Hey, you! Yeah, you - the mother of five young children close in age. I see families like yours everywhere. In the pews before us at Mass. At the grocery store. In the park. I always try to meet your eyes, but when you see me looking, you usually look away. I can’t be sure why, but I imagine that it’s because you’ve seen one too many disapproving looks.
Your large family is counter-cultural. You make people uncomfortable because you embrace the very things that society teaches us to fear: children. Life. People wonder if you’re crazy. Or you’re Catholic. Or if you own a television. I don’t. Your children are beautiful blessings. It seems perfectly sane that you would welcome more of them.
Let me tell exactly what I see when I see your family:
I see love.
I see joy.
I see the goodness of God.
I see five little people with endless possibility who will in some way, big or small, change the world.
I see parents who have blessed the world with their “yes” to life.
I see your courage in choosing that yes.
Really, it’s true. I don’t think you’re crazy. I don’t think you’re stupid. I don’t think you’re irresponsible. I don’t think, “Better her than me!” or relish at the comfy life I have with my only child. I don’t see any of the negative things you worry I see.
And so, in some ways, I’m better than those people who think you have too many children. I will never fault you for your family size. I’ll never think you imprudent. I’ll never see your children as anything less than precious blessings. I’ll always support your decision for more children and congratulate on a new pregnancy. (And I’ll never ask you if you own a television.)
But in some ways, I’m just as bad. Because, just like those naysayers, I see your family through my own biases and with my own scars. I know that mothering a large family is difficult. That it’s not all hugs and smiles. That it’s a lot of lost sleep and breaking up fights and cleaning up messes and heartache and tantrums and… I know, but when I see your family, I don’t see any of that.
I’m so sorry, I know that I should be able to sympathize with you and support you through the hardships of mothering a large family. But - right now anyway - I can’t see past my own pain and desires. I get easily frustrated when moms of large families mention the hardships they face because all I can see is how blessed they are with children. “Why can’t they see how blessed they are?” I think. “Why can’t they just be happy for what they have!”
And that’s not fair to you. I reduce you to this rosy caricature of the mother of a big family, instead of a woman who has blessings and crosses. You deserve to be seen as a whole person. You deserve to be able to rejoice in your blessings and seek support for your struggles.
You see, I always wanted to be that mother with five children close in age. And I’m not. I have one beautiful daughter who is approaching three and lost two other children to miscarriage over the past year. And so I have baby tunnel vision. I only see the babies. The blessings.
So I ask: Will you forgive me? Will you be patient with me? Will you pray for me. Be assured, I am already praying for you.
Mandi is a Catholic wife of (almost) four years and the mother of a sweet and spicy two-year-old, Lucia. She loves the sound of a train whistle at night time, a cheap bottle of red wine, and jalapeños on her popcorn. She stays up way past her bedtime updating her blog, Messy Wife, Blessed Life.