Sunday, October 13, 2013

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Woman Pushing a Multi-Stroller

I should say up front that I am not a parent of multiples. And I don't purport to know what that is like, or claim that I can sympathize just because I take care of three toddlers daily.  Two of them get picked up by their moms before the witching hour even begins, and I don't know how I would survive if that didn't happen. But what I do have is a triple stroller, which means that everyone I meet automatically assumes I have triplets and therefore no life or energy left in me.  So I know that "face" the moms-of-multiples get from strangers, and I have heard all the comments which I hope qualifies me to make this list.  I dedicate this to ladies everywhere who would make this list themselves if they weren't so darn tired from pushing their multi-stroller. Someone had to say it.

1. "Are those twins/triplets/quads/quints and are they identical?
They might be. They might not be. Does it make each of them any more precious to be part of a little DNA-sharing team?  If they're not identical, will that be disappointing? How do you think it makes children feel to know their individualism disappoints strangers? Even if they are identical multiples, some moms will bristle and think, "I never signed up to be a traveling sideshow."  Another mom might enjoy the attention, and she might even tell you in uterus-wrenching detail how she carried them until her veins and eyes popped out. She might even tell you about how they got delivered five weeks early and how exactly it mangled her body beyond recognition and what their poop was like and how bad the egg salad tasted at the hospital cafeteria. You might not have time for that. The point is, if it's a stranger you're dealing with, you don't know what kind of mom she is or how much detail she likes giving a stranger. If you are just too curious, try saying "your kids are so cute!"  The mom who is not up for having the same conversation ten times a day has the opportunity to thank you and keep walking.  And, rest assured, the mom who is desperate for real human adult interaction will answer all your questions whether you ask them or not.

Tip: If you get asked "Are they quadruplets?" Just shake your head and say, "Clone machine error. Forgot to reset the "number of copies" to 1.

2. "Are they all yours?"
Most likely the answer will be a simple "yes" or "No, I take care of babies."  But what if the situation is that somebody's babydaddy turned out to be a two-timing player and his unlucky lady is bearing the brunt of a custody arrangement this weekend?  She doesn't want to talk to you about it.

The funny thing is that people will ALWAYS ask this question no matter who is in the stroller. I could have a white child, a black child, and a Pomeranian puppy and people will still ask if they're siblings. In fact, I even got asked this question once when the stroller contained only my daughter, a towel, and a clear baggie full of sandwiches. "Well, the first child is mine," I wanted to say, "I'm just taking care of that towel for a friend, and the sandwiches are still awaiting maternity testing results."  Morons.

Tip: If you get asked "Are they all yours?" Say, while sprinting, "They are NOW!!!! Moo hoo hoo haa ha."

3. IVF? 
Why people think it's okay to ask a stranger about her reproductive choices is beyond me. In-vitro babies are still human babies with human destinies. They are miracles with or without technology. They are still made in a womb, not a factory.  Sure, some women like to talk about it, but others feel like admitting to reproductive therapy will garner an "oh, you brought this misery on yourself" attitude, even though she took all the same risks as hundreds of mothers who used IVF and had only a singlet. 

Tip: If you get asked, "IVF?" Play dumb. Thank them. "Why yes, I did play some Inter Varsity Football! But don't be fooled by my young appearance, that was years ago.  If you're noticing my muscular physique, I got that from pushing a multi-stroller." 

4. Did you not realize you can get pregnant while nursing? 
I get asked this by people who actually have a look at the kids and think that I have a toddler and twins less than a year apart. Again, it's nobody's business. It's not up to a stranger to decide whether someone's children are a blessing or a punishment.

Tip: If you get asked how you conceived your children say, like a crazy person, "It shouldn't matter how I GOT these children. What matters is, how do I GET RID OF THEM?!!"

5. You've got your hands full!
This is the single most frequent sentence I hear all day. This is what people say when their thought process goes something like, "There goes something unusual, I'd better open my mouth and acknowledge it with the first worn out cliché that rolls out."  To all the people out there who say this, let me tell you a little something about multi-strollers. They are gifts from heaven. They are the only way a woman can strap down all of her children while she gets some much needed exercise, shopping, or secret chocolate eating done without being considered abusive. The vibrations hypnotize them. The kids get all quiet. Sometimes they fall asleep. When they are strapped in, nobody is able to jump on the sofa or pull the cat's tail or get into the petroleum jelly and smear it all over your purse.  As long as you keep rolling, it's like a mini vacation. So let me ask you, what is the last thing in the world you want to hear when you're on vacation?  A reminder about how busy you are.  I don't have my hands full. I have my hands free.  Can't you see my latte? And my chocolate bar?  I have a stroller!  So what if I'm pushing it with my chin.

Tip: Combat cliché with cliché . If you hear "You've got your hands full" say, "If you think my hands are full, you should see my  heart."

6. Can you spare a minute to talk about Greenpeace/Amnesty/Spare change?
Usually the woman with the multi-stroller has the one advantage that she gets revered. She stops traffic anywhere she wants without pushing the button.  She gets people holding doors for her even when they are automatic. She gets to butt in line sometimes at the food court. Doubly so if one of the kids is crying. The only person more venerated than the multi-mom is the guy walking around the block carrying the hind end of a two-legged dog. But the cause-pushers on the street are completely immune to the plight of multi-moms. These people are all too aware that there are people out there with way worse problems than moms.
The problem is not the cause or the pitch, it's the timing. When a person has multiple children of stroller-age, she accustomed to getting a wide berth. And she is already balancing a giant metaphorical platter heaped with responsibility and guilt, often compounded by lack of sleep. If you come along and add more guilt you're liable to make that platter topple over, which manifests itself as mom throwing her arms up in despair, leaving a careening stroller of babies at the mercy of pedestrians and traffic.
The first rule of strollers is you have to hang on. The second rule is keep rolling, at all personal expense. If you have a little one that wakes up and cries when you stop, it's game over. Sometimes I accidentally lose one of my shoes on a busy side walk and think, "I hope it's still there on my next lap." It's one thing to get asked to support a cause, but to get asked again and again as you go up and down the street is just annoying. We're sorry about your plight, we really are, but parents already have a full pallet when it comes to guilt. If you want busy moms to pay attention, send a pamphlet in the mail and attach chocolate.

Tip: If you get stopped by a cause-pusher, say "Can't you see I have my hands full?"

7. That would be my own personal hell.
There are lots of ways to say that you respect the amount of effort someone puts into their daily routine. This is not one of them. Moms and caregivers do not need to be told that their career or family is someone's worst nightmare. If it's not for you, don't do it, and don't imagine it if you can't keep your trap shut. Sometimes a smart aleck will say, "I'm glad it's you and not me!" to which I reply "me, too!" 

Tip: If someone voices their phobia of having multiple children, smile sympathetically and say, "Don't worry. I don't think anybody wants to sleep with you anyway."

8. Do you want some help?  
Go ahead and ask, if you're handsome and fit and not at all creepy. But that never happens. Women really do appreciate the offer, but they find it hilarious when you clearly don't know what you're asking. What if your offer gets accepted? Just how far are you planning to push that thing?  And what makes you think a portly old man with a cigarette is going to be in better shape than a woman who has been pushing children around every day until they gradually gained a collective weight of over a hundred pounds?  Will you make it up that hill?  Shouldn't you consult your doctor before embarking on an advanced level fitness regime? And if she's going on a level surface or downhill, do you really think she wants to entrust her babies' lives to a total stranger?

Tip: If you receive an offer of help, ask the stranger to hold your chocolate bar in front of your mouth so you can push the stroller with two hands.

9. You look tired
Moms and caregivers don't want to hear this. And do you know who else doesn't want to hear this? Everybody. Just stop it. Instead say, "you look like you could use a coffee!" then buy me a freakin' coffee.  Wait five minutes. Does my appearance please you now, you shallow twit? No? better get me some chocolate.

Tip: Once the twit has bought you coffee and chocolate, use that extra energy to run away from them.

10. Give'r!/ Get 'er done!/ Puuuushhh!
Nothing annoys me more than some ignoramus commenting on my speed or agility. You may look like a dork in spandex but you're no Richard Simmons.  It's not a sport. I'm exposing babies to the big wide world so that they can learn about it. The only thing they will learn about if I go at a cheetah's pace is road rash.  If I finish my walk in record time and get back to the house early, what good does it do me?  That just means that I have to keep them in a holding pattern even longer until the noodle caboodle is ready to come out of the oven. If I go in too early and have nothing to feed them, they'll get into the cupboards and before you know it, there's a potato in the toilet. And while I'm on the phone with the plumber, the kids will eat all the cat treats.  See, I'm not going slow, I'm thinking ahead.

Luckily it takes a special breed of stupid to say something like this, so I don't hear it often.  But it was actually a Give'r-doofus who inspired this list. You see, there's this lovely boardwalk by the lake near my house. It's a perfect place for a stroll with two exceptions: the exit is a steep incline, and the forest is populated with middle-aged loafers with dirty sports jerseys and limply rolled doobies who evidently have no day job because they are fishing at 9:30 am on a Wednesday.
On this particular day, it was my third time ascending the slope (twice because I was doing two laps and the third time because I had lost a shoe.) I took a running start and half way up the hill I heard some dude call out to me from behind the ferns.  I slowed, thinking I had lost another shoe. He had to yell at me two more times, not because he was far away but because I kept saying "what?" unwilling to believe anyone would say something so idiotic.  "Say that again?" I called.  "I SAID... " he hollered, "You're going really slow up that second part of the hill. You got off to a good start but now look at ya'.  Y'ain't gonna make it."
Now I was at a complete stop and had started to drift backwards. I didn't mind confronting him because the only way he could come after me was if he got his sorry old butt up that gentle slope himself. So I backed down the trail. Normally I'm not at a loss for a snappy comeback, but this guy took the cake for rudeness and unfortunately it was at this point that my two year old perked up and started paying attention.  Knowing she repeats everything I say, all I could muster was, "Your words are not helpful."

Tip: If your children are liable to repeat things, you  need to be prepared.  Before you leave the house, have some snide comebacks embossed onto business cards. You can hand them out without missing a beat while still singing "Wheels on the Bus."

Think you have a better tip for dealing with big-mouthed morons?  Leave your comment below!


  1. Your post gave me a good laugh. Especially since I, in fact, happen to have a set of triplets. I have heard it all and then some!

  2. I was laughing out loud! I have a 5yo, 3yo and 10m old and a sit and stand stroller I can stuff them all into as needed ;) My approach is usually just to offer a small smile and "just keep walking". I do like elderly people though.. They are often so pleased to see cute, fresh, young blood that they are honestly friendly :)

  3. As a mom who pushes a double stroller everywhere (with a three-year-old and an 18-month-old), I hear "You've got your hands full" a lot, which is fine. I can't imagine getting comments about family planning, though, wow! I guess people's stupidity increases with every extra seat they see on a stroller. I can't imagine what you'll hear if you're pushing a four- or five-seater next year -- probably that you're the Brady Bunch?

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