I recently had my third baby. We have two young sons, and our daughter is a month old.
We have only left the house with her a handful of times, and I’m already tired of the comments. People see my little pink bundle next to her big brothers, and feel totally comfortable commenting on the size our family. Everyone I meet assumes that our family is complete, based on the sex of our third child.
“Oh look! You finally got your girl! A complete set!”
Or once, “I bet you’re glad she’s a girl so you don’t have to keep going!”
Excuse, me? What? I don’t even know you. What if I didn’t plan to have a single one of my offspring? I might have desperately wanted a third son. What if I am already pregnant again with a fourth?
I mean, I’m not. Our family is complete. But not because we decided three was our perfect number. Fate, not choice, determined the size of our family.
I’m sure a lot of other families can say the same.
There are also plenty of parents who made a plan, destiny smiled on them, and now they have the exact number of kids they wanted.
But whether your family size was determined by chance or careful planning, one thing is the same for all of us. At some point, someone is going to make a judgment about how many kids we’ve got.
Judgment happens to families of all sizes.
Most of us are guilty, and we really have to knock it off.
At some point, I bet most of us have had at least a fleeting thought about someone’s family size.
“Awww, one child? Sad. He needs a sibling. Only children are lonely.”
“She’s pregnant AGAIN?! She already has FIVE! Doesn’t she know how that happens?”
“Two boys and pregnant again? I hope the next one is a girl so she can stop.”
Most of us know these thoughts are rude, and we can self-correct. We remind ourselves that it’s none of our business, and we certainly know we shouldn’t say this stuff out loud.
But any parent can tell you that some people are pretty quick to actually say the judgy crap most of us manage to keep inside.
We can do better.
I have two friends who have had hysterectomies. Both of them were much younger than they expected to be when they lost their fertility. Neither of them was “done.” One of them has one child and the other has two girls.
Imagine how it must feel when someone tells my friend her only child needs a sibling. Imagine my other friend’s pain when someone tells her she should get pregnant a third time so her husband can have a son.
One of my friends has five children. One girl followed by four boys. Yes, she did it on purpose. Yes, she knows how it happens. She meant to have a large family, and she isn’t done. When people act like her family is some kind of sideshow attraction, it breaks her heart for the littlest boys. Would it be better in some people’s estimation if they just didn’t exist?
I actually have two different families in my life that have eleven children each. Their stories could not be more different, but the end result is the same. Eleven children growing up as siblings, sharing a roof and parents. I don’t think I have to tell you how often people feel the right to judge that.
I could go on for pages and pages. There are literally countless factors that can determine the size of a family. There’s no way to determine a family’s story unless you were there and you lived it. There’s no one way to decide when your family is finished, and we definitely don’t have the right to judge.
When I think about all the different kinds of families I know, it makes me feel like a really big jerk for ever judging anyone’s family size to begin with. Time to do better.
Instead of just keeping our judgmental thoughts quiet (a good first step!), let’s work on eliminating them altogether.
Being a parent is not easy. It’s capital H Hard. That Hard starts the first day you meet your first child, and it stays hard until you die. Being responsible for a whole entire human being is heavy. Parents share that common burden, whether we are raising one human, three, five or eleven.
There are millions of ways to have a beautiful family, and any loving family that’s making it work is just the right size.
We should probably stop making so many assumptions and judgments and comments about family size, but we should definitely keep saying hello! We shouldn’t stop asking about each other’s kids.
Parents, we can talk about this messy, gorgeous parenting journey without even bringing up family size.
Instead of telling a mom of many that she has her hands full, try telling her how beautifully she is handling the outing with so many little ones. Instead of telling a mom of one that she needs another child, maybe you can tell her how lucky she is to have such a great kid with her. If you see two little brothers, tell their mom you hope they’ll grow up to be the best of friends.
Let’s end the family size judgment once and for all. No matter how many little humans are in your family, we are all in this together.