Whenever I go to an adult gathering and I am introduced to someone new, I always get the same comment when they find out that I have nine children. It’s not like I wear a sign on my forehead that says MOM OF NINE but at one point or another someone will introduce me and at the end of the introduction will say, “…and she has nine children!” and then the person’s jaw will drop. “Nine? Did you say nine?” and then the person will look at me and say, “You really have NINE children?” and I will nod my head and then the person says, “But you look so calm!”
Seriously, the #1 comment I get: “But, you look so calm!” to which I always reply, “Well, of course I’m calm right now. They aren’t with me!” Then everyone giggles at my little joke, and the conversation continues.
CALM. Well, I guess I do look calm at an adult gathering. But who doesn’t? I mean, who comes to an adult gathering looking stressed out and frazzled? So I still really don’t understand why people say that to me. My kids aren’t with me, so yes I am calm at an adult gathering. But people who know me will shake their heads and tell me, “No, you are always calm, even with all your kids around you. You are just that way.”
I’m just “that way”? No, I really don’t think so. I can get stressed out and angry and yell and lose it with my kids just like the next mom. And trust me on most days, I swear I feel like I’m barely hanging on, like I have a death grip on my sanity and I just refuse to let go.
But see, I don’t ever, ever lose it in front of anyone. Not at the grocery store. Not at Costco. Not at the mall. Not at a social gathering. Never. Because if I do, well, people can be harsh. People will think or even say, “Well, she shouldn’t have had so many if she can’t handle them.” I can see around me. I know the looks.
I learned this lesson early on, when I only had 4 or 5 kids. I realized then that people are much harder on those moms with many children than they are of say, a mom with two or three children. We moms-of-many are unfairly held to a higher standard because we chose to have many children. The judgement is real. Don’t believe me? Say you are in a grocery store and you see a mother in the check out line. She has two small children with her, and they are both whining and acting up in the line, as small children tend to do. If that mother looks stressed out, tired, and loses her patience in the grocery line as her little ones are having meltdowns, well then that’s just motherhood, right? This mom will get the sympathetic glances that say, “I know how you feel. Hang in there, mama!” But a mom with five or six children in line at the grocery store? It’s completely different for us moms-of-many. If one or two of my little ones have a meltdown and I appear impatient, tired and irritable, I do not get the same looks of sympathy and understanding. Instead, I get looks that say “Good luck with that. Shouldn’t have had so many children if you can’t handle them.”
So even if I feel tired, irritable or a bit frazzled, I will smile and keep a stoic, calm facial expression, and I will speak ever so patiently and kindly to my kids even if they are acting up, because if I don’t, my temporary look of frustration and impatience will be mistaken for misery and an inability to handle my large brood.
And I’m sorry, but I think that’s unfair. Any child under the age of three or four can be tired and cranky and have a meltdown in line at the grocery store. My children are no exception to this. And if moms of 2 or 3 children can get tired, stressed out and irritable due to the demands of motherhood, then why not a mother of 9? Can’t we moms-of-many have bad moments, too? Why aren’t we allowed that, without judgement? Where’s my look of sympathy when my kid is having a meltdown? I’m telling you, I don’t get that. I get the opposite.
So yeah, I guess I do appear to be calm all the time. I’ve trained myself to keep it all under control when I’m in the presence of others. I smile. I don’t lose my temper. I’m the cool, calm, unstressed mom who can handle anything and nothing bothers me. Yes, that’s me. And that’s okay that people think that. That’s what I need them to think so that I’m not judged harshly on my choice to have more than four children. Because believe me, so many out there love to judge.
And I could lie and say that I don’t care what others think. But the truth is, sometimes I do.