The Families We Are Supposed to Have

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"The families we are supposed to have" by Monica Portogallo (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: By Kevin Delvecchio (2017) via Unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain

From the day after your wedding until about your late 40s, when you have kids and how many you have seem to be nearly endless sources of questions, comments, and unfortunately, sometimes even eye rolls.

When you have not had any yet …

… people ask you when you will. Of course, there are legitimate reasons to wait to have your first child, and people do that. But sometimes that question is hard to hear.

You might be like my friend Alice, who had a series of miscarriages before she was finally able to carry a child to term.

Sometimes it might even present as a well-meaning compliment about how it is wise to wait. For someone like me, who wanted a honeymoon baby and struggled with infertility for years, that well-meaning comment can be salt in a wound.

When you have one …

… people ask when you’re going to have the second.

I was at a baby shower recently where someone asked the honoree when she was going to have her second, though she had not even delivered her first yet.

For someone like my friend Yasmin, who is struggling with parenting her special-needs 3-year-old and doesn’t feel like she has the capacity to have another yet, that question can be a source of unnecessary guilt.

Of course, there are people like my friend Jackie, who longs for a second child and struggles with secondary infertility.

When you have two …

… you think you’d be safe, because many see that as the ideal number of children. I’ve even heard people say, “I’ve had my two,” as if children were the allotted drink tokens at a company Christmas party. Even with two, people will comment on their spacing.

I overheard someone say to my friend Michelle that she “didn’t waste any time” when she had her second when her first was 28 months.

My friend Beth was told she was smart to have her boys 4 years apart. Again, a well-meaning comment didn’t quite have the intended effect. Beth fought several months of depression after the miscarriage she had between those two boys.

Then, of course, when you have more than two …

… you have too many.

It may come out as an old woman shaking her head and mumbling under her breath “so many kids,” as it did when my friend Kim dared to bring her three with her to the grocery store.

It may be a sarcastic “Couldn’t figure out where they were coming from, huh?”, which someone said to my own mother about her four kids when I was young.

Or it may be a “You’ve got your hands full” if your kids have the audacity to act like kids.

It could be like my good friend Tina, who doesn’t always hear it directly, but people roll their eyes in disgust when I tell them she will be having her seventh in November, and she still wants three more.

It’s all part of the plan

I could go on, but here’s the thing: these sort of comments about our families are really irrelevant. Sure, they may sting at the moment. They may remind you of something that upsets you. They can be hard to hear, but we do not have to take them to heart. You have the family that God wants you to have right now. Sometimes, it may not be our plan, but it’s God’s plan.

My years of infertility were so hard. When I did finally have a child, though, I know those years of waiting helped make me a more loving, patient mother.

I certainly didn’t plan to marry an alcoholic. Still, it’s been the catalyst for much spiritual growth in my life. I may have never been free from the unhealthy attachment I had to others’ opinions of me without this experience. I now can honestly say “Why would I care about the opinion of someone who doesn’t know what’s going on?”

In the end, all those thoughtless comments about the size and spacing of our families are just that — thoughtless. They weren’t thinking. May Jesus help us not take their words to heart, and like Him, pray “Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.”


Copyright 2018 Monica Portogallo

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About Author

Monica Portogallo is a wife, mother, and registered dietitian nutritionist who does her best not to miss the lessons God sends to her through the joys and struggles of daily life. She lives in California.

2 Comments

  1. Monica, your article came at such a perfect timing for me. I am not one to comment often on the Internet, but I couldn’t help to write this time. My husband and I are hoping for a 4th child; we have a 4 year old, 2 year old and 10 month old. When people hear that we have three, they often say that we have a lot of kids. When they then hear we want more, they usually say that we are completely insane. Even my parents, who a practicing Catholics, say that three is more than enough and to wait a while for the 4th one, if we really want more kids. It’s so discouraging to us that we decided that if we do get pregnant again, to not tell anyone for as long as possible! We just don’t want to hear all the comments and negative feedback. We want to be able to feel blessed and thankful. So when I read your article, I felt like someone understood what I was going through and it reminded me to place my faith in God and his plan for our family, whatever that may be. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Monica Portogallo on

    Thank you Weronika! I am honored that God used my writing to give you a message of encouragement. I am sure God will bless you and your husband for your generous spirits!

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