Friday, October 17, 2008

what to say to a mom of multiples

I've been loving Shannon's series on "What I'd Like For You to Know" and yesterday she had a guest blogger post on being a mom of multiples. Jen's post is great, and I encourage you to read it. (I also think she's amazing because two of her four quadruplets were monoamniotic, like my girls. I know how stressful a momo pregnancy is, but having it be a quad pregnancy on top of that - wow!) She's right on about so many things, especially how hard it is to keep up with friends during the first year as a mom with multiples, but how grateful we are for the friends who stick through it with us.

But the thing that really stood out to me was, sigh, the what not to say to moms of multiples. Oh man. If I'm allowed to have a pet peeve (are Christians allowed to have a pet peeve? My old one was dyed hair - I think it's pretty uniformly ugly - but I've a new one now), it's hearing "My, don't you have your hands full?"

Now, let me be clear: if you say this to me, I don't think you're a horrible person. I don't hate you. I'm sure it's the first thing to occur to you, so it's the first thing you say. In fact, I'm sure of this because it's what I hear pretty much every time I go out with the babies, almost always several times. You get tired of anything if you hear it that often. If I heard some intone "the keys to a shiny new Austrailia" everytime I went outside, I'd get tired of hearing that too. I very well might have said "wow, you have your hands full" to some poor mom myself, back before I knew better. So, consider this in the nature not of a rant, but of a public service announcement.

It's almost always clearly meant well, or at least neutrally. But, aside from being repetitive, it also has the implication of, "Gee, I'd hate to be you," and "My, your life must be terrible and tiring." Yes on the tiring. No on the terrible. Even if you don't pity yourself, it gets tiring to hear other people pity you. Aloud. In public. Over and over. And over. (Did I mention it gets repetitive?)

But it's not fair to say what not to say, without saying what to say. Because friendly people do want to say something, and honestly, even though "you sure have your hands full" makes me wince every time, sometimes, when it's said with a particularly warm smile, it still lifts my heart a bit.

So what lifts my heart even more? These things, which you should say, not just to a mom of multiples, but to any mom of young kids who looks (ha!) like she has her hands full:

-"My, what beautiful children!"
-"Oh, you are so blessed!"
-any variation on the above.

I love hearing those. They're warm, encouraging, approving and - moreover - they're much easier to answer. You can't say, "thank you!" to "you sure have your hands full", and it's so nice to be able to make a kind, grateful response to folks who are benignly interested in our traveling zoo. :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Pamela said...

Yes, indeed they are such a blessing! Whether they arrive one at a time, two or more at a time, close together or spaced apart. I am sure I've used the 'hands full' phrase towards others even though I also prefer to hear the 'blessing' line, thanks for the reminder. While I am thinking of it, you do a tremendous job of loving on your 4 blessings and I am so grateful to be able to see that on Sundays and on Thursdays...sometimes. :)

Ranee said...

People say these things to mothers of multiple singletons, too. I try to smile and give a positive response. Blessings on you!

Anne Kennedy said...

I don't even have multiples and I hear it EVERY time I go out. It was starting to really tick me off until some guy in the grocery store came to a full stop, looked at us and said "You have A Lot of children." It was so nice to be able to say, 'yes, I do, thank you'.