For whatever bizarre reason, there are many people that feel like it is their duty to say whatever phrase comes to mind to other people in public. Often the victims of these comments are mothers with multiple children. Whether they have three children or 10, these busy moms seem to endure more than the normal amount of tactless commentary from intrusive strangers. In defense of the weary mother in the grocery store, here are some phrases you ought to keep to yourself when you meet a mom with children hanging all over her.
"Boy, you sure have your hands full!"
No kidding. Our ears, car, house and heart are also full. In the midst of a stressful shopping trip with multiple (or any) children, the last thing we need is someone to state the obvious.
"I don't know how you do it."
Well, the truth is, some days we simply "don't do it." Some people must think that moms with several children are "super moms" and can do everything. Though there are a few moms that probably can and do, the majority of us slack off frequently. We get tired. We let the dishes pile up. And sometimes, the kids stay in pajamas so late in the day that we give up and just pretend like we got them ready for bed early. Some days we "escape" by taking time to read, scroll through Facebook or take a 10 minute shower while the kids are baby-sat by "Phineas and Ferb" or "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood."
"You know how that happens, right?"
People seem to be joking when they say this, but if we didn't know about the "birds and the bees" prior to our first child, we certainly figured out by the second, if not the third.
"Looks like Dad needs to get a fishing pole."
Someone literally said this to me one summer while I was shopping with my six young children. I didn't know how to take it and just replied, "Or Mom needs a spa day!" Did he mean that Dad needs a break from all the kids? Or that he needs to take all of his kids fishing? Or was he intruding on our sex-life by saying Dad needs a hobby away from the bedroom? It seems that nothing is taboo in public conversations with strangers.
"Are they all yours?"
No, I bought them on aisle nine. Seriously, who shops with kids that aren't their own - especially several? I'm just not sure why people ask this question and why they think it's any of their business.
"These all from the same lot?"
That phrase was thrown at me while shopping with my first three kids who all happened to have different colored hair. I'm thinking I need a shirt that says, "I only have one baby-daddy," or something. Again, why is it anyone's business whether they have the same father or not or are adopted? Ultimately, it doesn't even matter as long as they are loved and cared for. Just because I have a lot of kids does not mean you can ask me personal questions.
"Lots of helpers!"
I'm hoping people are sarcastic when they say this. Since when has a store trip (or anything, for that matter) been made any easier by the "help" of young children? I'm thinking that these well-meaning souls either one, never had kids; two, it's been a long time since they've had kids; or (most likely) three, have permanent brain damage inflicted by having children.
"Are you done?" or "Are you having any more?"
This doesn't really need further explanation. But, whether you want to know if we're crazy enough to have more kids or if we are finally done reproducing, it's for us to know and you not to worry about.
"Enjoy these days. They grow up so fast."
Eventually, busy moms may miss the days of having young children, but while in the thick of chaos, stress and exhaustion, it adds to the stress to focus on whether we are "enjoying" this insane time in our life. We do our best trying to soak up every minute of motherhood, but mostly, we are just trying to survive.
The silent stare
Granted, this one isn't verbal, but is equally tactless. Staring down a mom with a bunch of kids for any reason is not a great idea. Whether you're watching in awe while silently counting up the number of children I have or looking on in disgust, you ought to keep your judging, uncharitable eyes to yourself.
It is understandable that it may be shocking to see what looks like a parade or a three-ring circus in the middle of a grocery store. But, cut these frazzled moms some slack. We're probably doing the best we know how to keep them all under control while still getting our errands done. If you must say something, make sure it's polite, non-intrusive and helpful. Try:
"What beautiful children!"
"Great job, Mom!"
"What well-behaved children you have."
A verbal pat on the back is always better than a statement or question that may add to the stress of the situation. Consider whether you would want someone to ask you that question before you ask it. Some thoughtless statements can hurt, like pouring salt in a wound. If you must say something, keep it positive, uplifting or some way helpful to these moms that are doing the best they can. Remember the popular rule, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."