How I Handle Ugly Comments (About Our Large Family)

To each large family mom out there, especially you who are on the newer end of being a large family and hearing ugly comments: first, let me say, I’m sorry for the rude comments/attitudes you’ve received. We’ve gotten all the typical comments too. Back before we were a “large family,” I’d read the articles or hear stories, and think, “people don’t really say those ridiculous things, do they?”

YES THEY DO.

I’ve heard them all. I’m learning more and more to let them go, but I know they can sting.

large family comments, large families

In our case, the worst/most hurtful comments we got were with #4. Something about having four children is so deliberate and “in your face.” With three, people can write off as an “oops” or “you were trying to get your boy/girl”, but four is just downright intentional. And for me, that’s also when they stung the most. I felt so tired and fragile (at that time we had 4 kids 6 and under), and the comments really hit me where I felt most vulnerable.

The other thing that can be painful is when the comments are from people you are close to, rather than random strangers. I get that, too. I’ve heard some doozies, and received comments, looks, and attitudes that certainly would have been more pleasant if left unsaid and unfelt.

Hang in there! Sometimes people get ruder before they get nicer. Nowadays (I’ve just had our 7th baby) for the most part, people don’t say ugly things to my face. They might say it behind my back but I don’t generally have to hear it, which is nice.Jess & Luke

Let me share with you the things that have helped put those comments in perspective.

  1. The longer I live, the more I think that many people just start talking without running it through a brain filter. Sometimes people say strange things when they’re shocked or trying to force themselves to say something. People sometimes ask questions in odd ways when they don’t know quite what they’re trying to say. They’re just saying the first thing that comes to mind, and unfortunately, that’s often going to be the cliched don’t-you-know-how-that-happens “joke” you’ve heard 86 crazillion times. It helps me to have grace when I realize most people are just surprised, curious, and may be simply trying to make conversation. 
  2. Decide in advance to say something positive. I’ve shared before that Doug & I see children as a gift, and so for us, we’ve decided to smile and try to say something joyful and positive about our children. Not only is the other person listening, but our children are too! They hear and see what we’re saying. If asked, “How do you do it?,” I might answer, “God gives me strength, and I’m grateful for each one of them!” (my standard answer when we lived overseas) If they say, “wow, you’ve sure got your hands full!” I might answer, “Yes, and I’m thankful for them!” I don’t try to preach a sermon. (Frankly, I seem to get the most comments when I’m checking out at the store, and so I don’t want people around me to be delayed/inconvenienced.) But I try to say something that expresses my gratitude for each individual, precious soul God has put in our family.
  3. Keep in mind your own sensitivity. Whenever we make a decision that feels vulnerable, different, or that was a difficult one for us to come to, we can wonder if others are judging us, actively thinking about what we’re doing, or mentally condemning us. In regard to feeling judged, I am trying, in my life, to keep that saying in mind, “if you realized how little people actually think about you, you’d probably be offended.” It’s like having a tender spot on your body where you’ve been bruised. By remembering that we are sensitive in a particular area, it helps us to be self-protective in helpful ways, but it can also make us think that others are deliberately wounding us when it might just be our extra sensitivity in that place. Recognizing our own sensitivity and vulnerability enables us to give grace more freely and not take every comment or glance so personally.
  4. Stop the analyzing & mental churning before it starts. I don’t know if you’re like me, but it can be easy to overanalyze things once you mentally “go there.” So the trick for me has been to not “go there,” and not allow myself to dwell on things that aren’t even necessarily “true,” and certainly aren’t “lovely,” “commendable,” etc, as the list in Philippians 4:8 goes. That’s where I have to turn, mentally, when I’m tempted to feel condemnation or judgment from others. It’s to our own benefit to give grace and not assume that others are thinking negative things or judging us; it actually reduces our own anxiety and can get us out of our own heads a little bit. 
  5. Be at peace by being “fully convinced.” Romans 14, that great chapter about varying convictions, tells us that “each one should be convinced in his own mind.” And that it’s before our own Maker that we each stand. So, if I’ve made a decision and am at peace and convinced in my own mind that I can stand rightly before God, then I don’t need to prove myself to anyone, or have a chip on my shoulder about anything. So sometimes I actively remind myself of the “whys” of our choices and have to discipline my mind to not focus on the comments of others.  I can live out my convictions in grace toward others, and peace with others & myself, because I recognize that it is before my Maker that I stand. When I do that, I am living without fear of man, without fear of their judgments, and without (too much) rattling from their comments, because it is God’s opinion that matters most to me.

Hope that doesn’t come across preachy; it’s just where I’ve had to land after working through years of ugly comments, curious questions, and times of wondering what others thought about us.

The more I purposefully live before my Maker, the less I have to live in fear/concern/anxiety over what others think.

Nana & 7 grandkids

My mom with our 7 children, when Luke was just 2 days old

 

Also, one advantage of having more kids, and moving past the rude comments phase is that now, for one, I’m just too busy to notice people gawking. When I’m in a store, other people might be staring, but I’m too busy comparing prices, asking the 4-year-old to put his hand back on the cart, talking with the older children, or unloading the groceries onto the belt, to take too much notice of what’s going on around us.

No matter what, the comments are definitely something to get used to, as a large-family mama, and I hope this helps you put the comments in perspective.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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19 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    Love this Jess! I think the key for us (and we only have 4) has been to embrace the comments, stares, open gawking joyfully. Because ours are so close (4 in 4 years) we probably are quite the spectacle. We try, emphasis on TRY, to be an example of joy, even in chaos and noise. I think people just assume we/our kids will be unhappy, disobedient or rude and that isn’t the case. Usually the ones who make the rudest comments just cant process how our family could function; they are looking through the glasses of their own experience and it doesn’t make sense.
    I feel burdened for women to know that children are a huge blessing and that each and every child that we are blessed with is a wanted and valued child. I hope that when people look at our family they can see that we aren’t perfect, but we are trying to chase hard after Jesus!

  2. Lou Ann says:

    Loved this, and congratulations on your new little boy!

  3. Rachel says:

    I’ve found to just say, “yes, we’re very blessed” has been my best go-to answer. It turns negatives into positives no matter what the comment was. We just got back from a family vacation where we got lots of looks and comments, but remaining joyful (like you said) helps the comments remain positive. Also interestingly, I’ve noticed that dressing my kids in cute hats when we go out makes a huge difference in how people treat them. If they look more “put together” people see them as cute rather than a nuisance.

    • Jess Connell says:

      So true, Rachel!

      I’ve noticed the same difference in terms of when the kids look nicer, we get looked at nicer. I do try to do that, and yet I also can’t let that rule me or make me feel bad if we go out & the 2 year old is in a sleeper. :) Moderation in all things…

  4. Erin says:

    That’s interesting that you noticed it with four kids. I have four kids and I get comments CONSTANTLY. And I think my kids are usually quite well behaved so it’s not like we are making a spectacle of ourselves. I want to yell “four kids is not a lot of kids!” I will say that for every negative/questionable comment, I seem to get a more positive comment like “you are very blessed” or “you have a lot of helpers” or “you have a beautiful family.” Those help me deal better with all the “you must be busy” and “did you PLAN to have twins?!”

    • Laura says:

      “did you PLAN to have twins?!”

      Oh my word, did someone actually say that to you??!!! Just when you think human beings can’t be any more ridiculous…

      • Carrie says:

        I get that one about twins all of the time. Haha! But I have to say, twins are an absolute blast and I wouldn’t mind having another twin pregnancy! 😉

    • Katie says:

      I’ve got triplets, and I can’t count the number of times strangers have asked, in various ways and numerous inappropriate places, how they were conceived. Then, when the triplets were 2, we became pregnant with #4, and people seemed to be genuinely offended that after having three we’d have another one! Now that the baby is a year old and his sisters are 4, I mostly get “at least you got a boy!” And shock over how sweet and well-behaved the children are. People seriously don’t think, they have no filter, and zero respect for privacy.

  5. Kaitlin says:

    Another wonderful and encouraging post!! 😀

    Just a quick question – but what kind of vehicle do you drive? (I’m polling people with 6+ kids for when/if we get to that number! 😀 )

    • katy says:

      we have 6 & are very snug in a honda odyssey (seats 8). we are looking into a nissan nv if we have another one. good question! what do u drive now that u have 7?

      • Jess Connell says:

        We have a big, white, scraped-up, 15-passenger Ford van. With 300,000+ miles cause it was used as an airport shuttle van, it’s on its 2nd engine. We got it for practically nothing, and paid cash. Before this, in Texas, we had a maroon 12-passenger extended-frame Chevy van.

        At first my pride was offended at the notion of driving a “church van,” but once I got over that idea, and just realized that what I really wanted was a vehicle that could get us from A to B, not put us in debt, and give us all plenty of room, the idea of a 12- or 15- passenger van was more palatable.

        So yeah, we drive a “boring” white “church van” and I love it. We have the back seat pulled out, so it only (haha) seats 11, and have an abundance of room in the back to haul groceries, bikes, strollers, etc. I love having plenty of seats to separate squabbling siblings, and the extra space in the back. For us, moving to a larger 12/15 passenger van has been a huge blessing.

        • Kaitlin says:

          Thank you! This is great! The people I know did the debt, fancier vehicle (which is their choice, of course!!) but I knew we could never afford something like that – so I’m happy to hear your story! Plus I LOVE the idea of all the extra room to haul things! How is the gas mileage on it? Or do you know? Just because I know my hubby will ask! 😉

          • Jess Connell says:

            They’re listed at 11-15 mpg I think (which is what our 8-passenger Tahoe did too). We do about half and half highway v city miles, and consistently average right at 12-13 mpg.

    • Carrie says:

      We have a black 14 passenger van that we got from: http://www.adventurevans.com/vehicles They will get the van to you, no matter where you live in the country or you can travel out to get the van. For us, it was so worth it as we got a really great deal of a van that was barely used, fairly new, and at a great price. They love large families and working with them. :)

  6. Alyssa says:

    Love this! As one of six, I’m sure my mom heard these comments all the time. When people hear how big my family is, people ALWAYS ask me, are you Mormon or Catholic? Sigh. Heath and I want 5 kids, so I’m glad your article can mentally prepare me for the comments that lie (many years) ahead.

  7. katy says:

    “The more I purposefully live before my Maker, the less I have to live in fear/concern/anxiety over what others think.” nail.on.head. amen :)

  8. Candice says:

    I think I was most sensitive about comments after our fifth was born. Since then I have become so at peace with our family size, and as you mentioned, I get a lot fewer comments now that we have eight! Maybe people are just too stunned (or busy counting) to say anything! Ha!

  9. Carrie says:

    As always, you’ve written another well-done post! I got the comments a lot when I had four children. After that, we were blessed with twins that put us at six. We lived in Northern CA not long ago where it was becoming increasingly difficult to go places. I was tired and when would hear the comments, I would feel really bad. As time has gone on, I get better at handling it. Congratulations on your new little one!
    Blessings, Carrie http://unspeakablejoymovement.blogspot.com/2015/02/why-children-are-joy.html

  1. April 29, 2016

    […] #7- HOW I HANDLE UGLY COMMENTS ABOUT OUR LARGE FAMILY […]

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