A Society of “What’s-Nexters”

shutterstock_133992227“What’s-Nexting” is that point during the conversation when someone asks about what’s next for you in your life.  Have you met anyone special yet? When are you two getting engaged?  Have you set the wedding date?  When are you having a child?  When are you having your next child? Are you done having kids?  What school will your child attend? When are you retiring?  About the only question people don’t ask it seems is, “When do you plan on dying?”

I’ll admit it, I’ve what’s-nexted, I’ve been a what’s-nexter.  But after going through the period in my life when the what’s-nexting is down right out of control, I do it much less.  My main reason at first was that the nature of a what’s next question is seemingly benign, but actually very intimate.  A common what’s-nexting moment happens when someone is asked about whether or not they’re having kids.  There seems to be only a handful of possible answers to this question: the couple never wants children; they are undecided; they want them, but not now; they want them, and are having difficulties; or maybe the what’s next is growing inside her, and they aren’t ready to share this news.  Does someone I’m talking to at a gathering really want to get into any of that?  Probably not.

Lately though, I’ve come to realize that what’s-nexting is problematic in an even bigger way, as it can take someone completely out of the present moment.  All of a sudden, that person is forced to answer a question that they don’t have the answer to, because it hasn’t even happened yet!  Rest assured, when they are ready to share, “We’re engaged!” or “We’re having a baby!”, they will be shouting it from the roof top.

Given that we had kids a year apart, my husband and I managed to avoid the “When are you having the second?” question and went straight to “Are you done having kids?”  I have told people any of the following:  We don’t know.  Yes.  Probably.  No.  Depends on the day you ask and how much sleep we had the night before (the more sleep means the less likely we are to have more). My husband and I have often been what’s-nexted by perfect strangers.  We have developed and refined a polite few sentence response for those situations.

The worst what’s-nexters however can be the ones closest to you.  In particular, it seems that mothers of newly married daughters are often notorious what’s-nexters.  They can put a sense of urgency and pressure on their daughters, which only creates a chasm in the relationship.  So, to all the mothers out there who keep asking their daughters when they will be made a grandmother, I offer you this:  Let becoming a grandmother be something that you have zero control over.  Because you don’t have any control over it.  None.  Freeing yourself of this attachment will free you to be present in the relationship you have with your daughter, the relationship that exists right NOW.

Lucky for me, my mother is the anti what’s-nexter.  She never once asked me when I was going to have a baby.  Not once, I’m not kidding.  And we talk a lot, and are very close.  When I was ready to share my anxieties about our difficulties conceiving a baby, she was simply there to listen, and offer these comforting words:  “It will all turn out the way it should.  We will support whatever plans the two of you make.  What can I do to help you feel better right now?”  And, when I called up my parents to share my elation that I was pregnant, there was pure joy in their reaction.  Not relief that they would finally become grandparents.  Just happiness that their daughter was happy.  That’s all that mattered to them.

From my experience of worrying about not conceiving, I learned a very valuable lesson- I am my own worst what’s-nexter.  We are often fraught with feelings of anxiety and worry that the what’s-next won’t pan out.  It’s not as important WHEN it will happen, but that it WILL happen.  Unfortunately, we can’t know that.  But, we can know what the present moment is like, because it’s right in front of us.  If you notice that you are what’s-nexting yourself, look around you and soak up what’s right in front of you.  For me, that’s often my two little boys rolling around on the floor, giggling away.


One thought on “A Society of “What’s-Nexters”

  • Casey

    Thank you Liz for the reminder about this! It’s so easy to ask such questions in conversation, but they can be so uncomfortable for the recipients. We were ridiculously slow to get married and have a baby, and the waiting drove our family and friends crazy! We were so What-Nexted and frustrated that we became guarded and didn’t want to share anything with people until there was something big to share. We realized that, if we shared even one bit, then the What-Nexting accelerated like crazy. I’m very cautious about being on the asking end now!

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