“Are you in college?” “Are you pregnant yet?” “How old is she?” These might not seem like insensitive or awkward questions, but they can be.
All of the questions written above are questions I’ve gotten or people I know have gotten, and they’ve all caused some awkwardness or sadness. In the case of “Are you in college,” I used to get this one all the time, and many of my friends have too. I heard it a lot while working in food and beverage, and it was always frustrating.
It’s an insulting question, even though it’s not meant to be an insult. But, it can be weird that because you’re doing a great job, someone assumes that where you are certainly can’t be where you want to be – i.e. assuming that working in food and beverage can’t be a purposeful life choice. Many educated people love working in food and beverage and have long, full, successful careers working in the field.
In the case of “Are you pregnant yet,” this one can also be awkward and sad for many reasons. Some people just don’t want kids, and they really don’t want someone pestering them about procreating. Some people really want kids, but can’t have kids or are having trouble having kids. I am incapable of lying, so before getting pregnant with my daughter, when one of my friends asked me this question, I answered “Well, I was, but I just had a miscarriage.” I felt terrible for the person who asked. The person felt terrible for asking. It was just crappy all around.
Then there are other, even less suspect questions like “How old is she.” I’m referring to babies in this case, not to adults! As a preemie parent, I can’t tell you how often I get this question. While it would be easier to just tell people her “adjusted” age (which is the age she’d be if she were born on time), as previously mentioned, I can’t lie. So, I answer with my daughter’s actual age, which inevitably leads to a look of confusion and the follow-up question “Hmm, is she small for her age?” Then I tell them she was born three months early, so she’s a hybrid of whatever her actual age is and her adjusted age.
Other preemie parents I know get this question and it makes them sad and awkward. People who ask this question don’t mean harm, but for the parent, it can be sad to have someone question the baby’s size – especially because that baby probably had to fight very hard to gain every pound! When my daughter was born, she was a tiny 2 pounds, 2 oz. I recently measured her footprint on a business card, and she was so tiny that her feet didn’t even reach the top! So questions that remind preemie parents of those early days, or those hard-fought gains, can be tough!
Questions often seem harmless, but sometimes they are emotional triggers for people for one reason or another. I’m not saying to not ask questions – I’m known for asking more questions than most! I’m saying to consider what you ask before you do, or at least understand if someone doesn’t want to answer a question (again, I’m a question kind of girl, so I definitely need to remind myself of this!).