Whether in early adulthood, or in your fourties, you probably have a relative who places a lot of value on procreation. They want you to have kids, and the pressure is annoying at best, stifling at worst.

Year after year, the dreaded questions may come up more frequently: “When are you having children?” “Why haven’t you had children yet?” And sometimes a joke or two: “Well, you’re not getting any younger!”

Inquisitive or pushy relatives often overuse these seemingly harmless questions. Whether they’re just trying to make small talk, or are trying to force their expectations on you, it puts you in an uncomfortable position. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can prepare for the bombardment of questions directed at you and your significant other.

Reflect On Your Situation

One of the first steps to preparing yourself to face others is to actually reflect on why you don’t want kids. While the exact reason why you’ve decided not to have kids doesn’t actually matter, it is important to understand your own emotions before expecting others to. Avoid being caught off guard, and know how you’ll present your feelings ahead of time – this way, you can pre-empt further prying.

Once you’ve become more comfortable with your own reasons, you can also take solace in the fact that increasing numbers of people choose not to have children. Others are bound to identify with this struggle you’re going through, and at least there’s some validation in that. Sharing may help!

Respond in Real Time

When a relative tells you that you’ll be “missing out” by not having children, here are a few direct ways you can respond:

  1. You’re currently focusing on an important opportunity in your career that may not come around again.
  2. You’re trying to become financially stable before adding another member to your family.
  3. You’ve been trying, but it may take some time!
  4. 1 in 5 women in America choose not to have children, as opposed to 1 in 10 during the ‘70s, each year. Only 41% of Americans state, today, that children are important in a successful marriage, as opposed to 65% from two decades ago.
  5. You’re currently fulfilled in your life; why rock the boat?
  6. You’d rather have a child when you feel you truly want one rather than have one ‘just because.’

When relatives begin to push the issue further, avoid getting defensive. Remember, you have already established your own reasons for not wanting to have children. You don’t owe a further explanation.

For example, if a relative uses this to comment on your age, you might feel the need to attack them on their age too. Instead, you can simply state that your age has nothing to do with your decision to have a child, or say that you’ll “think about it,” to placate them.

Similarly, you can also deflect and steer the conversation away from yourself. Shift the topic towards them: “Thats nice, what’s new with you?” By encouraging the pushy relative to talk about their interests, you turn the heat down on your own personal life.

… and if nothing changes?

At a certain point, you can’t control the reactions of others and it becomes their problem. If their behavior becomes aggressive, you can try to make them lose interest in your situation (grey rocking). Or, you can directly tell them that this is your life, and they need to take a seat.

Only you know if, how, and when you’ll approach this milestone, and no automatic moral judgement should be associated with your decision. If your family member can’t come to terms with that truth, then maybe they’re not living in the same reality as you, anyway.