In fairness, my friends had warned me. Elizabeth said she started getting dirty looks with three. Kim also told me the comments started with her third.
Everyone is supposed to have one child. People were never kinder to me than when I had Griffin. Everyone is supportive. There’s no real investment in the sex of the child since you’re starting with a clean slate. Everyone just wants the best for you and is happy you’re pregnant.
“Congratulations!” “As long as it’s healthy that’s all that matters!”
Then, people assume you’re going to have two. The question about when you’re first child is going to get a sibling comes pretty soon after the first birthday in my experience. Now, have them too close together and you get comments about accidents. Have them too far apart and people assume you are choosing to have only one child. People who actually DO chose to have only one child get a special breed of comments all their own.
Once when I was wondering if one child would be enough, my grandmother looked me dead in the eye and said, “What if it dies?”
So, you get pregnant again and the comments then take a specifically gendered perspective. If your firstborn is a boy, everyone assumes you’re trying for a girl and prematurely bemoans your fate should God curse you with another son. If you have a daughter, everyone assumes you’re trying for a boy and start to regale with you the costs (and drama!) associated with raising girls.
“Two boys will tear your house down!” “Two weddings! YIKES!”
Now, up until this point, people are still supportive. Very few people are judgmental of anyone deciding to have two kids. (They reserve that judgment for the purposefully childless or the one-and-doners.)
However, choose to have more than two and all bets are off.
Suddenly, the looks start. Dare to take your two young children to the grocery store with your pregnant belly in tow and prepare yourself for the stares. People stare as if your well-dressed children were barefoot and dirty with pinkeye and a croupy cough. The stares are frustrating enough but the comments make me want to apply for a conceal-to-carry license.
“WHOA! Got another hidden somewhere?” “My! You’ve got your hands full!”
It is INFURIATING. Here is an important lesson for all of mankind. You have neither the right nor the obligation to comment on my reproductive choices. How many children I have or am going to have is none of your damn business (unless I am in a reality show then comment away!). Seriously, your life choices aren’t on display in the same way a young family’s is but I promise you, if they were, you would hate the comments as well.
My friend, a self-disclosed overdiscloser, once said he wants to sit down with every person he meets and dive right into their deepest life issues. He jokingly told me that he wants to ask every person he meets, “What’s the meanest thing your father ever said to you?”
Well, I’m about to ask that of the next stranger who says something about how many kids I have. The decision to have a child is deeply personal, wrought with emotional issues, and complicated beyond belief. In other words, NOT grocery store fodder people! Maybe giving back as good as I get will finally convey that message.
The truth is strangers who run their mouths are sometimes the least of my problems. What hurts the most is when it comes from people who know me. People who send me articles like this one. People who “warn” me that I don’t know what I’m getting into. People who ask me all the time if I’m going to be able to handle three kids.
Look, I have NO idea how it will be to raise three children. Anyone who has raised so much as a gerbil knows there is some knowledge that only comes from the experience itself. However, anyone who knows me should know that I am a thinker. I have spent an inordinate amount of time pondering the role of Oprah in my life so, let me assure you, I thought A LOT about the decision to have a third child.
Not to mention, there are few decisions I take more seriously than those I make regarding my children. The type of life I wanted my children to have was SO important to me that I uprooted my entire existence to move to Paducah and start over. I think about every little thing that affects their lives pretty much from the moment I wake up. Are they watching too much TV? Are they eating enough vegetables? Am I praising them too much? Do they have enough toys? Too many toys? The right kind of toys?
See, what I’m getting out here? Whatever is about to come out yo’ mouth – rest assured it is already swimming around in my head.
So, here’s a fun idea that can apply to strangers and loved ones alike.
If I look overwhelmed in the grocery store, offer to help me with my groceries! If I am chasing Amos through a parking lot with my pregnant belly, throw a foot out and trip the little buggar. If you are worried about how I’ll handle one more child, come over and babysit the two I’ve already got! Or drop off a meal (a nice idea for ALL mothers – not just new ones)!
If a comment is all you’ve got time for, try this one on for size.
“What a beautiful family! You’re doing a great job!”
~ Sarah Stewart Holland