Answering Large Family Comments with Grace

Large Family Comments

It started when I had three children. The comments. From family and friends–and from total strangers at the grocery store! I do understand. A large family is a lot to take in, especially if you don’t know us. You may see my four little ducklings in line, belly swelling with #5, and sure you might have some questions.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like being interrogated about my reproductive choices. Not in public. Not by strangers. Definitely not in front of my children. Unfortunately, in our society, that is just something a mama of many takes on. It doesn’t matter that I’m introverted, that even going to the grocery store is a step outside my comfort zone. The comments will come, ready or willing or not.

I used to be defensive about it. I’d stew over what-would-have-been-witty retorts in the car on the way home and think Next time. Next time I’ll show them. 

It took me some time to realize that most people truly have just never seen a family like mine. They think of their own lives and simply can’t image having a family, Party of 7. They are stunned, some in awe and, yes, a few sour apples in outraged disbelief. I came to the conclusion that there are two ways I can handle their shock.

Either, I can get angry, or I can grant grace.

One is off-putting. The other is inviting.

If I stop to think about why God has blessed me with this beautiful family, the choice becomes clear. The obvious answer is grace.

By responding with gentleness and wisdom, I can reflect the gentleness and wisdom with which God has molded my own heart in response to my fertility. When I view my large family not as something to defend (because, after all, it’s a blessing not a “mistake”) but as something to celebrate, then I can share that joy with those around me who have never experienced the abundant love of large family living.

Below, I’ve listed a few of the honest-to-goodness comments that I and other large family mamas receive on a semi-regular basis. For the purposes of this post, I’ve restrained myself from adding the responses I’d like to make. These are my snide remarks, the ones that surface inside my head that I have to tamp down like espresso shots before they come spewing out to hit the unwitting offender between the eyes. Instead, I’ve given the grace-filled responses. The ones I know I should use.

Sure, the snide remarks are fun. They can make us large family mamas feel powerful, protected. For a moment. But they can do real and lasting damage when flung at someone who may have meant no harm, who (justifiably or not) simply wants a little insight into my (to them, remarkable) life.

True power comes from kindness.

With grace-filled answers and evangelistic outlooks, we can change hearts. More importantly, we can set a godly example for the beautiful children we’ve been blessed with. They can see that Mom has the strength to stand up to busy-body and bullies with dignity and treat even those who don’t deserve it with respect.

Wow, you have your hands full!

“If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!”

“Yes, my husband and I have been very blessed.”

“I sure do! But I’d rather have them full than empty.”

Are they all yours?

“Yep! I’m blessed.”

“They are! I’m a lucky mama.”

“Yes, they are. I can’t imagine my life without them.”

Are you done (having kids)?

“I certainly hope not.”

“I’m sorry, but that’s a personal decision that my husband and I don’t feel comfortable discussing with others.”

“I’m so thankful for each of my children, it would break my heart to say no to the next one.”

Do they all have the same father?

“Yes, but I’m not comfortable discussing my personal history in front of my children.”

“May I ask why that matters to you?”

(If the answer is no.) “They all have the same mother, and they are very loved.”

Are some of them adopted?

“We’re a family.”

“They’re all my children.”

“I don’t draw distinctions.”

You do know what causes that, right?

“As a matter of fact, I do, and I’m very thankful for a loving marriage.”

“I do, but I’d rather not discuss it with stranger/in front of my children.”

“Actually, I do. Each of my children is a blessing.”

Better you than me!

“If you say so. I’m very thankful for my family.”

“You know, I used to think it would be hard to have a lot of kids, but they are the joy of my life.”

“I don’t know about that, but I think it’s an amazing privilege to be their mom.”

I don’t know how you do it–I couldn’t!

“It is a lot of work, but they’re worth it.”

“I’m very busy, but I’m also very blessed.”

“I’ve grown into it. You learn a lot as you go.”

How do you do afford them all?

“We work hard to budget for our family’s needs, but our children are priceless.”

“We’d rather give up a nice vacation than give up one of our precious children.”

“My children are my greatest treasure. I’d give up everything else for them.”

All right, it’s your turn! What are some of the comments you’ve gotten about your large family–and how have you responded?

photo credit: the insanely talented Brea Bursch

4 comments

  1. Mandy Houk says:

    I’d just like to thank you for your response to the question regarding adoption. It would be simple for you to say “no,” but you are more gracious than that — you care about the implied distinction, even though it doesn’t actually apply to your kiddos. Thank you for that.

    I became part of my family through adoption when I was 5 days old, and it has always bothered me when people make the distinction, even if they’re doing it in a positive way. In the same way that God doesn’t distinguish between His children (from David’s branch, or grafted in!), why would a mother and father even mentally sort their babies?

  2. Amelia says:

    Another good response to the person who points out that my hands are full: smile and say “Yes, full of good things!” Occasionally that even gets an “Amen” back.

    I have been asked if we’ll “keep trying for a girl.” I don’t know what to say about the implication that it would be disappointing to have “too many” children of the same sex or that a child’s worthiness is connected to his sex, nor could I trust myself to remain entirely unsnarky if it came to that. I just say that we definitely hope for more kids.

    • Michelle says:

      I love that “full of good things!” I usually get “wow, you have your hands full” as I’m unloading the four of them from my bike, and usually respond with a big grin (even if it’s forced) and a “yes, I do” but I wanted to make it even more positive. It seems to come at the most stressful moments, and I’m glad for the chance to reorient myself. My favorite “you had your hands full” comment was the time I was wearing my baby and my hands were actually empty!

      We got a “you guys need a TV” once. I responded with “why would we want a TV? TV isn’t any fun!” and then my husband and I looked at each other and asked “did he really say that? Who says that kind of thing? And TV doesn’t prevent twins!”

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