“When Are You Going to Have Kids?” and Other Awkward Questions for Working Women
As a working woman, it’s hard to avoid the fact that you will face numerous hurdles on the road to work life balance. These obstacles can take many forms: the gender pay gap (yes, that still exists), workplace sexism or societal expectations that you can be wife, partner, mom and star employee, all while not smudging your mascara. And that’s just to name a few.
Given all you face, when that well-meaning but uninformed friend, family member or co-worker busts out the classic “so, when are you going to have kids” line it can be a bit…grating. As if you weren’t already doing enough in your career and private life. Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the most clueless things said to women in the workplace, along with a few suggestions of better, kinder and gentler ways to potentially get your point across.
Yeah, About that Kids Line…
Since we brought it up already, it seems like everyone and their mother (literally) feels entitled to hear all about your reproductive plans simply by virtue of donning a suit or sheathe dress and pumps. It makes the, mostly, innocent question into a kind of rite of passage. “Hey, there, successful woman in the workplace. We see you’ve made it big and have really committed yourself to your job and career. Awesome…but…when are you planning to make time for kids now?”
For some women, having a successful career will be enough to satisfy them. Others may want the challenge of balancing family and work and may choose to not have kids or even struggle with infertility. Neither option should be expected from either society, or nosey bystanders. As a general rule, unless a woman brings this one up on her own, best to stay away from reproduction entirely.
So How Does He/She/They Handle You Being the Sugar Mama?
It’s a bit hard to fathom in the modern day and age, but the question of your spouse or partner’s ego still somehow comes into play once you become a career or working woman. The more successful and higher your salary, the more you friends seem to possess some wide-eyed disbelief that you could be making as much, maybe even more than your significant other.
The truth of the matter is that strong relationships aren’t dependent on how much more either person makes. They are based on trust, communication and an even distribution of the total responsibilities of your household. While money is an easily quantifiable asset, each individual possesses their own particular resources that they use to contribute, whether it be via checking account or in other areas. If you’re truly interested in how a couple juggles busy careers, try asking specific questions about scheduling or tips about balancing home and life. This way you will express interest and empathy and probably get some handy pointers in the process.
So What’s it Like Working in a Man’s World
File this one also under the category of questions that shouldn’t be asked in the 21st century. Thinking of the professional or white collar field as the domain of men is about as outdated as a Mad Men episode. Today, women are prevalent in many traditionally male dominated fields. From banking to law to construction, increasing awareness that skills and perspectives of all backgrounds can be valuable assets have helped women make huge strides in the job market.
If you’d still like to have a conversation about the male/female imbalance, why not ask a woman about specific challenges she may have faced in her job or career? With just a little change in phrasing you open the door for a positive conversation regarding change and remaining real world differences in workplace inequality. This also shifts the focus on how a woman copes to what can be done better, a valuable topic for all of us to tackle.
Don’t You Wish You Could be a Stay at Home Mom?
Saving the best for last, this insensitive but frequently asked question touches on both the presumption of inequality between men and women in the workplace, reproduction and work life balance. In effect, it’s the awkward question trifecta for working women. Look, we realize you may love wiping noses, changing diapers and sweet snuggle time in the afternoon. But for some women the satisfaction for being able to provide financially for their family is equally as rewarding.
Like most of the other questions on our short, but eye-roll worthy list, this isn’t a matter of one role being better than the other when it comes to balancing family and work or being a working mom or working woman. It’s simply a matter of balance generally. Let’s face it. Woman, man, mother, father, kids or no kids; when push comes to shove we’d all rather have our days and nights to do as we please. If you mean well, ask a woman about how she finds spare time for hobbies or leisure activities or for making time for oneself.
The Final Word
Each of the above topics also make great opportunities to spur conversation about working from home as a way to provide flexibility for some of your personal aspirations. Modern alternatives such as freelance work, working from home and flexible commuting can help meet a variety of needs for modern families. But regardless of what career path you take, working woman or full time working mom, we should all be just a little more accepting of roles both traditional and non. In the end, that old saying really does hold true. It takes all kinds…