As the mother of seven children, I often am accosted by complete and total strangers who like to ask questions. Some of these people are nice and offer stories from their own experience and others act as if I am breaking some sort of law by having so many children. Depending on how my day is going and what kind of mood I am in determines the answers I give.
Quite possibly the most frequently asked question I get from people is, "How do you stay sane?" I have to say this is the least rude question I have been asked. I have heard this hundreds of times, beginning with the arrival of child number four.
Well, to be honest, being a mother of seven most certainly is not easy. I am not ashamed to admit that as much as I'd like to say I am supermom and can handle anything, I am anything but. Yes, there are moments (and plenty of them) when I have to stop and say, "Okay, I'm gonna lose it!", which causes everyone in the house to scatter. This is the verbal warning I give before my head spins and I barf pea soup. Not really.
My first response to this query is to say, "My husband does a lot: laundry, dishes, playtime, reallly anything that I need him to do." My husband and I are like a tag team. We both know the other's limits, and that's when we step in to take over. We do our best to give one another a break.
When my husband isn't here, I give myself a break, even if it's only two minutes. When the girls are napping I can usually take a few minutes to eat some chocolate or read in my favorite book or magazine. It's truly beneficial to everyone in the family to be somewhat stress-free. Another "sanity-keeper" is a scheduled date night. My husband and I have a date night once a month. Under no circumstances can we cancel-well most circumstances. Dinner, a movie, working out at the gym, or just window shopping can often be enough to keep it less stressful until the next date!
Now a more nasty, rude, and inconsiderate question that we hear is, "Don't you know what causes that?". That being pregnancy and more children. Frankly, it's nobody's business how many children we have. It's not as if we pawn them off on anyone or don't take care of them. We set out to have a large family and accomplished that goal. We often get this question from total strangers, and from friends who I think are trying to be funny, but don't really understand that it's rude. We do our best to laugh and say something to the effect of, "We keep bumping into each other in the hallway" or "Rubbing another woman's pregnant tummy is taboo.". Sadly, some people haven't learned to mind their p's and q's. It's not that I can't take a joke or appreciate humor (come on, for those of you who know me I married the class clown!) it's just that sometimes it is just plain rude to comment on someone's marital/familial relationship, especially if you don't know them.
One of my favorite questions has to be, "Are they all yours?". Hmmmm...well, the last time I checked they were! Don't get me wrong, people mean well and don't intend to sound ignorant and rude. This is the question though that sparks my irish/scottish heritage and my sarcastic sense of humor takes over. It's not hard to imagine the attention we get when we are out and about as a family (which is becoming more rare). Total strangers love to ask this question, and it has taken me a few years to gain the courage to respond in my sarcastic manner. For example, I love to say, "Well actually, this one is the mailman's, and this one the UPS guy..." and so on and so forth. People typically don't know how to respond to that, but we get a good laugh! Sometimes we say we found a couple of them on the corner and we thought they were cute. The idea is to keep a sense of humor.
I have to admit we do get just as many positive comments as we do negative. When we go out to dinner as a family of nine, we usually hear, "What well-behaved children!" or "It is so nice to see such a big happy family." So, not everyone is an ignoramous. Nothing pleases my husband and I more than to hear these positive comments. It makes us feel like we're doing this parenting thing right (somewhat).
Aside from wanting to start my own t-shirt line with quirky responses to rude questions, I do my best to keep my sense of humor. When total strangers feel as though they need to offer their advice or when another mom on your son's baseball team feels the need to step in and "mother" your child for you (one of my personal favorites), don't be afraid to tell them how it is. Say something to stop them in their tracks. We all have the tendency to say things without thinking first, so remember how it feels when it happens to you. Try not to take it personally or become too offended. Sometimes just ignoring them works really well. My husband and I have to remember that it was our decision to have this huge family, and we have to take what comes with it. People whisper, point, count, and stare. In the end, it is amazing to be such a big, happy family. It is something we are proud of and we love every minute of it (most of the time!).