Family size has been on my mind, for two reasons:
- I am expecting, and pregnancy always brings about a time of reflection and prayer.
- Lately I’ve been peppered with more than the usual number of comments and questions.
While the first reason was dealt with rather quickly, early in my pregnancy, the second never goes away. Our culture seems to have no rules of etiquette about “off-limits” comments to make about a large family. I welcome genuine questions and nice (or even neutral) comments. We hear “are they all yours?” and “You sure have your hands full” every time we are out together as a family, and I’m glad to smile and reply, “Yes, they are!” or “Yes, we are very blessed!” Some folks might joke around, “Are you trying to keep up with the Duggars?” or “Are you going for your own baseball team?” I love people like that. They are just friendly folks making conversation.
Other comments are harder to take.
“Are you CRAZY???”
“I would slit my wrists!”
“Are you sadistic or something?”
“Are they all yours?” (Yes, they are!) “Mmm. I’m so sorry.”
While it’s hard not to feel offended at some of the comments, I try to respond graciously and let the commenter hear a different perspective. These are people who’ve been raised in a culture which views children as leeches that suck the fun, money, and life right out of you. I try to be grateful for the opportunity to share our biblical, but culturally radical, belief that children are a blessing. A smile and a short, kind answer may not change their minds, but it will give them a new perspective to at least hear and consider.
Large families, I would encourage you, when confronted by comments that are hurtful, to take this approach:
- Expect it. When you have four or more children, know that your family is different and will draw attention whether you like it or not. Be grateful for the good comments, but be prepared for the bad.
- Don’t believe it. Don’t allow yourself to fall for the lie that your precious little blessings were a mistake. Remember that God is the only one who can open and close the womb, and He doesn’t make mistakes.
- Look beyond your own feelings and into the heart of the other person. You might be talking to an overwhelmed, single mother struggling with one or two children, who can’t fathom the thought of four, five, or more. You may be talking to someone who grew up in a home where they were treated as an unloved burden, thus taught that children are undesirable. You may be talking to someone who actually does see children as a blessing, but has been taught that they have to make 6-figures and have a 3-bedroom home with two new cars in the driveway before they can think about it. Or, you may be talking to someone who loves you and worries about you; you may not agree with them, but they really do mean well.
- Resist the temptation to respond with a sarcastic answer. It might make you appear witty, but it isn’t a response that will shine a light into a dark world.
- Remember the number one reason why you wanted a large family, and try to convey that in your response. For example, when asked “Are you CRAZY???” you might say, “Not at all! Quite the opposite; we are very blessed.” Answer in kindness and love.
While it isn’t always easy to deal with those comments (and I admit that I don’t always do such a great job myself) try to thank God for the opportunity. People believe these lies about children, whether they say them out loud or not. When you are in a position to hear it, consider it a God-ordained opportunity to share a new perspective. Let your answers be gentle and seasoned with truth, bearing in mind these verses:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ~Proverbs 15:1
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. ~1 Peter 3:15