I had four babies in just over four years with no twins. My husband was a busy seminary student and we didn’t have any family in town, so I ran most of my errands with a double stroller and a shopping cart. If I had one dollar for every person that said, “My you have your hands full!” or “You know what causes that, right?” we’d be wealthy.

No one meant any harm by the comments. Most thought they were being funny. Perhaps they saw my struggle and thought I needed a laugh. Many would follow their comment with something like, “They’re beautiful children.” But it was too late. By then the damage had already been done. The read-between-the-lines message was that it’s strange (or too much) to have that many children. As if the physical juggling of all the children wasn’t enough, now I had the thought of, “We really do look like a circus sideshow” funneling through my brain. 

If we truly want to be people who promote life, and abundant life, in the culture around us, it’s time to watch what we say in casual conversation. In this series, we’ll look at common scenarios where our casual responses can be most life-affirming.

1. How to Respond When You See a Mom with Several Children, Children Close in Age, or Twins.

We’ll start by tackling the scenario I faced most in the early days of motherhood. Instead of the cliché, “You must have your hands full!” Or an awkward, “Are they all yours?” why not simply say, “What a beautiful family!” 

My children were very close in age; people were always trying to figure out if I had twins (Sometimes even asking if the walking two year old was the twin of the three month-old infant!). I know moms of multiples now face other types of uncomfortable questions. “Are they all natural?” and “Did you use fertility treatments?” are questions that no stranger needs to have answered.

So what can we say to encourage the mom with several children””maybe close in age? We can simply be kind.

Some of my most encouraging moments in those hard days of early motherhood were when an older person would stop me and say, “Wow! You’re doing a great job.” Or, “It does get easier.” On two separate occasions I had women give my older children one dollar because they noticed how good they were behaving while I shopped! I allowed them to buy a piece of candy at check out and, let me tell you, they were motivated to be on their best behavior on future shopping trips””just in case someone else would notice!

As you see a mom juggling multiple children, think about ways you can help her navigate her cart through the checkout line or hold the door for her. (The number of doors I had close on me as I approached with the double stroller is too many to count!) We can let our words and deeds show that we value and appreciate life and the choices (and sacrifices) the mom is making to raise a large family.

2. How to Respond When You See a Very Young Mom

What do you say when you see a very young woman or teen with a baby? Do you ask her if she’s married? Or if she’s babysitting? (Yikes!) Maybe you’ve even let the words, “Was the baby planned?” slip out of your mouth. Sometimes the words fly out faster than our brain can stop them.

But, as Pro Abundant Life people, we must understand that our words feed and fuel the climate. Our attitudes are heard loudly through our verbal (and non-verbal) responses. Instead of questioning a situation where a mom looks “too young”, we can use our words to edify. If a young mom chose life for her child, we can choose to encourage her by simply saying, “My, what a beautiful baby!”