I'd really like my super power to be something cool and useful like controlling the weather or becoming invisible. No, my super power, I've discovered, is not even close to those, and I am not quite sure of its usefulness. You want to know what my super power is? It is the ability to stop any conversation cold with one sentence. When I utter this sentence, all conversation seems to stop, even if I thought it was an interesting one. This one sentence also seems to have the power to make people look at me as if I suddenly grew an extra head.
I bet by now, you are really wondering what this sentence is. Ready? It is...
I have twelve children.
When I utter this sentence, there are a couple of usual responses. One is the total jaw drop. Yes, people have stood there staring at me with their mouth literally hanging open. Another is to laugh, as if I just told the best joke ever, and then say, "No, really, how many children do you have?" They usually then move on to the first option, thus covering all their bases. The third, and this usually comes from other mothers if we were discussing the raising of children, "Oh. Well, I guess I can't complain about anything, can I?" Then these same people pretty brutally cut me out of any continuing conversation. No, I don't think I am overly sensitive to people's reactions. The change in attitude between before-they-know and after-they-know is too distinct. Plus many people have the overwhelming urge to continue bringing it up over and over. The number of my children then becomes the topic regardless of what we were talking about before.
Rarely, though, have I come across so blatant a display of negative reaction as I did yesterday. I was having a parenting discussion online over whether or not it was possible to homeschool and pursue ones own interests. As you can imagine, I was arguing the position that it is possible to be a parent and still have outside interests. The conversation went back and forth a bit, when the inevitable happened and I was asked how many children I have. Knowing what was coming, I tried to make light of it a bit, and then answered with the number. The response was immediate.
Oh. You're different. You're one of those super moms. Followed by radio silence. End of conversation.
If that doesn't make a person feel good, then I don't know what does. And if you not read that sentence as absolutely dripping with sarcasm, you need to go back and reread it with the appropriate tone.
It just doesn't feel good to be accused of being that mythical creature, the Super Mom. You want to know what I hear when I hear Super Mom?
Super Mom never makes mistakes.
Super Mom cares more for appearances than content.
Super Mom wants to make other mothers look bad, and if she can make them feel badly too, then so much the better.
Super Mom is proud.
Super Mom is used to getting her own way.
Super Mom has no compassion for other people, or even her children.
Super Mom never has to work hard at anything.
Super Mom knows better than anyone else.
But you know what the worst is? The second someone accuses another of being Super Mom, that means the other mother, the accused, is suddenly not someone to take seriously. Because a Super Mom operates in a different universe. The regular rules don't seem to apply to her. She has nothing to say that is of any value to a 'regular' mom. She doesn't count anymore.
I don't know why the facts I have twelve children and that we all still manage to function at a fairly normal level makes some people so upset. It's not as though we had these children just to annoy them. But that's how it feels on the receiving end sometimes.
And for the record, I am NOT Super Mom. My house is never spotless. We have too much stuff and it often lives out its life on floors, chairs, and counters. Dinner is pretty much never done on time. The laundry piles up. I have some very important emails that I really, really, really need to respond to, but just cannot work up the emotional energy to do so quite yet. I forget things. I make mistakes. And yes, I have even forgotten to take a child to a birthday party. Don't even mention our tooth fairy track record. Trust me. If I suddenly discovered a way to add six more hours into a day, or how to do away with the need for sleep, you would all be the first to hear about it. No secrets here.
I'm just like any other regular mom. It's not the number of children, it's just life.