Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

How to Respond to "You Must Be Busy" and Other "Helpful" Comments About Your Large Family

We have four children. 

Those four words just caused you to either: a) gasp in horror; or b) shrug your shoulders. This article is mostly intended for those who shrugged their shoulders, although the gaspers may also learn a little something, too.  

You know when it's coming, big family. You can see it from a mile away. They're looking at you, sizing you up, literally. Silently counting. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight. Then the questions and comments begin. 

"Wow...You're busy!"
"Is this a day care?"
"You know what causes that, right?"
"Are they all yours?"

I'll not belabor all of the examples of insidious inquries from the inept because you'll hear a new question you haven't heard before on your next trip to the grocery store. I have come up with a few responses I think you'd do well in adopting the next time you come across one of these opinion-givers at Costco. More on that in a minute; first, a little perspective.

First of all, have some grace. They most likely are not intending to say something stupid; they likely just can't help it. They probably aren't aware that historically, a family of six is not a very large family. In fact, they probably haven't done much traveling or reading, so they may not know that in most of the known world and for most of history, the family unit included extended family, which makes a family of six seem rather puny. Remember these people, who happen to be quite vocal in their ill-informed opinions, don't have a historical or global perspective, so when they see you toting four children, they think you may as well have a hundred. So, be kind. "Two and Half Men" only has one kid on that show, and that's probably their main point-of-reference as to what reality can and should look like. They've been living a very sheltered life, so have some compassion before you respond.  

Couple the narrow perspective with —how do I say this tactfully?—a big mouth, and this provides wonderful unplanned opportunities for discussions with total strangers about your family's size! Keep in mind, though, that this commentary on your family's size is not typically provided as an actual comment, but rather in a thinly-veiled interrogation by making a point through question-asking. (As a bit of an aside, in my experience there are only two topics on which complete strangers feel carte blanche to provide an opinion to me, a total stranger: my family size and my glorious mustache. Stay tuned for the mustache article.)

Sometimes you feel gracious in responding; it's truly a curious person, and you have your head on straight that day. My wife and I have taken the approach of trying to use these times as a teaching opportunity for the meddling question-asker inquisitive person. Here's a sampling of some grace-filled responses you could provide.

The Gracious Responses
1. I think what you meant to say is, 'Wow, you are truly blessed to have all of these kids.' Thank you. I agree with you. We are so blessed.
2. I AM busy. Would you mind giving me a hand with the dog food?
3. Children are a blessing from the Lord. I am truly blessed. 
4. Nope, not a day care; just one big happy family. 

...And other times, perhaps being a little less-than-gracious is the best you can muster. Pull these out only when a biting, snarky response is better than the alternative, a smack upside their head. 

And the Not-So-Gracious Responses
1. I'm sorry. Do I know you?Why are you providing me unsolicited opinions about my family size?
2. In what world is that an appropriate question for you to ask a total stranger? (Usually in response to the unbelievably inappropriate question about whether you’re familiar with how the reproductive system works.)
3. That's a very post-modern, western view of the world you have. Are you wholly unfamiliar with family size during the last several hundred years in the US or at any time, including now, around the world? We homeschool every day, and I'd be happy for you to join us any time! 
4. I hadn't really thought of it until you said something, but you're right, this IS a lot of kids. Are you willing to take some of them? In fact, this one—Jimmy: front and center—is kind of a pain. Maybe you could whip him into shape for me? 
5. Of course I know what causes this! Wild, crazy sex with my awesome husband! 
6. No, they aren't all mine. I've actually never seen any of these kids before, but I wanted to make my Target trip MUCH more difficult, so I rounded up as many random kids as I could and brought them with me.

Of course I provide the snarkier responses as tongue-in-cheek, but come on people! Enough is enough.

And now to the inquisitive stranger: If you're shocked because someone has a different-sized family than you, perhaps your view of the world is smaller than it should be. Below are some appropriate ways of responding to my large family instead of asking me inane questions; the answers to which are, quite frankly, none of your business.

Appropriate Ways to Respond to Me and My Large Family
1. Offer to take my grocery cart from my full-size Econoline van to the cart return.
2. Smile. 
3. Tell me I'm doing a killer job at raising my kids—after all, none are currently bleeding or choking each other out. 
4. Tell me I'm blessed beyond measure. 
5. Give me a thumbs up or a high five. 
6. Pray for me! You can see that I need it. 

Oh, and stop counting us; you’re not nearly as slick as you think. We have a lot more eyes on you than you have on us. 

If you have other great things you like to say in response to these kinds of questions, comment below so we can all learn from each other! 

Follow my blog to get my posts delivered to your inbox!