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How do I answer the following ‘rude’ questions?

Dear Office-Politics,

Please tell me how to answer the following questions: ‘Why Don’t You Have Kids?’

How do I answer when asked why I don’t have children? I am a woman who does not want to go into details…

I don’t want to say that I can’t have kids because then they come back with, ‘Why don’t you adopt or I know this really good fertility doctor.’

If I also say that I simply don’t want kids, they label me selfish (not knowing my circumstances and I don’t want to let them know).

If I say, ‘None of your business’, that sounds rude. Could I say, ‘That’s personal.’

How Come You are an Assistant? I took a new job as an assistant, instead of a position with more authority because I want to spend time on hobbies and I am able to do this now. How do I answer this question? I don’t want to tell strangers my dreams… they might get jealous or resentful because they don’t have the time to do this because of their extra job responsibilities (they get paid a lot more, but people often get resentful: the grass is always greener on the other side).

Also how do I answer so they don’t think I am trying to hone in on their job? Like I just took the position to get a foot in the door so I could compete for their job?

People can resent you for having time….especially because I don’t have kids. One time I was talking about needing at least 8 hours sleep and how I like to sleep in on Saturday and this woman glared at me and said, ‘You can get by with a lot less.’ It turned out she was a new mother.

And please do not answer by asking me why I don’t have kids or how I am missing out because I don’t have kids……(I get this sometimes)….I do a lot of volunteer work and have very personal reasons why I don’t have kids; valid reasons.

Thank you and I look forward to your responses.


franke james

Dear Marching-to-my-own-drum,

Humor is your best weapon. With a little thought I’m sure you can come up with some ‘zingers’ that you can throw at those nosy people — and make them step back and realize that their question was ‘out of order’.

Zingers can be self-deprecating like this: ‘Why don’t you have kids?’ ‘Pollution. I wouldn’t want to contaminate the gene pool any further.’

Probably you’d get a shocked reaction. In jest you could mention the Darwin Awards… you have to be comfortable pulling their legs a bit. But you could follow up the humor with ‘I’m very happy just the way I am. Thank you very much for asking.’

You are the best judge as to how far you want to go with humor, but no doubt you will shock some people and hopefully make them realize how inconsiderate they are to be prying.

Regarding the ‘assistant’ question, I ran into that scenario recently. I was working with a mid-size multinational client. A new ‘hire’ was telling me about himself and his background. He used to work at a much larger company, and have more a Senior role with heavy responsibilities. But this fellow’s priorities had shifted. So he moved to my client’s company where he was front line, customer service. He was having a ball — because he didn’t have to take his job home with him, and work 24/7. Much less stress. For the first time in his life he was able to explore other passions — like amateur theatre and fitness. I totally understood where he was coming from, and that he had made the right decision for himself. I was very impressed with him. He is redefining what ‘success’ is to him. He is living his life the way he wants to.

So how should you answer ‘How Come You are an Assistant?‘ I would say something like, ‘I’ve worn many hats in my life. But at this point in my life, this job just suits me to tee. I enjoy it — and I don’t ever lose sleep over it.’

The point you want to make is that you are happy and content. And isn’t it kind of you to ask about me…

In summary, I’d say that most people are more concerned about themselves, and what’s going on in their lives, than anything you are doing in your life. Even though they’re asking questions, at the end of the day, life revolves around them, not you. So relax. Take it all with a grain of salt. It sounds like you know the path you want to take. Congrats!

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.


Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com


Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.

Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2005. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.

  1. 6 Answers to “How do I answer the following ‘rude’ questions?”

  2. Feedback from Marching-to-my-own-drum

    Thank you for your time! The responses are great!

    By Letter Writer on Apr 20, 2007

  3. Suggested responses from an OP reader:

    “Because I don’t know how. I missed sex-ed in school.”

    “Because I just emotionally haven’t even been able to think about it, since the miscarriage. I’m sure you understand.”

    “Oh, do you think I deserve a promotion? Gosh, I don’t know how to ask for one. Would you please do me a favor and ask the boss to promote me?”

    “I’m an Assistant because I did really well at the interview, and I’m the one they hired. Yeah me!”

    “I’m an Assistant because I enjoy helping people.”

    “I’m an Assistant because I don’t want anybody to be jealous of my job. I don’t want to have to watch my back all the time.”

    By Rod on Apr 21, 2007

  4. Question: “Why don’t I have kids?”

    Answer: “Because I don’t want any.”

    It can’t get any clearer than that.

    By Rosie on May 9, 2007

  5. After suffering questions about “why don’t you have kids?” for 20+years I have found saying “I can’t have kids” is the most effective response. This stops 90% of further questions. If a “why not?” question follows, I say “it’s a very painful subject that I would rather not discuss”-end of discussion (usually). It also helps to remember that even though your reproductive life decisions are really no one’s business the asker is usually just trying to be friendly and show an interest.

    By Anne on Sep 28, 2007

  6. I was reared by a mom and dad that DRILLED that I should NEVER, under any circumstances ask people personal questions. So, for example, I have NEVER and will NEVER AS LONG AS I LIVE ask someone: (1) their age; (2) their weight; (3) how much they paid for something; (4) whether they are married or have children; (5) anything about their sexual orientation; (6) sex life and practices; and (7) their living situation (e.g., parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.). I have found that this quality has served me well as I have earned the trust and respect of others. Okay. I know that I am a DREAM employee because I was reared that if people wanted you to know anything about their personal life, THEY WOULD TELL YOU. Recently, I told my a gossip my age (I felt that I had to because she would go back and say something negative about me to those who will vote on my tenure!) and moments later, someone different made a comment about me being at the childbearing stage. I IMMEDIATELY felt violated and humiliated. Unfortunately, I NO LONGER feel comfortable in my work environment and want to distance myself from everyone. While I realize that this is not fair to those who know how to MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS, I can’t help but wonder how many people this person has told my age to. I am far from old, but I think that it’s EXTREMELY INCONSIDERATE and just plain WRONG when people use diferences in power to ask personal information. I would appreciate any advice on this topic as my distancing myself from my co-workers has more to do with their inconsiderate nature than with any anti-socialist behavior on my part. Thanks in advance.

    By An Uncomfortable Professor on Nov 17, 2008

  7. I have a similar problem- I’m a young female expatriate, so I live in a foreign country, but for my own reasons. Yet at job interviews I constantly get asked why I am living in this country and whether or not I have a boyfriend here. I think those are too personal questions to be asked in an interview- any hints on what I should say?

    By Miss Anonymous on Feb 7, 2009

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