I have four children, and people are afraid of me.
Part of me says I can’t blame them. I’m pretty terrifying when I’m in mom mode. Would you want to mess with a woman lugging a 17-pound baby in a car seat seat on one arm while simultaneously carrying a flailing and screaming 35-pound 3-year-old in the other? I wouldn’t. And that chick is me.
Having four children has been a lifestyle change to say the least. It took a lot of convincing for my husband, who was content with three. Three was already hard enough; the transition from two to three kids nearly did us in, but we’ve adjusted to zone defense.
So we had our fourth (and final), and the transition from three to four wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy. In fact, our life is pretty wild right now. Neither of us is ever fully rested, a child always needs something, money is extremely tight, and our house is always messy. I could go on.
Really, the biggest change I’ve noticed is how people react to us in public. I’ve noticed that when people see me out with my four kids (who are 7, 5, 3, and 5 months), they have at least one of three reactions: derision, amazement, or fear. I’ve also noticed that at the moment in my life when I need the most help, few are willing to step in.
This doesn’t take into account the people who know me. My parents, for instance, live an hour away and help us all the time. We would be lost without them. My in-laws live ten hours away, but always actively help when they visit. I have friends, who also have multiple children, that would drop what they are doing and help at a moment’s notice if I had an emergency. The people in my life are gold. I could not make it through a day, much less an hour, without them.
I’m talking about the people I meet out and about on an average day: at the store, the gym, and even church. These are the people who fear me, or maybe they fear my feral children. I was not blessed with calm little darlings; I got calamitous, curious, and passionate children who demand independence and my undying love in the same instant.
Those who look with derision: I’m talking to you, Sally Side-Eye. Yes, I see your look of disdain, not that you’re trying to hide it. I see you look my family up and down, judging the way I’m holding my 3-year-old (it’s hard being three and the third kid in the family; plus, he’s a classic Scorpio, so he needs a lot of extra love), and that I’m letting my 7- and 5-year-old gleefully skip down the aisle at church. Stop giving me side-eye and offer to help me juggle this circus. Perhaps you’d like to peruse the handy pamphlet our church provides for those who’ve forgotten what it’s like to bring small children to church. Spoiler alert: it’s really hard and dirty looks from old ladies don’t make it any easier.
Those who look with amazement: This is the woman (usually) who watches from afar, mouth slightly agape, hand possibly over her heart. Perhaps she’ll have the courage to come up to me and say “your children are so lovely,” even after witnessing a full on meltdown from two of the children in the middle of Target. Those who look with amazement are my favorite because they remind me that my children are lovely, but they still fear me and rarely offer to help.
Those who look with fear: This is the person who thinks they’re going to catch what I have. That somehow, by mere proximity to me and my brood, they too will all of a sudden have four kids. This is the person who will go out of the way to avoid us. This is the guy at church who tries to make less room in his pew so that we won’t sit by him and his family. Here’s the thing: you fear me. I don’t fear you. So I am going to barge into the pew and force you to make room for us. I promise you, Pew-hogger Pete, your family will remain intact if you let us sit with you.
In almost every instance, those who look with fear are the worst. I’d rather deal with Sally Side-Eye anyday; at least she’s not getting in my way or making things harder for me. And that’s really what it comes down to: help or get out of my way.
Having four kids may be difficult, but it has not made my life worse. In fact, having four kids has made me stronger. I ask for help when I need it. I can be assertive when I need to be. I still stress over things I shouldn’t, but it’s a lot less than I used to. I don’t feel invincible, but I do feel empowered. I have four little lives that are my responsibility. They are mine. I grew them in my body. I birthed them. I fed them. I love them. These four children have made me feel more powerful than anything else in my life. So, maybe people should be afraid of me.