Friday, October 22, 2010

The things people say!

Eric and I would like to have more kids (but this is not a pregnancy announcement!). Honestly. I really can't imagine never holding a newborn again and, besides, it just feels like our family is not complete yet; if we stopped having children now, it would always feel like someone is missing from our home.

But, even though we are open to life and sincerely hope that we are blessed with more children, I still have some fears about having another child. Some of the fears are silly or rather superficial and others require serious consideration.

1. As I've mentioned before, the big passenger vans scare me! Can I please have a boatload of kids without having to drive one of those humongous things?!

2. Each pregnancy is physically and emotionally getting harder. Nausea, exhaustion that lasts the entire nine months, pain!, difficulty sleeping, difficulty sitting, difficulty walking, difficulty breathing, you get the idea. The postpartum phase hasn't been the most fun either (I am much, MUCH better now, by the way!). These fears are real and I'm working them out through prayer, support from my husband and through trying to plan ahead and prepare for these difficulties before I get completely overwhelmed.

3. I think my biggest fear (and probably the least rational) is of the comments that people make to those of us with larger than average families.

I'm a shy and very non-confrontational person and I really don't know how to handle other people's rude, inappropriate or nosy comments. It seriously stresses me out!

For instance, the typical "Are you done yet?" question. When people ask this question, they usually only want to hear one answer: yes. You can see it in their eyes. Sometimes I want to give them their "yes" just so that will be the end of the conversation and then I can be left alone. But when I say, "Not necessarily" or "I don't know what God has in store for us" or even a vague "I don't know, we'll see," it throws them off and they get very uncomfortable and often very defensive about their own choices. Then I have to listen to long explanations about why they're "done" or how they're "done" or how insane it would be for them not to be "done." And, in the mean time I try to smile and nod and give the necessary "Oh..." or "Uh-huh" while trying to find an exit to this uncomfortable conversation.

The other reactions I get to my "No, we actually wouldn't mind having more kids" response are complete shock and they walk away in a stunned daze or I get the "Oh, that's right, you're a good Catholic" reply. I really don't know how to respond!

Then there are the people who don't ask me if I'm done, they tell me I'm done.

"You have four kids? You're done."

"Aww, you have 2 boys and 2 girls. You're done."

"What a beautiful family you have! You're done."


I'm on a bit of a role here so please hang with me as I continue.

Shortly after Clara was born, we were at mass and I had to take her to the bathroom for a diaper change. As I was finishing up a lady came in who I recognized as a Eucharistic minister but had never actually met. She obviously recognized me as well and started up a conversation.

"So, you had a little girl?" she asked.

"Yes!" I said as I held up my baby girl and beamed with motherly pride.

She goes on to say, "That's nice! You know, when I saw that you were pregnant I told my daughter 'Oh Lord! She's having another one!'"

I think my jaw completely dropped at that point and I didn't hear the rest of what she said. I mumbled some vague response and then got out of the bathroom as fast as I could!

I recently attended a talk by Cathy Garcia-Pratz, a Catholic author, speaker and mother of ten sons. She is a beautiful, faith-filled and wise woman. At the end of her talk I asked her how she dealt with people making comments about the size of her family.

Her response surprised me.

She says when people say mean or inappropriate things to her she looks them in the eyes and smiles and says, "What a tacky thing to say!" This way instead of her having to go on the defensive about the size of family God blessed her with, the rude person has to decide if they are going to defend their tacky comment. Maybe next time that person will think before speaking.

I have yet to call someone out for being tacky as I am usually too shocked, upset or uncomfortable to form any words of any kind. I really need to formulate a standard response so I don't feel so completely lost when I get dragged into these conversations, especially as our family continues to grow. My husband has all kinds of snarky comments that he's just itching to say, but people don't say these things to men. We women take the brunt of this verbal abuse.

Anyone have any suggestions, comments or stories of your own to share? I'd love to hear them!

P.S. Here's a example of one of Eric's snarky comebacks. A friend of mine was recently in the grocery store with her three young boys and an older woman came up to her, put her hand on her arm and said, "I'm sorry," referring to her three kids standing there in ear shot. My friend was shocked and more than just a little hurt at such a comment. When I told my husband the story he said my friend's comeback should have been, "You don't need to feel sorry for me. I've taught my children that it's inappropriate to say such rude things to strangers in public."


Mellodee said...

It amazes me how thoughtless, insensitive, and rude people can be, especially about private, family stuff! Next time somebody says anything, look them straight in the eye and say "Oh, we've got a lot more to go! We're going for the World Record, you know!" And then CHANGE THE SUBJECT or just WALK AWAY!


veronica said...


Now that we have four, I've experienced an increase in comments..I have yet to have anyone be plain rude, though..just surprised. I think it has a lot to do with me having 4 boys...they pity me because they assume I just never got my "girl"..the most popular comment I get is "4 BOYS???!" and "Are you gonna try for the girl or are you done?" I think I definitely have it easier than you since I have only one gender...and for some reason everyone is so grateful that they are all boys (because apparently girls are more difficult!) oh, but I feel your pain with the whole humongojongo van thing..big fear of mine, too! ;) can't wait to have you guys over!

Jill said...

This post is so relevant for me right now. I started feeling these things when I had four, but being pregnant with #5 has made me self-conscious for the first time. I don't like people looking at me with what I feel like is disgust. I was heading to London a few weeks ago and getting on the plane I heard several people counting in French as my kids walked by. Then I heard two people gasp when they saw my belly and say, "Cinq!!!"
I think I turned red. And I'm not usually like that. I am usually a person who gives much more credit to the 'commenters' because I very much assume they mean well and are simply curious. Suddenly, though, I feel like a freak show and I don't like it. I think it's partially because my kids are all so little...and I've got the identical twins thrown in there...and now that I'm having four boys and one girl people can't get over that...


The worst was when one of my sons' teachers said, "How many kids do you have?" thinking I only had Marcus and Bennett. When I said four with one more on the way she said, "You're a glutton for punishment, aren't you?" I was a little shocked because I would assume a teacher wouldn't see children as a 'punishment.'
She then said, "Are you Mormon or something?" (I had to laugh because a dear friend of mine who is Mormon gets asked if she is Catholic all the time because of her large family!) I just said, "I like kids."
I didn't know what else to say.

I don't think I will ever make a snarky comeback. It's just not in my nature. Because, I still believe most people mean well. And if I don't think they mean well I would just ignore. Like you, I am not confrontational in the least. I know I should stick up for large families. But, being happy and peaceful while toting around my large family is my way of doing it.

But, I have to say that I SO appreciate knowing other large families, even if it's just online. I've mentioned to a friend with two kids once how I felt like people were staring at me once and she really dismissed it...I know you large family ladies would understand. :)

Anyway, great topic. Very much a part of my life right now!

Karen said...

As a mother of two I say people should mind their own business. Children are gifts from God and I wish I had ten. You have as many children as God wants you to have and be proud of it.

Blair said...

Steven has actually been getting these comments a lot at work, and is getting increasingly upset by them. I've always gotten them but didn't realize that he's been questioned as well. Like you, with our 2 and 2, everyone thinks we're now "even" and we must be done. I don't have a really good retort; I usually just say, "actually we'd love to have a few more!"

Lael said...

Great post!! I'm 6 weeks away from number 5 being born and was just asked by a complete stranger if I am going to have my tubes tied this time! Wow. I'm not really one to discuss personal medical procedures in a restaurant - but I said "No, we love having lots of kids".

Thankfully, the last time I was asked if "they are all mine" on our way into the library, the lady replied with "That is wonderful...wonderful". I haven't ever had a snarky reply, but I'd like to have one ready. Maybe someone will catch me in a mood and I'll use the tacky remark idea. I've read Cathy's book and loved it. Brad went to school with some of their boys.

Colleen said...

Thank you all for the comments! This stuff can get me a little down sometimes and and it really helps to know there are other women out there who understand. One of the hardest things is that most of the comments I've been getting are from other Catholic women (at scouts or school or even church like that Eucharistic minister). I'm so grateful for the support of my online Catholic friends!

Jill - I've often wondered if you've gotten a lot of this since you are in Europe. I'm going to have to grow some thicker skin I think because I probably have it pretty easy here in conservative Texas. But, you're right, being happy and peaceful while toting around my kids speaks volumes!

Colleen said...

Amen! For some reason having number 5 scares me so much!