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The Numbers Game

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

I know you’ve recently written about the annoying things bystanders/strangers say about the number of kids you have/should have, etc. so I’m not sure if I’m actually asking a question here or just wanting to vent with someone who can probably understand, but GRRRRRRR!!!!  I have three children who are just about the same age as your boys.  Needless to say (though I’ll say it anyway), I love them to pieces.  Life is hectic with a 5, 3, and 6 month old, but it’s also amazing in more ways than I ever imagined.  I always thought I wanted three children, but surprise!  Turns out the hubby and I would be more than happy to have a fourth in another year or two.  I’m not terribly vocal about this because you can imagine the kinds of comments I get, but if I’m asked, I’m honest about the fact that we’d be happy to have another if we get so lucky.  Here’s where it gets annoying to me — we get questions ranging from the probing “You’re done, right?!” to “You guys wouldn’t have a fourth, would you?” followed by a crazy kinda look.  I’m also getting friends, sisters-in-laws, etc. telling me that I need to give them all my baby stuff as soon as my 6 month old is done with it — and even when I hint that we’re not quite done, they go right back to asking for it.  I’m not a greedy person and I’ll happily share the baby loot when I’m done with it, but come on!! So, basically, if I have a question, it’s… what gives?  Why are people so presumptuous and intrusive?  And are you dealing with this as a mother of three as well?  

Happy Mom o’ 3

Seriously. What DOES give, indeed?

For the record, I think everyone deals with this, no matter how many babies you have. If you have one, people bug you about giving them a sibling (and then react in horror if you dare say you aren’t having any more children). If you have two, people MAY assume you’re “done”…but only if you have one boy and one girl, because if you have two of the same sex then you OBVIOUSLY are gonna try again for the other, right? And if you have three, well, having four is just EXCESSIVE…unless again, your three are all boys or all girls. Aren’t you going to try one more time?

And so on and so forth. I imagine after four kids you get the “you know what causes that, right? ” jokes and the stinkeye while people try to figure out if you’re gunning for a reality show on TLC.

My OB must have asked me no less than five times, on five separate occasions, whether I wanted to schedule a tubal ligation along with my c-section for Ike. The last of these occasions was — no lie — while I was in the operating room, being prepped for surgery. I mean, are you kidding me? NO. I SAID NO. DO I NEED TO ASK A NURSE TO KEEP AN EYE ON MY FALLOPIAN TUBES WHILE WE DO THIS THING?

(And the thing is, we DON’T actually plan on any more babies, I just didn’t feel like the timing was right, at 33 years old, to opt for something permanent and irreversible. Instead, I’m planning to get the non-hormonal copper IUD. But even if I said no because we definitely DID want another baby…I SAID NO ALREADY.)

So…yeah. People are weird. And awkward. And have unsolicited opinions about your parenting style and family size. Imagine that! I HOPE YOU BREASTFED ALL THOSE KIDS BUT NOT IN PUBLIC ALSO WHERE ARE THEIR MITTENS.

I don’t really have any perfect magic-bullet response — I tend to tell strangers whatever I sense they want to hear and will end the conversation faster and help me avoid inadvertently hearing a sermon from a crazy person about overpopulation or the evils of birth control or welfare mothers or whatever. But I also assume most people really aren’t that interested or invested in my answer or life story — they’re just grasping at easy topics of conversation that will let them quickly turn things back to talking about themselves.

Your friends and family though…yikes.  I don’t have any other siblings currently in the family-building phase, so what I choose to do with my hand-me-downs is my own business. And while I think my third pregnancy may have elicited a raised eyebrow or two, everyone has (to my face, anyway) been lovely and gracious and of the opinion that since Jason and I are good, responsible parents who have done a decent job with the kids we’ve had so far, it’s a good thing for us to have as many babies as we want.

I would probably say, the next time someone hints or directly asks for hand-me-downs (which: ew! that’s kind of rude in the first place — what happened to waiting until you were offered?), something like, “I’ll be happy to pass stuff along when we’re done with it. Are you planning to have a baby really soon? OMG, that’s so exciting! Well, even if the hand-me-down timing doesn’t work out, I’d love to help you shop and register!” Turn it right back around to them instead of you and your future plans.

If they aren’t actually planning to use your hand-me-downs in the immediate future, you can probably just fib a little and stick with, “Sure, I’ll be happy to pass stuff along when we’re done with it.” And then later, when/if you guys decide to actively try for baby #4 or it just “happens,” well, OBVIOUSLY you’re not done with your baby gear yet. Sorry!

If someone is pregnant and actively sniffing around for your 0-3 month clothing, you can always say that Baby #3 did a number on everything with the spit-up and poop and it’s all kind of stained and ratty. And you’re still using that sling and your toddler likes playing with the Bumbo and you need to check on a possible bassinet recall and hey, have you seen this NEW thing that’s come on the market? Man, that looks way more awesome than the thing you have.

Or, you can just be honest. “Sorry, we’re probably going to have a fourth baby. I can lend you some stuff but I may need it back before you’d be done with it, and that would make me feel like a jerk. What do you need or want most? Let me buy it for you as a gift!”

Worst case, they think you’re joking and then think you’re crazy when they realize you aren’t. Best case, everybody stops nagging you about being DONE and begging for free stuff…and you get a practice run at ignoring the looks and comments you and your family of six are in for, in a grocery-store checkout line in the not-so-distant future.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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