How many kids do you have?

Yesterday I took Cora to the park and a mother pulled up shortly there after.  Her 8 year old son jumped out, she left the car running and soon followed him.  Eventually Cora realized there was a big kid to follow around and the mother and I started chatting.  She asked how old Cora is, mentioning her 14 year old daughter was sitting in the car.  The daughter, deciding she is to old for such things, would rather sit on her phone.  The mother saying how frustrating it can be and how much she misses the age Cora is now.  How the time flies.

Is Cora your only child?


This should be an easy question but it never has been for me.  In the past when it was just Rebecca and I, I would pause.  I would pause because my journey of parenthood isn’t relatable.  Parents ask normal follow up questions that I can’t simply answer without them becoming curious or asking further questions and what was supposed to be mindless chatter then becomes something further.

Here I was, standing with another mother, who had a same age child and we should have been able to share conversation.  She couldn’t relate to me though. I glanced at her daughter sitting in the car and wanted to say “At least she isn’t pregnant.” But instead I glanced away and said “Yes, Cora is my only child.”

It has always been an odd questions for me to answer and part of me feels guilty for just saying this is my only child, digging in the sand.  I’ve lost one little girl to heaven early, I’ve lost another to strange life circumstances and yes, this is my one little.  This mother didn’t care about my motherhood journey though.  She was just making small talk, as our children played, on a beautiful Monday afternoon.

We all have our own parenting struggles, our own journey.  Hell, maybe this mom had one of her own but glossed over it just as I had. Good thing we don’t have our life stories stamped on our foreheads.  There are a million ways motherhood can be tough, this is just one of mine.

13 thoughts on “How many kids do you have?

  1. I’ve always been fascinated with our society, we always ask people “how are you” and everyone always responds with “fine” or “good” or some sort of other pleasantry. Rarely on a bad day does anyone at the grocery store respond to this innocent question with “my day is horrible, I am so upset because of x and I just want to sit down and cry”. Nope, that’s just not how life works (At least in my part of the world).
    And, in many ways, your answer to the innocent question of how many children do you have is the exact same thing. And, I answer the question the same way too, I do not mention our path to become parents, it’s just not part of the conversation with strangers. And, so I guess, what I’m saying in the most long about way, is I get your response. I understand why you’d say what you did. And I also get how you feel complex emotions around answering that way. Life sure can be unfair and cruel sometimes….

  2. I’ve started to notice lately that there are a lot of questions that we ask people just out of politeness or small talk, and we don’t realize how loaded of a question it can truly be for someone. Like Ms MPB mentioned in her comment, asking someone how they are, not knowing that they suffer from crippling depression, or have a family member ill at home, can be a totally loaded question for them to figure out how they should answer. How much should you tell this stranger? We want to teach people to be open and honest, but how honest should we be with someone that we don’t know who was just simply making small talk? The answer, I guess, is to just use a blanket statement that keeps them happy. A few weeks ago I made the decision to stop asking people if the child they are with is their only child. For similar reasons to what you state in your post. I decided that it doesn’t make any difference if the child is their first or fifth at the moment we are talking. And what if that woman at the park with her three year old just suffered a miscarriage and I ask her that? Not a wound I want to open up on an innocent stranger just trying to get through her day. I think it’s all about being aware of the society around us and, as mothers, knowing some of the emotional turmoil a simple question can create in another woman.

    1. I will say it doesn’toverly hurt my feelings because people are just trying to chat and don’t mean anything about it. Hell, I think no one would have anything to talk about if we were always afraid of stepping on toes. But I do realize the how many kids question is so much more loaded than what most realize!

  3. This is totally not the same thing but I can relate to not knowing how to respond to certain questions to the point where you give a simple “shut up” type answer. I get asked the “are you married?” “where’s daddy?” and so on. Sometimes its easier to give the answer that doesn’t involve an interrogation from a stranger.

    1. I didn’t even think about that! I do get asked a lot about being married/daddy because I never wear my ring out to park/walks/play gym, etc. My husband works long hours and my ring isn’t the best for everyday use! I think asking about the “other” parent is just rude actually. Everyone’s family dynamic is so different. I would want to skip right to the “shut up” too if I was you!

      1. I agree this is the 21st century for all the strangers know I could be the daddy or he could have two mommies lol. I hate that people judge but we are all guilty of it. Idk why it just recently started showing up when I post but it’s always been there lol thank you!

  4. I personally feel we should let small talk be small talk, any general questions we get asked about our day, how many kids, even sometimes get asked about the father(like oh, does his dad also work that far?, I might be gay!) should be answered generally. If we all start over analyzing we will all stop talking to each other!
    Personally, when I get asked how are you doing today, my go to response is “Not too bad!How about you?”
    I do relate though to how to answer to such loaded questions, more than anything sometimes as you say it brings up buried grief to the fore.

    1. Exactly. It honestly doesn’t hurt my feelings but sometimes I think it just opens my mind a bit more. Sure, there are plenty of women at the park that just don’t know the boundary lines of small talk! I’ve talked to those ones! ha. But generally yes, small talk is just that.

  5. Man, such a tough question to answer. 😦 It’s true that we all gloss over so many parts of our lives in small talk, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

  6. It’s like we are the same person…..only a little different in circumstances — I know the awkwardness of having to give a half truth. xo

  7. ❤ one of those seemingly innoccuous questions that can be a loaded one. Same with – do you HAVE kids – and when you say no, it is also that awkward…do they ask the follow up, do you want them etc and that is a whole can of worms for so many reasons. xoxo friend

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