What Did I Say?

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Recently I was in a situation where I was introduced to several new people, fellow moms, in fact. Our kids were around; it was a public setting. I was “the new girl,” in the sense that everyone else knew one another.

In the first conversation, Mom A inquired how many children we had. Upon hearing that we had six children, she, who herself has four children, proceeded into a ten minute defense of why she only had four and how horrendous her last labor was — 39 hours in case you were wondering.

After my next introduction, Mom B also inquired as to our family size and then said, “I assume you stay home.” I guess a mother of six couldn’t possibly have brain cells or energy to not stay home? I’m not sure. But, I must confess I felt the need to justify my existence. I said I homeschooled our children. Upon which she recited every reason why she couldn’t possibly do that, including, “I’m sure it would make me lazy.”

(And, the implication in that statement is…. what?)

I went home a little befuddled and, needless to say, discouraged. I never brought these things up. I never touted them as superior ways of living. I don’t think that way. I’m just doing what I do. I just answered a question. And yet, simply being “me” seems to have brought out defensiveness in one and offensiveness in the other.

Can someone please explain this to me?

From Envy to Admiration – When She’s Got What You Want

To find answers to more of life’s mysteries, visit We Are That Family for “Works for Me Wednesday: Backwards Edition.”

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  1. I think a lot of people are insecure in their roles as parents, as spouses, as people. I have had similar experiences being around others who have adopted…We adopted 4 and others who haven’t adopted as many come up with all sorts of excuses as why they haven’t and those who have adopted more act as though I am somehow lacking because I don’t want 10 kids. I could care less how many children they have brought into their home, yet the others, in their own insecurity, have to make excuses for thier family size. It’s a shame that we can’t all just accept who we are, where we are in life, and what we can and can’t do. You just do what you do and be proud. God gives us what we can handle, no more, no less.

  2. I second what Kristen said. I don’t understand the need for women to defend the choices they have made for their families. Sharing with someone that you have six kids or that you homeschool isn’t an attack, it’s simply sharing. I don’t feel better than anyone because we have five (and a half) children or because we homeschool. I know that these were the best decisions for my family.

  3. those women were thoughtless and rude (not to mention unfriendly to “outsiders”.) i hope you know supportive women in other circles.

    homeschooling six kids sounds the opposite of lazy to me! good for you:)

  4. Hi, I am a long time reader, but I can’t remember if I have ever commented before.

    Anyway, I am very confused how anyone can reason that homeschooling would make you lazy. Hmmm…that just does not make sense to me.

    I do sense that there is always competition going among moms, which is very sad. I think I noticed that the second I became pregnant (I have one 19 month old), and it hasn’t stopped. Who had natural labor vs. epidural, who nursed the longest, who cooks the healthiest, etc. etc. etc. Motherhood is where I need the most encouragement, but it is often where I find the most discouragement among other moms.

  5. I run into similar situations, I only have one but I am a stay at home mom. I hear “oh that must be nice” or “that’s a luxury I can’t afford” all the time. And while I want to say something back I know that we all make our own decisions on what’s more important.

    I can say that staying at home isn’t always that nice (neither is going to work I did that too) and it’s not an affordable luxury it’s a sacrifice. SAHM’s give up a lot of things to stay home. Hang in there and don’t let crazy women get to you. That is probably why I don’t have many women friends because they would drive me crazy.

  6. I agree with both of the previous commenters. I am on the other end of the spectrum though. I have one child and we are only having one child. I hate feeling the need to defend or justify our family size …..but sometimes I feel like I am being questioned so much that I have to justify. I get comments that I am taking the easy road. It makes me feel awful most of the time. Many people have to make themselves feel better about their choices (or blessings) by making themselves feel some sort of superiority.
    I also work as a teacher (reduced schedule), which gets another load of questions from people, especially stay at home moms, asking how I could possibly work and so on…..
    I wish moms would stop judging and start supporting each other more in our journeys as moms.

  7. I have to agree that it was insecurity on their part. I kind of feel sorry for them b/c they missed out on having made a great friend. I also have to agree that sometimes (most times, sadly) women don’t seem to be encouraging to one another anymore. In my personal opinion, it seems to me that it might be because too often we’re portrayed as “superwomen” in this day and age. And anything less than that is failure. Believe me, I am NO “superwoman” and I’m almost proud of it! I don’t want to set my kids (esp. my daughter) for failure if they can’t get everything done based on the examples I’ve set for them. Does that make sense?? It does in my head but like most things, it gets lost in translation somewhere between my brain and mouth! LOL

    Personally, I know my limitations and I know that I would not be able to homeschool my children. I don’t feel confident enough in my own ability to do so but that being said, I absolutely respect anyone who does and admire them greatly. I marvel at the fact that they can do this without losing their mind and I’m actually jealous of them. Which may have been another reason for their ignorance…secretly they were jealous! Either way, I think we need to start empowering each other as women, mothers and wives. So, more power to you!

  8. I know what you mean by feeling defensive. Soon after I began homeschooling I learned not to bother telling anyone unless they ask..I also no longer bother explaining my reasons. When they ask “Why do you homeschool?” I simoply say “Oh, lots of reasons..” with a smile on my face and let it go sista! It’s not worth your time.

    I have a dear friend of mine who has a masters in education, worked as a school teacher for nearly 12 years before she had her one and only son. Her son is now in 4th grade and she is still a homemaker. I feel for her because she is always being picked on for being a stay at home mom because her son is in 4th grade. So woman on the opposite perspective of you deal a lot with persecution for life choices. It is really sort of sad that we as woman are not more uplifting and encouraging to other mothers…no matter how they choose to mother….having lots of kids, having only one or none, homeschool, regular school, work outside the home, work in the home, etc.

    May your post encourage us all to be a little more respectful and supportive to other moms. We all need support!

  9. I do understand where you are coming from, I think we’ve all experienced those kind of feelings. With that said I will be the one to play devil’s advocate, I wasn’t there, but maybe these women didn’t mean to discourage you, they just came across the wrong way. I had to schedule something with an older couple recently and when I found out they were retired I said a stupid comment like “great you will have plenty of time then” of course they were quite defensive, just because they are retired doesn’t mean they don’t stay busy. So, I would just try to give them the benefit of the doubt and most importantly be confident in yourself because you obviously have a lot to offer! In the mean time hopefully mom A and mom B will work on their social skills, and respond with something more along the lines of “That is so great, good for you.”

  10. I would have to agree that it was insecurity on their part. I think people’s natural reaction is to get defensive when they feel what they are doing is inferior to what someone else is doing. It would have been better for them to embrace the fact that everyone makes different choices because every family is unique. However, this is sometimes hard to do. I wasn’t there, but I am guessing that while you were feeling attacked, they were clueless to this because they too were feeling attacked (brought on by themselves of course, so therefore needlessly!).
    I agree that this sort of mommy judgment happens all the time! I worked part-time after having my first until I had my second. I always felt like I was being judged by the SAHMs. I most likely felt this way because I was unbelievably jealous!
    Now that I do stay home I seem to run into more working moms. I tend to feel that they have the attitude of “it must be nice to be able to stay home”. I want to tell them that I was a huge sacrifice and quite frankly a giant leap of faith to do it. I am not “able to” stay home, we are still working on being frugal enough to make it work out (so far so good though, praise to God!).
    It is for this reason that I have clung on to my 2 really good girlfriends. I know that they aren’t judging me. I am open to making new friends, but I don’t need to have them, so no hurt feelings.

  11. and you know, sometimes we get defensive…we have to also look out for that. May she actually was trying to be your friend by telling you why she didnt have any more. Maybe not. LOL. I’m just trying to see the rainbow.

    I often ask people how many kids they have and how many they plan to have. I really am curious. It helps me to know how much we have in common.

    One day at the park I was visiting with a mom of many. We were getting along great…had TONS in common. along comes a homeschooling mom with very little in common with us…and yes, she starts defending her choices. No reason, we didnt care why she had made her choices. We were just there to make friends, you know.

    So all that to say…most people just want to fit in. even the ones making excuses.

  12. I have not read all of the other comments, so please forgive me if I repeat what someone else has said. I am sorry that your recent conversation with these women was discouraging to you. It does seem as though these women may have felt inferior to you for all that you are able to accomplish with your family. Someone else made the comment that God give us what we can handle, nothing more, nothing less and I completely agree. God has blessed you with a wonderful family and you and your husband seem to be doing a fabulous job of teaching them and training them. Keep doing what you’re doing! May God give you the grace you need when you are hit with the negative looks and comments of others. When your children see you confirm to others that you are doing what is best for your family, they will be encouraged and proud of their FishMama! Personally, I think you are a wonderful example of a Christian wife and mother! I have been blessed many times by your posts. So today, I would like to thank you for that!

  13. It’s crazy the different reactions moms have.
    I’m on the other end of the spectrum where kiddos are concerned. For reasons only the Lord knows we had trouble getting pregnant. Of course, when we finally did have our first we were ecstatic. I would get the “Oh, you have ‘only’ one child. So what’s wrong with having just one anyway? Even tho’ fertility problems prevented me from having more kiddos. It would really irritate me, but at the same time would make me sensitive to other women who had ‘only’ one child– whether they chose to have just one or had problems having more.
    Believe it or not the same kind of comments would be made concerning homeschooling ‘only’ one. Especially in the area of socialization.
    Now those same people are seeing that the proof is in the pudding, after homeschooling a God loving, God fearing, beautiful 21-year old. And teaching our other ‘only’ child! (they’re 13 years apart.)
    Just as each of us are unique, so are our families. It’s too bad you had to experience the brunt of other mom’s insecurities.
    I so admire women such as yourself who have taken on the task of home educating their children no matter how few or how many they have.
    God bless.

  14. I know how you feel. My husband, daughter and I were at the park last night when a woman loudly and rudely asked me “Are you really having another one already?!” as she saw my 7 months pregnant belly. I was sorely tempted to say “No, what do you mean?” after the fact… People don’t think before they speak, which is a reminder to me to “be slow to speak” as well.

  15. WOW! You are going to get a lot of responses to this. I agree that many of us are just insecure with ourselves and feel the need to defend any choices we have made in our lives. I hope is that one day we (women) can be secure enough to say “Good for you, that you know yourself well enough to ……”
    I am happy for you that you know your stengths and limits and that you are enjoying this time in your life. No matter what people say to you remember that you are the one who has to live your life and don’t place much on what other people say.


  16. I am sure that you looked as though you had it all to them, and they felt the need to justify themselves. They obviously feel guilty. You can’t help that. In those situations, which I have been in before, I just try to reassure the other person that I am not judging them at all! Hopefully the next time you meet up, you can enjoy each othe a little more!

  17. I feel like I have to explain why I have so many @ 5…the boys are mine and the girls are my husbands, but they all live with me so I call them all my kids. People seem to think that 5 is a ton, How do I do it?….that type of stuff. So I can sympathize. I didn’t realize that you did home school though, but I won’t comment. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    So will you be going back?

  18. I don’t have any awesome insight really… but I’ve been in a similar situation where I felt like someone thought I was bragging or acting “above them” for my lifestyle choices.

    I guess it’s how people just deal with things internally… once you know they’re defensive in nature, I find (for me) it’s just best to shake your head and nod… and keep it simple from that point forward.

    Good luck. In the end, you do what works for you and yours.

  19. FishMama
    I so enjoy your blog. Thank you for all your work and encouragement to us moms! We’re all in this thing at the same time and it is so nice to be able to share it with others, even if only on cyber space and not flesh to flesh!
    I just had #5 a few weeks ago. I’d never have imagined myself being the mom of so many children or staying at home with them. But the Lord has given me both and I am grateful.
    I am a pastor’s wife at a fairly large church. When I and my little troops come marching into church (my husband is usually off with responsibilities), I have struggled to come up with what to say to the various comments. What I want is to be seen as ME. Not a mom, not a pastor’s wife, not a Superwoman or a Bible teacher, but just ME.
    When I realized this, I also realized that most other people want this too. It is so easy to categorize people and forget to seek them out for WHO THEY ARE!
    Until heaven, this will never be perfectly attained to, but I will try to know others for who they are.
    I also want to extend grace for those who quickly categorize me. It is so easy to do, and for the most part, I believe their hearts are good-willed or at least ignorant. The only person who truly and purely does this is
    It has been great to “get to know YOU” a bit through your blog!

  20. I hate being judged for the fact that I homeschool. I am an odd ball though, because I have 4 kids and I homeschool 2 of them and send the other 2 to public school. Not going to get into why. But I am an outcast in every group. I am looked down upon by other public schoolers because I homeschool and looked down upon by homeschoolers because I send a couple to public school. I can’t win no matter what I do. Sorry about your experience.

  21. sister, i can’t help ya b/c i’m in the same boat. i just blog about it later to vent. homeschooling, having a big family, breastfeeding forever, cloth diapering, doing the family bed, staying up late and sleeping in as a family, and so many other things we do that are “weird.” yet somehow i do have a great set of friends, most of whom are quite different from myself, just non-judgmental gems! i just smile and move on. sometimes i’m in an ornery mood, though, and can come up with a kind, humorous ZINGER, but that’s rare since I’m so dumb and lazy! hahahahaha!!!!!

  22. I cannot explain any of the rude behavior. But I give you an e-hug! After having two miscarriages, being told that I will be high risk and have to take blood thinners for my next pregnancies, and have just one sweet blessing…I pray that I would be able to have as many children as you do! What a wonderful thing that is! It sounds like those women take thier fertility for granted! What a shame, they should be greatful for the children and blessings they have, I would take a 39 hour labor over a miscarriage any day.

  23. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment. I hope that it didn’t sound like a major vent. It was a serious question. Why do we do this to one another? I think many of you suggestion some very real and very possible reasons. Thanks for sharing your insights. They have really blessed me and helped me see different ways of looking at the situation.

    Re: MessyMom’s comments – Well said. I could definitely thicken my skin some more. And, I appreciate your example of graciousness. I’ve been feeling it was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation in the sense that I hoped people wouldn’t ask, so I wouldn’t have to say. But, I imagine there’s a more gracious way to be.

    Elizabeth Sue, Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am so sorry for your miscarriages. I know that path very well, having walked it three times myself. I had one child and then lost three and we, too, didn’t know that we would ever find ourselves in this situation. Thanks for your encouragement and your reminder to count my blessings. ๐Ÿ˜‰ May God give you a mini-van full!

  24. I tried to comment and it shut down so I apologize if this is my second comment!

    As one homeschooling-wannabe mom to a homeschool mom, here's a funny video you may enjoy:

    A Homeschool Family by Tim Hawkins

    I think moms can be very judgemental, especially because they often feel like your choices indicate a distaste for their choices, even if you don't say a word. People often feel judged by me since I wear skirts most of the time and they think I think they are "bad" to wear pants, when really, I just wear skirts because I like them a lot! People often call me a baby maker for having 3 kids 3 and under and feel defensive about working since I'm a homemaker. There's a lot of competition and insecurity among mommies and so just by being who you are invites criticism from other folks. I'm not saying this is right, but it is something that happens in our world. And if people take the time to get to know you and see the things you have in common and hear your heart, they will be blessed.

    You are a great mom and I think you are doing a wonderful job!

  25. I get this a lot no matter what the situation. If I’m with working-outside-the-home moms, often they’ll get defensive about working or say things like “I could never do that, I’d get too bored.” If I’m with SAH moms, there will be another issue (or twelve). And maybe I’m guilty of it, too. I think women have a strong need to belong to the group, and when there’s a point of difference we may feel the need to explain just why we don’t conform, even if it’s just to another person in conversation.

    I find the statement “this is what works for us in this season of our lives” to be helpful. It takes your life choices and puts them in perspective and keeps other women from seeing them as some sort of social commentary or manifesto (on homeschooling, having a large or small family, etc). Not that you are doing that at ALL – but it’s a common defense mechanism, I think, and women seem to “go to that corner” even when you’re just saying “yeah, we do XYZ…”

    But you got me thinking — I think in future if I hear women start backtracking or getting defensive I’ll just make the “seasonal” statement and say “you are doing what works for your family, and that’s all we should ever do!” I bet most women would be relieved by a non-judgmental statement and could move past it to be actual friends. ๐Ÿ™‚
    –Melissa at DropTheBabyWeight.com

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  27. Hi,
    I wouldn’t worry too much about what other people think or say about your life or what you do. You’ve heard the old expression, everyone has an opinion. You know you have done a wonderful job, everytime you open your eyes and see those six little miracles. Or I should say eight , since you and your husband decided to to take this on a few years ago. You are the only blogger I know that is incredibly organized, informative, sensitive to other people’s questions. And even if you weren’t, so what. I know people with one kid, who have a hard time doing what you do. I learned a long time ago to adopt those two words.( so what!) It seems like everytime we join a group or step out into the world, there are at least two, sometimes three people in that group, that have so many insecurities, that they try to infuse you with them. They don’t even recognize their own rude behavior. I, for one, think you are doing a marvelous job. I am going by photos and posts , of course. Your children look delirously happy. You look happy. Your husband looks happy. I am truly surprised that you would have much time for anything other than basics,but you manage to do it all. You even educate your children. If anything, I would think most people are a little envious.