Monday, May 16, 2016

Those Rude Comments at the Supermarket

I've always hoped to have a large family.  So for years now, my ears have perked up whenever someone was discussing life in a large family, in hopes that I might pick up some tips.

One aspect of large family life I've tried to really prepare myself for is all the rude comments you get when you're out in public, especially - for some reason - at the grocery store.  We've all probably heard the stories of having to fend off endless questions such as "Are they all yours?", "So are you done now?" and "You know what causes that, right?".  I've read all the articles and blog posts about other mothers' frustrating experiences with strangers in the supermarket, and tried to memorize each of their suggested responses - the ones for days when I'm feeling charitable, as well as the ones for the days when I'm feeling snarky ;-)

But the strange thing I've come to realize is that the more children I have, the less comments I hear from strangers out in public.  Occasionally, I run out to a store with just Flora while Tom watches the big kids.  I feel like I can't walk down an aisle without at least one person telling me how cute and sweet the baby is.  During the past schoolyear, Sly and Stella were both in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class one morning a week.  While they were in class, I'd often take the opportunity to run some errands with only half  of my kids.  I would still get quite a few comments about the two of them, and lots of people would ask Linus if he liked being a big brother, whether he loved his little sister, etc.

But most of the time, I have to take all four of them with me, subjecting ourselves to the possible scorn of whoever happens to be at the store that day...And I get nothing!  I feel like people don't even look at us!  It's like when you're out somewhere and notice a person who is somehow well outside the norm, and you try really hard not to look at them because you don't want to seem like you're staring....but then you're not natural at all, and it just makes things more awkward.

So I haven't really had the chance to be "tested" in the moment by a rude comment*, and see what sort of response - whether a snarky quip, sweet correction, or fumbling mumble - I might give.

I've pondered about this, wondering why no one has said anything rude about my family size yet.  The positive way of looking at it is that perhaps I just give off an "air of confidence," and look like I know what I'm doing, so people don't feel the need to tell me how to live my life.  A more negative way of looking at it is that perhaps my RBF ("resting bitch face," in case the term is unfamiliar.) deters them, because it gives off an air of "don't mess with me."  Or maybe they do think my kids are cute and great, but are afraid to say so, because they don't want to encourage me to keep going :-P

*A I do, on occasion, hear the popular line, "you have your hands full!", but I don't think this is rude at all - it's quite true, actually.  So I smile and reply, "yep, I do!"


  1. Maybe many of the rude comments people get are from acquaintances, not strangers? So it may depend on who you hang around and what your extended family is like. I'm like you. "You've got your hands full," is about all I get, though I do get it a lot.

    Back when I was a parent of only one boy and one girl strangers used to comment all time about my "Perfect family!" Now I have 5 kids and I sometimes get 'beautiful' but never 'perfect.' Not that we are anything close to perfect anyway, so it doesn't matter but I think that's interesting.

  2. I've come to realize that saying "you have your hands full" is a way of saying we have too many kids. We have 7 all together, though now 4 of them are adults. My response is...every day.

  3. Let me get this straight, you were all revved up to retort to an ignorant (or socially inept) person and now you're angry because you have to keep all your snarkyness to yourself (spell check doesn't show that as a word...I think it should be)? Maybe you're even bordering on agitated wondering what these people are secretly thinking about you that allows them to pass you by and not comment? (Sorry, with self-sufficient kids, the psychology degree is rearing its head)

    I'll keep praying that, like me, you will gain love (or at least indifference) for all of these people over time. I really believe some of them are trying to engage and be kind and, in the moment, just say something dumb. Perhaps they are saying something rude but so what? Will you be spending any time at all with them? We are all called to be a joyful witness to the Catholic faith (called to it, succeeding sometimes, failing others, speaking for myself). RBF...there was a term I never, ever needed to know! LOL.

    I guess I'm trying (and failing) to say, the life you've chosen is good and right but completely and totally foreign to most of society. They comment on everything (FB) so why should your family be any different? Maybe not commenting or looking away is their attempt at kindness or maybe they don't really care about you or your family.

    I read on a blog long ago the reply, "yes, and my heart is overflowing" and I use it as much as possible.

  4. No, I'm not angry about the lack of comments! It's more like, I felt all stressed out for years in advance about this thing that so many other mothers warned me would happen, and it still hasn't really I'm just wondering what the deal is.

    Maybe I *have* heard some of those "rude" comments, but I'm just not as sensitive to them as some people?

    Anyways, maybe my tone came off differently than intended, if you read this post as some sort of rant. It was an observation on how I find it strange that the more kids I have, the less comments I hear from strangers about my family....which, if I'm to believe what I've read on the internet (ha!), is the opposite of what happens for many families.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. The way you explain it makes total sense. Sorry I was confused.

  5. If anything, the comments Christine made in her post could be taken as encouragement for women who plan on a larger-than-societal-norm family or have less than three children. I do think women ponder how they will handle situations in advance of having them. Also, there are quite a few blogger in the world who talk about receiving rude comments in public due to family size, so it is refreshing to see a different take and perspective that is relevant to the mommy blogging sphere and not the same ol, same ol

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