The things people say

Alternate Title:

Top Ten Fourteen Rudest and/or Strangest Questions/Comments That I Am Routinely Subjected To In Front Of My Children By Complete Strangers:

14) You couldn’t possibly give your children enough time/ attention/ stuff. We’re only having (insert small number, like one) because we want to give our child(ren) everything.

13) Do you want this big bag of hand-me-downs? I was going to throw it all away because the clothing is worn, stained, torn and otherwise not fit for my children to wear any longer, but I thought you might be able to use it.

12) You must have to shop at consignment stores, buy generic food, beg for hand me downs, grow and can all your own food, sew all your own clothing, live on a farm.

11) Do they all have the same father?

10) You’re not going to have any more kids, are you?

9) How can you afford all those kids? ( or the variations :Do you get public assistance?, How big is your house?, What does your husband do? usually while they try to discreetly check out my wedding rings)

8) Do you work? What do you do? (asked with the implication that I am on welfare)

7) You must be crazy. (or a saint, or Catholic, or Mormon)

6) Better you than me.

5) Don’t you know what causes that? They have things to prevent that, you know. Ever hear of birth control?

4) How do you feed all those kids? How much do you spend on groceries every month? How many gallons of milk do you go through a week?

3) Do you drive a bus? Does it beep when you back up?

2) Don’t you have a television?

1) I feel sorry for your kids.

As much as I would like to say I use rude and snarky comebacks, I don’t. I usually nod and smile. If someone is being particularly rude I’ll ask, “Why? Why are you asking me this?” Most often I will walk away and verbally fillet the person inside my head.

Then there are the people, usually cashiers that I can not get away from, who, after asking if they are all mine, proceed to tell me a story about their friend’s neighbor’s second cousin twice removed who had lots of kids and went crazy. And one day they found her completely naked, except for her shoes and socks with little balls on the back of the ankles, tap dancing on her roof.

I’m left standing there with my mouth hanging open, having no idea how to respond, except to say, “I don’t have tap shoes.”


(This post was originally published on my other blog a couple years ago. And not surprisingly, nothing has changed, except that now I do have tap shoes because Carmen gave me pair.)

43 Responses to “The things people say”

  1. Sherry Says:

    I have a friend who has 14 (14!) children. Seven biological and seven adopted. They are the most well behaved group of kids. (Not to mention very cute.) My friend is currently trying to adopt number 15 and I say “Good for her.”

    And good for you.

    Share a joke,
    Hum a song,
    Pass a little joy along.
    If someone comes along your way,
    Who doesn’t share your joy today,
    The hell with ‘em.

  2. maddy Says:

    Some of those comments are just HORRIBLE and meanspirited. (”I feel sorry for your kids,” etc.) No excuses.

    But I have a theory that people sometimes are just *dying* to connect with others, and any little thing that seems “comment-able” will suffice. Like a dog wearing a colorful bandana, or a slogan shirt, or anything that is a bit unusual. A bunch of kids does stand out. So I do think that sometimes people just want to say something and connect. They think they are being warm and funny, with the Catholic or Mormon jokes. If *you* are offended, then that’s what’s important, so I do get that.

    I like to think that I could say something friendly and connect. But maybe that’s not possible? I only have two kids, so obviously I have not experienced the same sort of comments. But I have had older people (esp) comment on my kids and I do think they are trying to communicate with us. Even if sometimes the things they say are odd.

    Personally, I’m always impressed when people are out and about with a big family. I whine when I have to take my kids and their friends out. (I’m a wimp that way).

  3. KimC Says:

    I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, unless (as Maddy pointed out) the comment is obviously mean-spirited. I think most people are just filled with questions because a large family is such an unusual sight. Many think that children are a burden and are genuinely thrown for a loop when they see a large happy family enjoying a trip to WalMart.
    We laugh at their bad jokes, and we happily answer any questions they have, even if they are *graciously* critical of our family size. Some people just can’t wrap their minds around the fact that a large family is a blessing and I want to do whatever I can to help them.
    I’m sure it helps that we try to postpone errands if someone is having a bad day: we only go out when we can be a positive witness for Christ and large families. I don’t want people to see us as the poster family for birth control!
    It probably also helps that we don’t live in super liberal areas of the country. We have never received a truly negative comment. Many people say, “Better you than me. I could never do that!” or ask how we can support a large family, but no one has ever lectured me on the irresponsibility of having more than 2 children.

  4. Stephanie Says:

    *Snort* “Do they all have the same father?” I would say, well, one of them belongs to YOUR husband, but I forget which one because it’s so hard to keep up with them all.
    Yeah, these people are trying to communicate alright. They are trying to get the dirt so they can gossip about it. You are different from them and they don’t like it and obviously there is something wrong with you and once they find out what it is they will tell everyone because it will make them feel better about themselves. Just like in junior high school.
    You are better than them all. Each one of your children gets more attention and genuine love and interest than any one of their children, because they are more concerned with themselves or the ‘image’ they present, or they are just too dumb to do anything other than make insensitive comments and breathe. You rock!

  5. Merry Says:

    THEM: “4 kids!?!?!?!?! Don’t you know what causes it?” *smug snigger*
    ME: “No? Tell me, please? I need to know what i can do to stop…” (while adding in my head “Smarta*se”)

  6. Wendy Says:

    I would look around and say, “You mean I have 7 kids with me? I knew the voices I heard everyday were not just in my head.”

    Seriously, I would love to know more about large families, but I never say or ask anything because really it is none of my business. Could be the reason your blog was the second blog I read, ever. I mean why do we do anything in our lives?

    I have 2 children and people always say, “You have the perfect family (because I have a boy and a girl)” or “You are finished, right?”. I open my eyes really wide and smile big until they walk away. I didnt know that you could have a perfect family and I didnt know there was a limit.

    It is no one’s business if I have 2 or 20 kids and if I choose to tap dance naked on my roof it wont be because of my children. I have enough crazy all on my own.

  7. TwinMom Says:

    I think most of them are pretty rude and just plain mean, but I really don’t think #4 isn’t too bad. I mean, I would like to know how much you spend on food! :) I only have 2 toddlers and I feel like I’m always going to the store and I’m always out of food. I think it’s similar to having twins, most people are trying to relate and end up asking some pretty personal questions. Just try to see them as wanting to relate to you in some way because you are just too amazing of a mom!

  8. Jeana Says:

    “You sure have your hands full.” That’s the one I hear most often. And actually I don’t because now all four of my kids are walking and I no longer carry a diaper bag.

    I think it’s interesting that they ask what you do. You have seven kids. This alone should cover how you spend your day as well as what you do for recreation. (bada bing)

  9. Jennifer Says:

    Well, I was the oldest of eight and I remember people accosting my mother is the supermarket. This was during the 70s, during the height of the “zero population” growth years. It was really hard hearing it as a child and teen, and I admired my mother and thought she did a great job.

    However, there must be some wonderful things that people have said about having a large family? I bet you if I ran into you at Nordstroms (not Walmart, of course:) I would say something like ” Hey, your family reminds me of mine when I was little! it was the best - God bless you!”

    I have four children and maybe will have another. I think having a large family is truly wonderful. Only the best mothers can do it.

  10. Debbi Says:

    I have 6 kids, and my youngest are twins - I get all those crappy comments and then twin specific ones that reveal a really alarming level of ignorance in the general population. Examples:

    1) Are they fraternal or….maternal (what???)?
    2) Are they identical (my twins are boy/girl, and the boy is blonde and the girl is brunette).
    3) Do they have the same father (this about the twins specifically, AFTER asking if they are twins).

    I like the previous commenter’s theory that people are just trying to make a connection, but in practice, I’ve learned to avoid eye contact and try not to engage in too much conversation with strangers, because one day someone’s going to catch me on too little sleep with a question about how poor and religious we must be, and I’m going to do or say something regrettable.

  11. Kristi from Small Things Says:

    I think it’s a sad culture that sees lots of children as a bad thing, rather than a blessing. I think a lot of nosy, snarky people honestly feel inadequate raising their own one or two, and all their excuses are contradicted when they see a happy successful mom with so many. I have two and want more soon, but my bad days make me doubt whether I would live up to it. I think the naked tap dancing story comes from all the moms who fear that we just might lose our marbles. So please, keep telling us how you do it with all your marbles intact, clothes on, sans tap shoes. Because I sure aspire to it.

  12. Kendra Says:

    I think that it has more to do with tact. If someone you know personally were to ask you how much you spent on food or how many gallons of milk you go through a week (of course none now), you wouldn’t be offended if they did it in an appropriate manner. But it’s complete strangers who come across as butting into your life?

    I have 2 children and I am seriously curious about how many gallons of milk you go through, but I have enough tact that if I saw a woman in the store with 6 or 8 children (gosh sounds likes dogs not meant to though) that I didn’t know, I wouldn’t ask her my nosey questions.

    I think I would also be more likely to spout off at nosey people. I might even get some mormon literature and keep it in my purse just in case someone ask me if I was a mormon. Teach them to joke about my family. Kudos to you for being so sweet.

  13. Amy Says:

    I have had the same twin questions- maternal?! Haha. Also, the people who seem to HAVE to ask obnoxious questions always seen to block your path- so you can’t escape without talking to them. AArgh!!

    My weirdest was when I was pregnant with #6. A lady(?) came up, counted heads, looked at my belly and said “and your’e OK with that?? “

  14. Christina Says:

    What shocked me the most was when I was pregnant with #3 and out with 1 and 2, I would get the strangest looks from people like I was growing another head instead of a baby! And so many people would say “so you must be trying for a boy” as my first 2 are girls. Weird people out there (and they are not from large families).

  15. Merry Says:

    Argh!!!! to the “trying for a boy?” thing - i have 4 girls and i’ve now resorted to being positively rude back “Boy? Boy??? WHY would i want one of those?!?!?!?!” I wanted children, not a gender balance and it is hardly like we still belong to the days of having to have a boy to inherit. What is it with people and that question? And why is it they think it is okay to ask it in front of my girls, like each one was progressively more of a disappointment. *rolls eyes*

  16. Ashley Says:

    People can be so rude.

  17. Brigitte Says:

    I thought the post looked familiar!

    I’ve thought a few of the questions, but wouldn’t ask any out loud (except maybe in private, after lots of wine?)

    I agree that there’s no time ever for the mean questions, but that some are just clueless people trying to make conversation . . .

  18. Alison Says:

    Delurking to say that I can’t believe how rude people can be (especially #s 11 and 5). I have probably been guilty of laughingly saying something like, “You’re a better woman than I am” which is pretty close to “Better you than me.” Because it IS true that I don’t think I would manage well at all with more kids. However, it’s none of my business how many kids anyone else wants to have, and I think it’s wonderful that there are people who have large families and love it. In the future, if I say anything at all, it’ll be something like, “What a beautiful family you have.”

  19. theotherbear Says:

    Umm.. people actually ask do you have a bus that beeps when you go backwards???? That is just a really odd question. Sort of funny.

    And I laughed at Stephanie’s suggestion for answering if they all have the same father. You should totally do that and report back to us. :)

  20. babette Says:

    Such funny stuff deserves an encore! I’m still trying to forget the Aldi cashier who made me cry for having 2 carts. Mothers of large families have to keep their patience even when away from home. Now that I can actually go out by myself, I try to cheer, encourage, and compliment every mama to many that I meet.

  21. pbhj Says:

    >>> “Boy? Boy??? WHY would i want one of those?!?!?!?!” I wanted children, not a gender balance

    Why? Because boys and girls are often more different experiences than having another of the same, I presume.

    I’d want to know if you were on welfare too. We can just afford to eat (rice or pasta or potato, mince or turkey!) but know that if we had a large family (in the UK) we could get a house and a far better standard of living by not working.

    People are interested in you and your motivations, is that such a crime. If you can, be proud: if not, change.

  22. The Lazy Organizer Says:

    Ya, but do you have the socks will little balls on them?

    Seriously though, do you have to eat in shifts at your house? How many refrigerators do you own? Are you sure you’re not Mormon?

  23. cole Says:

    The only thing I want to know that is an obnoxious question is, “How do you keep your house clean with that many children?” I only have 2 and only some days do I count my husband and it is tooooo hard. Or I am too lazy.

    And Debbi…you sound like the salt of the earth and so sweet…you could never say anything regrettable. I can’t imagine it!

  24. Sara Says:

    I have 4 kids and people tend to stare at my husband and me when we are out.We look young and have a 17 year old son and 16 year old daughte so they have a look on their face ” How old were they when they had those two” I actually had one lady ask me how old I was when I was carrying my daughter as a baby. I have experienced the same with hand-me-downs.

  25. Polly Says:

    When I was in my 20s I met a family of 8-7 girls + 1 boy. They were grown. I was helping the youngest with her wedding.
    I asked the mother, trying to make conversation, if they were Catholic. She said “Oh no honey, just passionate Baptists”. Belive me, that shut me up. I learned to mind my own business. I say GREAT FOR YOU! I always wanted a large family and sadly didn’t meet my Mr. until I was 29, we got married when I was 31 and first one didn’t come until I was 35. So, I’m winding down my dream of a big brood. That’s why I live vicariously through you.
    BTW, I shake my head every time you post about some of the comments you get. Just where do you live that people are so forward? Or are people like that everywhere?

  26. Christine Says:

    I’m pregnant with our 4th, not that many in my opinion, and I have gotten comment #5 often in the past few months. I just smile and say, “Yes I know what causes it, and it’s lots of fun, too!”

    Thanks for the list- it’s amazing (and humorous) what people have the gall to say!

  27. Whymommy Says:

    Incredible. Wish I’d read this when it was fresh — far from criticizing, I nominated you for an award last week! Well, an award-meme, at least, the Thinking Blogger. Here’s the link!

    http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/2007/03/31/thinking-bloggers/#comments

  28. mary anne Says:

    Growing up as the eldest of eight I heard all of the above comments made to and or about my parents. The comments that bothered me were the ones that were generated by close relatives.
    All eight children grew up to be pretty great people. We have lovely families of our own some large some small. We all get along and we are proud of each other and the supbringing our parents gave us.
    The most telling statement was made by mothers’ sister at a family function. She commented..” Whenever Betty told us she was pregnant we’d all say poor soul! and feel sorry for her… now we look at the wonderful family that surrounds her and feel sorry for ourselves.”
    You reap what you sow Chris… Your children will be the ones down the road who will want to spend time with you. They will be happy to give back with their time and energy. You will never be lonely in your old age!
    enjoy and filter out the crap!
    mak

  29. Gwen Says:

    I have only two kids but I was raised in a family of 7. The other day we had neighbors running through the house and I counted 7 heads and thought, “Wow, this is what my mom had, all the time!” I completely admire her (and you).

    Now I wonder what kinds of comments she got lugging us kids around!

  30. Mara Says:

    I can’t believe that anyone would ask any of those question… except for the one about the milk. I, personally, would be curious about the milk. But that’s just me. Seriously, people are rude.

  31. Christine Says:

    I stopped a woman one night in Soup-r-Salad (on kids-eat-free night!). She was behind seven children. I asked, “Are these all your kids?” I could see it in her eyes - “Oh brother, here it comes!”

    When I squealed and said, “YEA FOR YOU! YOU ARE SO LUCKY!” her face changed, and we became fast friends.

    I remember when we added our third child, and a woman at church asked where we were living. I responded that we were still living in the same (three-bedroom) home that she had visited the year before. Her response: “Where does everyone sleep???” My response: “In the bedrooms. Where does YOUR family sleep?”

    A year later we became foster parents. We joined the “freak revolution” as people just don’t get it.

  32. merry mama Says:

    My favorite answer to the “Do you know what causes that?” question is

    MHMMM. Lots and lots of…….

    (Usually they are hurriedly walking away by this point, if not…)

    Sex. Which is obviously a dying past time these days, what with all the overstimulating peeks at teenaged boobs and booties.

    Lately, people have been steering clear…but then, I live in a small town.

  33. MrsDianna Says:

    I have six children ages 10 to 3, no twins. I always get not so nice comments and my children have the best manners in public. When my husband is with me at the store and some one comes up and says something about the number of kiddos we have, my husband grabs my shoulders and says to the strangers “I couldn’t keep her off me!”.

  34. Holly Smith Says:

    I’m so sorry people act like that! We have four and get that sometimes…I want to point to my friend with 10, who has kids that care for others, are respectful, resourceful and joyful–not to mention talented lovers of God! My friend Lisa is my idol for a mom…she homeschools and loves to be a Mom. what better job could there be? I feel sorry for folks who have commented those things to you. They miss out on the JOY!
    Thanks for doing the prize thing for Heather…hope that fund grows and grows!!
    In His Joy,
    Holly

  35. Gina Says:

    “11) Do they all have the same father?”

    I was actually asked this question by my OB when I was pregnant w/my third child. Yes, I said THIRD. Not thirtenth or twenty third but my third. My older two were 6 and 8 at the time. I suppose thats why. Or the fact that I’m a military wife and my husband is a sailor. Not quite sure why he thought I wasn’t good enough to keep a man.

    Oh well, I so enjoy your blog! Both of them. And I love your photography and my favorite picture (which I’ve noted before) is the snow white and the dwarf picture. Its so darn funny and the color is beautiful!

  36. Denise C. Says:

    I have seven children, ages 20 mos. to 13 years, and I hear these stupid comments all the time. I really can’t stand when we go out, to the mall for example, and people clear the lane and stand back, counting heads under their breath. Then with their jaws dropped they say, “OMG! Seven children!” then they look at me like I am a freak or something. Geez. My husband is much more good-natured than I am, and will actually answer stupid people’s questions. As for me, I really really REALLY try to remember what it was like when I read about large families and I was mystified as to HOW a mother would be able to care for such a large brood. Keeps me from wanting to poke someone in the eye. ;)

    The positively WORST question we’ve been asked is, “So when is your husband going to get the old snip snip?”

    Or, as they look at me with pity, “You poor thing!” I really hate that.

    Most of the time, I get alot of curious questions and I am more than happy to answer them. With each child, there is an increase in patience, love, joy, help, money, time. God is good. And *that* is how we do it.

  37. The Wooden Porch Says:

    I love #3. I’ve often wondered that about you.

    I’m just kidding. It’s just so funny to think of people asking you if you have a beeping bus! Every once in awhile my husband brings a work truck home that beeps. It always makes me laugh at him.

  38. Aiko Says:

    Terrible things to say! What is the world coming to when having lots of kids gets comments like that.
    My mom had 14 kids in 24 years (all hers, ha) She’s amazing! I think you are, too! Each child is God’s blessing in your life loud and clear! Shows you’re doing something right for Him to entrust you with such treasures. Keep up the good work!

  39. kari Says:

    I had someone ask me if I knew what caused that with #2. #2! Seriously…

  40. Karen Says:

    Amen sister! What is it with all the rudeness and negativity if you have more than 2 children!??? Was their some rule handed down some years ago that I missed out on? We had people asking us if we knew what caused pregnancy when we were pregnant with our 3rd. I always played dumb and asked them to explain it. That usually shut them up!

    We have four now, and we’d have a dozen more if I were younger and not terrified of not having a beautiful, healthy baby. Too many things can go wrong, and I feel our family is very complete and manageable right now. Isn’t that what it should come down to? What feels right for one family? If it doesn’t feel right for you to have more then don’t, but don’t throw stones at me if I choose to have more!

    You’re very graceful and polite! More power to you AND your children!

    PS Yes, I might ask about what you spend on groceries - but that’s more about me wanting to know if I’m spending more than I should on my family of 6 or not. Maybe you should be allowed to ask questions about how you manage ONLY IF you have more than the average 2.3 children :).

  41. Karen Vogel Says:

    Recently I was at a neighborhood meeting and one woman asked me if my husband and I were having any more children (we have 6). When I answered that it looked like I was getting too old, as I wasn’t pregnant yet (my youngest is 2), another neighbor was shocked, “shocked,” that we would just let things, um, take their natural course like that. I don’t mind questions like that because it gives me the chance to put in people’s minds the very foreign idea that children are a blessing and the more, the better!

    My husband likes it when people give us the TV comment; he jumps in with, well, do you really prefer TV to making love to your wife?! Does she know that? Very embarrassing, but worth it. And a new woman at his work, upon hearing that he had 6 children, asked, “Does your wife work?” His response: “She works her butt off!” He’s really tired of that question. I mean, don’t I do enough without going out and getting a second job?]

    Well, I could go on and on about this, couldn’t I?

  42. Todd Says:

    I have 5 children, and have heard all of these comments, I take them with a grain of sand. The people who make these comments are caught in the trap of thinking it is something to comment on, but not knowing what to say, usually because they are jealous or envy your freedom of mind to have this many children or more.

  43. Sarah Says:

    I love this. I am a mom of 4 soon to be 5 and I get those all the time. Do you mind if I put this on my blog? I will link it to you ofcourse.

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