A couple of days ago I got home from a little road trip/field trip I took with the kids. I wanted to take them to Pepin, WI to visit the first home of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the museum located in the nearest town to where she spent the first 4-5 years of her life. I was a huge fan of the Little House books and television series as a kid, and I have read (listened to) “Little House in the Big Woods” and half of “Little House on the Prairie” with my kids so far. This year we’re studying American history, so it seemed like a natural time to take this trip with them.
After checking out the town of Pepin online, I realized that there wasn’t much to do there besides the museum, and wasn’t really anyplace to stay there that would accommodate my crew (when I take these trips with them I always insist on hotels that have suites with separate bedrooms, so I don’t have to go to bed at 8:00 with my kids). So I decided to stay in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which is about an hour from Pepin, has a lovely hotel with two bedroom suites and a pool, and has a children’s museum downtown. Voila. Trip planned.
I’m pretty sure the hotel pool is always the favorite part of our trips
Three girls in their own bedroom = happy traveling mama
This is not the first time that I’ve taken a trip like this with my kids, though it was the first time since Bubba was born. You can check out our other trips here: Chicago, Louisville, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Every time I take a trip like this, I’m amazed by how much people comment on my family. Especially during the MSP and this trip (maybe because I was visibly pregnant for both), people have made so many comments to me about my family, my kids, my perceived bravery in taking trips with my kids, etc.
Eau Claire has a great children’s museum, and it turned out to be perfect for a trip with Bubba, because he could get out of his stroller and have fun
One type of comment that comes up a lot, even when I’m just out and about (not traveling) with the kiddos is the family size comment. My girls are pretty close in age, so even when I only had the three of them I used to get lots of “You’ve got your hands full!” and similar statements from strangers. But when I was pregnant with Bubba, and especially now that I’m pregnant again, the comments go to the next level. “Wow! FIVE KIDS?! You’re brave/crazy/busy, etc.” “Are they all yours?!” “That’s a lot of kids!” “Don’t you know what causes that?!” “Better you than me!” And so on.
At some point, I realized that lots of people really do think I’m crazy or even irresponsible to have three, then four, now five kids. My family isn’t even that huge compared to some I know, but I still feel like some people view me and my children as some sort of weird freak show.
I decided a while back that perhaps I needed to make a conscious effort to try to be a positive example of “it’s-okay-to-have-several-kids-it-won’t-ruin-your-life-or-make-you-crazy-I-swear.” A large segment of today’s society seems to view people with large families negatively, and some people seem to even view kids as a big burden rather than as a blessing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had other women say to me, “You’re crazy. I have two (or one, or three, or whatever the number) and there is NO WAY I’d have any more,” or something along those lines. People also seem to be quite perplexed when they ask me if we’re “done” now (I got a lot of this after having Bubba, whom people perceived as our “coveted boy”) and I say, “Well, I don’t know. We’ll see what God has planned for us, I guess.” Many (most?) people can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that we might actually be willing to have more kids.
As a result of the reactions I have had from some people, I feel like I have to always put my best foot forward to show that a big family isn’t a bad thing. So I try to not look frumpy when I go out in public with my kids (I do still sometimes wear my yoga pants, though not as often). I used to go out without makeup and with messy hair all the time when I was in college or grad school. Now? I feel like that would just be somehow validating the viewpoint of some people that having more than a certain number of kids (usually one or two) ruins people, makes them stop taking care of themselves, makes then unable to parent as effectively, is harmful to the kids who don’t get as much attention, etc., etc. Furthermore, as a general rule, I try to always keep my cool with my kids and not lose my temper, but I feel even more pressure to be a “model mom” when I’m in public with all my kids. I worry that if I have a moment of weakness and snap at my kids or something, people will think it’s because I have too many kids, not because I’m a normal human who makes mistakes and is sometimes impatient.
Their favorite part of the museum was crawling around inside this digestive system model. Ew.
I should say that there have been many people who have made very wonderful, kind comments to me about my children and my family. I know of many people who have smaller families and would love to have more children but have not been able to. I don’t believe that all people with smaller families are judging me and mine (and I would like to be very clear that this post is not a judgment of people with smaller families). I know that not all people view large families in a negative way. But I’ve had enough experience of the judgmental and unkind people, both in person and through the experiences of people I know or things I have heard and read from such people, that I can’t help but feel like I have to try extra hard to show what a beautiful blessing a large family really is.
As I’m typing this, I can hear my three daughters downstairs playing with each other. They are the best of friends, and I know that they are so, so blessed to have each other.
I know this because I don’t have a sister (and I always wished I did), so I’ve never had that one friend who was with me, no matter what, throughout my whole life (though I do have my Super Friend, who is very much like a sister). And I know this because I’ve seen what wonderful relationships sisters can have (my Mom and Auntie are an example that come to mind right away, but I can think of many others). I think of my husband’s great relationships with his brothers, and I’m so happy that my boys will have each other too. I know how joyous it is to get together with a large family of people who have close relationships, and I pray that my children will always remain close to each other and support each other no matter what.
I know that my large(ish) family is a true blessing. I know that all children are blessings, whether they are in small families or huge ones or medium-sized ones. I know that I will continue to try my best to be an example of how great it is to have more than the culturally acceptable number of children (and I also know that I will sometimes fail at this miserably!).
And I’m sure I will continue to get comments from strangers about the size of my family. I just pray that those strangers will try to look past the simple number of children I have and see the joy they bring to each other and to me.