I’m at the mall with my daughters, Kelly and Mallory. We’re in Justice, a store that is very popular with girls that are my daughter’s ages – eleven and nine.
After some ooos and ahhhs, they choose a few items to try on. It’s a weekday, which means there is homework waiting and dinner to be figured out and eaten, but I’m feeling pretty good, so I’m giving them about twenty minutes in the store, instead of my usual ten. (See my post titled, “Was I Born Without the Shopping Gene?” May 29, 2009)
Kelly gets earrings and a shirt, and Mallory gets a knitted shirt that will be good for cooler weather. We go to the register desk with the clothes and our forty percent off coupon, where we get in line behind a woman with several children. (My definition for several children is at least four, because it’s one more than what I have.)
The oldest child could be the boy who appears to be about eleven; or maybe it’s the tallest girl. And then there are all these other little people. Two are standing beside the stroller, one is in the stroller, and the mom is carrying one that looks about eight months old. The picture is completed with mounds of merchandise bags on top of the stroller near the handle.
I look around the store and do not see another adult, so I figure they are all hers. She is young - thirtyish, maybe older - average height, and thin. My eyes take a quick peek at her mid-section - flat. So now I’m impressed and decide that she must be breastfeeding and that the others must have been breastfed too, because that’s supposed to help the uterus return to pre-pregnancy size and to also burn extra calories.
My initial assessment is done. It’s time to open my mouth to start a conversation.
“I was just telling my kids…”
The mom finishes my sentence and says, “…that I need a lot of hands.”
I continued with a friendly smile, “Well I guess you do, but I was thinking of how you all remind me of the Smith family. I almost thought you were them. They have one boy too, but they have six girls. My kids had piano lessons at the same studio as them.”
The boy proudly says, “Oh, they have one more than we do. We only have six kids.”
I stop talking so that she can finish her purchase, while thinking, “That’s a lot of kids to be shopping in Justice; not that it’s a very expensive store, but you can get better deals at the larger discount stores. (Stereotype # 1 – Can she afford brand name clothes?)
“She’s probably a stay-at-home mom.” (Stereotype # 2 – With six young kids, how can she be employed?)
“I’ll bet they’re home-schooled.” (Stereotype # 3 – Young woman, six well mannered kids – gotta be home-schooled kids!)
“I wonder if she makes and bakes bread.” (Stereotype # 4 – I know five or six home-schooling moms that make bread.)
She’s now ready to leave, but I quickly get in a question, “Do you home school?”
With a slight smile, she answers, “No, but everybody asks me that.”
I smile and she walks away so that I can buy my things; or, is it because she wants to hurry and get away from me before the barrage of questions come.
“Maybe I should not have asked her that. Hmmmm.”
The whole incident was harmless, but it made me realize that I was stereotyping. I frequently talk to people when I’m waiting in a line, but next time I’ll….....no, I’ll probably be a little too nosey again!
What do you think when you see a mom with “several” kids? Be honest. :)
Ps. I think there are many women and men that are born to have large families, and in that case, why not!