At least once a month, upon hearing how many children I have, someone says to me, “Don’t you know how that happens?” (I always want to get really wide-eyed and answer, “No! Thank goodness you came along so you could tell me! Kids just kept showing up in my belly!”)

“So, are you trying to get your own reality show?”

“Oh, so you’re competing with the Duggars now?”

“Haven’t you ever heard of birth control?”

“Someone should sew your legs shut.”

“Oh, so you’re (fill in the blank a stereotypical religion or ethnic group.)”

And in public,

“Are ALL of those YOURS?”

“Wow. You must have started when you were 10.”

“Accidents?”

I know it’s not much different for mothers of 1 child or a woman without children. They suffer their own battery of comments.

“Oh, so you don’t like kids?”

“You know your child will grow up to be socially awkward, spoiled, a brat, (fill in the blank with the negative word of your choice.)”

“What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you having kids?”

“Oh so just the one? Is something wrong? No strong swimmers?”

Some people are simply living in 1950, where the only “correct” family lives in the little house in suburbia, with the white picket fence, a dog, and 2 kids. If you have more than two, you’re either crazy, a religious nut, or sexually or financially irresponsible. If you have less than two, you’re not doing your civic duty and something is clearly wrong with you. Don’t even get me started on the hell that happens for blended families, adoptive families, or mixed-race families. I won’t pretend to understand what you go through. As an only child, a woman who has suffered baby loss, and the mother of 4, I do understand those comments…and understand just how much composure it takes to remain polite.

I’d just like to put this out there, for anyone who sees a mother with a large family – YES, we do indeed know how “that” happens. I think we just define “that” differently. Where you see noise, I see joy. Where you see a mess, I see creativity and play. You might see an opportunity to be disappointed, as vacations, moves, and purchases are delayed or put off entirely. I see a growing family – and a new child – and for me, that is far more valuable or important than weekend getaways and nicer clothes. And no, nothing is “wrong” with the woman who chooses to have one or no children. Only children grow up to be fully functional adults (I promise!) We aren’t wounded and weren’t deprived of a childhood. And yes, for many, there is happiness and fullness outside of parenting. Having children is not something you “have” to do to be complete. Still for others, the heartbreak of infertility, baby loss, failed adoptions, and other circumstances makes these comments even more difficult to absorb. (Read more about my thoughts on that HERE.)

Families are different sizes for many reasons. Unexpected relationships. Long rounds of IVF. Adoptions. Losses. Choice. Planned and unplanned pregnancies. Fostering to adopt. New families. 1 child. 15 children. 0 children. They are all families. It doesn’t matter how a family is put together, or how many children are in it – it’s the family it was meant to be. There is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to family size, and I pray the stigma that is attached to certain family choices will one day be a thing of the past.

It’s YOUR family. The choices you make and the circumstances that surround you are your business. When comments roll in, let them roll right off – knowing that your family is just that…YOURS (and thankfully NOT theirs!) There is no right or wrong family and the presence or absence of children does not a good or better person make. Until next time remember that your family size is okay, regardless of what anyone else thinks or says, and as always, you have my permission.

Check out the rest of the “You Have My Permission” posts HERE.

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