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.