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.
This is a beautiful post, Mandi. I can relate to some of what you wrote here. Thank you for writing this.ReplyDelete
I loved this post. As a single person old enough to have children I'm sure many people wonder, "Why is she at mass alone?" "Why doesn't she have kids?" "Why isn't she married?" Etc.ReplyDelete
And they probably think I judge them as they take up the whole row or bring their kids to mass but I really don't care about any of those things and I'm glad they are there. I just don't know how to show it without being creepy or awkward.
I don't know what to say to large families either. (Ones I don't know.) I always want to be encouraging but I worry about saying the wrong thing or having them think I'm just being nice but secretly glad that I only have my one child. It's hard!Delete
I never thought about it like this. As a single Catholic girl (who absolutely loves babies), I probably see it a bit like this too. Big families at Mass make me so happy. It's such a beautiful witness to the beauty of being open to life!ReplyDelete
Reading these blogs, though, makes me realize how important it is to not ever judge a family by its size. You never know the struggles they've gone through. Your stories are such a beautiful witness. In my stage of life, I am more than happy to help with babysitting your beautiful blessings - no matter how many God has given you :-)
God bless you ladies!
I love this. Blessings and crosses. I know we've all got both.ReplyDelete
I am definitely guilty of this way of thinking, too. Thank you for sharing your heart, Mandi!ReplyDelete
So beautiful and such an important point. Thank you, Mandi!ReplyDelete
So beautiful and such an important point. Thank you, Mandi!ReplyDelete
I just love this post so hard. Maybe it is because I love the message. Maybe because I love Mandi. Maybe because I love openness to life. But, it's probably all of those things.ReplyDelete
Aw Mandi, I love you, I love that you bare your heart, I love that you still choose to have love towards those mothers over bitterness. It seems that many find themselves stuck in that bitter phase, and never expand onward. It's really a challenge to see past our heart's desires and look on our neighbors with complete appreciation and love, even when we completely understand that each person has their own blessings and crosses. What a beautiful example you set. You werkit!ReplyDelete
Well, I'm trying. I don't know if I'm exactly a good example but someday, hopefully! It's still a daily struggle.Delete
Nice post! As Mom of 5, you have completely explained my reaction to glances at Church. I have begun to anticipate the disapproving looks and I know I have misinterpreted glances as well. It's so important to try and take a step in another's shoes, it's so easy to have tunnel vision, immersed in our own struggles and circumstances! So nice to read your blog again!ReplyDelete
You bring years to my eyes and a prayer to my lips.ReplyDelete
This is just wonderful. I too have great love, and plenty of envy, for the big families I see at Mass or anywhere else. Beautifully said.ReplyDelete
Thanks for this!ReplyDelete
As a mother of seven, I thank you.Thank you for understanding, I pray for you. We have lost 5 to miscarriages, so I know the pain.ReplyDelete
I'm so sorry for your losses. I forget that families with many children may have also experienced losses, infertility and/or other struggles too.Delete
I have a friend with 10. When she meets with disapproval, in Costco, or other places, she asks, "Which one do you want me to send back?" I love that response.ReplyDelete
Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for putting it in a way I wouldn't be able to, Mandi!ReplyDelete
My heart is open, but my arms are empty. And oh, I wish I could have some poopy diapers. As crazy as that sounds.
Beautiful. A hug from a stranger in Amsterdam!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much, Mandi, for giving words to a problem I've been struggling with too. My husband and I are struggling with infertility and I'm afraid I'm also often very uncharitable towards mothers of larger families...I'm constantly afraid that they're judging our childlessness, that they think it's by choice. I need to try harder not to project my own fears onto these women that I admire so much.ReplyDelete
And yes...what we wouldn't give for some poopy diapers and spit up and vomit stains on all of the furniture. Thanks for your encouraging words.