This was 3 years ago when I was taking up interviews for a job change. I went interviewed with at least 5 companies before I chose the job and company that I am working for today.
I recall quite clearly the interview discussions with all of these companies ( except the one I work for). Apart from the usual questions like- "Why do you need the change?", "What value would you be adding?", "What is the salary expectation?", "What are your credentials", "What’s your family background?".
There was this one question – Are you not planning a family? (This was after I told them that I had been married for 4 years) This question coming from a stranger, whom I have met just about 30 minutes ago, baffled me to no extent. I felt angry, emotional, shocked at the same time. One of the interviewers was a very senior woman professional from a reputed bank. When she asked me the same question I was quite surprised.
Who are we to ask this question to someone whom we remotely know? Who are we to broach this topic without knowing the history? Who are we to give free advice to people on such a big life decision? Unless you know the person really well, I feel it's not just inappropriate but also a privacy violation to ask something like this.
Asking someone this question is akin to stepping on the wrong foot and can push a person into an emotional zone. People do not understand and analyse the gravity of such a graceless question.
As per me, there are a number of reasons why it is not right to ask this question.
Maybe the couple has decided not to have a baby :
Nobody is under any legal obligation to have kids after marriage. We have seen increasing cases of couples opting for a no-kids policy. It is better than living in denial when you know you do not want the responsibility of having kids or sacrificing your life for them. There could also be a situation that one out of the two wants a child and the other is completely against it. You would be putting them on the spot by asking your question.
They could be dealing with the loss:
Miscarriages, stillbirths, planned abortions due to medical reasons could all be a possibility. If something like that has happened then most probably only a close group of people would be aware. If you are asking this question in the course of a conversation, you may have hit a nerve and this could be emotionally very upsetting for the person concerned.
Just not ready:
Couples can have goals and objectives apart from planning a baby. Maybe they are planning to buy a house, they could be planning for better job opportunities, maybe they are waiting to be stable financially so that they are better prepared when the baby arrives.
Might have trouble conceiving:
It is not all hunky-dory when you decide to have a baby. Not everybody can conceive as easily. What if the couple you just asked this question has gone through multiple treatments since years to be only disappointed month after month. They will not be able to handle the blow they receive when someone brings up this sensitive topic.
A child can never be happy if the parents are not in a happy relationship- Period! If a couple is trying to work on their relationship for a better future, then a baby will definitely not be in the immediate plan.
So what is it that can be done to tackle this? Simple- Don’t ask such questions!
Exclude this from your conversation with the couples who you think should have babies. There are endless reasons circling around it and they don’t need a constant reminder of those from you. If anyone has to discuss, analyse and decide about this, it is the same couple that you are talking to.
And yes! Apart from the other obvious factors which worked for me, I took up the current job that I have, as this was the only organization who respected my privacy and no one in the 4 interview rounds asked me this ill-fitted question.