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What I’d Like to Tell the Woman Who Pitied Me for Having So Many Children

What I’d Like to Tell the Woman Who Pitied Me for Having So Many Children

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Okay, so maybe I was looking a little harried that day last week in the supermarket. My four kids, ranging in age from seven and a half to one and a half, were all with me as we made a quick stop to pick up a few items we needed. The baby was in the stroller, trying to jump out, and yes, all the kids were clamoring for a sample of the treat I’d just bought for them. But I think it was the fact that I’d mistakenly left half the items I’d bought at the register that prompted the lady behind me to take a long look and weigh in on my situation.

“Wow,” she commented, “I’m not jealous of you.”

Unsure of how to take her words, I answered something about how we were managing okay, and tried to flash my most reassuring smile.

On the way home, I pondered the stranger’s comment and tried out different responses in my head. From her reaction, I realized we did not share a similar lifestyle, and I imagined how extreme I must have seemed to her. Why have so many kids in so few years? she must have wondered. Why choose such a difficult, harried existence, when life could be so much calmer? Trips to the store could be relaxing. I could have so much more time to myself. Why, indeed?

I’m not going to lie. There are days when my mommy duty seems like an almost impossible task: take care of everyone’s physical, psychological and emotional needs while remaining calm and pleasant in the face of a whole range of childish behaviors and often irrational demands. And while my own needs for time, space and nourishment of body and soul must be given the proper attention and cannot be overlooked, there’s no doubt that being a parent requires sacrifices, both large and small. Whether it’s cleaning up that raw egg the toddler grabbed and cracked on the floor, or working for hours with the seven-year-old who just isn’t learning how to read, there are moments of challenge when every parent needs an answer to that unspoken question—“Why?”

Of course, being their mother, I love my children and can’t imagine trading them in for an easier life, even when they are throwing tantrums or fighting with each other. But there must be a deeper reason why it’s not merely worth it to have kids, but absolutely awesome and utterly fulfilling. The answer must go beyond the standard cliché “My baby smiling back at me makes it all worth it.”

As I pushed the stroller and tried to keep my eyes on my young charges, it came to me: It’s all a matter of your point of view. If life is about me and how much pleasure I can squeeze out of every moment, then the lady behind me was right. There’d be nothing to be jealous of; in fact, my life would be considered quite difficult! Constantly having to focus on the needs of four little people rather than my own wants and needs—who would choose such a life?

But viewed from a different perspective, everything changes: in truth, one of the main reasons we’re in this world is to give to others. We are commanded to emulate G‑d, and G‑d is the quintessential giver. He gives us everything we have. We are like His needy, demanding children. And although giving is something anyone at any stage of life can do, it is parents in particular who are likened to G‑d because of the altruistic, never-ending fashion in which they give. In this light, each child is viewed as a blessing and an opportunity for the parents, rather than a burden that takes away precious time and energy.

In our increasingly self-centered world, it’s become harder than ever to focus on the needs of others. We are bombarded with subtle messages that “it’s all about me.” But last week’s encounter in the supermarket really got me thinking about my everyday struggles. So, when the kids are being especially demanding, I’ve now got a powerful tool to take things to a whole new level and turn frustration into patience. Whether I’m dealing with the chaos of bath and bedtime or a spilled drink on the new tablecloth, I can stop, take a deep breath, and remember that this isn’t just something to “get through”—this is the purpose of life itself.

Rochel Leah (Margaretten) Fuchs lives in Jerusalem with her husband and 4 children. She has written for Mishpacha magazine and Aish.com, and is active in Jewish outreach.
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Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA August 27, 2015

Why would you pity me? It just doesn't make any sense. The author did well. However, I look at it this way. Sometimes strong reactions to things that we are sensitive about are signs of personal insecurity. If having a large family made you secure, then that women who pitied you would not have even been able to connect with you (as it was). You may have heard her talk, but it would be foreign. It would be sort of like Shem who just couldn't see his father's nakedness, meaning that you would have a difficult time seeing her reality (which you did). We, everything and everyone, connect by spiritual bonds. Ideally, that woman's bond with you in this situation would have been strange and foreign that the bond would be too broken for her to connect to you, and you would be oblivious to the reasoning behind her pity (good job at that). Reply

denis reno,nv August 25, 2015

parenthood I remain the proud father of four healthy children--all a gift from the Almighty..I wanted two more, but wife declined..big issue leading to divorce...I raised the four at my house, but she remained a good mother.. Reply

Julia Düsseldorf August 24, 2015

To both Anonymous Anybody considering another person as POOR just for having children is really the personification of egoism and hedonism itself. Let us all decide to not have children, or less than two. What would happen? Having children is not only a decision, but necessary to follow up with any society.

As long as you can provide for them, any number is ok. Reply

LR nY August 23, 2015

Parents ought to raise their children, instead of litters raising themselves. Yes. Anonymous, by Nature no female is programmed to have an offspring that doesn't stand a chance of a quality life.

The male-female relationship has been religiously thwarted with into breeding offspring into poverty. That is most certainly not how the Laws of Nature programmed mankind. We are not wired to deal with poverty. It makes people insane.

However, humanity and its priesthood has the audacity to put quotas on other life forms, cruelly kill the excess of quotas and extinguish entire species for sport and money. Humanity is not programmed by Nature to hunt as a sport. Neither is it programmed to raise animals for institutionalized ritual meat-eating! It is wrong. What mankind does upon command of its priesthood to the animal world, it does to its own offspring.

Indeed, leave people alone, give them a decent income and a quality life and the litters in the name of religion automatically cease to exist. The priesthood has a lot to answer for, G-d has nothing to do with it. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem August 22, 2015

"So many children"...? My oldest has 11 and one on the way, our next has 11, and so on down the line. Our smallest family has meanwhile only three, but they are only married four years.

This is the biggest blessing they could have, and they thank G-d again and again. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem August 22, 2015

The only child From everything I've read and heard, it's a little sad to be an only child. The joy of a sibling, of caring and sharing, is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child and themselves as well. Reply

Anonymous pleasanton via jewishtrivalley.com August 21, 2015

That's the purpose of life? Chabad articles are usually inspiring. This one is sooo depressing. Poor thing! Not only is she miserable, but she has given up and accepted her sad fate. Let's hope her husband doesn't make her produce another 10 children. Thank G-d I only have one kid and both of us can actually live! Reply

Anonymous August 21, 2015

Re: "Humans are not made to produce litters" What a very inappropriate comment to make about the choices of others. Quality of life is very much subjective. What one views as a burden; others may see as a blessing. The truth of the matter is that the most valuable things in this world are not tangible. They are the relationships in our lives with those we love. Nothing worthwhile is easy... thus I am sure is why many parents say they are sometimes challenged as parents. It seems like it is being suggested that there should be limits on the number of children families are allowed to have. This is cruel, unfair, and a mark against freedom. It should never be! As long as children are loved, well cared for, and not abused or neglected they should be left alone to grow and thrive in their families without outside intrusion. The large families I have met were especially close and shared strong ties with other family members; which is giving them the family first mentality that is sure to keep their priorities in check. Reply

JDV Paramus August 20, 2015

Not jealous of you... Look at all the women who wait until their FORTIES and then have fertility problems. They could easily be jealous of you! Reply

Anonymous August 19, 2015

This was extremely meaningful and eloquently written. Helpful and thought provoking. Thank you Reply

Julia Düsseldorf August 19, 2015

This text is so important for Noachides, too I have liked very much your text. I have three children and live in Germany. People treat me like if I was an outlaw, we couldn¡t even get a flat to rent.

You are completely right, our world is too egoistic. Everything is self-centered, we are supposed to have personal fulfillment, big companies even try to convince us that we should not breastfeed our children!

Our lives' purposes have been totally reinvented by an egoistic society which denies G-d. It doesn´t matter if she isn´t jealous about you, I think you, your faith and your attitude are the best example to follow, being member of any religion or society. Reply

LR NY August 19, 2015

It's about quality not quantity. Humans are not made to produce litters. "It’s all a matter of your point of view. If life is about me and how much pleasure I can squeeze out of every moment, then the lady behind me was right. "

Life ought to be about quality not quantity.

People producing liters of offspring in the name of religion, an ideology should have their head examined.

A newborn is a Being! Not an object, nor a subject of/ for religious use and abuse into warfare due to overpopulations and self inflicted poverty.

The only increasing heartless self centered world is religiously goddelusional in nature and problematic for all life on this planet.

Children are a product of male-female behaviour.
Jewish or Gentiles alike, humanity is not made to have litters. We are not equipped for it. It is therefore cruel, unhealthy for religion, ideologies to impose irresponsible breeding. G-d has nothing to do with it. Reply

susan Montreal August 18, 2015

only 4 is four so many? how about those with 12+ when asked why she was having another one , this orthodox lady answered her non Jewih co-worker that she wanted to make up for the six millions . Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA August 18, 2015

Who Should Be Fruitful and Multiply? My wife and I are not Jewish. I decided to only have 1 child, but my wife would probably like 2. As far as I understand, the command to multiply, also includes being fruitful. These two things are inseparable. Separate them and the command isn’t fulfilled. The book by Bill McKibben called “Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families” has had a major impact on me.
That book suggested that humans could check off the command to be fruitful and multiply as something humanity has already achieved. However, I do not begrudge Jews for making more Jews. I would prefer that there would be more Jews, to replenish the lost. The 2004 JPS Study Bible says, that the command in question only applies to Jewish males, and not gentiles, ‘’be fertile and increase. In Jewish law, this is a positive commandment, although it is obligatory only on Jewish men, not women,” although I have heard different from the Rebbe who taught Jews should encourage gentiles to also be fruitful and multiply. Reply

denis byrne reno nv August 18, 2015

Children are always a Gift from God...what about all the barren women in history?? Reply

Rachel Diamond Edgewater Park August 18, 2015

Thank you so much for writing about your thoughts and feelings concerning that woman's comment and about being a mother. I am the mother of four sons, Baruch HaShem! They are all adults now (ages 23-31), so I had my lovely mishpacha in 8 years...
Many people chided me and my husband, asking questions such as"so many kids?...what do you think you are doing??" "How can you afford this?", and that was just from people we didn't know!!! But we loved having a big family, and I loved fulfilling one of my greatest purposes, to be a mother. Reply

Anonymous August 18, 2015

Perhaps the woman who made the comment was wondering about her own path (and thinking aloud) , and meant " I don't think I'd be as capable as you are" but it came out the wrong way.

Sometimes people make comments that sound negative when they're actually feeling the opposite, deep down.

I admire parents who do a good job with lots of children, have you noticed they're far more organised and have a tidier house than most people with 1 - 2 children : ) Reply

Sab London England August 18, 2015

Children are the inheritage of G-d I have 2 adorable boys B'H. One is 9 months and the other is 5 years.
I wouldn't trade them for anything.
This story really touched me.
I one day hope I will have a beautiful daughter.
There are people out there for their own personal reasons who will never have any children. I met a woman once who disliked children and said she'd rather have animals than be a mum. Reply

BRIGITTE DE KROON Cape Town August 18, 2015

There's a Time for everything under The Heavens. In Truth - while my children were growing up and I was also working full-time outside my home - I did miss out - and did miss my 'Me-Time' ... but it never was a big enough issue to cause me any regrets.
Now they have grown up and have left our home ... and there's now plenty of this yearned-for commodity around.
Oh yes ... I sit and I smile to myself ... with a book on my lap and a fresh, hot cuppa next to me ... and I do enjoy it much --- but yea ... I do seem to miss those maddening busy-busy days every so often.
Is that a woman's thing? Reply

Ruth Chana Indiana August 18, 2015

I took this as one woman finding meaning in her life choices, not a commentary on the choices of others. She did not say the meaning of life was to have a big (or medium-sized) family. She said part of our purpose in life is serving others.

I have four kids, and I don't think my choice was selfish or selfless. I simply feel I have followed my path. I know that had I stayed single; I could have lived a life of service and found "children" in need of mothering. It would have been just fine. But I am blessed in this life I choose. Reply

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