What do you think of when you look back on the holiday season? Do you think about the Christmas you celebrated with your family? Do you think about cherished loved ones you were blessed to celebrate the holidays with? We hope so, but don’t feel bad if you answered “no” to those questions. Family is a huge part of what makes the holiday season so special but getting together with extended family often involves something unwanted: small talk.

“Small talk? Really? What’s the big deal about small talk?”

Small talk like asking a cousin “how have things been?” or “how were finals?” is perfectly harmless, just part of the process of surviving an awkward family gathering long enough to get a slice of Grandma’s famous pie. However, there’s a strain of small talk that can unleash negative feelings and be extremely hurtful.

The Gauntlet of Harmful Small Talk

This harmful small talk is predominantly directed toward women and includes “holiday classics” such as:

  • “You’re kind of old to still be single, aren’t you?”
  • “Are you seeing anyone?”
  • “When do you plan on starting a family?”
  • “Are you planning on having a baby soon?”

First of all, decisions about who you date, whether to marry, and when (or if) you choose to start a family are your decisions. You don’t owe your parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, cousins or anyone else an explanation about how you choose to live your life or what order you experience life’s milestones on your journey.

Such questions from friends and family are especially hurtful for people who are struggling with infertility. Questions about starting a family can throw salt in an already raw wound for women and their partners.

Tips For Surviving Future Holiday Get-Togethers

While you can’t prevent people from asking questions or change the reality of your situation, there are steps you can take to make future holidays more enjoyable for you as you continue on your fertility journey:

  • Be selective about which invitations you accept: you’re under no obligation to attend every holiday party you’re invited to.
  • Put yourself first: You’re going through a difficult time and your self-care should be a priority.
  • Alter your traditional routine: If being around relatives with babies and young children is difficult right now, alter your plans by arriving the day of the celebration instead of a day or days before.
  • Take a special trip just you and your partner: You’re the only two people who know just what you need right now, and it’s okay if what you need is a break from the usual family gatherings that take place during the holidays.