A while back I talked about what it is like having six kids. Which I feel a little silly writing about in the first place because I know plenty of other families that have the same amount of children, and several that have more. But big picture having more than 3 kids is out of the norm, and having more than 4, or dare I say 5, qualifies as an alternative lifestyle.
Since it’s popular these days to lament about the struggles of living an alternative lifestyle, I’ve decided to jump into the fray.
Let’s talk about what it’s like to go out in public when you have a big family.
When you have a big family people stare at you. They stare unashamedly. Many times they stare and then shake their heads as they turn and walk away. I suppose it’s kind of like coming upon a parade while you’re in the grocery store. Heck, spectate long enough and there may even be candy thrown. ( or toys, or crayons, or cheerios, or the car keys that somehow made their way out of my bag and into the fist of a small child.)
Apparently seeing a mom with several children is one of those car accident situations where you just can’t look away.
I try to tell myself that it is just because I’m insanely attractive and my kids are so cute and well behaved that people stand and stare in amazement.
Probably not. But it could be.
Every time I leave the house someone somewhere will comment about the size of our family. Like a mathematical equation where 1+1=2 , only in this case me+6 kids= please-comment-about-my-life.
The thing I hear most often and without fail is, ” You’ve got your hands full!”
This is true and I’m sure they mean well. I certainly do have my hands full. But the thing that is frustrating about this comment is that people say it because they want to say something about the size of our family but don’t know what to say. So it’s a safe way of commenting on the pack of kids we have without being obviously rude.
Imagine you are wheelchair bound and someone says to you, ” Looks like you have a hard time getting around!”
That is a true statement, but truly unnecessary all the same.
The ” You’ve got your hands full” comment is the most common reaction I get.
The second one is, ” Are all these yours?”
This one is just a little awkward because it’s being asked by strangers. What if I had a sibling pass away and I now have guardianship over their children and it’s been an extremely painful loss and family struggle, and I burst into tears as I explain that a few are my late brothers children who we’ve adopted…
Thankfully for them the answer is simply, ” Yep! They sure are!”
Those two statements I hear every time I leave the house, no matter where I go- I am not exaggerating.
” Do you run a daycare?” Is next in the lineup.
This would be understandable if I were at a park, or the zoo, but I always have this said to me when I’m in a store. Once I was in Woodmans and literally had this said to me 3x in the span of 15 minutes, all as we made our way through the produce section.
Why in the world if I ran a daycare would I bring my daycare kids grocery shopping with me? I barely want to bring my own kids, let alone someone else’s kids. I’m a little nuts, but I’m not insane.
Next would be the all too clever, ” Don’t you know where babies come from?”
…. why yes. Yes we do. Obviously…
and the beat goes on:
” You must be catholic.”
” Are you farmers?”
” You should watch more t.v”
” You and your husband need a new hobby.”
” How many kids are you gonna have?”
” How do you afford all those kids?”
” You must have to drive a bus.”
” You’re too young to have all those kids.”
” You’re crazy!”
” I can’t believe you have all those kids.”
” Couldn’t you get a babysitter?”
A few years ago I was in a small town grocery store going through the checkout. I had a pregnant belly and 4 kids with me. The cashier said to me,
” Is four kids not enough for you?
Here are some interesting observations:
Observation #1: White middle aged women are the worst.
They make the most comments and do the most head shaking by far than any other demographic.
Black women make comments too, not as often, and when they do they have a very different feel.
An example would be: (as opposed to the middle aged white woman cashier who asked me if 4 kids wasn’t enough for me) I was checking out at Wal-Mart once and the 30 something black woman cashier said , ” Girl you crazy! I don’t know how you do it. I got 3 kids and they drive me crazy. They talking at me every second I’m home an I’m like, go.”
or another time,” Them all yo kids? That’s amazing. You get it girl!”
There’s surprise, but a lack of condescending voice.
Then there are Hispanic women. Who never fail to smile at us and say things like, ” These all yours? They are so cute! I want a big family too, but I only have 3 now.”
There are many reasons why my apocalypse plan is to run away to the Mayan Riviera.
Observation # 2: Seniors are the sweetest
I can’t think of a single time I’ve had an older person say anything to me other than, ” What a beautiful family you have!”
Which just goes to show how quickly culture changes and shifts in what is considered normal. These are the people that most likely had big families themselves or were raised in one. They will never know how much I appreciate their encouragement. When I have a wrinkled old couple stop to coo at our baby and ask me how old they all are I want to say, ” Bless you! Bless you!”
Observation #3 People don’t harass my husband… just me
Proof of sexism, maybe? Maybe not. Regardless of why, it’s true. My husband rarely has people say anything to him while he is out with all of the kids. Because a daddy with a pack of children is sweet, but a momma? Is irresponsible.
I’ve been followed around stores by overly concerned employees before who reprimand the kids if they get a little too close to merchandise. This has happened on more than just a few occasions.
The strange thing is my kids don’t act like animals in public. Sure the baby cries here and there, and I have to tell my 4 and 6 year old from time to time that the stacks of toilet paper in the store are not a good place to take a nap. But all in all they walk along with me, laugh, poke one another, and talk about the stuff they want to buy.
What bothers me most about all of this nonsense is not how it affects me. Sure I get embarrassed or angry, like the time I was at the clinic and a woman walking down a hallway said, ” Oh my g-d ! Are those all your kids? ” so loudly other people turned to watch our conversation.
What really gets to me is the fact that my children are old enough now to feel embarrassed. When strangers make these comments it is as if my children are accessories rather than real people with feelings and thoughts; deserving their respect. Imagine someone talking about why you exist in front of you as if you are not there. The underlying message they get from society is: you are a nuisance, you are too much, you shouldn’t be here.
Society likes to talk real loud about how they care about kids, especially in politics- they are held up as a primary reason for supporting that platform: Do it for the sake of the children!
And yet our culture is very intolerant of them. Parents feel guilt when they have to bring a child along to an appointment, to the store, or with them on an airplane where some parents pass out earplugs and an apology note to the other passengers; because heaven forbid they have to share space with children who you know, act like children occasionally. We love kids, and they are really important- but could you please put them away, keep them hidden, keep them in school or daycare where we don’t have to mingle or put up with them. And this applies to all parents. It doesn’t matter the number of children you have, at some point parents will be made to feel like they are an annoyance for bringing their kids out in public spaces.
Here is what these people don’t see when they look at us:
They don’t see that my husband and I have been blessed with meeting a sweet new baby six times. There is nothing like it in the world the first time you hold your newborn and we’ve gotten to experience that joy over and over.
- They don’t see my 7 year old son who spends the day quietly daydreaming about traveling the world and rescuing animals.
My 10 year old daughter who is so capable and happy to help her momma, balancing our roly poly baby on her small hip.
Or our 6 year old who sings the most hilarious songs at the top of her lungs while she’s in the bathroom, supposedly brushing her teeth.
The 2 year old who says to me, ” Oh Mommy, I got it!” while he tries to help me fix something or carry in groceries.
Our 4 year old with big beautiful brown eyes who loves to brush my hair and is always setting up a salon so she can brush her sisters hair.
And finally our fat baby.
When I’m alone with her people tell me how cute she is, they stop to ask me how old and what her name is. When we’re all together she becomes just one more. But she’s beautiful and soft with rolls on her arms and thighs. Her cute smile lights up our family and her crazy adventurous spirit makes us laugh.
They don’t see them laugh and play with one another. They don’t see dear friends who pile up on the floor and watch movies together, run in the sprinkler, or work together to keep our home running.
What people see when they look at them is work.
What they don’t seem to see…
is the reward.