Monday, July 12, 2010

Do you know what causes that?

7 pm saw me in an unfamiliar grocery store nearby my husband's work, picking up dinner fixin's before picking him up for the evening.  We were all tired, hungry and just plain done for the day.  I went as quickly as I could and hurried to the check out.

"Wow, you have your hands full!" the woman in front of me commented.

"Wait, you mean they are ALL YOURS?" the cashier marveled.

I smiled as best as I could, knowing I looked for all the world like a harried, overwhelmed mama.  "Um, yes, they are mine."

And then there it was, whispered between two people behind me in line, loud enough for me to hear.  I could feel my blood racing and the blush crawling up my neck.  "Do you think she knows what causes that?" they snickered.

I paid for my groceries and left the store with my head held high, but once I loaded my entire crew in the car, I took a few moments for a few deep breaths.

I never wanted this.  I have babies because I love them, not because I want to make some huge statement to the world.  I have babies because I love family and I love kids and I love my husband and this crew we have together.  

Not because I want random strangers up in my reproductive business.

For all the confidence I have in my decisions (yes, including the decision to have a larger than average family), I was not prepared for the fall-out of daring to have more than 2.1 children - and how many people take that as a right to make any comment, inappropriate or not, that flies into their heads.  Luckily I have only been victim to a few truly negative experiences.  The one above is relatively mild to what many of my friends have had to deal with.

Its not that I mind people noticing.  A "What a beautiful family!" or a "You are doing such a great job!" would be well received.  Its the connotations that come along with some of the other comments that bother me so much.

My husband was asked by a passer by "Are you one of those full quiver families?  Like those Duggars?" poor J, he had no idea what the man was talking about!

We've been asked if we are QuiverFull or Catholic more times than we can count.  The connotation there is that the only reason anyone would ever have so many darn kids is if they thought God was making them.  I happen to know quite a few Catholic and Quiverfull families and I see how much they love their families, each and every individual child. 

The "Do you know what causes that?" assumes complete ignorance, i.e. "the only reason anyone would have so many kids is if they were dumber than a box of rocks and had never heard of birth control."  Not super flattering.

The "Get a TV!" comment has been made to a friend of mine, implying that she and her husband are intimate out of sheer boredom.  Having 4 or 6 or even 14 kids doesn't mean a couple is sex crazed any more than having no kids means a couple is celibate.

I know it is mostly harmless and in good fun, but taken to the extreme it can be unloving and degrading to a woman who is just living her own private life the best she can.  For me, questions posed in a respectful manner without debate are always welcome.  Here, I'll even answer one for you!

Do you think you'll have more kids?
I'd love more kids. :-)


  1. You have a beautiful family and are an inspiration to so many people. And honestly 4 kids is not a huge family in my opinion. :) It's kind of funny that 4 kids spur comments such as what you heard. People are silly.

  2. Good for you. I loved growing up an a bigger than average family and am a little sad that I don't get to have 5 kids. We are working on #3 at the moment. And I totally know how "that happens". ;)

  3. One time someone asked us if we knew what caused it and Ben answered, "yes, and obviously we have skills!" hahahaha!

  4. I hear stories like that and I'm disappointed... one can easily have their opinions and choose a different route, but making blind judgment and choosing a snicker over encouragement is a shame. We could all so easily choose to empower each other rather than alienate- regardless of whether or not we agree with specific choices. I'm glad your kids have loving parents who truly want them. There's a shortage!

  5. Awww I think you're family is spectacular. I cannot count how many times I have had that very same grocery store trip. Big hugs. I am such a baby, I usually cry when I get everything in the van and sit down to buckle up. No, it's not what I signed on for either. But they may never know what they are missing.

  6. I completely feel for you! I would be a rich woman if I got a dollar for every time I heard "are all of those yours?" People just don't think before they talk!

  7. I received the same comments even though I was older and my four were not so close together. You are way more competent at home making than I ever was or will be, even in another life, but people can't see that in a grocery line.

    However, let me play devil's advocate. You have made a choice that is counter to current culture--making no judgment on the culture or on you. Imagine in the 1940s or 50s how a person with one child--or no children--was perceived? It wasn't the cultural norm, so it was different. Most people notice what is different and some make judgments.

    Others--more well intentioned--look at you, put themselves in your place and briefly worry on your behalf: "How can they afford to house so many children, feed them, clothe them and educate them?" It's none of their business--but they are imagining themselves in your position.

    You are VERY unusual in that you are bright and creative, you grew up in a successful large family, you continue to inform yourself on thrifty, wise homemaking and child rearing, you live near your supportive family, and you support and find support in those who share your values through this blog and in other ways. Not many other young people have all that going for them.

    Neither large families nor small families are virtuous in and of themselves. I have known bratty, insensitive only-children and loving, caring only-children. (I'm somewhere in between!) I have known large religious families who have seemingly put their trust in God, expanded their family size, but imprudently, with their children not eating at the end of the month because they were out of food stamps when the family income could no longer keep up. I have known large Catholic families--whom I always envied--where I learned years later that a parent had overdosed or had become quietly alcoholic under the strain of a family size that was more than they could handle.

    I suggest that you, as the counterculture Mom, make some cool business cards on your computer, listing your blog, that you keep in some outer pocket of your purse. Assume the best intentions of the person questioning you, smile your disarmingly dimpled smile and say, "I know how unusual my family must look." [Always align with the sentiments of your adversary!] "Take a look at my blog! I welcome your input!"

    See you soon!


    1. I enjoyed this message, MaryBeth. What a good idea (the cool business cards), so that it all stays more positive to this family and enlightens the one with the comment. It doesn't matter to me if a family has one child or many, or wants it that way or not; what matters is if they seem happy etc. . . Parents that are talking with their children and patient is a wonderful sight in the store. Also, parents that calmly and discretely correct their child's misbehavior is a beautiful sight! I try to compliment children's and parent's good example when I see it, because I mostly see impatient, yelling, walking-ahead-of-the-children mothers.

  8. Growing up in a family of 5 kids I can really relate to this. My mom had us twins first and was actually told by her doctor that she was too young had only been married a few weeks and to have an abortion! I'm so glad she chose differently. I'm surprised at the number of people that think we are a big family with only three kids! I feel blessed beyond measure. People are clueless and they are missing out on so much.

  9. My absolute favorite sentence in this post: "Not because I want random strangers up in my reproductive business." Love it! I'm coming from the other side of the spectrum, where DH & I have no children...but not for lack of trying. I try not to offer child-rearing advice, so I'd prefer not to be told on a regular basis that I am an incomplete person--y'know, "If you had kids, you'd understand." Ever been told that on the same day you had a miscarriage?

    Another couple who were married quite a few years before having kids were frequently asked when they were going to "start a family" (as if the two of them were not a REAL family, but I digress). Until the day he began replying, "We haven't decided yet, but we'll be sure to invite you over for the big show." Did I mention that this was in a church foyer? They were never asked again!

  10. So *are* you one of those Quiverful families? I haven't quite been able to figure it out. ;)

  11. Thanks for this post! I can relate, and I only have three! Although they are all under age 4! :o) The grocery store is the hardest, I usually have the youngest in my Ergo, the second one up in the shopping cart seat and my 4 yr. old walking next too me. Some people speak louder with just their looks! It is hard for me not to be short with the ones who aren't so considerate. Especially when they are the third or fourth negative comment I've had.

    A friend of mine has five boys under age 7. She heard, "Wow, you have your hands full!" so many times that she got a shirt that said, "Yes, I have my hands full!", and then each child had a shirt that said, "Hand full #1, Hand full #2, ... and so on! I thought that was just great! :)


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