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