Women with multiple children are almost always subject to inquisitive stares, whispers, and perhaps even a few rumors. Although this list is not inclusive, here are 10 things it is never OK to say to a mom with multiple children.
1. How many kids do you have?!
I love and hate this question. I love this question because of the "shock factor" on people's faces as try to think about having so many children. Yes, a mother knows how many children she has and what she loves about each one of them. I have yet to meet a mother who regrets raising any of her young children.
I know a sweet lady who has seven children, many of whom are still at home. Someone once asked her "why do you have so many children" to which she responded, "why not?". Behind that simple answer is personal choice, prayer and the financial responsibility to afford each child.
Asking a mother why she has children is like asking why the sky is blue or why a compass always points north. Many women feel this is their purpose and calling in life. They embrace this and know they're on God's errand. The answer many women wish to give can only really be expressed and felt within the heart.
3. What were you thinking?
My husband and I have three children all under the age of four years old. People would often ask us what we were thinking, having so many children so close together. I cannot speak for all women, but for myself, this question frustrates me. The choice to have children involve myself and my husband.
A better question to ask would be, "Do you like having your children so close together in age?"
4. When do you sleep?
Never. Or at least that's what a mother's sleep schedule might look like. When a mother has young children, she attends to their needs and worries over them when they are sick. As these little ones grow older, mothers often stay awake until their precious ones are home safe. While children are in the home, sleep is a sacrifice of motherhood.
5. Are you trying to repopulate the earth on your own?
Sometimes this question comes in a "joking" manner, and yet often it doesn't. When I was asked this, I thought of Neill Marriott who was asked the same question. She responded, "I am glad to be a mother, and I promise you (referring to the woman who phoned her) I will do everything in my power to nurture my children in such a way that they will make the world a better place.".
6. You look tired
I understand this statement is often said to show compassion from the giver. However, it often brings tears to my eyes. Being a busy mom to many little ones, I try my best to be everything I can to my children, my husband, and myself. Yet when someone tells me how tired I look, I feel like I failed in one or sometimes all three of these areas.
The sweetest compliment I have received as a young mother was from an older woman who told me, "you don't look as tired as I think you are". By saying this, she acknowledged that, yes, I'm exhausted - all mothers are - but she expressed her concern in a very sweet manner.
Please, never apologize to a woman for having so many children. These children are a mother's choice and they love each one of them. If you feel like you need to apologize for something, apologize for the cat running away, or Sam cutting his sister's hair, or something specific that actually requires sympathy. But never feel like you have to apologize to a woman for the children she has under her care.
8. I bet your house is a zoo
Actually, we put the lions outside, the crocodiles in the pond out back, and the monkeys tend to swing from tree to tree in the front yard. Yes, a mother might feel like her house is a zoo, but rest assured, her house has four walls and a roof.
9. When was the last time you had a clean house?
I personally love seeing the finger prints from my children on my windows. I know I will eventually have to clean them, but I also know one day they will be gone. In the meantime, cherish those dirty toy rooms and piles of paper in the corner. All mothers learn this lesson: dirty dishes and clothes can wait because they have children to raise. And if having a dirty house is the price that needs to be paid to spend time with the children, then it's worth the cost.
Yes and no. Yes, a mother understand the laughter and memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. And they understand the tears and heartbreak that will come when children make poor choices. But this doesn't apply just to mothers with large families. This is a lesson all mothers learn.
For all mothers, keep doing a great job: you're molding the future leaders, fathers, and mothers of tomorrow. To the curious, say things with a word of caution after putting yourself in their shoes. A little compassion and understanding from both sides will go a long way.