Monday, February 27, 2012

Saintly or insane?

Earlier this month, Isaac and I ran to the library to get some books on the subjects we were going to cover in the next few weeks. I like to take just one or two of the older boys along on errands while the girls are at home taking their naps, and the other boys are reading or doing another quiet activity, with my husband watching them while doing paperwork from home. 

Even though I only had Isaac with me, we probably got about 60 or 70 books out - with six kids at home, even if we are only covering a few subjects, the books pile up fast by the time I get something in all the various age groups, and at their reading levels. Just to give you an idea, I take the empty double stroller into the library just so I will have something to lug all those books in.

As we stood at the self checkout, I noticed a man at the machine next to us. Even though I was preoccupied with not mixing up the books I had already checked out with those I hadn't yet scanned, this man stood out because he was such a jerk. I don't use that word lightly - he was with his daughter that was about Isaac's age, and he talked to her so gruffly and rudely it was shocking. 

The little girl seemed oblivious to his tirades. As he was scanning their books, she kept telling him: "Look how many books they are getting out! Look, look!" He tried ignoring her because her pointing us out embarassed him, but she kept saying it, louder and louder. Finally, he barked at her: "Why don't you ask her how many kids she has?" The girl looked at me with a smile, and returning it, I told her "We have six kids, and one on the way!"

Jerk Dad gasped and exclaimed "Yikes!", before an uncomfortable silence betrayed the fact that he was embarrassed by his outburst. I turned to look him right in the eyes, smiled, and said: "Actually, we think children are a blessing, and we love every one of them!" to which he muttered an apology and then started speaking to his daughter in a civil tone.

I wonder how it would be perceived if I went around asking people how many kids they had, and if they answered "one" or "two", expressed my opinion, or even disgust at them. Of course, I would NEVER do anything like that, because family size is no indication as to whether or not the family is godly. Kate Gosselin and Octomom have large families through artificial means, and are not people I would like to emulate, while other godly mothers (think Sarah in the Bible) may only have one child, or two. 

But it is just as out of place to tell a mother of six what you think about her family size, as questioning people with smaller families. It's not anyone's business. To be sure, I am against people interfering in an area that should be entirely in God's control (by way of birth control, or artificial reproductive technology). But speaking out against those issues in general, and personally attacking every single individual family involved, are two different things.

We personally rarely get outright rude comments - the most common "negative" reaction is people looking at us like we are crazy, without actually coming out and saying so. But one need only look online for a glimpse of some of the hatred for large families. Words like "selfish" and "stupid" are the most commonly repeated, closely followed by "lazy", "irresponsible", and even "sickening". To mothers of many, these insults are simply laughable. Sure, we keep having babies because it makes life so much easier. That's why everyone else is having one or two kids, because they love to work hard, right??? And we are just too stupid to figure out that the stork is not responsible for bringing these sweet little bundles. We are selfish because we love to fall asleep with a baby snuggled up by our side, and wake up to older kids climbing into our bed with their cold little feet.

Thankfully, at least in person, the positive comments are far more common than the "what in the world is wrong with you" type looks and remarks. Such sweet people and their words are always an encouragement. However, they often tell me I must have endless patience, or be a saint, or be independently wealthy, and other comments along those lines. But - I am none of those things, and most definitely not patient or saintly. I always respond by saying that no, I don't have what it takes, but rather depend completely on God's grace to get me through each day, and over time, hopefully raise and train these children right. Any credit for their character and behavior belongs to God and the Bible. 

As a mother of one, I was tired and counting down to bedtime every afternoon, as much as I do now. It was just as challenging financially then, as it is now. My blood pressure rises whether it is my first or sixth child marking up the walls with a black sharpie, leaving dangerous water puddles on the tile, finger-painting with dog poop, or stopping up the toilet with toys for the thirtieth time in the same day. Oh, believe me, I could go on and on.

Had we waited until our financial ducks were all in a row, our marriage was perfect, and our Christian walk blameless, we would die old and childless. We are very imperfect parents to our only slightly less imperfect kids. 

We are not having children because we are too stupid to know better, or saintly enough to be able to handle it. We are having them because it is the natural course of God's design, which takes into account our imperfections. 


  1. I am so sorry that on occasion people react with a negative to your family size. I am #3 of 6 girls and when we were growing up five or more children was the norm. I have been blessed with 2 bio sons, many foster sons, and one foster daughter that is our daughter even though we were not able to adopt (long story, but if you'd like to know why I'm happy to share with you.) We always thought we would have a large family, but God had in mind for us to foster many boys in need of a good Godly family.

    Your family is beautiful. I believe the library loves you dearly for utilizing them in the way they love. I hope the man you met at the library will think back on meeting you and be reminded of the beautiful Godly woman he met checking out books for her many children and what a blessing you are in the world.

    Blessings, Mrs. Mari

  2. I don't leave comments very often but, I really enjoyed this post! We also view children as blessings. After having three children there is a space of almost eight years before we welcomed our forth child two months ago. I can't even begin to count all the rude comments we received from people thinking our sweet baby has to be an accident and what we need to do to avoid another one.

    I finally started smiling, telling them that we are very happy to have another baby on the way and are looking forward to meeting our other children once we get to heaven. Once they realize that we had never "planned" to only have three children they stammer around before adding how risky it is for me to become pregnant since I have suffered miscarriages.

    Blessings to you and your family as you prepare to welcome another sweet little soul into this world.

  3. Do you count natural family planning? By which I mean avoiding or increasing relations during the time a woman knows she is fertile?

    I'm not trying to enquire about you personally, but the belief as a whole. I am just genuinely curious.

    What if, for example a HG sufferer chose to abstain the month before a vacation in order to not conceived and be unwell on their holiday?

    Or a couple who just happen not to during the woman's fertile period due to illness, tiredness etc? Is that seen as birth control despite other factors?

  4. Great post! Sometimes I feel like I get more negative reactions and looks because we are Hispanic and look it. I have been asked if I even pay taxes or how many welfare programs I am in. They will think I am illegal when I was born in L.A and speak perfect English. I often wonder if I would be left alone if I was Caucasian with blond little children..your post makes me realize, probably not! I guess those people don't discriminate on their dislike of all large families.

  5. I get it all day long and I only have four. People think I'm IN-SANE! And I am, so there.

    I have so much trouble with the scanner and our psycho security guard at our library, I got scared when I started reading your post. Ha ha.

  6. Seriously...COME ON!!! WHAT does everyone find to be so wrong with big families? I have two friends who both have 6 siblings, 2 friends who have 7 siblings, and 1 friend with 10 siblings. And the earth doesn't seem a bit overpopulated to me.

  7. A wonderful post! The last paragraph summed everything up perfectly! So true!

    Even though I "only" have three children to date, I often cringe at the "you must be so patient" comments, because obviously this is not true! I tell these people similar to what you described above.

    Great post, Zsuzsa! :)

  8. That was very nice! I enjoyed reading your perspective on this topic. I have only one child and am no more or less perfect OR stupid than the next mother. Also, you're right; speaking out against an idea is very different than attacking individual people.

  9. When I was growing up all my aunts and uncles had 4 or more children. Our family was the smallest with 3. I have been blessed with 2 girls and have 2 babies in heaven due to miscarriage. I always wanted a large family of 4 or 6 but that was not in god's plan. Alot of my cousins also have 4 or more children so to me large families are common place.

  10. Please remember that families, large and small, are equally of God's design.

  11. Wow, that guy totally was a jerk! I was one of five children, and I remember growing up how people thought that my family was "weird" and I still get that today... oh please!! I personally love big families, and I think that even if I wasn't a Christian (completely hypothetical, of course) I would want to have a large family. They're so much fun to grow up in.

  12. Where do you all live? I have never gotten a negative comment in public about my large family. In fact, most people exclaim about how cared-for and well-behaved my children are.

  13. You may have as many children as you want, go for it. However, it is my choice how many I have so leave my reproductive freedoms alone. Is that a deal?

  14. Ha ha...I was scheduling an appointment for my daughter and I to attend "sibling class" (for fun) together at the hospital in which I am going to deliver and was chatting with a really sweet gal on the other end. When she asked how old my daughter was I explained that she was my oldest...3 years old. When I told her I had a 20 month old she exclaimed "WOW! You have them close together!" She was still VERY sweet but it was funny to hear her sound so surprised. I mean, mine are each 22 months apart as will this one be...that isn't as close as they could be!

    Isn't the library GREAT for running into people like that though?? Ha ha! :)

  15. Great post. It is so true, I am not brave, saintly, or patient. I am a fallen sinner, saved by Grace, who seeks to do His Will as He has shown me in my life.

  16. He only said "Yikes!" It's not that terrible. And he apologized. What is the big deal? That wouldn't make me feel persecuted.

    I believe in a God more powerful than yours--mine is all-powerful. He can create a baby no matter what anyone does--birth control, family planning, etc. And if He doesn't want to create a baby, all the IVF in the world won't help. So I am not against these things--do them all you want, I still believe it's up to God. In contrast, you seem to believe we have powers greater than God, and that a little pill can stop His will.


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