10 Things Not to Say to Mothers of Several Boys

10 Things Never to Say to a Mom of All Boys

Edited image © istockphoto.com/sergeyskleznev


I have four sons. I know it looks rather alarming when I’m walking through the store with a boy occupying every possible space in the cart. I get it. What I don’t understand is why people feel that this alone is an open invitation to make obnoxious comments or ask ridiculous questions such as:

1. Are they all yours?
No, I invited a few extra kids who look like mine to come along with me because everyone knows how much faster it is to shop with kids.

2. You must be Catholic.
And you must be an idiot if you think I’m going to discuss my family’s religious beliefs with you.

3. You know what causes that, right?
Do you want me to say it out loud old man? Sex. Sex. Sexy sex. How do you think you got here?

4. You must have your hands full.
Every mother has her hands full. Whether you have one or four kids, regardless of their gender. And if I do indeed have my hands full, then why would I want to stop and chat about how I have my hands full?

5. Were you trying for a girl?
Do you mean at the exact moment of conception? No, I can’t say that is what I was trying for. This takes the cake as the most annoying question I get at least twice a week.

6. Are you going to try for a girl?
Why would I engage in a family planning discussion with a complete stranger? Yes, we are going to try tonight as a matter of fact. Would you like to watch? If you mean that I need a daughter to complete my family, you are wrong.

7. By the time they are teenagers you will have to get a job just to feed them.
Boys like to eat a lot at all ages. Obviously I know this because as you can see, I’m at the grocery store for the third time this week. And by the way, I have a job and surprisingly I earn more money than the cost of groceries.

8. At least you won’t have to pay for a wedding.
Because that is what we are thinking about before they even hit puberty. And we might very well be paying for a wedding, especially if one or all of them are homosexual. Now you’re questioning that Catholic assumption you made earlier, aren’t you?

9. You almost have enough for a baseball team.
Not really. And besides, when was the last time you saw a multigenerational baseball team?

10. Your husband is lucky to have all these boys.
Actually, my husband is lucky because he has four healthy and happy children. The fact that they are boys doesn’t make him any happier than if they were girls. Girls can make fathers happy too. Just ask mine.

I’m all for a friendly exchange in the grocery store, but if you see me let’s just talk about the weather.

"10 Things Never to Say to a Mom of All Boys" by @Noelle Elliott In the Powder Room. parenting | humor | manners | small talk | tips | boys | sons | moms | social skills

This original piece by Noelle Elliott was written exclusively for In the Powder Rooma division of Hold My Purse Productions, LLC.  

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Noelle Elliott is a publicist for a large university in the Midwest by day and writer by night. She is also a relatively good wife and proud mother of four crazy boys. She is the creator of The Mamalogues, Dramas from Real Mamas, a staged production of readings by women, which has sold-out audiences. She is a regular contributing writer for Family and Sassy magazines. In addition, she writes a popular blog, BowChicaBowMom.com, where she shares her triumphs, failures and journey of survival in a life surrounded by testosterone. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @BowChicaBowMom.

Keep the conversation going...



  1. says

    Yes … to all of this! I too am the mother of four boys and I hear all of these things on a regular basis. I think the worst is when people openly feel sorry for me because I don’t have any daughters. Seriously?! I couldn’t imagine my life without any one of my four dudes and NO, I don’t need a little princess in the house to make my family whole!

  2. Michele Scott says

    I have 3 sons (all grown now), and I remember being so frustrated by some of these comments too. Especially the “keep trying for a girl” comments. I also really hated (and still get sometimes from particularly unfeeling people), “I feel sorry for you that you didn’t have a girl…” Seriously people?? Seriously?? I love my sons more than life itself, and as all mothers know…we love our children regardless of gender, and whatever we wind up with is perfect!!

  3. says

    I have four children too, and they are three boys and a girl. I have heard everyone of these annoying things, plus some extras–my middle child is twins, and my youngest is the girl, so I also hear:

    – “Was she an accident?”
    – “Were you using fertility drugs?”

    People amaze me.

      • says

        I’m a triplet myself, and when people find out, they’ll ask if my mother was on fertility drugs. 1) That’s no one’s business but my parents’, and 2) Thanks for putting the idea of my parents having lots of sex in my mind, jerk.

  4. says

    These are hilarious! I have a boy and a girl, so I don’t get these questions, but I have probably asked one or two of them. The ‘hands full’ observation plagues all mothers though, and the asker always says it as if they were the first person to notice this.

      • father of two says

        Most of those comments you get , although sometimes slightly annoying sure dont rise to the level of writing a blog ripping them about it. They are mostly good hearted people just being what they think is nice and i doubt any of them are trying to start discussions on your fertility or family planning or anything, they are, for the most part, innocent comments. Does this really happen to you so much that you really become angry? The fertility comments are a bit overboard, most the rest you seem to be over reacting and Im sure many times in life you are guilty of some sort of similiar small talk/comments that you, just like them, are unaware are annoying. just relax, nobody makes you stop and talk, just nod and move along. Big deal

        • Donna says

          Agreed. I have 5 children. The eldest is a boy and he has four sisters. I try to take those opportunities, when people comment about my family, to enlighten them about how happy I am with them and yes they were all planned. The only time I really had a good laugh was when someone asked two of my daughters if they had the same dad. One is a carbon copy of my husband (very Italian features) the other is as Irish as can be like me.

  5. says

    I don’t know… none of these bother me.

    Sometimes people have a hard time with casual conversation… like me!!

    Oh… that must be why these don’t bother me… I’ve said them myself!!!

    Except the “catholic” one…. that one is odd to me!

    • Mumoftwo says

      I get these questions/comments (or similiar ones) myself with only 2 kids. They don’t bother me- people are usually just trying to spark a conversation. They’re often just searching for something to say while trying to get my kids to smile at them because they think they’re cute etc too. I don’t see it any different to me having people comment on how curly my hair is and how i must have eaten all my crusts as a child or other ‘original’ things like that. No harm done :-)

      • says

        You sound like my kind of mama! I’ve almost gotten to where I don’t even talk to other mothers because I don’t want to offend them unknowingly! But at the same time I’m not sure if all the “watch what you say to me” post are super accurate of people’s feels. I can think of a lot of other things that upset me more than something a stranger says in passing!

    • Jacquie says

      I agree Moderate moma. I get these comments all the time (including the “Are you Catholic (or Morman) which I am Catholic so people’s reaction to my confirmation cracks me up) I am pregnant with my fourth boy and all my children are all under 4. I tell people I don’t want a girl because I grew up in a family of five girls and three boys and all of us were terrors in our own ways. 😛 to each his own. I think people are secretly inspired by our insane lives and feel that they need to commend us in some way. 😛

  6. says

    My daughter has 4 boys and she’s had all of these things said to her and more! Two are red heads and 2 are blondes. People will gush over the reds and totally ignore the blondes. Then, they always ask where they got the red hair. People can be so rude and nosy.

    • Nina says

      Pretty sure they are just wondering if you have Scottish or Irish heritage and not in a did you have an affair type mindset. I wasn’t there and I can’t say for certain, but mostly we all just need to get over this overly pc society.

  7. Jaime says

    I have the opposite issue: I have one girl. That’s all. But apparently that is an open invitation for people to ask 1) When are you going to have another? and/or say 2) Your daughter must be spoiled rotten since she’s the only one.. 1) That’s extremely personal and none of your beeswax. 2) My daughter is a sweet, smart young lady; and my husband and I work hard to provide nice things for her, which we would do whether we had 1 or 10 kiddos. But I have this feeling no one would accuse us of having spoiled kids if there were 10 of them. That question just rubs me the wrong way.

  8. Denise says

    You know, these lists are rampant. It’s sad how micromanaged we are becoming. How about we all stop assuming the worst about what people say? Like, who cares if someone says “Are you going to try for a girl?” Really? That’s offensive now? Can I get a ticket to another planet please? This is getting ridiculous.

  9. QuadMamma says

    You should walk through the grocery store in my shoes. I have quadruplet boys. It actually makes me feel better that people say some of the same stupid stuff to you!

  10. says

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve said or thought a lot of these, but the root of it was always envy! I’ve always wanted a big herd of boys to love! I’m pregnant with my 2nd child, who will be my 2nd son, and people are already asking if we’ll try for a girl next. Like, could you at least wait for this one to be born? Is there something wrong with my sons that we need a girl?

  11. Debbie says

    A bit touchy, aren’t we? People are friendly, try to make conversation with you…..WOW! Did they ever make a mistake! Didn’t they know who they were speaking to? The mom nazi!! You know-the one who is going to look for a problem with whatever it is that you said because they can, and snarky is the new black! Lighten up,, people. Look for the good, and don’t try to find something horrible in every little thing. Or do-and be cranky and snotty. It is your choice. Just leave the rest of us alone.

    • Mashellion says

      I like how you say “people are friendly” and rant about her being snarky. Calling the kettle black, aren’t we? I feel sad that simple humor about a point of view evades you…… “Lighten up!” OR, be cranky and snotty, it’s your choice…..

  12. Mum to 3 says

    Oh please get over yourself. People chat, small talk happens, some people say daft stuff. People like you breed insecurity and make others afraid to open their mouths. Relax and share the joy of 4 healthy kids and don’t preach to others about what to say.

    • Mom of 4 boys says

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. Obviously you DO mind friendly conversation at the grocery store.

  13. says

    Your points are all spot on. I get asked, “you must be Catholic.” no. “You must be Mormon.” again, no. And no, we weren’t trying for a girl. No, I don’t long for a girl. No, I’m not sad they will all marry some day (hopefully) and never call because I believe they will call. I show them, by example, the loveliness of keeping in touch with my own parents. Also, another point, NO, my house is not a chaotic, crazy mess. Our boys are kind, thoughtful, respectful and helpful. It’s all in how we raise them. We are their models, right?

    Well said. Thank you.

  14. Tonya says

    As a mom of 5 boys ages 8, 6, 4, 17 months and 4 months, I can assure you these questions just piss me off! I am actually happy that I have all boys. My boys for the most part, are always good in stores, I actually get compliments! It’s awesome watching all the people’s faces when I have them all with me, then they see how well behaved they are and I just sit back and laugh. Yes, I have a basketball team of boys, yes they eat me out of house and home (even at this age). The best is when I go to a store with all of my kids and my husband isn’t with me. I have gotten this question A LOT: “Is their father around to help you out?” Well, NO, I just like wearing a wedding ring! Also, “there is a special place in heaven for you” What if I don’t believe in heaven? Or hell? Just let me go shopping with all my kids so I can get home and FEED them!

  15. Maura says

    my sister has 5 boys, 2 sets of twins…. She gets all of those questions, plus the “how many rounds of fertility drugs?” Or “they must’ve been born by csection!”/”how were they born?”

  16. CG says

    My Mother had four boys in 4 years, no multiples, then me and my sister. I can remember as a child my Mother getting asked some of these questions. I clearly remember when I was going into third grade, (1971) we we at a little mall and a woman told my mom she should go on “the pill” so she could have her own life.. My mother, who was as rough as melted butter, asked her “How many of these beautiful children should I leave behind today so I can get on with MY life? And, how could I possible live it? I had no knowledge of the birds and bees, so I asked my mom what kind of pill she meant, and my mom said “the nasty pill”. There always have been and always will be Nosy Parkers, lol

  17. says

    Oh boys. We have one son. I would respond feel blessed with three more or ten 😉 . Gender is not an issue but the idea of when my children get married if that’s the path they chose. I will be gaining more children. My husband is from an all boy clan then a sister ten years later. We still hear those comments! I came from an all girl family that openly wanted a boy made us feel like we weren’t good enough in some respects. I love my baby boy and smile at mommas that get more of them. I enjoy seeing a family friend mom’s interact with their boy’s girlfriend. When they are older it’s just seems extra special coming from an all boy clan.

  18. says

    I’ve had all of these questions! (Try going to the grocery store with 7 kids under the age of 8!) I think the one that annoys me most is #3.

  19. Kim says

    These are great. Plus I love the one that I get all the time, “Well at least you don’t have any drama in your house.” Really? Like boys don’t have feelings or get hurt.

  20. says

    I have 4 sons and people always say,”couldn’t get that girl, huh?” After I tell them my only daughter actually died, that usually shuts them right up.

  21. Npliam says

    As the dad of 4 boys most of these seem like silly things to complain about. These don’t feel judgmental of insensitive to me. They feel like normal people just trying to acknowledge your rather unique situation. They aren’t the most clever things to say but if people aren’t allowed to say these simple things then your standards of what you think are acceptable things to say is absurdly narrow. Almost like you don’t want to be talked to at all…..

  22. Karianne says

    I have 5 sons. We were definitely trying for a girl with the last 3, lol. I was doing some seriously insane stuff to try to “sway” for a girl. I adore all of my boys, but I still feel an empty spot. I would never trade any of them for anything, but I would love to add a girl. These people don’t realize how painful it is for me to hear them discuss ” trying for a girl” with me. They often laugh loudly while saying it, too. It bothers me. And I definitely don’t laugh. When my husband and I go out with all 5 boys, I constantly get the “Evil Stepmother Look” because I’m admittedly good looking and thanks to genetics, you’d never guess I’ve had several.children. So all the women stare at me like I’ve stolen some poor woman’s husband, lol. Doesn’t help that all my boys look like their Daddy. So the crappy statement I always get is “Instant family with that husband, huh? Like the Brady Bunch haha”. Ugghh.

  23. Tammy Thiesse says

    I understand that some of these comments might be a bit annoying, but you don’t come across as very tolerant. None of us are perfect, and many times we are looking for a a “connection” with others. These days, people will hardly even smile or acknowledge others in public. I doubt that any of these people are meaning to offend you.

  24. Tammy says

    This is certainly not in all instances, but many times I think people are just trying to be kind, empathetic, and friendly. Personally, there are very few of these comments that I would have issues with. I don’t think people are implying that you don’t love your children or that you would have preferred them to be anything else than who they are (gender, sexual orientation, religion, or whatever else makes them uniquely them). However, I would be a bit surprised if you had not at some point wished that ANY of them had been a girl, just for a different experience. Just like if the opposite were true and they were all girls, you might have felt some small pang, sometime in your very rich but different life, that you would never watch them play little league or play with bugs (a bit stereotypical, but you get what I mean). I think it’s a similar experience with parents of children with disabilities. In my experience (I am a PreK Special Education teacher), once they are born and they fall in love with their child, they wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world, but if given their first choice while they were pregnant, they would not have chosen to have a child with a disability. I would gently encourage you to do this: Consider that maybe that “old man” in the grocery store is just that: an “old man” who is lonely, looking to make a connection with someone. Seeing you with your boys might have made his day!

  25. Lee says

    Hey I’ve got five kids (three are mine and two are my husbands) we were both widowed when they were all very young so we are kind of like a Brady Bunch (yes we have the yellow lab too). My favorite one people ask is about our youngest two “Are they twins?” And I just simply answer no, they’re seven months apart and keep them guessing… Another question blended families get is “do they all get along” – love that one, of course they don’t, they’re kids after all!

  26. Rennie says

    I see being the mother of
    four boys has made you a little cranky too. Maybe people are trying to be nice, as unorthodox as it may be for you.

  27. Susan says

    I think people are just trying to connect. I don’t think people mean any harm. I’d rather have people speak to me in public and make an error in judgement than live in a world where people don’t strive to connect. We already have enough of that. I think of it as money in the bank for when I say something I don’t realize is offensive to someone else.

  28. staci says

    I have two boys so I get asked if I am going to try for a girl. I also get asked because I only have two children if I am going to have more children. Like two isn’t enough.

  29. Jess says

    Most of these don’t bother me either. I think for most people the first thing they will notice is the cute kiddos that are tagging along. So much of the time now people are just staring at their phones instead of interacting. To me the basic comments like “got your hands full” are just conversations starters.

  30. Crystal says

    Don’t be so overly sensitive. Who cares if someone is being friendly or just stupid by inquiring about your life. It you don’t like it, avoid people.

  31. Lisa says

    As a single mum to 5 boys I’ve heard them all and then some, I’m very proud of my boys, I just feel lucky to have healthy happy kids, yes I have a daughter born with angel wings at 18 weeks, but my life with my boys is complete

  32. Rachel Michael says

    I think this happens to anyone with more than two children, I have two girls and two boys, and sometimes a trip to the supermarket can be like herding kittens in aisle six, on more than one occasion I have dumped a tantruming toddler in a freezer. Though sometimes just to get my kicks I will take mine and maybe borrow a couple from friends, feed them a packet of skittles each and let them loose in Waitrose, you get a more articulate selection of inappropriate comments there.

  33. Kristen says

    Oh such a. Wonderful post, I cringe when someone says oh you have your hands full, I look at them and say, no i am so blessed, my heart is full, not my hands, thank you. People are so rude!!

  34. says

    I’m glad so many of you can relate! What is great about writing is that you can express what is going on in your head without saying those things out loud. But I always have an inner dialogue going on… it what keeps a smile on my face.

  35. Kaly says

    Funny post! As in written with humor in mind!

    My all-time favorite was said to a friend who has five boys – “Maybe you should get a tv in your room?” As in, you need something else to do besides breed.

    I only have two boys very close together (Are they twins?) and I thought this was funny. It doesn’t bother me when people try to make small talk or show interest in my family, it’s when they make assumptions that imply that they know something about us when they don’t.

    Here are some other small talk topics: election day, your favorite flower, movies you want to see, books you’ve recently read, a new soup recipe, upcoming travel plans, professional sports, celebrity gossip….

    We can have a very friendly chat and leave my family and how and why we chose to grow or not grow out of it.

  36. says

    I completely get this. Our kids are adopted and of a different race/ethnicity and we get similarly nosy questions from grocery store people. While people’s intentions are usually good, the nosy questions get so old. Fabulous post! Loved it!

  37. lori ogbuji says

    My favorite response to the comment, ‘your hands must be full”, has always been, ‘Yes, my heart is full, too!” Gets them every time!

  38. says

    This isn’t small talk. It’s ranges from bad manners to outright offersive. These are questions about family planning and sex and religion and just how much/whether you love your kids or if they jusy aren’t quite enough to satisfy you. I can think of little that is less polite to ask a stranger about, especially in front of one’s children.

    My kids are adopted and of different races from each other and fron me. I get: Do you wish you had children of your own? How much did they cost? Why did their mother give them away? Are they real sisters? What kind of Asian is she? Why didn’t you adopt an American kid? Did you adopt because of Angelina Jolie? Why did you have to adopt? Couldn’t you get pregnant?

    Emily Post is rolling in her grave.

  39. Denise says

    These lists about what people “should never do” always seem whiney to me. Sometimes people are just trying to make polite conversation; they really don’t give a hoot about your fertility plans or anything else about you for that matter. They’re just trying to pass time in line. Grow up,

  40. says

    What really is irking about these kind of questions is that, on some level, they are presumptuous–about who you are, about your values, about issues that are, even in this open age of social media, private. That’s why questions like this chafe, when lobbed by strangers in a public setting. People come up to you with some vision in their heads of you and your life and, more than anything, they want to confirm that they’re right. Your reactions aren’t you being “touchy” in the face of kindly small talk; your reactions are you feeling like you have a right to just BE, without feeling like you’re being viewed with puzzlement for not fitting into some proscribed version of life as held by a stranger in the cereal aisle.

  41. says

    I disagree, Denise, Small talk is one thing, but people should filter out their unadulterated rude curiosity and ask a less offensive question. I have four sons and have had this sort of questions and comments for the past 14 years when my second son was born.

    We aren’t whining, we are asking people to think before they speak and choose more kind comments.

  42. Nina says

    What makes writing a nasty article about the (mostly) harmless things people say during small talk any better. Geesh, I’d rather be asked a 100 inappropriate, well-intentioned questions than to talk to someone who is going to think the worst of me if I don’t just smile and say how adorable and move on. This cynical perspective on life is why people are so miserable, so busy looking for the worst in people on one hand, complaining that don’t have any real friends on the other… But hey, to each his own

  43. tracy says

    Love this! I have 2 boys, 5 and 2….was just blessed with another baby but would you believe it’s a girl?! Now, I get….”yea you finally got your girl!” “Now your family is complete because you had a girl” I could go on and on. My response lately has been, she’s the girl I never knew I wanted. Of course I love my princess, someone would be crazy to say otherwise but not just because she is a girl. I wish people would think before they spoke to strangers :-)

  44. says

    Hmm, I have girls, so haven’t thought of this…
    How about “Oh dear god!” or “Sweet Baby Jesus”? I have 2 girls and get the lame-ass “Oh, you’re going to have your hands full when they’re older!” or “You’re screwed”.
    I think in the long run- we’re all sort of screwed but maybe we can have fun while we’re at it.

  45. Rita Williams says

    Every one relax! As a mother of 6, 5 boys and one girl, with a 7 year gap between 4 and 5, I got all of those questions, plus more.. I have also commented to other moms of many that I know how full your hands are. In response just say “They sure are! Full of fun, and love , and joy and gratefulness! ” Often times the person commenting is hiding envy under the guise of “Why would anyone do that ? etc” People just want to be friendly, yes, but they could sure watch what they say around the children at least! When I was expecting #5 I had someone ask ,in front of my sons, if I was going to give it away if it was another boy! Really? The boys were very concerned about that… when SHE was born they were all relieved! Poor kids!

  46. Alison says

    I’ve got to be honest…this post really doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve never read your blog and came here after someone posted a link on FB. I don’t know anything about you and maybe you’re just having a bad day, or this is your brand of humor and I just didn’t catch on. To a new reader, you sound genuinely pissed off about these comments and you come across as having no understanding or compassion for the people who are talking to you. I admit that some questions (many of which you didn’t post, but were posted here in the comments, are intrusive and rude — e.g., did you use fertility drugs?) but most of the ones you posted strike me as harmless attempts at either humor, compliments, or small talk. And, some people have such great mother-daughter experiences (or expectations) that, to them, not having a daughter WOULD be sad and they might just assume that you feel the same way. I get that having strangers approach you and ask you random questions, regardless of their intention, can be annoying and that some people do say these things in rude ways. But, in general, I think rolling with it a little more might serve you better. Would love to hear your thoughts on this, if you’re open to a dialogue here in the comments.