Sep 01, 2020 391 Emily Shaw, Australia

Your Hands Are Full!

Wondering how to respond to those comments about your witness to life? Here are 3 best comebacks just for you!

Just last week, I parked our large van out the front of the local shop. After quickly grabbing a few grocery items, I returned to find my children conversing with the occupants of the vehicle parked next to us—a father and his young son.

In a small town such as ours, there are always tenuous links to other people. In this case, the young boy in the utility had attended preschool with our fourth child and wanted to say hello.

The door to our van was opened to accommodate such a greeting.

I could see the father’s mind boggling as he took in the number of children in my vehicle—six—and then noticed the now unmistakable bump announcing the expectation of number seven.

His comment was one of those common ones large families encounter with annoying regularity: “You should get a TV.”

He added an, “or something”, to his comment and an awkward laugh that only proved that he had recognised the rudeness of his comment. But it was too late to take it back.

Smiling a very forced smile, we made our goodbyes and headed home. This was not the first time I had encountered such comments, and it would not be the last. The truth of the matter is that the size of my family is somehow confronting to a large proportion of society.

“They just can’t understand,” says a friend, and mum of six, “what joy we experience in being blessed with a large family.”

She is right. Being blessed with a large family is something very different to adhering to the 2.1 children per family and, from the outside, appears very counter cultural.

Of course, it is counter cultural, but it should not be. Not all of us are called to have a ‘large’ family but we are called to be open to life. For some, this does mean a large family, but for others it means a small family, dealing with and encountering pregnancy and infant loss, struggles with fertility, fostering, or adoption.

Regardless of the size or make-up of our family, we can all witness to the profound blessing of being open to life.

1. Radiate Joy

The news of a new pregnancy should be a time of great joy. There are some times and some situations, when this news might be more subdued.

Regardless, a new life should always be celebrated.

When you encounter others, whether they share your open-tolife outlook or not, let them see the joy that this announcement carries with it for you.

Joy is infectious—and something often sadly lacking in our world today.

Maybe they still cannot understand why you would want to have your fourth, sixth, seventh or eleventh child, but they should still be able to leave their encounter with you knowing that you are delighted to be expecting another bundle of joy.

2. Respond with humor, not anger

There are any number of rejoinders one could give to those clichéd phrases: “Don’t you have a TV?” or, “Don’t you have your hands full?” and so on. But some are probably not charitable.

We are not going to change hearts with our angry response. Or, let us be honest, with whatever response we give. But, perhaps we can sow a seed.

A mother within my acquaintance likes to tell the following story of one mother’s response to the following questions: “Why do you have so many children? Or, you’re having another one?”

The cheeky response: “We’ll keep going until we get one we like!” Or, alternatively: “We’re just making sure we have plenty of children to look after us in our old age.”

Maybe these quips are not for everyone. But humor can be a great tool in responding to the more puzzled queries of the more secular among us.

Saint John Cantius encourages us to: “Fight all error, but do it with good humour, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause.”

Maybe adding a dose of humor will be just the thing.

3. Witness without words

Although I have been on the receiving end of less than ideal comments about our family size, I have also been on the receiving end of the most beautiful ones too.

One older lady in particular began with the clichéd: “Haven’t you got your hands full?” and added, “and aren’t you blessed?”

Of course she is right. We are incredibly blessed and those who know us, know that our openness to life extends much further than our own home.

We have had people come to us for help, guidance and support in the face of unplanned pregnancies, difficult post-birth periods, undertaking fostering or adoption, and the general ups and downs of parenting. Often acquaintances who are not Catholic seek our counsel. By the virtue of our family size, we somehow broadcast our sincere belief that all lives are precious.

This has been an unintended consequence of having a large brood. In and of itself, it has been an immense blessing for us to support others.

Without deliberately intending to, we are following the advice of Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

So, although you can expect impertinent comments, that does not mean that you should tone down your own enthusiasm when sharing the news of a pregnancy—whether it’s yours or anyone else’s.

Respond with joy and humor, continuing to witness to the preciousness and dignity of all human life.


Emily Shaw

©Emily Shaw is a former Australasian Catholic Press Association award-winning editor turned blogger for australiancatholicmums.com and is a contributor to Catholic-Link. A wife and mother of seven, she resides on a farm in rural Australia and enjoys the spiritual support of her local Catholic community

Latest Articles