My large family was born serendipitously. We went from a 3 unit family to a 6 unit one in a matter of 8 months. Now I’ve explained before how much adjusting it was for all of us. In fact it continues to be an adjustment. How I would love for somebody to walk in my shoes just for an hour and maybe they may gain some perspective on how difficult it can be for parents of multiples, especially those with high order multiples.
I had a chat recently with my friends who had triplets themselves. All of them had their triplets through fertility treatments. I asked them since they had fertility treatments and there were higher odds of conceiving multiples, did they feel resentful they conceived triplets or did they feel blessed having a large family quickly. I shared that in my case because my triplets were naturally conceived, I never foresaw the situation I would land myself in. It was beyond the wildest of imaginations to think I will ever have triplets. So the truth was harder to bear and the burden was very heavy when we found out. Apparently my fellow friends who had triplets by fertility treatments felt the same way too. Twins were often joyous, but triplets were something to be feared. In any case, we all coped differently. Some better than others. I think I fluctuated wildly between coping well and cursing the universe for doubling my family so quickly.
Having four kids automatically puts you in the realm of extremely large families in Singapore. We buck the trend in more ways than one: We don’t have a car, we live in a 3-room flat, and I stay at home. Once in a while I learn something new about being part of a large family and recently I learnt that certain people and environments can be actually hostile to large families, especially families with many little kids. I’ve quietly created a mental shame-list of these people and places.
What bothered me greatly about these people and places was not much that they did not understand what it was like having so many young children. I rarely expect empathy. What bothered me was their rudeness and disrespectful attitudes to my family.
Example number one: Having four toddlers meant my home was a noisy one. The kids could be crying, yelling, or shouting at any one of time or all together. I have also yelled at my children when I am exasperated. When the girls were babies, a few of my neighbors have casually remarked that they can hear the girls crying from their houses. We know it could get noisy but that was just the way it was when you have so many small kids. However, one day without warning, one my neighbors opened her door and started yelling at us to shut up, called me names, and told off my kids for making noise. She did this on two separate occasions. Apparently our noise-making was disturbing her siesta, never mind it was within our legal rights to be noisy in the comfort of our home during the daytime. What was truly appalling was she made no effort to broach the issue like an adult. She never discussed it with us in person nor mentioned in passing that we were disturbing her precious daytime sleep. I was most offended by her aggressive attitude to the the kids and me. Never mind she yelled at me, but she yelled at the children too. We didn’t respond to her outburst and from them on, I tried my best to keep the household quieter which meant closing our doors and windows so the kids could freely be noisy without getting reprimanded again. I felt so self-conscious to the point that I wasn’t sure if I was talking too loud sometimes. I felt kind of trapped because I didn’t want her to verbally assault us again. She did not apologise for her outburst and when we encountered her the other day, I could tell she was embarrassed by her behaviour because she pretended that we were invisible. She probably thought since we were moving out there was no need to make amends. You might be wondering why I did not stand up for myself. I think because I was so shocked at getting yelled at and I mentally shut down. My husband was going to speak to her about her behaviour but she had been avoiding us since her outburst so we never got the chance to explain either.
Other than individuals, organisations can also be anti-large families. I don’t want to give names but you can tell which places they were from my Instagram account. At these two specific shameful places which were catered for children to play and have fun, they told parents off when they left their children unsupervised even though it was safe to leave the children unsupervised. They harassed parents for not following nonsensical rules they made up to protect themselves from legal liabilities. And worst of all they made rude remarks about our large family sizes and exhorted us for not controlling our children better even though we explained that we were 1 parent to 3 or 4 children. It was one thing if our children were going around hurting other children, vandalising or doing something terrible. But the children were engaged in harmless activity. The only difference was I was unable to keep my eyes on every single one of them all the time. I think one administrator even suggested to me to create games for my children so that they would not stray from my sight, defeating the whole purpose for me in bringing them out for free play in the first place. I ended up feeling defeated in these cases. I often look at them blankly while they nagged at me to be a “better” parent because they don’t understand the dynamics of 1 adult to 4 toddlers. Of course I could write to the authorities and make a big fuss about how these places were anti-family but I suspect I would be the one feeling most frustrated by the whole ordeal.
So its not even that people and places were not understanding to parents in large families, they could actually be rude and disrespectful. When I encountered these situations, I often say, as if its not hard enough to have triplets, now I have to deal with people antagonistic to my triplets. The best way was to move on from these situations and hope I don’t encounter them again and accept that it could be hard sometimes. Still every time it happens, my heart chips a little, my soul wearies and I feel isolated.