Jenny Ingles, CFCP
Navigating the Holidays - When Your Family Butts in to Your Sex Life
Have you ever had family members who simply could not keep their noses out of your sex life? Or worse, strangers? I've heard stupid questions from, "are you guys ever going to have kids?" to "don't you know what causes that?" and everything in between.
My first really painful moment happened during a Thanksgiving dinner when one of my husband's (slightly intoxicated) relatives asked, "I thought you guys wanted kids? What's taking so long?" It just so happens that we had been trying to have children for six years. So when I snapped back, "we've been working on it for years and it doesn't seem to be in our cards," everyone got the point. Then the awkward silence ensued. It seems reasonable that everyone present for that interchange would have learned not to ask me such questions. But when it comes to family, people simply don't learn.
Approximately 12 seconds after our first daughter was born, people started asking us when we were going to have another. Then when he was born they wanted to know if we were "done" since we had our boy and girl. When baby number three rolled around, we started getting the lifted eyebrow, "you're done, right?" But it wasn't until baby number four that the really fun questions started. "You know what causes that, right?" "Don't you have a TV?" "Can't he just get snipped?" "Did your Catholic Contraception fail?" Or the exasperated, "you must be so busy!"
So why do people care so much about my sex life? They aren't paying my bills, buying me food, or supporting my children in any way. In fact, the people who do watch my kids (cue Grandma and Grandpa) have never thought twice about the number of kids we have. What is it that causes people to be so nosey and how do you navigate that - especially at holiday gatherings? If you step back from the fact that aunts and cousins really want to snuggle your first (and possibly second) baby, there's an underlying theme that permeates these questions. It's a Western culture that values a consumer-based, hyper-autonomous lifestyle. When it comes to having kids in the first place, people approach it like this - Want kids? Have them. It's your right. Infertility? No problem, just do IVF. It's your right, after all. But as soon as you have two children, the focus shifts. Your right isn't what matters. It's your ability to have stuff and do things that matters. Your rights, at that point, must conform to what society has deemed as a "successful" life. Two cars, a perfectly remodeled house, kids in every sport, fancy clothes, bougie coffee (not that I'm against bougie coffee), and the list goes on. Someone has a pre-determined idea of what it means to live a good life and they're imposing those values on you.
A life well lived has no set number of children. A life well lived discerns God's will and determines your family size - that may be zero children or thirteen children. A life well lived is a life that rejects hyper-autonomy and sacrifices for the good of the other. It's a life that rejects consumerism that turns people into objects to be conquered, bought, and sold - as a right. While I don't have the time to really delve into this, most people would say, "I don't think people are objects", but our society is based on turning people into things. A hook-up culture, pornography, contraception, IVF, Assisted Suicide, etc... And the people that are asking you these questions are coming from this philosophical perspective.
So what's a girl (or guy) to do? The first thing is to recognize that your well-meaning relative, or the jerk at the grocery store, truly thinks that you are living a poor life. They think that your choices are bad for you. Is Christmas dinner the time to go into a philosophical debate about the culture and why it's bad? Probably not. As much as you would like to "school" this person, you probably won't get very far and there's a good chance that everyone will leave angry. I've found it helpful to respond to these questions with "we talk to God and if He thinks our finances and sanity are in order, then we'll likely have more." People usually don't have a good response to that and they move on. It's also good to be prepared for the fact that it's coming. And if you know who the offender(s) is going to be, head off the intrusion with a simple "I'd prefer if you don't ask me about my family size tonight." If you're really spunky, you could just ask them to stay out of your bedroom. It's also helpful to have the spouse handle his or her own family. If your family is the offending family, step up and don't make your spouse answer intrusive and awkward questions. Finally, if all else fails and you simply can't avoid the questions or person, then have an exit plan. Smell a phantom poopy diaper that needs to be changed, find the wine bar, run to talk Uncle Jim about the upcoming basketball game, etc.
I hope you find this helpful, and may God Bless you and your family this Christmas.