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Carolyn Hax: Shrug off others’ intrusive queries

Wed., April 28, 2010

Dear Carolyn: I am mother of a 1-year-old boy. It has been one of the most stressful and difficult experiences of my life. My husband and I agree we do not want more children. We love our son more than anything in the world but we know our limitations and are happy having a small family.

However, people are always flooding us with questions about when will we have the next one? When we say we probably will not have any more, they then stress to us how important it is to have siblings for a child. People even insinuate that we are selfish. I have almost gotten to the point where I feel like I have to lie to friends and family and say, “We’re not sure yet,” to avoid feeling like a horrible person. Why is it such a crime to have one child? – Frustrated With Judgments

It’s not, of course, as you know – and you also know the only real “crimes” in this scenario are the deep intrusions into your intimate family business.

Unfortunately, at normal conversation speed, it’s hard to tell a friendly question from one that packs an agenda. But when you don’t care about anyone’s agenda but your own, you have the luxury of shrugging everyone off regardless of their intent. People can insinuate whatever they want, and your reflexive response to criticism will be, “Eh. To each his own.”

Unless and until you get to that Teflon nirvana of not caring, though, your best bet is to have a shrug-off line handy.

If you fear you won’t sound convincing, then try taking yourself off the spot instead by putting your questioners on it: “Huh. Why do you ask?”

Fair’s fair.

To those who miss the hint and actually justify their personal questioning, you can just say, “Oh, OK,” and then ignore their original questions. As with any dance, it gets easier every time.

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