Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Coffee Talk: Say What?

As women, we receive numerous comments and questions (usually from other women) on any number of things. Some are direct, and some are not so direct. But of course, as women, we're usually great at reading between the lines.

One of the questions that I've been getting so much lately, now that I'm expecting our fourth in six years, is, "So, is this the last one?"

Other variations include:
"You're done now, right?"
"Are you happy about being pregnant again?" (as if I've been "knocked up"--pardon the phrase--one too many times, not of my own accord)
"Are you planning to have any more?"

Recently, a well-meaning friend asked something like, "Will you keep accepting what the Lord is providing?" I honestly didn't know what she meant, but then I guessed it had something to do with family size. So I asked if she meant if we were going to have more children. Bingo. I told her maybe; we aren't planning on doing anything permanent, if that's what she was wondering.

It is funny to see the general perception regarding family size in our culture today--a perception that is revealed in questions like those above. No one asks a mom expecting her first child if she's planning to have more children. They're just thrilled she's expecting her first. Moms of two field questions like, "Are you going to have more?" I don't remember receiving lots of questions during my third pregnancy; maybe three is the commonly accepted number today. But when you hit four or more, people start to reveal their perceptions about acceptable family size.  Their questions hint at their belief that you really should be wrapping things up.

My other favorite comment is: "You sure have your hands full." I've figured out it's really not a compliment. I've even started telling the boys when we go out (usually to the store) that I better not hear anyone say, "You sure have your hands full." They know what that means. We usually only get comments like that when someone (or two someone's, or three) are being too rowdy. Then the person sees me with a 6-year old, a 4-year old, a 2-year old, and a 7-month pregnant belly and feels compelled to utter, "You sure have your hands full." Hearing that more than once on a shopping outing means the trip really didn't go well and someone (or two someone's, or three) are going to receive some discipline at home. So the boys are learning that they better not behave in a way where Mom gets a comment of "You've got your hands full." I would much rather hear, "Wow, your children are really well behaved."

While we can find these questions and comments mildly irritating or offensive, we should aim to take them in stride, with a little humor. I love what Nancy Wilson writes in The Fruit of Her Hands: Respect and the Christian Woman about principles and methods. There are different ways--different methods--of applying God's principles. But as women, we can become overzealous that our method is the method every other Christian woman should follow. She writes,
I'm also wondering if it would do us good to not be so verbally expressive with questions and comments...
"Here are a few examples: 'Can you believe how often she has to go feed her baby? My baby was sleeping through the night at six weeks?' 'Your youngest is almost two? You know three children are better than two!' 'Why aren't you homeschooling?' 'Why are you homeschooling?' Women who feel free to express themselves about such things may have no idea of the damage they are doing. Common courtesy prohibits one woman from breezily criticizing another's methods. It also prohibits nosy questions, such as, 'Are you using birth control?'...Courtesy means we listen [as others share their methods] and ask questions (and not loaded questions). We don't interrupt, we don't get impatient and angry. And, if it is a sensitive issue, courtesy demands that we ask no questions and mind our own business!"
As we receive questions, though, we are called Biblically to bear with one another in love (Col. 3:13) and overlook offenses (Proverbs 19:11). Aim to take it all in stride, without letting the questions (or the perceived meaning) and comments destroy unity among believers. As Mrs. Wilson reminds us, grace is needed to accomplish this!

In good humor, I would love to hear the comments or questions you receive that you find the most colorful. And, with what Mrs. Wilson wrote about courtesy, do you think we would be wise to refrain ourselves from asking semi-personal questions--even if we mean no harm and are just curious?

What do you think?


  1. My stock response to "You sure have your hands full" is "Better full than empty." Just wait until people make comments on the fact that No. 4 is a girl. I can't even guess how many times I've heard "You finally got a girl." As if the three boys are failed attempts at what I really wanted. That one annoys me.

  2. I think remarks like the ones you mention are not the best way to make small talk. Especially with someone you don't know well--or at all. Still, I do get the "you've got your hands full" comment from time to time. It's always said by strangers though.

    Whether strangers or acquaintances, I do appreciate when people try to be friendly. Where we live, it seems that many people are afraid to initiate conversations about anything real. I think that people we see regularly and consider to be friends should feel free to ask about what is on their minds; and if we don't want to discuss it, there should be freedom for us to bow out or redirect the conversation.

  3. AnonymousMay 26, 2011

    As a mom of twins, I often get asked if twins "run in the family." What I think people are really after is whether we used fertility medication or not. I've even been asked "Are they fertility babies?" Perhaps the most shocking question I've been asked came after the babies and I came home from the hospital...they were born prematurely and needed a two-month hospital stay, and I experienced serious health problems post-partum...a relative who knew we had been hoping for children for a long time said, "So, was this all worth it?" Fielding questions like these have made me more aware of how my inquiries might sound, and they've also made me examine my own motives for asking certain questions of people.

  4. Jennifer H.May 26, 2011

    I'm a mother of five children, and my sister-in-law has seven. I think the most bizarre comment she's told me she received was, "Don't you know how it's happening?" I can't count how many times I've been asked if I'm having any more. My polite answer is usually that we are content, but we'll see what God has in store. Another Godly friend of mine has eleven children - once when asked why she had so many children she replied, "Which one would you want me to give back?" This was very profound to me as it showed me how we often think we have a better mind than God, as if He doesn't know what He's doing. I think it's important that, while we are human and have our tired moments and faults, that we show the world that our children are blessings and not burdens. This will stand out far louder than poor behavior any time.

  5. My bil asked my over Easter dinner "don't you know how this happens?".

    My answer (not original to me) "yes, and we *love* it".

  6. Thank you for bringing this topic to light. Right now we are expecting our fifth, but don't want anyone to know, as we got NO nice responses to the knowledge of our fourth, even though these same people are ever - praising the well behaved, sweet children we have. People said thing like we are being unwise, not planning, impetuous, hindering ability to put time toward the Lord's work, etc. (we have been married 9 yrs. and are in our early 30's - how is that impetuous?)and the one that irks me most is the ole 'don't have more than you can raise for the Lord.' As if we can determine that ahead of time. Or, are they suggesting we have a few, raise them, then have more if they turn out right? How ridiculous. If the parents are walking with the Lord and seeking His wisdom, He will give it to them. He promised. So refreshing to hear of others who haven't bought the lie that kids are a burden to be approached veeeerrry cautiously, but instead realize they are a gift to be received thankfully and loved selflessly.

  7. AnonymousMay 27, 2011

    I only have two children but had the first at 37 and the second at 43, then a miscarriage at 45. I don't like the fact I have the expected two -- it wasn't planned that way! We'd gladly take another but now, at 48, it is unlikely to happen as the dr. said it is "next to impossible." I don't know why people can't mind their own business and why they feel free to comment on a couple's personal decisions regarding family size (use or non-use of birth control etc.) Those things should only be important to the two people in the relationship and others should not pry! My ex-mother in law tried to tell me that my son would be perfectly fine as an only child. Maybe he would have been (it would have saved alot of tantrums and sibling rivalry) but we would have missed so much without little number 2! It does take an awful lot of energy to raise them though and sometimes I think God knew it might have been more than I could have handled to be dealing with three... who knows the reasons... anyway, I appreciate your post. Denise in Saskatchewan

  8. AnonymousMay 30, 2011

    I enjoyed your post. I have been married for 21 years, have a 19 yr. old daughter, 10 year old son, and 7 year old daughter. I lost a son in between my oldest daughter and 10 year old son. The loss of a child is horrible, We were lost for several years, still are some days. I HATE when people have the nerve to ask me if my kids are all from the same father....? I cried the first time this happened, it has since happened many times, until my husband pointed out to me that this was our society. They either think I had my 19 year old out of wedlock, or I got divorced and remarried after she was born. I have learned that 21 years of marriage and a strong until family is the exception, not the rule....Thanks for the post, you are awesome.