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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Carolyn Hax: Mother-in-law won’t stop asking, ‘When are you going to get pregnant?’

Washington Post

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Hello! Any suggestions for avoiding the ever-fun “When are you going to get pregnant?” questions? Husband and I are actually trying, haven’t been as successful as quickly as we’d like, and had some hard times – a really really really early miscarriage, not even comparable to many women, I know, but it still hurts. Talking about it is stressful and painful and not fun.

We’re at “that stage” when we “should” be having kids according to my in-laws; we have a house, have been married for a number of years, have steady jobs, etc. We told them once to stop asking because of the reasons listed above, but they insist they want to “be there” for us on this journey … and their form of “being there” just makes things worse.

My mom had a really hard time getting pregnant, so she’s super sympathetic, doesn’t push, but lends an ear when I ask. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, talks about how much easier it would’ve been if we started trying years ago, how she got pregnant so quickly with her two sons because she started in her early 20s, etc. I don’t want to and don’t need to hear any of that, so I’ve actually gotten up and walked away when she’s continued on despite my asking her to change the topic.

Problem is, with a holiday coming up, I’ll have her AND all her family backing her up, and I’m pretty sure it’s rude to stand up and walk out on a big family dinner. Any suggestions on how to shut this down before it even starts? – Avoiding Pregnancy Questions

No, it’s not rude to stand up and walk out of any dinner in response to being grilled on a topic you’ve already asked people to drop. It’s completely appropriate.

When they “insist they want to ‘be there’ for us on this journey,” it’s also perfectly within the bounds of good manners to respond: “The best way to ‘be there on this journey’ is to respect our request not to keep asking about it. When there is something to share, we will share it.”

If you get pushback/resistance: “Pushing this will make you a difficult part of our journey, not a joyous one. Please respect our position.”

Pushing you is rude. Responding civilly to being pushed is not rude.

I hope your husband agrees to be the one to convey this message. To leave it to you to be the messenger will invite his mother to treat you as the “problem,” which for obvious reasons is so unfair to you. Your mother-in-law is the problem right now; if your husband won’t draw a line with her to protect you, then he becomes part of the problem. Given that you already have an emotional weight on you – I’m sorry – I hope he sees that and intervenes accordingly.

By the way, I answered your question as a bigger-situation-in-progress, but please know that with first-time questioners about having kids, it’s appropriate (and arguably long overdue) to say, “I know you mean well, but for many people that is a painful question.”

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