It hit my like a kick in the stomach, firstly she was saying she would rather get rid of a child than subject her sons to the same education that my boys are having, and secondly the implication was that instead of having lots of kids, you should think about the prospects of the ones you already have. Oops, what a bad parent I clearly am for spreading our (altogether more meagre) resources in wafter thin portions between my four boys, and secondly for abandoning them to the tender mercies of the state education system.
I had a bit of an esprit d'escalier moment as I wished I had taken her up on the premise of her dream, but it wasn't until I got home that I realised just how bloody annoyed I was about it, and the general assumption that by having more than the standard two children you are somehow doing all of your offspring down.
When I think back to my own childhood, I hardly recall the material things my parents bought for me (with the notable exception of the Girls' World disembodied head, which will stay with me forever). Instead I remember the things we did together as a family, the trips out (always budget and usually involving sleeping in the back of my dad's Luton van), the cake baking, gardening and doughnut eating competitions. I also remember longing for more siblings to share the fun. I had just one sister who was eight years older and left home almost as soon as I became aware of her existence.
I have never met a single person from a big family who wished they had had less brothers and sisters, or indeed a mum of many who wishes she had stuck at two. So why do throwaway comments like my sister-in-law's rankle so much? I suspect it's because it's always hard to challenge the norm, and particularly so in the privileged enclave of London we inhabit (just so long as we can keep up the mortgage payments), where amongst certain mummies anything less than private school all the way, with a good dose of expensive extra curricular activities thrown in for good measure, is virtually tantamount to child abuse.
Still when I woke up this morning enveloped in a fog of gloom about my poor life choices, the storm clouds were chased away by the five adorable men I have foolishly chosen to share my life with. My husband gave me the one gift he knows will always cheer me up when he handed me one of my four-month-old twins to hold. As I looked into his sapphire eyes and stroked his perfect pink cheek, I knew I wouldn't swap him for all the school fees in the world, and nor would his brothers who get far more pleasure from each other than they could from any classroom, however rarified the other pupils.
My older son bounced in, resplendent in his school uniform, raring for another day at school. He has never been happier than when he left his posh private nursery with its tiny classes and hothouse academic atmosphere and entered the rough and tumble of his school's huge nursery. As he thrilled at the babies' gummy smiles and shouted 'Only another year to go until we can really play with the babies', I knew that I had enriched rather than deprived his life by providing even more playmates to join our own private madhouse.
A big family is never easy, and not just because of all the washing, cooking, tidying and organisation it requires, other people's judgement of our choices, however inadvertent or innocent, can make it even harder to cope. Still next time someone makes me feel like I have made the wrong choice for my boys, I will just have to come back an re-read this post to remind me just how wrong they are.