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Thursday, April 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Family

Mama Bear Moxie: Taking ‘just’ out of your vocabulary

By Kristina Phelan For The Spokesman-Review

I spent 10 years as the mother of two boys before our adopted daughter arrived last year. I can’t begin to count the number of times that I heard the phrase “just two” in response to how many children lived under my roof. The term always didn’t sit well with me, and I really struggled with it.

I have two boys. Not just two. Two.

Adding the “just” into this sentence creates an entirely different level of silent judgment. I have felt grossly inadequate as a mother of “just” two kids. Like the number automatically dubs me as a lazy mom because I have a hand for each child.

It started to make me wonder: Are two kids not enough in our society?

Does the number of children a woman has directly affect her place in our world? Are mothers of more children more capable than mothers of one child? Is there this sort of underlying secret society of mothers with more children that elevate them, even if just in their own minds, above mothers of fewer children?

I certainly hope not. Because if we start commenting on the amount of children a woman has by adding “just,” we are passing judgment. I have caught myself saying it before and I cringe as the word leaves my mouth. This single word can cause a havoc of emotional problems. I normally heard the line as I passed a perfect stranger in the store with my two boys trailing behind me. I know that it wasn’t meant with malice, but I heard the term enough that it started to prick at my heart.

Because what if I had experienced a miscarriage? What if I had struggled with infertility? What if had a horrible pregnancy or birthing experience? What if I had a medical condition that made the choice for me in the amount of children that I birthed? And (gasp) what if I was at peace with the two children that I had?

I know most of those who stated this comment meant no harm by it. They undoubtedly didn’t even understand the feelings of inadequacy that came along with it. I know there are some other moms out there with one or two kids who have heard this line before. I feel you sister. I know you.

May we all learn, and be more careful, to remember that this small little word can be such a dagger to a mama’s heart. Here’s to the other moms out there with “just” (insert your number here) kids.

Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois who writes about family and faith. Contact her at or visit her website at

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