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If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Today, while on a walk, a friend and I were asked if we run an at-home day care.

 

We each have four children.

 

Earlier this week, while playing at a nature center, I was told that I’m, “like the old lady who lived in a shoe.” You know the one… “had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” So much humor. Many laughs.

 

Let me reiterate: I have four children. Four. Also, these comments were just the ones that stuck out this week. I’m told on a daily basis how full my hands are. So many people are concerned with the fullness of my hands. They’re just so incredibly thoughtful.

 

I honestly don’t consider four to be that many kids. I mean, I realize it’s above average, but I’m not a Duggar, y’all. And even if I did have a “large” family, THOSE KINDS OF COMMENTS ARE NEVER HELPFUL. Zero times have comments on my family size ever made me or my kids feel anything but negative, judged, icky, gross, less than, or in the way. It is never appropriate or helpful to make those kinds of comments. Nev-errrrr.

 

And I feel like this conversation has been had over and over and over. I could list and link and count a bajillion (yes, exact number) examples, personal experiences, blog posts, instagram stories, tweets, etc, etc, etc, discussing how very inappropriate these kinds of comments are. And yet, the comments keep coming. Like a thoughtlessly asinine lava flow of verbal diarrhea, they just keep on a-comin’.

 

The friend I was walking with today metioned that a gentleman at church saw her last week and said, “You look so much better! I guess you guys are all done, now!” I couldn’t even pick my jaw up off the ground if I wanted to. She looks better than what?? Than the gorgeous life-bearing goddess she is and always has been? Gracious, I was riled by that. Very, very riled.

 

This all falls under the umbrella of “people are insensitive and judgemental and they say dumb things.” Okay, okay, I get that. I totally understand how difficult it is to communicate with strangers without first considering how my words may make them feel. I know how hard it is to keep my opinions to myself, especially since I’m always right and it’s my personal duty to let people know that their sex lives and baby spacing methods are just not normal, nor are they acceptable, thankyouverymuch. I know how difficult it is to choose between a negative, judgemental comment and one that is encouraging and uplifting. Such a tough call to make.

 

I see the struggle, y’all, so I’ve compiled this helpful list of possible talking points for folks who *gasp!* encounter families of more than 2.5 children. Please enjoy.

 

  • “What a beautiful family you have! I bet you have so much fun together!”
  • “You’re doing such hard, important work…I know it must be challenging sometimes, but it looks like you’re doing really well!”
  • “Thank you for bringing your kids to the nature center/library/church. It’s so nice to see families learning together!”
  • “Hey, there. May I entertain your toddler while you get those groceries onto the belt?”
  •  “I just love seeing energetic children exploring the world. Have a great adventure!”
  •  “Children are such a gift. Speaking of gifts, all of your children must be gifted because they’re clearly all Mensa material!”
  •  “You are a magical unicorn beast of womanly power and beauty. Thank you for raising strong humans to take care of us all in our old age!”

 

All snark and sarcasm aside, can we just be nice humans already?? This obviously doesn’t apply only to family size conversations. It’s applicable to families with brand new babies, families who look like they’ve possibly adopted or are doing the beautiful work of foster care. It applies to literally any human in any situation, not just in motherhood/child bearing circles.

 

Please hear this: It is more important to be kind than to be right. It is more  to be kind than to have your curiosity satiated. It is more important to be kind than even the teensiest bit judgemental.

 

It is more important to be kind. 

 

And just like I tell my huuuuuuge family of four children, if you can’t be kind, be quiet.

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Read This on Repeat

I have four kids. They’re 7, 5, 4, and 2. The middle two are sixteen months apart, while the third and fourth are separated by twenty-one months. (Let’s hear it for efficiency!) We get a lot of comments, but the most common one I get is, “I don’t know how you do it.”

 

 

 

This is usually partnered with some sort of comparison in which the speaker judges her own situation as “less difficult” than mine. As in, “I only have one (or two or three) kids. I can’t imagine having four!” Or, “I can barely handle my two kids, so four would be impossible for me!” You’d be surprised (but probably not) to hear how self deprecating the mom crowd is, constantly berating themselves for not handling their own lives “better” as compared to how someone else is doing. It’s simultaneously complimentary of the mama with the full hands and heart, but judgmental of self. “You’re doing so much, so well! I’m failing at the comparatively little I have.”

 

I hear it a lot, y’all, most recently from a friend of mine:

“I think you’re amazing. Whenever I have a hard time with my one, I feel humbled by your four.”

 

And here’s my response to that: Don’t be humbled by me, friends. Please don’t. Please.

 

There’s this line in Man’s Search for Meaning, in which Viktor Frankl says that suffering fills the soul like gas fills a chamber. It doesn’t matter how much gas you put in a chamber, it always expands to fill up the entire space. Now, hopefully, being a mother isn’t the same as living in a state of actual suffering, but I think the point remains the same. It doesn’t matter how many or how few children you have, whether your work lies inside or outside the home, or with what apparent ease you parent in public. The struggle always expands to fill the entire space of your heart. This gig ain’t easy. Period.

 

So, mamas can we please stop comparing? Please? I completely understand trying to size up how we’re doing because I am a constant affirmation seeker myself. But at some point we have to learn, and I mean really learn, that there’s no right way to do all this. Every mother is different, every child uniquely needy and quirky, every family fueled by different goals and values and dreams, plagued by different demons and frustrations. There is no standard measuring stick to tell us we’ve made it.

 

And while we’re at it, can we stop saying we’re “just” anything? Like, stop saying you  have “just” one kid, or you’re “just” a stay at home mom, or the dinner you fed your kids after working a full day at a demanding job is “just” McDonald’s. “Just” sucks. It just does.

 

Y’all, I can think of about a million reasons that having one kid is “harder” than having four. You’re their sole entertainment, comfort, lifeguard, everything. That. Is. Exhausting.

 

I can think of about a million reasons that being a working mom is “harder” than staying home. You’re constantly running, planning, juggling, and I guarantee you probably struggle when you have to say no to work or kids. Constantly balancing is exhausting.

 

I can think of about a million reasons that being a stay at home mom is “harder” than working out of the home. You don’t get tangible return on your work, there aren’t ever finished projects, you’re never alone but always lonely. It’s exhausting.

 

I can think of a million reasons that having four kids is “harder” than having one. Socks. There are never enough effing socks and sock hunting is exhausting.

 

I am not a hero or supernaturally able to handle “more” because I have four kids. We’re all handling the huge load we’ve been given and amounts don’t matter because every load is heavy as hell. I’ve been saying this and repeating it for years and I still suck at doing it myself, so I’m going to keep preaching…to you, to me, to anyone who will listen: Give yourself grace. Show yourself mercy. Encourage and lift up that mom of six you see navigating life like a goddess! You should absolutely be in awe of her! But don’t be in awe of her at the expense of your own heart. Don’t forget to love yourself, mama. Please don’t. Because I guarantee that you’re doing so much better than you think. So, so much better.