When you have more than one child, people seem to think they have a right to comment about or question your reproductive choices. Especially when you bring your children in public and, well, especially when "people" are men. Sadly, there are so many things men need to stop saying to women with multiple children that, for one reason or another, are repeated with a reckless abandon that's nothing short of infuriating.
I remember vividly the first comment I heard about our family size. I was at Target with all four of our kids — my two and my husband's two — when some random guy decided to be "super helpful." "The condom aisle is that way," he said, followed by the rhetorical question, "You do know how those things are made, right?" I was so embarrassed. I wanted to tell him to mind his own business. I also felt the overwhelming need to explain my blended family and to tell him my kids were all wanted, loved and cared for. I wanted to let him know that I was a trained sex educator and of course I knew how babies were made. I also wanted to make sure none of my kids heard him or were hurt by his unbelievably rude comments. Of course, every possible reply escaped me in that red-faced, tears-welling-up moment, and I simply walked to the check out lane.
The bottom line, no one gets to question anyone else's reproductive choices. Whether I have zero kids, two, or ten children; whether they were intended or unintended pregnancies; whether I am single, married, or dating 100 people simultaneously, it's none of your business and it's certainly not a joke. So, if you see a large family in Target (or anywhere else, for that matter), the only thing that's cool to say is, "Can I help you?" I mean, have you ever been to Target with kids? Of course, it will also benefit you and all people involved if you kept the following things out of your mouth, too.
"You Know How Those Happen, Right?"
I can guarantee with almost 100 percent certainty that most moms, even those with multiple children, know how babies happen. I mean, they did go through the entire process.
However, if for some miraculous reason they're not aware of how babies are made, they most certainly don't need to hear your opinion on the matter. Oh, you weren't serious? Oh, you think it's super funny to joke about a person's children or reproductive choices or the kind of sex they're having? Explain to me how it's funny. Don't worry, I'll wait.
"I Bet Your Husband Never Get's Laid"
Whenever I hear this one, I want to respond, "You do know how these things happen, right?" Yes, my partner and I have sex even though we're parents. No, it's not any of your business. Yes, couples with multiple children may have to be more creative about finding time and places to have sex, but seriously? It's none of your business how often we have sex.
Also, why do you assume I have a husband? Maybe I'm in a same sex marriage. Maybe I'm not married at all. Maybe I'm a single mother. So, you know, don'g assume anything, buddy.
"Don't You Own Any Condoms?"
Just like you don't get a say in someone else's choices about the number of kids they have, you don't have the right to give unsolicited advice about contraception.
Also, random dude, why are you talking to me? You may not know this, but people with penises wear condoms. Shouldn't you be directing men to the condom aisle? News flash: women should not be solely responsible for preventing pregnancy. Oh, you were just joking? Stop. It's not funny.
"Are All Those Children Really Yours?"
This is a tough one for me. Because, in my family, the answer is complicated. Did I give birth to four children? No. Are they all my children? Yes.
Carrying a baby and giving birth to a baby doesn't make someone a mother. I love all of my children. More often than not, the guys who ask me this particular question aren't genuinely trying to understand my family, though. So, you know, "Boy, bye."
"You Look Tired"
I am tired. I don't need a reminder. I haven't slept well in eight years. I spend my days chasing kids, driving them places, working, running, shopping, cleaning, and trying to keep my family organized enough so that we can be happy, healthy, fed, and clothed.
Unfortunately, when something has to give, it's usually on my end. I don't get enough sleep, and as skilled as I am with concealer and highlighter, sleep deprivation sometimes shows in my face, the slump in my shoulders, or the case of Coke Zero in my cart. Next time, how about you try, "Can I buy your coffee?"
"So, You're Done Having Kids Now, Right?"
None. Of. Your. Business.
However,, since you mentioned it, I am pregnant. So, no, we aren't "done." At least not for a few more months. Again, this is really personal. You have no idea why a family looks the way it does or the path they've walked or stumbled along together.
"It's A Vagina, Not A Clown Car"
As someone who worked for a reproductive health provider, I do have serious concerns about the health and well being of people who carry numerous children, especially close together or as a result of unintended pregnancies.
However, I realize that this is really none of my business. It's not my body. We women certainly don't need a dude to mansplain female reproduction to us. Tell me again how my vagina is supposed to work? I'll listen if you let me tell you about your penis and how I think it should ideally function. That seems fair.
"Are You A Dugger Or Something?"
Please don't make assumptions about my religious or social beliefs based on my family size. For the record, I am a pro-choice, feminist atheist. I was not "called" to have a large family by a higher power. I actually have serious concerns about people who are not able to control their own fertility and who are forced to have and care for children, based on paternalistic and misogynistic values associated with relationships and childbearing. However, I don't share these views with random strangers. I have no idea why they've chosen to have multiple children or if they are being forced into a specific family situation.
For the record, no one is forcing me to conceive and carry babies. And, while I honestly never thought I would have more than two children, I wouldn't change a thing.
"How Do You Manage Them All? I Bet You Forget Their Names."
When you have a large family, sometimes it's hard to keep everything and everyone in order. When we take the kids to the store or stay at a hotel, we can be heard asking our little "duckies" to "line up." It's been a learning adventure full of chaos and the occasional misstep.
That said, unless you are offering to lend a hand, don't tell me that my kids are a handful. Also, I never forget their names (but calling them the cat's name is another story).
"My Tax Dollars Shouldn't Have To Pay For Your Mistakes"
Nope. I actually don't receive public assistance, but if I did? Your tax dollars have nothing to do with my reproductive choices. As a society, we have an obligation to support families in feeding, housing, and caring for their children. You are talking about letting children starve. Seriously.
Honestly, I might be willing to hear your views if you also didn't support anti-choice candidates, comprehensive sex education, and free contraception and reproductive health care. #SorryNotSorry
"That's What Happens When You Can't Keep Your Legs Closed"
Ah, slut shaming. Yes, I have had sex. Sex is awesome. Being able to control my fertility and plan my family is a privilege that I enjoy, and I am glad that we have the technology to help ensure that women aren't forced to continue with their unintended pregnancies.
Shaming women and other people with uteruses, because they shoulder the burden of pregnancy, is terrible. It takes two. Sometimes, it takes one, two, or a team of medical professionals to conceive a child. Shaming me for having sex is so tired. Of course, not as a tired as a mom with four kids at Target.