A few weeks after giving birth to my fourth child, I was at the grocery store with all my kids. A woman came up to me and slowly looked from child to child, then said, “Are these all yours?”
I was kind of taken aback. Um, I didn’t know four children was that many. My siblings and I number four. My own mother grew up in a family of four children, and my father was one of five sons. Was it terribly shocking that the child fast asleep in the shopping cart, as well as the three walking next to it, all belonged to me? I guess it depends who you’re asking.
It’s not only when people see me out and about with four kids that they either look at me with pity (what a burden those kids are on their poor mother) or judgement (stop crowding our world and using our resources on your kids)… but when I’m out and about sans kids, and someone finds out that I have four children, the jokes start. They say I’m crazy, a saint, too dumb to avoid pregnancy, or all of the above.
In fact, just tonight, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen for a few years. When he found out I had four children at home, he asked me if I’ve figured out how pregnancy occurs yet. It’s a laugh a minute when the number of children I have is being discussed. Ha… ha…. ha.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only woman who’s had to defend her decision to have a big family. One of my good friends has seven children. She told me that with each additional pregnancy she felt people’s judgment — as if they just assumed she was irresponsible — rather than that each and every one of those children is wanted and loved dearly.
And that’s a good point. Has it ever occurred to these people who laugh at the expense of mothers — who turn their big families into the butt of a joke (I swear, next time my smart mouth might take over my response) — that we really like having all these kids? That we really like being mothers? Because we love them is exactly why we have them. They are not a burden, not an inconvenience, not an unfortunate accident… and we do know how to prevent pregnancy if we so desire (but thanks for checking on that for us). Our kids are the loves of our lives (along with our husbands. That goes without saying — but I better put him in there in case he reads this).
Not everyone can have or wants to have a big family, of course. But I’m baffled as to why those of us who choose to have big families become walking jokes in the eyes of some. There are so many positive qualities that come with big families. Sharing, communication, team work, problem solving, taking turns… kids realize from a young age that they are not the center of the universe. (If you’ve dabbled in today’s dating world, I’m sure you’ve found far too many adults who’ve never learned they aren’t the center of the universe.) Kids who grow up in big families often end up very productive members of society.
None of this is to say that you can’t raise a kid successfully in a one or two child family. You can. But I’ve seen plenty of literature defending a woman’s choice to have one or no children, and not much defending the number of children I — and many women like me — have. So I’m writing my own…
Dear mothers of large families… give yourself a pat on the back! Go YOU! I so appreciate what you do — because our world really doesn’t — and I know what you do is so important, so selfless, so loving and so taken for granted. You are amazing and your family is so so lucky to have you. Please ignore the jokes at your expense. Sometimes people don’t know what to say, so they say something not very well thought out. It happens to all of us. Please keep on keeping on. You are raising fantastic kids. If there was a 10th degree black belt in multi-tasking, you would have earned it long ago. YOU. ARE. AWESOME!
PS. That friend of mine who has seven kids? The first few are now adults… an attorney, two (TWO!) professional athletes, a famous cook (seriously, she’s the next Rachael Ray)… I think they owe a lot of their success to their wonderful mother.
PPS. My husband and I are thinking about having one or two more children in the future. We aren’t ready now, but might be someday. If people tease me about having four kids, I can’t wait to hear the jokes if I should have five or six. Hopefully, they come up with something more original than asking if I’m aware the stork isn’t actually how babies get here 😉