dads, grandmas, aunts, uncles, coworkers and friends of those parents that seem to lose every social grace they ever learned the moment they encounter a woman with a baby. Here are the questions you get immediately following the birth of your first, second, or later child:

First baby:

  • So when are you going to have another?
  • Are you going to try for a girl/boy next?
  • When are you going to wean him/her?
  • Have you lost the baby weight?

Second baby:

  • Are you getting him fixed? (Oh yeah, they mean your husband.)
  • Are you going to have your tubes tied while they’re “in there”?
  • Are you guys done having kids?
  • Are you going to try for a girl/boy?  (You only get this one if you have two children of the same sex.)

Third baby:

  • How many ARE you planning to have?
  • Are you guys done now?
  • Are you going to get a bigger/car house?
  • Are you going to try for a girl/boy?

People aren’t very creative. I can’t tell you how many times I heard these same questions—both from people I was close to and people I barely knew. The fact is, you don’t ever have to answer these invasive, very personal questions if you don’t want to. Not even if it’s someone who expects to know or thinks they have a right to know. It’s your business and your business alone. That said, it’s easier not to answer them if you have a few responses ready, and that is what I learned to do.

There are basically three ways to shut down a busybody:

1. Give a ridiculous answer. You can make it a joke and avoid having to give personal answers by just being ridiculous.

Q: How many are you guys planning to have?
A: Oh, I don’t know. A litter? A herd? A squeal?

2. Deflect the question.  Turn the question back around to them.  They’ll either react in horror or give you an honest answer because they were really just wanting to talk about themselves anyway.

Q: What kind of birth control are you using?
A: What kind do you use?

3. Politely ask for some privacy. This works better if you are one-on-one, especially with someone older than you. You don’t want to be seen as telling them off in front of other people, but it’s totally appropriate to ask for some space, and it may prevent you from these lines of questions in the future. If you use one of the first two approaches on someone and they keep asking you questions, default to this one the next time.

Q: How many are you guys planning to have?
A: That’s a pretty personal question.

I found that although I was kind of a weenie with setting boundaries before I had kids, I had no qualms about it after. I had a newfound need to protect my family, and that included our private affairs, like family planning, how I felt about having all girls, and how long I planned to nurse my babies.

People generally don’t like when you set a boundary in a relationship because you’re asserting yourself, and that shifts the power distribution. These responses help set boundaries with people who are too invasive, but it won’t work unless you are consistent.

It’s hard, but don’t give up. Having healthy relationships is not only good for your emotional health, but your kids will learn how to solve problems and resolve conflict from you. Knowing how to handle pushy people will help them assert themselves and stand up for what’s right when they need to the most.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

 

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