I have six children and these days that’s very unusual. I don’t live in Utah currently, but I did until last year and even there six or more kids is kind of uncommon. Most sane people stop at four. Occasionally you find a fiver out there. But very few mothers in their 30’s have more than that. I bought a book a few years ago called something like Having a Big Family. It was for families with three or more children. Three or more? I don’t know about you, but three kids doesn’t seem like a large family. Maybe in China or Germany, but not here in the land of big houses, big cars and big stores.

When I was expecting my sixth baby I really started to panic. Despite what the book says, mothering three children is not the same as mothering twice that many. I could barely imagine what my life would be like with so many people depending on me. I didn’t know anyone who had that many offspring. I felt like I was going into uncharted territory. So just in case you are considering a whole bunch of kids, here is my list of things you must know:

1a) You cannot take your children into public with messy clothes, snotty noses or ketchup/jam/melted popsicle on their faces, You will get dirty looks. People won’t come out and say anything insulting, they’ll just remark, “wow, are all those kids yours? Heh heh.” (No, I just love bringing extra neighbor kids to Costco. It makes it so much more fun.) People hold you to a much higher standard. If you start to slack off they are very quick to judge. You’ll be the recipient of the sideways look with the raised eyebrows. The one that says,“guess you shouldn’t have had that many kids if you can’t take care of them all.”

1b) If you are feeling dejected and need some positive reinforcement, take your children out in matching outfits (girls must be wearing hairbows). Everyone (meaning all the old ladies) will ooh and aaah and tell you that you are a wonderful person to have a such a nice big family. Wearing matching clothes fools everyone—even your critical parents who think you are insane—into believing that you are a good mother.

2) Do not take all your children to the store if they can’t behave themselves. I don’t even know why I’m saying this because your children can be as good as gold 23 hours a day and be each other’s best friends, but the second you step into the grocery store the gloves come off and suddenly slapping, spitting and crying become everybody’s favorite pastimes. You can watch the thought bubble form above the sweet, young check-out girl’s head, “I will never have children.”

3) Your car options become extremely limited. Your choices now are between a van-ish sort of thing or an SUV-ish sort of thing. Sure, sure get the SUV. Who cares about wasting gas when your very coolness is at stake? I prefer the minivan (mine seats eight) because it has fourteen cupholders and doesn’t require a step-ladder to climb into. What? What’s that you say? Minivans are lame? So is having your child open his door into the vehicle next to you in the parking lot.

4) Traveling can best be described as . . . hmmm, what’s the word? A joke. Yes, that’s it. Air travel is laughable (Cheap airfare to visit the grands x 8 people = $$$$), so that leaves you with road trips. Heaven help you if you live in a different part of the country than all your relatives. If you have toddlers please put extended car travel out of your mind right now. DVD player or not, it isn’t worth it. Or, if you must go somewhere, make your husband drive the bigger kids and you fly with the younger ones.

5) Toys will become your nemesis, your bête noire. Gone are the days of crazily buying scads of presents for each child. This isn’t so much financial as it is the fact that your house is already overflowing with piles of useless plastic junk. The thought of adding to this is downright frightening. The younger children barely even get presents. You will actually consider gift-wrapping a toy they already have for the sole reason that there will be pictures proving they weren’t completly neglected.

6) People are thoroughly overwhelmed being around a large family for extended periods of time. If they don’t have a big family themselves they will be exhausted just being with you for a couple of hours. Go ahead and invite the missionaries over, or your newlywed little brother and his wife. They will make excuses to get out of your house after a short while, and they’ll leave with a dazed look on their faces. Even if your children are well-mannered, there is a fair amount of chaos that is only natural. You are immune to it. Others are not.

7) You have to be early to church if you want to sit in a pew. And you do want to sit in a pew. Because the deacons who set up the chairs in the back never put more than six in a section. Are there more than six people in your family? Then somebody will be sitting on somebody’s lap. That, most likely, will be a recipe for disaster. Apparently there is nothing funner for children than making their siblings yelp during the Sacrament.

8 ) Everyone, and I do mean everyone, will ask you if you are done having children. If you find this question intrusive, then too bad. Just tell people the truth. If you don’t know, then say so. If you want seven more, then say that too. This isn’t the time to be coy and apologetic. Be proud of your family size! Let’s just hope your answer isn’t, “actually, I think we should have stopped two kids ago.”

Having a big family isn’t an option for a lot of people, whether it’s for physical, financial or even mental reasons. It’s definitely something that has to be decided prayerfully. There are a million reasons not to have a lot of children. This world is just not built for large families anymore. But if it does seem right to you, then you have a lot of happiness waiting in store. There are joys and wonders that you can’t even imagine. Sure, you’ll mumble the words many, many times, “What were we thinking?”. But when you look around the room at Family Home Evening and everybody is singing, or you catch your older kids working togther to build a fort for the younger ones, there will be a song of joy in your heart that makes the chaos and crying and craziness worth every second.

Hildie

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

82 Comments

  1. Dalene

    August 14, 2008

    I think once you’re outnumbered (meaning there are more children than parents) you have a large family. My daughter asked me the other day why we didn’t have six kids (I only have four) and I lovingly replied, “Because honey, sometimes it feels like you are three or four kids.”

    Oh, and I love my Toyota Sienna. There are enough cupholders for the entire population of Monaco (not that any of them would be caught dead riding in a Toyota Sienna). I would drive this minivan even if I didn’t have half a softball team to haul around.

  2. Maralise

    August 14, 2008

    This is lovely Jennie. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this despite the fact(s) that I didn’t come from a large family nor do I think I will have one. And I agree that there was *something* about visiting the home of the families with many children when I was growing up. I absolutely loved it, loved the chaos, loved the spirit, loved the organization, loved the companionship. It was a joyful experience for me.

  3. Naismith

    August 14, 2008

    Glad things are working for you.

    My experience was different because our five were spread out in age, the last born a month before the eldest graduated high school. There were advantages (built-in babysitters, older sibs setting examples and giving good advice) but there are also obvious disadvantages, of spending 36 years of hands-on parenting.

    We never bought a van or SUV. We rented one for vacations, which was cheaper in the long run (because we didn’t have to maintain it). We took two cars a lot of places, but there were four drivers by the time the last child was born.

    I recommend going on vacation in Mexico. They routinely have rooms with three double beds, plus hammock hooks. We found companion fares for flying to visit grands, etc. We also sent one child at a time, from the time they were five, which was a sweet experience for them.

    I disagree about being nice when people ask if you are done. That is nobody’s business, and their rudeness should not be tolerated; they do not deserve an answer. I would never ask my own married children.

  4. mela

    August 14, 2008

    This is good and so right on. You obviously have the qualifications to speak on the matter.

    I’ve always thought the “neglect” factor of a big family was more than outweighed by the BFF factor of having so many sibs. At least that’s how it worked out for my husband and me, both from huge clans.

    I also wonder why the LDS big family culture has mostly died. Don’t people get it? Yeah yeah, there are all those considerations, but this is eternity people. Each one is unique and infinitely precious. The thought of not having one I could have had scares me more than the huge vehicle, triple-shared rooms, rude questions, etc.

  5. thought i'd have a dozen

    August 14, 2008

    mela–
    your post makes one wonder if you’re still at the beginning of it all… i thought the same thing until #3 and 4 did me in. there is an emotional and physical component to mothering that i hadn’t thought i would slam against, but some do. so don’t judge those who didn’t bring as many spirits here! i think the world is different than a generation ago, even as far as the physical health and safety of raising kids–you have to buckle them up, and sunscreen them, and put on bike helmets, just before going for a walk. you have to be way more involved in their schooling than in our day. once they get older it’s not easier! good luck to all in this greatest joy and challenge.

  6. cheryl

    August 14, 2008

    Great post! I have four children, we’re hoping for at least one more, and when we lived in CA, I got ALL the questions and stares. I tried to be nice to the questions as much as possible (because even though people are rude, it doesn’t mean I should be rude), but I finally started answering in shocking ways. Once, a lady said “Are they all yours?!” and I said “Sure are!” and she said, “Wow, I have two kids…” and before she could say “And they are a handful” or “It’s so hard with just two” I said to her “…And they are WONDERFUL, aren’t they?” She looked at me like I was insane and I kept on walking.

    I do have one disagreement with the post, though. Travel! Oh, yes, skip the flying –for sure. But road trips? My kids have been the benefactors of several 8-15 hour road trips (in one day) since birth. I guess they are just used to it all. We’re a travelin’ family. 🙂 But I know it’s harder for others, and that’s okay.

  7. Karen

    August 14, 2008

    I enjoyed reading this. Being the mom of eight, I can understand all you have written, having experienced most of it myself. You are right on about the messy kids in public. I don’t dress the kids matching anymore, enjoy that while you can. We have gone the SUV route, mini vans don’t have 10 seats! And yes, people are incredibly interested in whether or not we are “done”.
    But, my little kids love their older siblings, are so happy to see them, and pray for them if they are not home(even if it is just for work!). My big kids adore the little ones, take them places with them, spend time with them. They do fight and argue at times, but the love they have for each other is amazing!

  8. Tiffany

    August 14, 2008

    I loved, loved this post. I lived in Sweden with four children and felt like I was a walking advertisement to the masses for birth control. Just kidding!

    Actually, and this was such a bizarre thing, but a few of our friends decided to have more than just one or two children because of our example. When they told me that, I was floored. I didn’t think we were providing the example of joy and happiness of having more than a lot of children. Our lives can be pretty chaotic and I think I look a zombie most of the time. But hey, maybe I make looking like a zombie 24/7 a lot of fun!

    But also, this post has touched on a subject which I have been pondering. I longed for my fourth baby with such intensity for three years before she came to our family. I always thought I would have more children. But life throws curve balls that have made me really question my ability to adequately mother more children. I still don’t know the answer, but appreciate those with the courage, strength and fortitude to have more than four children.

  9. Heathermommy

    August 14, 2008

    I always wanted a big family. After experiencing repeated miscarriages I am so grateful for the 2 children I had right away when we were first married. I find myself embarassed by our family size. I wonder if people do judge me for having “only” two children. Of course I don’t want to have to explain our difficulty in having more children. What this experience has taught me is that we NEVER know what is going on in other’s families and we just need to give everyone a break.

    It is sad that people are often so unsupportive of large families. Even in the church (not from the brethren, obviouslY!)I have felt a increase of unsupport. But really no matter how many children you have people will ask you if you are done. We get that all the time. For some reason some people are just really interested in other’s reproduction plans. And therein lies the problem!

  10. Judy

    August 14, 2008

    I am one of nine children and I LOVE it. Unfortunately, we have three and that is where we will be staying. For a couple of reasons we are not having anymore. At times my heart hurts because of this decision, but my husband has been very adamant about not having more. Anytime I see a woman with four or more kids out and about I want to give her a standing O. I don’t, because then people would think I was a wackjob. haha. Anyway, I think big families are awesome. More power to you.

  11. Julie

    August 14, 2008

    We have eight children. I had to laugh at several points in your post because they are so true. I disagreed with others, but everyone’s individual experiences are going to be different. Everyone asks, “are they ALL yours?” but most people, in my experience, have been very nice about it and have been admiring rather than condescending. Old ladies admire my family whether they are wearing nice-looking clothes or stain-covered and mismatched. We have absolutely WONDERFUL road trips. The kids tend to fight more at home than they do in a store (lucky me!). You do have to be early to church to snag a pew. We like to sit at the front ’cause the kids behave so much better up there and we can actually hear what’s going on! And most definitely EVERYONE asks if we’re done. Every time!

    Despite the days when I do ask myself if I was insane to even think of having so many, I really love my large family. What a joy it is to have so many unique and amazing personalities about. Fun post!

  12. rebecca

    August 14, 2008

    Ha! I could apply most of these experiences to myself when I only had two kids (but when you are the white mamma of a black child–be ready to answer questions, be stared at when said child is screaming in the store and heaven help you if he black hair isn’t completely braided…. :-)))

    Now that we have four I would have to agree with one of the commenters that said that there is a component to parenting older children that I didn’t anticipate. As my big kids get older, it is clear that their needs are so different and I have a hard time finding the mental energy or time to meet those needs when I am in such demand by the little ones for their PHYSICAL needs…. 4 has started to feel like a lot…

    My bishop has a theory. He tells me people say that after 4 kids it feels easier, but he thinks that it is because by the time people move on to their 5th (usually) their oldest is in the 11-12 age range and there is something about that age that makes it a bit easier w/ the little ones…. I haven’t tested that theory though.

  13. mormonhermitmom

    August 14, 2008

    The 11 year old isn’t much help when the 2year old only wants mom. My four are enough for me. I think maybe LDS families are getting smaller simply for the reason of economics. When it takes two incomes to make ends meet, trying to survive on one income limits how many children you can afford. I don’t know how we do it and well I guess we don’t because there are always things the kids need that we just can’t give them. I’m not talking piano lessons either.

  14. Harlene

    August 14, 2008

    We were on vacation once in California. We always request the room closest to the outdoor pool. The kids were all asleep and our room was at the hot tub. My husband and I decided to enjoy an evening dip. Another couple started chatting with us. They asked where we were from. When we told them Salt Lake, they wondered how we liked living around so many Mormons. “You know, they don’t take overpopulation very seriously.”, the lady remarked. I responded, “We take it VERY seriously. Our 5 children under the age of eight are in that room asleep right now and we are trying as hard as we can to keep going! Give us some time. We count overpopulating the planet as our primary objective!”

    Okay, so not exactly a pass along moment, but, we do care for our children. I just didn’t think it was any of her business!

  15. Tiffany

    August 14, 2008

    I have to say that with 4 children while we lived in Chicago, strangers were MERCILESSLY rude. I did get used to the stares. When we moved to Minnesota it was very refreshing to have more people with 4 children, so they didn’t consider you totally insane.
    But was has been incredibly interesting, is that during my most recent (5th) pregnancy, I got comments I did NOT expect. I had 3 people, 2 of them total strangers, and 1 a friend from Chicago who thought I was nuts with 4, confided in me that they sorely wished they had not gotten “fixed” after their 2nd or 3rd. You see, now there 2 little “toddlers” are 9-11 years old, and they are finally realizing that maybe, just maybe, a large family isn’t has horrendous as it may seem when you are swimming in diapers and car seats. In fact 2 of them used the word “jealous” about me being pregnant!
    I have to say I was a bit stunned. Here I was questioning my sanity, and these women (not LDS)were envious of me. I must confess it helped me keep perspective.
    BTW, my favorite response to “Are they all yours?!” is, “Yes, but it’s okay because they all have the same father.” I thoroughly enjoyed that strangers stunned look.

  16. she-bop

    August 14, 2008

    This brings back a lot of memories. I am the oldest of eight. My mother always tried to match everyone. The 4 boys got matching shirts, and the 4 girls matched too -usually in homemade dresses. I was 16 before I really thought about how nerdy that was!

    We moved to China when I was 13 and my youngest sister was born there when I was 15. Talk about people staring! Not only were we a family of mei-gwo’s (whites), most of us blonde, but there were so many of us! Any time we went anywhere together people would stop and start to count: yi, er, san, sz, wu…and then just stare in utter disbelief, as all of us walked by. It was like we were in a parade in the street markets. My mother was such a trooper. She would just smile and ignore the comments.

    When I was 17 we moved to Salt Lake. I don’t know how my parents felt, but I was always a little embarrassed by my large family. Now that I am an adult with kids of my own I am so glad I have so many siblings. Awesome Aunts and Uncles for my kids, and tons of cousins.

    I always said I only wanted 2 kids. Well, I have 3. I asked my mom once how she did it. She said “well, I had you first”. Maybe that is why I didn’t want a big family myself – I had already helped raise many of my siblings.

    One of the funniest things I remember is our brown 17 seater Maxi-wagon Dodge van we had. As kids we used to call it the Maxi-pad and NO ONE liked to be seen in it!

    Up until just recently my dad would not give up on thinking I should have more kids. He just couldn’t believe that I stopped at 3. Finally I put my foot down and told him to just knock it off, quit bugging me, it’s our decision, not his. I think this is one of the few things that really gets me, is when other people think they know what’s right for you. Argh! Just live and let live – that’s my motto.

  17. angela michelle

    August 14, 2008

    I agree–why are even Utah families so small these days? We have five and have always planned on more, and yet every time it comes up my family says, “What? More? Really?” And my husband and I both come from families of 8! We just got back from a two-day road trip to my parents’ house, where everyone was overwhelmed by us, just like you say. But sometimes I do like taking everyone to the store. I tell them it’s a missionary opportunity to show people that large families can be harmonious and happy.

  18. Naismith

    August 14, 2008

    “I think maybe LDS families are getting smaller simply for the reason of economics.”

    That, and some of us are survivors of large families. There were 8 children in my family, my mom was always “too tired,” they never went to any of my dance performances and I didn’t have the opportunity to learn an instrument, etc. My closest sister was always criticizing me, and it was not an ideal experience.

    To me, having “just” five is much saner. I feel I really can handle that many.

  19. she-bop

    August 14, 2008

    Naismith – I love how you called us that were raised in large families “survivors”. I never thought of it that way, but it sure fits!

  20. mindi

    August 14, 2008

    oh, man! i chuckled thru that whole post.

    i’ve always said, “four is the new five, five is the new six,” so, really, you’ve got SEVEN children in this day and age!!
    i never thought about the slacking off angle and how people would perceive it…totally interesting, and i fully believe it.

    and the “good as gold for 23 hours” until they step foot into the grocery store: the reason why i only shop late at night now.

    good stuff, jennie!

  21. yiayiarocks

    August 14, 2008

    I loved this post! I can so relate. I always wanted a big family. I currently have 4 and am pregnant with my 5th. But what makes it hard for us is that my oldest (8) has autism. She is like having a very large toddler. So it’s extra stressful. But I still love our big family.

  22. ldslara

    August 14, 2008

    Thanks Jennie! I am so glad to see this post! We had always planned on having 4, which we now have. It took me a year to realize that we don’t have to stop now! I know that sounds odd, but despite often feeling that having more children would be insane, my heart is not ready to be done. So we have decided to try for another. I do think our children’s spacing (9,7,4,1) had made things more manageable. But I also just turned 38, so my worry now is will if it will even be possible. I honestly don’t think there is any women in my ward over 35 still having babies. Even the two families with six kids in or ward were done by 35. Yes, I must be insane….

  23. Debra

    August 14, 2008

    Wonderful post. I come from a family of 5 girls. My mom is one of 10 (and I am a convert!) 5 seems normal to me. We were done at 3, but I got preggo with #4 which turned out to be identical twins. So we are stopping at 5. I had all 5 in 7 yrs. They are now 9,7,4,2,2.

    I do find that the positive comments about our family size comes from the older generations. Most negative comments come from my generation or younger. What’s hilarious is my dad had 5 kids and he thinks we are nuts for having 5! (not like we planned the twins!)

    One day at Burger King, (I was there by myself with the 5 kids), a grandpa said “Why would anyone want that many kids?” The granddaughter said “Oh she’s just like Jon and Kate plus 8!”. LOL

    Even my parents are overwhelmed by us. All the grandparents usually stay at a hotel when they come to visit us. We are NEVER invited to other people’s homes for dinner. And if we do go over to someone’s home for a few minutes, you can see them getting physically anxious. LOL That could be the twins though. They make me anxious and they are mine!

    My dh’s fav response to “Are they all yours?” is “Yeah and the triplet newborns are at home with the teenagers.” A lot of them think he is for real! LOL

  24. Thora

    August 14, 2008

    I came from a blended family of nine, and I loved it. My sisters are some of my closest friends. The ones who still live in the same city (six of them) hang out constantly. And I love it. It’s hard, and people do give weird looks, and not all of my own siblings want big families, for various reasons. I do, though (my husband and I have two so far, but I’m only in my mid-twenties).

    I have noticed that three and four seem to be the normal size of LDS families nowadays. Now, I know that there are many reasons why people have larger families, like medical, or whatnot. But I do think it’s sad when people don’t have more than two or three because they want to be able to pay for everything they think is necessary for their kids. Like huge vacations, fancy college, etc. I think we saints have begun to echo the world in what we think is “required” for living happy lives. The people and relationships in my own life, much of with my eight siblings, are what’s brought me the most happiness I’ve had. Not my own room (which I almost never had, and hey, that’s okay. It prepared me for being married, and sharing a room for the rest of my life), or big Christmas presents or anything else like that.

  25. Thora

    August 14, 2008

    I meant to say in the second paragraph “Many reasons why people DON’T have larger families…”

  26. Maddison

    August 14, 2008

    This is such a lovely and charming post, thank you. I do know that I couldn’t give myself to all my children if I had more than two because I just know my capacity, but I greatly respect those who do so with grace. My grandmother had seven boys and desperately wanted “at least three more,” but wasn’t able to for medical reasons. She has told me (many a time) that she simply loved it, thrived on the chaos as she described it. To her and women the world over like her, I tip my hat.

  27. mela

    August 14, 2008

    “I thought I’d have a dozen” you remarked that I must be at the beginning of my journey. No, I am towards the end, which is why I feel as I do. (age 36/5 kids)

    I don’t judge people’s reasons, but I hope they do judge their own situation using eternal principles.

    I think of it this way: What would I trade my child for? Better health? More money? A few years of calmer sanity? Better “opportunities” for my other kids? An easier road for myself? Of course not. None of us would trade our baby for anything at all, ever. Its unthinkable.

    We all feel that way about our existing children, but trading off the kids we might still receive seems less serious. But what if we are “erasing” someone from our family. Every “erased” kid also erases grandkids, and an in-law child you might have had.

    I realize of course, the need to follow the spirit and be reasonable, etc. But in my view, the loss of the potential child is almost always going to be greater than whatever may be gained in the transaction.

  28. Arianne

    August 14, 2008

    I always thought I’d have a lot of kids. I always imagined 5-8 kids. Now, a mother of only two, I realize how much more difficult and exhausting being a mother is. And I realize how many things I want to give my kids that I can barely manage with the two of them (mostly emotional needs). I can’t even imagine how I’d be a good mother to 5 or more kids. It’s funny how your perspective changes. I used to think I had everything it took to be a mother of a large family, mostly the desire for one. But now I realize it take a very special woman to be a mother of many. And I’m realizing that I’m not that person. But I’m OK with it. And I really honor and respect those mothers who are.

  29. she-bop

    August 14, 2008

    Hmmm…I’m feeling a little bit lectured to for choosing to have “just” 3 children. Three beautiful, wonderful spirits that I brought into this world. Who’s to say that there were (or are) more waiting for me? I honestly don’t think I “erased” anyone! I find that a stretch.

    I also take offense, a little, at the concept that I might have stopped because I wanted to be able to provide “huge vacations or fancy college” for my kids. I honestly didn’t think about that. Three just feels like the perfect number for me. I know what I can handle, and I don’t think it’s being selfish to want to be a good mom who can function in the world. More power to you if you think you can handle more than I can. Just don’t think I stopped at three so I could spoil them more. That is ridiculous.

  30. Sue

    August 14, 2008

    I’m from a family of nine kids, and I have three, which is just perfect for us. I am able to lovingly and sanely parent three kids (most of the time).

    My next door neighbor and good friend has seven, and she is able to lovingly and sanely parent them. She’s amazing and I really admire her.

    Different strokes, people.

  31. Emily M.

    August 14, 2008

    Great post, Jennie. I’m the one with the bedraggled kids. But they all look alike, so that gets me points.

    I have thought about this idea that’s come up as well, about kids I might not have had who should have been in my family. I have to say, though, the guilt and tension I felt over having another child, the pressure over feeling like I should have lots of children, in case someone was missing gave me serious tension headaches and sent me to therapy. (read about it here).

    I think it’s very important to 1-support large families, without judging or criticizing the parents for their decision to have a lot of children, and 2- support smaller families, without judging or criticizing their decision to have fewer children. And I think we owe it to women with smaller families to assume that they are as in tune with the Spirit, and with what they are able to “lovingly and sanely handle,” (nice, Sue) as those with larger ones.

  32. Carina

    August 14, 2008

    Maybe I sound like a broken record over here, but I cannot get over the rudeness I’ve been reading! People have the nerve to say such things to you lovely mothers in public in full hearing of your children? I’d lose it, completely lose it.

  33. Dalene

    August 15, 2008

    Excellent point, she-bop. I agree.

  34. shelah

    August 15, 2008

    My SIL lives in Utah County and has two kids, ages 9 and 6. To hear her tell it, I’m pretty sure she gets as many comments about her choice of a family size as the people with “big” families do.

    For me, the size of my family is such a consuming, day-to-day issue that it’s easy to see how many kids someone else has can be a really interesting subject. Yesterday, for example, I watched a friend’s kids (9, 6, and 1) and I was thinking “I wonder if I could handle seven kids ages nine and under permanently?” But I think I usually have the good sense to keep my mouth shut when I’m talking to other people about their families.

  35. Jennie

    August 15, 2008

    I’m sure there are women with eight or ten or more kids who look at me with six and think, “oh, I remember having six kids. It was so easy back then.” My husband is really snotty when he hears people with one or two kids complaining about being worn out and tired. He has said some pretty nasty things about them “barely being parents.” (yeah, I definitely punched him in the arm for that one.) I tried to remind him how hard it is to have two little kids, especially if they’re close in age; How everything is still new, you’re unsure as a parent. To this day, my hardest job parenting was when I had just one baby. That was really, really difficult.

    I guess the key to any family size is to have confidence in your decision. If you feel like two is your limit and that you, your husband, and the Lord are all in agreement, then there is no reason to feel defensive. I struggled so hard to get these six children here. People assume if you have a big family that babies must arrive with no trouble at all. That certainly has no been true in my case. If anything, it has made me extremely appreciative of my children. I get peeved when people suggest that I had so many children because I’m not aware of how contraception works, or that they were accidents. I have had to say more than once that I have six children–on purpose. But I’m more than willing to speak up. I have no problem voicing my opinion.

  36. JustRandi

    August 15, 2008

    Jennie,I loved your post.
    I’m just so glad that everyone is different and the only thing that is required of each of us is to make our own decisions. The world would be a rotten place if we were all required to have 8 children. Or 2 children.

    Thanks for sharing the experiences of your family!

  37. Heathermommy

    August 15, 2008

    Jennie,

    I have to say that I am really saddened by your husband’s attitude. I’m trying not to be offended that that he considers some people “barely parents.” Why do people insist on dismissing people’s difficulties by comparing them to their own situations? This is soooooo ridiculous but we do it to eachother all the time. People are allowed to have a hard time with parenting even if they don’t have 6 kids!!

    Also some people’s comments have confirmed my worries that when people see me with my 2 children they assume I chose this many to make my life easier or because I couldn’t handle more. Please let’s not forget the many people out there who can’t control how many children they have, who would love to have more but can’t. Please don’t add to the pain we already feel by wrongfully judging us.

  38. thought i'd have a dozen

    August 15, 2008

    mela–
    I guess you are still near the beginning, since you wouldn’t want to erase the five more in-laws and twenty grandchildren that could come your way with more kids! 🙂 Of course, we would never subtract a child, but everyone hits their limit and that’s different for each circumstance. Just so you can gain perspective into my comment, and everyone else who looks like they are not making good eternal choices when you don’t know the whole story–my husband went through chemotherapy during my second pregnancy. His health as a cancer survivor is still precarious, requires constant monitoring and medication, and I don’t know when I’ll be widowed. I’ve had three late miscarriages since I have a blood disorder that requires daily medication while pregnant. I could go on, but if you wondered why we took the family to Hawaii last year, it was because we don’t know if we have future years together to do that. It wasn’t because I was sacrificing future children for a vacation. And yes, I’ve received strong divine confirmation that four children is where we stop. Please let me be grateful for what I have and not feel guilty for whatever in-laws I may not be blessed with.

  39. Dalene

    August 15, 2008

    With four kids I’ve found myself on both sides of the aisle: prepared to defend my choice of “so many” children to a world that doesn’t know any better and completely stunned at how often I have to defend my choice of having a “small family” to my brothers and sisters in the gospel who should know that my choice is a personal one that I should only have to justify to God.

    I don’t believe anyone should have to defend such a personal choice to anyone but God. For that matter, I don’t think anyone should have to defend choices like if and where to vacation or where to send their kid to college, either.

  40. Jennie

    August 15, 2008

    Heathermommy-you should be offended by what my husband said. It’s completely idiotic of him. Especially since I remember him complaining constantly about how hard it was to have kids when we only had a couple ourselves. He loves to judge people. But that’s for another post! 🙂

    If anyone is interested in answering this question: do you think having higher-maintenance children causes people to limit their family size? My kids are all pretty easy-going and mellow. So, sure, having six of them is not much of a problem. Not a big deal. But if I had some kids with really difficult personalities, disablilites of some sort, etc. maybe I wouldn’t have been so gung ho to have a large family. Or am I way off base? Thoughts, anyone?

  41. Anon on Birth Control Issues

    August 15, 2008

    Do you think having higher-maintenance children causes people to limit their family size?

    Three of our kids have been very high maintenance, emotionally. All five are very stubborn and tend to wear me out. Two have chronic health issues. I’ve had horrible pregnancies with bad morning-sickness and a very rare complication that’s shown up in every pregnancy. One miscarriage that wasn’t so bad was followed by one that was terrible and basically made me lose half a year of my life. Very bad PPD after the first two. All five of our children are lucky to be alive due to four separate sets of medical complications. I tell my husband from time to time that given the complications, many women would have stopped after having one child. He doesn’t seem to get it and still holds it against me that we don’t have six children like he had planned.

    I sometimes regret that I have more than two children due to the physical, mental, and emotional toll it has taken on me. But when it comes right down to it, there is not a single one of them I would send back. They are all well-behaved and creative and intelligent and helpful to each other.

    You also have to take into account the role that inspiration can play in determining the size of the Mormon family. It played a great role in ours.

    So to answer your question about whether people limit family size due to high needs children (or difficult pregnancies or PPD): of course they do. But there are also some that don’t.

    (There is a medical term called stoppage. This may be what you’re referring to. Parents who have a child born with a birth defect often stop having children at that point. It’s an widely recognized effect among the field that addresses such things.)

  42. shelah

    August 15, 2008

    My first child is my hardest. I was really glad that I got pregnant with my second when he was barely a year, because at that point, I didn’t realize how hard the next few years would be. Our other three, while they’re still strong-willed and busy, haven’t brought with them the same kinds of challenges of personality as my first has (who is right now screaming in the other room, maybe I should go do something about that?). I think that if he had been second or third or fourth, I probably would have been more inclined to say “this is too hard, I can’t handle another one.” As it is, my dh uses the line on me, “we shouldn’t have another one because what if it was as hard as B?”

  43. Andrew

    August 15, 2008

    Fun post! I grew up in a family of ten kids. We had a great time together, even on the road trips. Once all twelve of us piled into our big blue van and traveled to Mexico (from Salt Lake). A lot of memories came out of that, good and bad. I used to be embarrassed to go to a restaurant with everyone, but my dad never failed to mention that, yes, they were all his.

  44. Jonathan Mahoney

    August 15, 2008

    I’m and 18 year old male. Whilst reading this post and ensuing comments I found myself questioning my own beliefs and asking myself am I just naïve? But then I remind myself of I what I know to be true. I don’t seem myself as naïve.

    I come from a family of 5 kids. I’m the oldest. My family feels so small, it’s boring at times and sometimes I couldn’t even find anybody in the house when I lived at home. I love my family. My parents would have had more children but the last the doctors said that if they had more they would probably die as the last 3 almost did. I admire my parents for everything they’ve done for us. When they were married (I was already 3 years old, different father) they decided to dedicate their lives to us and they certainly have. They put all of they time and energy and money into their children and I’ve never seen either of them complain about it.

    We are not rich. Not even close. We’ve survived on one salary of a substitute teacher for more than two years and then other times on another not so good salary. I didn’t get piano lessons until I was 16, nor did I have a cell phone or my parents give me a car. I never flew until last year, out of my own pocket. But I wouldn’t trade any of it. My siblings are becoming some of the best people I know, they’re amazing.

    I’ve never been hungry or felt like I was missing out, even though I didn’t have some of the things other people had. We have been blessed in so many other ways. It is because of my experiences that I know the potential we all have.

    I’ve dated 2 girls with large family. One for about a year who has 15 kids in her family. When I stay at her house it was some of the best times I’ve had. There is so much diversity, so much emotion and commotion. It’s never boring. Her parents have a hard time sometimes, but they always keep on pushing and they love what they’re doing, to this day they will still probably adopt at least one more having 5 “birth kids.” The other had 8 kids in her family and it’s much the same story. They all loved being a part of the family and nobody would change a thing.

    I can’t help but note the fact that the average number of children per family has dropped immensely over the past few generations. I believe and I’ve seen it reinforced by different studies that a lot of this has to do with what we see on television and what is then accepted by the general population. One of the greatest examples of this is from Brazil. Between 1960 and 2000 the Brazilian fertility rate dropped from 6.3 to 2.3. This coincides with the introduction of television and soap operas features middleclass families with one or two children.

    I think these factors weigh greatly on our perspectives. While parenthood is not a role to be taken lightly I believe it can be a source of joy unmatched by any other. It’s so touching to read of the love you mothers have for your children.

    Of course God has a plan for all of us and for some that plan may only include 2 children or maybe even no children. I think the important thing is that we are open to accept all the children he has in store for us.

    Of course there are many unpredictable factors, but I believe I’m destined to have a large family, perhaps somewhere around 10 children. I thrive on change and growth and eagerly await the experience (while, of course, enjoying what I have while it lasts).

    As a side note, I don’t really understand why people become so heartbroken when they are physically unable to have more children like it’s the end of the world. Of course it would be devastating, but there are some many children out there without parents to love and nurture them. If a person is put in this position then that is where there supposed to be and I think adoption should certainly be considered and prayed about. Just because as a couple you can’t become pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t have more kids.

  45. Kathryn Soper

    August 15, 2008

    Jonathan, I say this with the kindest intent: you might understand once you become a father. And even if you don’t, I hope you’ll be sympathetic to your wife if she’s heartbroken when her childbearing season comes to an end (or never begins).

    And mela, I also say this with the kindest intent: there is one thing I’d trade a potential baby for, and that’s my ability to be a good mother for all my living babies. I believe you expressed an ideal very well. But there’s a difference between the ideal and the real. If we ignore the realities of our limitations we can seriously mess up our lives, and the lives of our children. I confess, before I hit the wall myself, I used to look down on others who thought they couldn’t handle any more kids. I don’t do that anymore. Our bodies, minds, and spirits tell us very clearly when they’re maxed out, and as wise stewards over ourselves we need to listen.

    That said, I agree that we may be called upon to make very real sacrifices as we fill the measure of our creation. Also, we might need to let go of our ways of seeing things and trust God’s point of view. I remember when I was pregnant with my sixth child I started to get scared because I realized that many difficulties might arise as a consequence of adding another child to our family. The spirit spoke very clearly, telling me, “Just let him be born. That’s all that matters.”

    The difference then compared to now is that I hadn’t yet maxed out. I was scared, but I was still capable. God could make me capable again if he so chooses, but barring any dramatic change within myself and/or clear directives through the spirit, I’m done bearing children, and I am confident I’m not erasing somebody.

  46. Heathermommy

    August 15, 2008

    Jonathan,

    I really appreciated your comments. I’m not sure you could ever really understand how it feels to not be able to have children. I think in a lot of ways it is unique to being a woman. But let me share a little of my experience. I was raised in a family of 7 kids and loved it. I always wanted a big family but have only been blessed with two awesome daughters. I have experienced repeated miscarriages and it is heartbreaking. I yearn so much to have another baby. I yearn to be pregnant. I feel a physical ache when I watch my sister nurse her newborn daughter and I wish that was me. My body, my soul wants to be pregnant and I’m not. It is such an intense longing that is not being fulfilled and it is devastating. Right now now we are trying to get pregnant again and it is so frustrating. Your life becomes super focused on cycles and such and it really takes over everything.

    I have always felt like adoption is in our future but it is not an easy process. Nothing about the whole situation is easy. It’s not the end of the world but it is really really hard. I hope you never have to experience it. But really I think to fully apprecaite it you have to be a woman.

  47. eljee

    August 15, 2008

    I have primary infertility (never been pregnant), and have adopted two children. I love my children, and I love adoption. I highly recommend it! But there is a totally separate loss there, when it comes to not being pregnant or giving birth. Adoption doesn’t cure it. It’s a fundamental part of woman’s experience in mortality, and when it is denied you, you don’t just “get over it”. You do heal to a great extent.

    Adoption is not easy either. I think adoptive parents face similar concerns to other parents in terms of deciding what their physical and emotional resources are, both in terms of how many children they think they can parent, and also the costs of the process of getting them here. I only have two children, but have 13 years of “getting them here” under my belt. Yeah, I’m burned out on that part of it. I know there are more, and we are going forward with more, but many people are done with their families by 13 years into it. I’m at that point. I’m fine with parenting more, and know through the spirit that there are more that need to come, so we move forward, but I’m not especially enjoying the process.

    Anyway, Jonathan, I think it’s great to have ideals! But be flexible, too, and realize that these are not definitive answers, and you just can’t predict what life will be like until you’re in a situation. My brother wanted 10 kids, too. He really honestly did. And his plan was to adopt them when and if his wife could no longer bear them. After they had their first, the plan changed drastically! (They now have four, and are done.)

  48. ZD Eve

    August 15, 2008

    I’m the oldest of seven, and while of course I wouldn’t trade a single one of my siblings for anything, large families are definitely a trade-off. Growing up in Utah County in the 1980s when limiting family size was less acceptable and fathers were often less involved in childcare I remember seeing a lot of chronically exhausted, overrun mothers of large families of small children. Sometimes I felt as if I lived in a sea of such exhaustion in my neighborhood and at church, which did absolutely nothing to make me want to be a mother. And it’s not just a matter of strained financial resources, but also one of emotional resources strained beyond the breaking point. I know of middle and younger children in such families who were overlooked by their parents for years and decades, who received virtually no upbringing whatsoever, who essentially raised themselves. Older children raising younger siblings is also a practice that comes with a lot of problems; the older siblings generally lack the emotional maturity to provide the stability and care and clear, consistent boundaries a child needs. The real risk of large families, as I see it, is rampant neglect. Many parents do wonderfully with larger families, but many I know just couldn’t hack the big families that were obligatory at the time I was raised.

    My husband was somewhat like Jonathan when he was his age; he wanted to have 12 children and homeschool them all. (Fortunately he’d mellowed on those ideas considerably by the time we married!) Now due to infertility we’ll be extraordinarily grateful to have just one child.

    As far as adoption goes, most people who’ve never looked into it have absolutely no idea of the immense emotional and financial and even spiritual hurdles that can be involved. I think far too often people see adoption as a matter of simple arithmetic; here is a couple without children, here are some children without parents. Transfer and viola! It’s just nowhere near that easy.

  49. Jonathan Mahoney

    August 16, 2008

    @ Kathryn – I certainly feel for that possibility and recognize how hard it could be. Perhaps maybe not as much as a male. But I have felt yearnings for things I have wanted things with all my being and not been able to attain them. In some ways I think I understand. I sure many could argue I don’t.

    Actually one thing that comes to mind is being immobilized. As most of you are ladies I can use an example that you won’t be able to directly relate to, so we’re “even” (’cause sometimes I’m childlike like that). I think it may feel something like myself as a testosterone driven young teen immobilized by injury for a few months. Just aching in my whole body wanting to be what I once was or thought I might be. Any of you with husbands and/or at-least-teen sons probably know the power testosterone can’t be underestimated. So I figure for infertility you take that feeling and multiply it by the rest of earthly life and you’re somewhere close to it. 😛

    @ Heathermommy – I guess I addressed a bit of your thoughts about a male not being able to understand. I imagine a male would feel some of the same things if his wife was infertile or even moreso if it were him who was unable to reproduce. But I accept that we’ll never really know whether a guy could understand and acknowledge the pain and heartache that is associated with infertility and miscarriages alike. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through that and I didn’t mean to minimize the detrimental effects of that experience at all. God bless.

    @ eljee – I’ve seen how hard adoption is emotionally and financially. I’ve seen a family sell their vehicle and go into debt to successfully complete an adoption, not to mention all the difficulty and stress that can be associated with that. I know though, that in the end, the things are just things and they’re quickly forgotten as well as the pain because the benefit is so great for everybody in the end.

    I think it’s awesome that you’ve been able to adopt. I just don’t want people to get it in their heads that it’s impossible. Sure it’s hard, life is “hard” sometimes, but really, it would be boring if it weren’t. We just need to keep our heads up and press forward.

    Of course I realize that I may never have 10 children, I may never even have 4, and I may not be alive tomorrow. But I know what I feel now and I know the potential that each of us has. My goal is to realize that potential in myself and help others to do the same.

    @ ZD Eve – You bring up another interesting point. Perhaps to some extent women were neglected in the past when families were so large and suffered greatly, just nobody paid attention. Now with the feminist movement women are breaking free from that. I think that could be true in some or maybe many to most cases, but like you say, some people can handle it and some can’t. I’ve seen the neglect too and that’s never a good thing. Weird how sometimes it ruins people and sometimes it makes the “best” people.

    It’s so interesting how our ideals and desires mold and change over time. But, of course, since none of us know what we’ll want tomorrow we must act on what we want today. Carpe diem. 😛

    Thanks for all the thoughts ladies. It’s great to have you all sharing your thoughts, wisdom and experiences. 🙂

  50. Sarah

    August 16, 2008

    I always wanted gads of siblings — I have five, but no more than two individuals share the same set of parents, and no more than three of us have ever lived in the same house at once (I’m the only one of the six of us who’s lived with — or even met — all of the other five.) It was especially annoying at my mom’s ward here in Ohio, where the “Mc” families in the directory all had six or more kids, and we were there with three. The other Mc families also had more cats, dogs, bees, goats, and stuff than us, though we had more books (all of the Mc families, including us, also homeschooled — it was kind of unnerving for other kids in the ward.) In any case, having three kids (at any one time) doesn’t seem like a big family to me any time except when we go to a restaurant and there are only booths for four and tables for twelve. My great-grandmother (not LDS) had thirteen kids, for heaven’s sake! I’m not sure where I stand at the moment, but I think I’d be capable of handling as many as five or six under-10-year-olds at a time. My Primary classes usually melt down when the seventh kid shows up, so I figure that’s a solid upper boundary. At least intellectually, for a not-married, maybe-I’ll-just-volunteer-with-Big-Brothers-Big-Sisters, 20-something.

    I do find myself amazed when I see moms of lots of kids who take them out shopping. I’m sure it’s a lot of factors — childcare, kids want to come, needing help loading the car, etc. — but I think I’d try practically anything else, including shopping at midnight when the kids are asleep, before doing what they attempt. Then again, I also think parents who expect a 2-year-old to behave herself in an Outback Steakhouse are insane, and my parents went out of their way to avoid taking more than one kid ANYWHERE when we were young, so.

    Oh… and the limiting factor on family size in my family has always, always, always been how the mom feels about stuff. My grandmother who felt that children had ruined her life had two daughters; my mom swears that if she’d been smart enough to marry my stepdad right out of school instead of fifteen years and two failed marriages later, that she’d have been one of those moms with 12 kids and her own show on the Discovery Channel. I’m incredibly stubborn, my next-youngest maternally-related half-sibling is CRAZY and once ran away from home in a diaper when she was barely old enough to walk, and my mom still says she’d like to have three times as many kids as she did. Though that may also be because she really wishes she could have had a boy. I have evidence that my great-grandmother (had two children thirteen years apart — this was an Irish Catholic woman at the turn of the last century) really wanted more kids, and evidence that my great-great-grandmother whose life was pretty freaking tragic (conceived out of incest type stuff) was REALLY okay with just having three girls and being done, done, done. She loved having her grandchildren and great-grandchildren around, though.

    The personalities of the kids seemed almost irrelevant, in any case; medical conditions were the same way — my baby brother, born when my stepmom was 40, had underdeveloped lungs and other problems, and my stepmom had to spend the last six weeks of her pregnancy in bed… she got pregnant again when my brother was a whopping five months old. I’m 99% certain that the only limiting factor was me — my brother was born about sixteen months after I moved across country to live with my mom. I made her life difficult (mostly on purpose — I was VERY annoyed my dad got remarried.) And I would bet that my stepmom was perfectly happy with having one boy and one girl.

    Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever once heard any man in my family say anything in particular about how many kids he would have liked to have had. Guys my age will talk about that stuff with me, but not my dad or uncle or stepdad (or others from that or earlier generations.) Probably a cultural thing.

    Oh! And on continuing after you turn 35? One of our fellow Mc families started when their mom was 21 or so; their oldest child is 21 herself, and the kids are all evenly spaced out — it’s something like 21, 19, 17, 15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 5, 3, 2, and the new baby. I was the VT for the second-oldest girl and she was SO ANNOYED that her mom was pregnant again, she flat-out refused to believe it until about a month before the delivery. It was pretty funny, because I had the fourth girl in my CTR-8 class at the same time, and she and the next girl up (who sat right behind us in Sharing Time) both thought it was pretty neat and talked about it incessantly. They were mostly rooting for another girl, I think (they got their wish; all the kids younger than 13 are girls.) Anyway, it can be done. I think their oldest girl is determined to have two and stop, though now that she’s married she may have changed her mind. The 19-year-old keeps saying she’d rather just join the Army. ^_^

  51. wendy

    August 16, 2008

    Jennie, this was wonderful to read! I used to want a dozen kids. We are now grateful to have one and we have no idea if we will have more. Thank you for slugging your husband for his judgmental comment. 🙂 Reading that having one was the hardest for you was very validating! It is HARD, even if it is wonderful and fun and joyful.

    I have found that I feel compelled to explain to people that we got married late and took a long time to adopt, so that’s why, at 40, we have one baby. Sometimes it’s to express my own longings and sometimes it’s because I don’t want anybody to think I was too career oriented (oh-so-far from that). I don’t think anybody has ever *said* anything to elicit that explanation, but I imagine the unspoken thoughts are there.

    I laughed out loud at the implications of matching outfits. Our son is lucky to leave the house in matching clothes. I can’t imagine being able to get six kids to all match!

  52. rk

    August 16, 2008

    Jonathan,

    That is great that you want to have a large family. I also come from a large family as well. If you don’t mind, I will offer some free advice. Be sure that the one you marry feels the same way about big families as you do. You would probably be better off marrying someone from a large family who understands what it is like to have a lot of children. Many people from smaller families are completely overwhelmed by a lot of children. Also, make sure that whoever you marry is very strong emotionly and who has her act together. There are a lot of cute but ditzy chicks out there that are not for you. You should also make sure that she is not a pushover or your children will terrorize your home and I promise you that you will beg to be snipped after 2-3 children.

    PS I’m not accusing anyone in particular out there of being ditzy, but you know who I’m talking about. I’m sure you had roommates who fit this description.

  53. Jonathan Mahoney

    August 16, 2008

    Haha, that’s awesome advice rk. Thanks. 😛 I definitely recognize the importance of marrying a girl that can handle her own and really understands what having a large family means. It is funny, you’re right, a lot of people from small families who think the love large families are often overwhelmed by them. Myself, it drives me. Chaos is fuel for growth and a boredom deterrent. 😛

  54. Millie

    August 17, 2008

    I stopped at five because I wanted my brain back. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever show up again.

    People take others’ childbearing habits too personally, I think. If you have three and your neighbor has eight, there’s no “live and let live” there. Your neighbor is either a crazy, environmentally ignorant breeder, or a better mother than you are. If you have eight and your neighbor has three, your neighbor is either living the good life and is spoiled rotten by her “small” number of children or is to be pitied because her loins (or her husband’s) just weren’t up to par.

    During our childbearing years, my family have made comments like “Aren’t you guys done yet?” and when my baby was screaming, “Yeah, go have twelve more just like her,” which were really hard not to take offense from. At the time, being a hormonal new mom and hypersensitive anyway, they seemed like giant jerks but now I know, it’s less about me and more about them and their insecurities. That’s how it is with everyone I meet. They’re either generous enough to be supportive of me and my breeding habits, or they feel insecure about some childbearing or family aspect in their past and feel the need to be petty and small about our vast numbers.

    Our favorite comment came from a guy at work who couldn’t believe that 1) we had five kids, 2) the five kids had the same two parents, 3) there were no baby-mamas or -daddys from previous relationships and 4) we were still married after producing so many offspring.

    I agree that the most important thing is to be proud of the size of our families, large or “small.”

  55. Jennie

    August 17, 2008

    Millie–so true! Nothing brings out people’s emotions like reproduction.

  56. Millie

    August 17, 2008

    I would also add – no matter how many children you have, TRY TO SPACE THEM OUT. “Try” is the operative word there. For me, having mine 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years apart has made all the difference – I’d be crazy, if not.

  57. christine

    August 17, 2008

    I always wanted a large family and now have 5 children. However, I never anticipated having teenagers and toddlers at the same time! Every stage of motherhood is a challenge- when we had two little ones I thought I would never be able to handle more. We waited a few years and had two more really close together. Then between job changes/ insurance problems, unemployment and back to grad school we never got to a place to have more for over 5 years. We literally dropped our 4th child on the bus to kindergarten and drove to the hospital to have our little caboose. I always found that the more I had, the more I wanted ( I would have had 1 more but was already 38 and didn’t want any more risk)

    It is challenging- no question! from time, to money, to balancing. I came from a family of 3 so it has been challenging for me to accept the limitations of order with 5! My mom loves to give me “free” advice and tell me how to do a better job with my kids. I finally got smart and told her that my new rule was I didn’t have to listen to anyone who had raised fewer children than me!

    Being a new mom is tough, being with 1 baby alone is tough, having two little ones is tough, being outnumbered is tough, adopting is tough, raising teens and twos together is tough. Becoming an empty nester is tough, grandparenting can be tough. PARENTING IS TOUGH! maybe we should just concentrate on what we need to do and be loving and supportive of each other- no matter what stage or size we are in.

  58. Ginger

    August 23, 2008

    This is a delightful post! Thank you so much, especially for listing mental as a reason to possibly not have more (mine!). I have trouble enough being patient with my 4, I can’t imagine two more. Except if DH gets one of his current business deals to go through and we become disgustingly rich and I can afford a nanny and housekeeper. Then I will consider a couple more. hahaha 🙂

  59. makakona

    August 23, 2008

    i really enjoyed this post, too. we’ve been having this discussion with family, friends, and church members a lot recently. i think SO much of it is regional. we have four kids and in utah, no one bats an eye at that. here in southern california, however, people think we’re cuh-RAZY. we have small age gaps, too, which only exacerbates the reactions we get at the grocery store. (and yes, i take them all to the store with me. sure, i could find a sitter, but how would my kids ever learn how to act appropriately in public if they were never allowed to see the light of day? fact is, we’ve got kids. people can deal with it.)

    were we rich and able to afford help with the house, we’d probably have a bazillion kids. as it stands, my sanity is stretched a bit thin and we’re hanging in there with what we have. we both always wanted more kids (he was oldest of six, i was oldest of two with a seven year gap), but i think we’re at a point where we feel like we’d be okay with what we have. economics being what they are, we may have no choice but to stop here. we’re single income in a high-cost area and while we make do and do without quite a bit, there’s only so far we can go. that’s a hard pill to swallow because sometimes i feel like i’m being unfaithful… surely there’s a way to fit another kid into the budget SOMEhow! as it stands, we have four under five, so we’re okay to not make any rash decisions any time soon. my uterus needs a vacation!

    we have four girls and yes, the matching outfits work wonders. they’re never identical, but always coordinate, and the smiles and sweet comments usually come from older generations. people our age, again, think we are cuh-RAZY. we don’t have any friends who live around here who are our age and have as many kids as we do. it seems like something that went out of style a generation or two ago. two is the norm, three is a handful, and four is a “big family” around these here parts.

  60. anon for this one

    August 23, 2008

    I know that alot of people think they would have a lot more kids if they were only rich, and could have hired help. I almost think life is harder for kids raised that way. I was raised by “rich” parents, in a large family (9 kids) and it was no picnic. Most of my siblings will have nothing to do with the church now that they are adults. They think life should be handed to them.

    Being raised with baby-sitters and maids, a workaholic dad and a stay at home mother, who always seemed overwhelmed, was not ideal. I’m not saying money doesn’t make some things easier, but it is no reason to have more kids than you can or should handle!

    I know many children of wealthy parents who have similar feelings. Not enough mommy-daddy time.

  61. An Anonymously uber-long entry

    August 24, 2008

    I am one of nine children, and I love it. We’re close in age and even as adults we love to get together. My mother recognizes that huge broods are not for every mother, but all her life she felt compelled to have a large family, and she gave birth to nine of us in 12 years (the first 6 came while living in liberal Palo Alto in the 70s—talk about the stares and disapproving head-shakes she got!). She does not regret the sacrifice for an instant. I won’t sugar-coat it. At times it’s been rough. Large families are bound to have their share of problems for the simple fact that there are more individuals—each with unique needs! But amid any competition and fighting, I definitely also found (and continue to find) support, loyalty, and nurturing in my siblings. In the big picture, the joys outweigh the sorrows. It definitely helps me be less selfish, to have siblings who rely on me. When I have had trials, I have found volumes of support and compassion in my siblings. (And you should hear us when we get together and sing! No—I’m not one of the Osmonds). 😉

    I am observing a theme…many commenters who are “survivors” of large families wanted “small” families (or at least smaller than the families they came from), while those from large families who really enjoyed it also want to have large families. So far, each of my married siblings have wanted “large” families (but I know that one sibling was responding to an unspoken expectation she must have felt from us to multiply from the way she and her husband delicately let us all know that their 4th would be their last—and my sisters have had lots of discussion as to whether or not it’s harder today (especially logistically and financially) to raise large families than it was in my mom’s day…in some ways even my mom agrees it’s harder today—though she does point out that we were all in cloth diapers, which was no cakewalk). 😉

    Anyway, I think that aside from Jonathan, I am the only other unmarried person commenting on this? I’ve seen this topic come up in lds blogs etc before, and I am always struck at 1) how many comments the topic inspires, and 2) how strongly everyone seems to feel about the topic! “It’s our duty to bring spirits to the earth!” “But it’s our duty to be good parents, and I know my limit—it’s 3!” “It’s best to wait until you’re at least in your late twenties and you’re matured yourself—what are those young parents thinking!” “Only two children? Why, they’re hardly even parents!”

    I remember as a young twenty something, being at WalMart with my mom. I was observing a very young couple with three young children, and (still being single, and perhaps a little jealous, and probably also feeling unready myself to be a mother), made some sort of condescending comment to my mother about how young and naïve they appeared to me. My mother’s response was very instructive and humbled me right away—and I have never forgotten it: She turned very serious, and said to me “but they are trying so hard, and Heavenly Father is so pleased to see families, and parents doing their best.” Oops. Note to self: Do not judge. I knew absolutely nothing about this young family, and yet there I was judging them—for what reason?! How was their family life any of my business whatsoever?

    I know someone who is one of 7 children, and her parents would have had more if they could. The parents are wonderful. They are more-or-less against birth control, but also fairly judgmental of those who deliberately have small families. My friend (who does want children) didn’t tell her parents that she was on birth control for the first year when she was newly-wed, for fear of her parents’ disapproval. (Never mind that they were still parents w/in 2 years of being married!)

    Anyway, this is all just anecdotal and observations, because the discussion is quite interesting to me (I just spent 2 hours reading all the comments!)

    Another observation. In Jonathan’s posts, I sense a terrific amount of optimism, and I find it refreshing—because I recognize the 18-year-old me in him. I once viewed things in a very similar way, and I kind of miss slight and gradual steps toward being a bit more jaded (I’m only 30, and still highly optimistic, but you know). Because you know what? Faith moves mountains. And it’s kids with faith and optimism like this that will make a difference in the world. In contrast, in the posted responses to Jonathan, I see women… how to best describe this? Well, women who have experienced the reality of raising children and a family… and this real-life experience has matured many of you, and…well, erased aspects of that wonderful naïve faith. Not to say that you don’t have faith! I’m certain that you do, and that the decisions you have made have increased your understanding that God has a unique plan for each of us—and that He often knows better than us, but yes—you have discovered that life has definitely throw some curveballs. But I don’t think there’s much harm in starting a family with faith that God will support us in our righteous desires. ?

    Something else I am always struck by when I read these kinds of conversations is I guess just a bit of jealousy (in me) that all you married women are even in the position to decide how many children you will have “definitely space your children 2.5-3 years apart…” “I have had six and I’m definitely finished…”

    I have always wanted a HUGE family, 😉 but I am turning 30 in October, and I have never been married. A couple Christmases ago I went through a really difficult breakup (but I’m over it and THANK GOODNESS I listened to the spirit on that one—I’d much rather be single and happy than miserable and married to a lousy husband—which he would have been). But anyway. At that time, I finally came face to face with the fact that I may not start having children before my sisters are finished having children…and it was a very painful realization (though I do still have unmarried brothers…so my kids should at have at least a few cousins their age…) I speak from the shoes of someone not who is infertile, but unable to start my family simply for the fact that I haven’t found my husband yet…and believe me when I say I feel the biological clock ticking, and the yearning for a family! I find that what had been an optimistic assumption (when I was 18) that I would have 10 kids has changed to a more realistic view that I’ll feel incredibly blessed if I reach 5… and now, not knowing when I will marry and with the clock still ticking… I know I have to be happy with what Heavenly Father will bless me with!

    But unlike many young newlyweds who feel the luxury of waiting a few years, I have a feeling I’ll be willing to have mine right away and close-together, if that’s what it will take to have a family. I’m not despairing. But I do look up to women who married later and still had 5-6 or even more children as a source of inspiration.

    Anyway, this was a lot of spewing (I obviously feel strongly about this one, too!). Thanks for reading. 😀

  62. wendy

    August 24, 2008

    Anonymously Uber-Long, I like your observations (and your name). I had to smile when I read your comparison of Jonathan to those “who have experienced the reality of raising children and a family.” I think you may have some of us pegged.

    For my part, it seems that some of my reactions to Jonathan were based on a few things: 1) feeling a little judged by him, 2) a wary eye for a man who sounds like he might not be sensitive to his wife’s limitations–I will give J the benefit of the doubt on all of that, and it doesn’t really matter as much as #3) sorrow for my own loss of idealism.

    I really do grieve that I haven’t kept that zeal he so clearly has. Though my faith has matured, I’m not sure it’s as strong as it was when I was in my twenties, before a few really tough things hit.

    Gotta run, so my ideas aren’t quite finished, but that’s where I’m coming from in a nutshell.

  63. makakona

    August 24, 2008

    “anon for this one” said: I know that alot of people think they would have a lot more kids if they were only rich, and could have hired help. I almost think life is harder for kids raised that way. I was raised by “rich” parents, in a large family (9 kids) and it was no picnic. Most of my siblings will have nothing to do with the church now that they are adults. They think life should be handed to them.

    my only point was that for MY sanity, i need some more help with the housework than four kids under five and a husband with a random work schedule can provide. if i didn’t have to worry about washing windows and cooking three meals a day, i’d have a lot more time and mental faculties left to tend to more babies. i know i’ll some day look back and realize that these are the golden years. but today? i’m really tired and the kitchen floor is sticky.

    my husband is the oldest of six and grew up in a family without much money (six kids within seven years and one week, single and paltry income, higher cost of living area). he is the only one who is active and all of his siblings expect everything to be handed to them. it’s not just the rich kids who turn out that way!

  64. eljee

    August 24, 2008

    I think there are very few people out there who truly have control over how many children they have. Even then, I think that control is often more of an illusion than a reality, since all of us are dependent upon God to a great extent to provide us with the fertility (or lack of it) to make those choices. Some people will have fewer children than they planned, other will have more than they planned. Some will have exactly what they planned, but many aspects of their journey will test them along the way.

    I wanted 5 or 6 children when I got married. I am lucky to have 2, and I think I will end up with 3 or 4 by the time we’re done. Years of infertility forced me to alter my original dreams. But right now, I am thrilled with what I have. I think that my family size is perfect for me right now, and if/when I get four children, it will be perfect for me then. I don’t lament number or spacings of children. I certainly have gone through alot of grieving to get to this point, but right now, I’m very happy with what the Lord has given me.

    I think this concept of faith in family-building is an interesting one. Are dreams and faith the same thing? I’m not sure about that. I don’t think it’s been a lack of faith that has left me with 2 children when I originally planned for 6. Quite the contrary, I think it’s been a strong faith that has seen me through the complete redefining of everything I believed about childbearing and parenthood. That faith has been tested to the core at times. Maybe I haven’t moved certain mountains, but I sure have climbed them! I don’t think I have less faith than I did years ago, and I don’t think I have less faith than people who have produced and reared large families. Faith is ultimately about submitting to God’s will in our lives, not about making sure that the dreams of our youth, however righteous they may be, come to pass.

    I definitely agree that young people like Jonathan need dreams, goals, and eternal desires. But I still maintain the need for flexibility. I would have saved myself a great deal of heartache if my beliefs about my future would not have been so rigid. But I think that idealism is part of youth, and probably an important part of it. I think the challenge with Jonathan’s thoughts came, for me, when he tried to give advice and counsel to people in situations he has yet to experience.

  65. Justine

    August 24, 2008

    Anonymously uber-long, One of my dear friends is from a family of 12 kids. Her mother had her FIRST at the age of 33.

    Yeah.

    I still can’t think about that very long without my jaw dropping to the ground.

  66. Laurie Farmer

    August 25, 2008

    I am a mother of 10 kids. I have 6 teenage girls at the moment. Today the youngest began kindergarten. I had the youngest the year I turned 40, the oldest being 14! Fun times. We drive a 15 passenger van, try to be on time to church every Sunday, to get the 2 side pews….overwhelm guests often…Fun times….

  67. Jennie

    August 25, 2008

    Laurie,
    I bow down to you, O goddess mother!

    I can’t belive you just said you have 6 teenage daughters and didn’t elaborate! Details, woman!

  68. Lindsay

    August 25, 2008

    I have some cousins that had a big family, and several of them have big families, and we don’t know any of their names because there are so many of them, and my aunt, who is now a grandma to 22 grandkids, doesn’t know their names, and I asked my cousin if another cousin had their baby yet, and she replied “I have no idea. I have 20 nieces and nephews–I can’t keep track of them.” In fact, at the last family reunion some of her grandkids thought my new sister-in-law (who looks really young) was one of their cousins because the kids don’t know who’s who! Funny, yet sad.

    While I would love to have more than one kid, I am lucky after 10 years of trying to have the one I’ve got. I also feel fortunate that when I take my daughter to her grandparents house, they know her name. Of course, they have one grandchild.

    I have friends who were in big families, and they all mention resentment at not getting enough time with their parents one on one. My kid will probably be resentful that she got too much one on one time!

    I do remember my parents taking us for pizza in Jackson Hole, and us getting weird looks because we had 4 kids in our family, and the pitcher on our table had lemonade. Funny, I never thought we were a big family.

    Final note–it doesn’t matter if you have one kid or 12, if you are the parent who had the child that runs up and starts banging on the piano during sacrament meeting, you are going to look like a bad parent to the rest of the ward if you don’t go up and stop them.

  69. Anon for this one

    August 25, 2008

    This is a lovely post. I’m sure you are a wonderful mother Jennie.

    I’m the oldest of 6. It was growing up in a larger family that made me decide not to have a large family myself. My parents did a great job, and some of my siblings want to have large families too. But because of my personality, temperament, and/or personal limitations, I get very easily overwhelmed in large groups of people. I often felt overlooked by my parents – when there are that many kids, it is usually the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, and I was quiet and shy. My parents also gave me a lot of responsibility at an early age, along with the expectation that I be a “good example” and leader to my siblings, which, since I was already prone to perfectionism, weighed heavily on my shoulders. I want to be able to be fully present for my kids in a way my parents were never able to, not out of any wrongdoing on their part, but out of the sheer logistics of supporting and maintaining a large household.

    As it turns out, my husband and I have fertility issues that make it highly unlikely that we could have more than a couple of kids even if we really wanted to. If I had wanted 10 kids, finding out about our infertility might have been even more devastating than it already was. But as it is, I’m happy with my one little boy, and will be happy with one or maybe two more, if that’s what the Lord has in store for us.

  70. Anonymous to protect the innocent

    August 26, 2008

    Hi there, little sister with the uber-long post. I guess I can’t put my name on this comment without outing you, huh? 🙂

    I spent a couple hours reading all these comments a few days ago too, but (for once) didn’t comment because I have way too many thoughts on the big-family vs. small-family issue — really, I could easily write my own full-length essay.

    But here’s one little story actually responding to the original post: We rarely if ever match (although I try for coordination on Sundays if I’m awake enough in the morning to do so.) However, the other day when we were headed out for dinner (I’m in the first trimester with baby #5 and have bad morning sickness and exhaustion, and have practically given up cooking,) my husband suddenly noticed that, by sheer coincidence, everyone in the family was wearing a red shirt, except for me with a blue plaid shirt on. I asked my 8-year-old daughter if she’d like me to change into a red shirt, and she said she would, so I did, for the heck of it. At dinner, a guy at the restaurant wanted to know what was the occasion — family picture day? — and when we told him the true story, he refused to believe us.

    Okay, and so actually in addition to that story here are a few thoughts that would go in my family-size* essay:

    1. Much of the developed world is headed for a swift demographic demise if they cannot reverse their birth rates — many countries are already below a “replacement” birth rate (which would be 2.0 children — one child to replace each parent.) Russia, Greece, Japan, and many other countries are already in this decline and they simply cannot maintain the life they have built if they do not repopulate themselves.

    2. Some things that have benefited modern societies have also, I believe, contributed to a change in how we value children. Protecting children from child labor means that children are not usually an economic benefit to parents, and social security means we don’t depend on our children to care for us in our old age — so, economically speaking, having children (in societies with these advantages) has shifted from being a benefit to being a liability. You can see this (now generations-old) shift of perspective when our conversations focus on “how many children we can handle” or “how many children we can provide for” instead of “how many children we need to keep the farm running/care for us in our old age.” Although I do not feel judgmental of individuals who make their decisions based on their individual circumstances and through listening to the Spirit, YET, I can’t help feeling that some of these subconscious assumptions (or even realities) about children being a liability rather than a benefit can’t help but factor into how we (as a society in general) make these decisions. And once *everyone* decides they can’t afford children, society as a whole won’t be able to sustain itself.)

    (Side note: As a missionary in France and Belgium, when I would show people the photo of my huge family, the MOST common response I got was a sigh, followed by, “I’d love to have a large family, but I can’t afford it.” The irony is that, while on an individual (micro) level, this is true (or at least true according to their expectations of what is necessary to provide for a child (complete with entire college tuition saved ahead of time, etc.,) on a larger societal (macro) level, their countries can’t afford NOT to have larger families than they are currently having.)

    3. Utah Mormons still have one of the highest birth rates in the world — yet, as many of us are observing, our birth rate is nevertheless still in decline. What I do think keeps it afloat (and what keeps people outside the Church still having babies, as well, and what motivated me to have children long before I ever thought about population sustainability) is that we look beyond economic benefit, and value having children for spiritual and emotional reasons.

    4. I definitely saw the darker side of large Utah Valley families firsthand myself, so I can relate to those who’ve commented about the serious neglect that can occur. However, neglect can and does happen in families of any size; I think it has as much to do with the emotional health of any couple as it does with the size of the family — other than that in a large dysfunctional family, more people are affected. And of course there is a certain amount of what I would call “benign neglect” — where parents would give more if only they could, but still manage to convey their love for and desire to spend time with their kids. I tend to believe that for any of the inherent problems of large families, there can be offsetting benefits. For example, my oldest benefited from much more individual parent time, but my younger kids benefit from far easier access to playmates. And I comfort myself that my older kids will be blessed for the sacrifices imposed on them by making room for younger siblings — and I’ve *definitely* seen joy in their lives when they take opportunities to love and serve their brothers and sisters.

    Well, that’s probably most of my essay, right there. (I guess it’s just a question of my getting going, and then I don’t stop.)

    *I didn’t even notice until reading through this again that “family-size essay” was a double-entendre.

  71. Jennie

    August 26, 2008

    Anonymous/innocent–you have made some really great points. I especially like what you said about how it’s not only parents of large families who neglect children. I think it’s incredibly easy for a parent to lose themselves in their own interests when there is just one or two children. It’s a lot easier to park one or two kids in front of a movie or video games than it is for a whole bunch of kids.

    There is a lot of distress in teenagers today (if you look at all the eating disorders, drug use, sexual activity, and self-inflicted injury) and I think one of the reasons is because they feel so forgotten by their parents. It’s easy to feel forgotten in a big family too, but I think there is also a very strong sense than each child is needed in a big family. You simply need a lot of hands when there is so much to be done in a big family.

    Before I started having kids I thought that I would just have them until the idea of having one more made me want to die. So I ended up with six and that’s where we’ll stop. Most people assume that if you have many kids that conception must be easy-peasy and that you must be incredibly fertile (and that there are some “accidents” in there too.) I sometimes want to shout that I have, believe it or not, struggled with infertility, miscarriages and a still-birth. I have suffered so much to get these darn kid here! They are each so wanted. But I know that people, especially non-members, assume that nobody would have a large family on pupose.

  72. christine

    August 26, 2008

    Just a funny little story- we just got back from a cross-country flight and as I trooped my five kids through the airport security, all around the airport were newspapers with large headlines proclaiming “Utah has the highest birthrate in the nation!” the only thing I could think as I tried to herd them all into getting their shoes back on was “no freaking kidding.”

    -On another note- my husband’s last (of eight) sibling was married this weekend. Nothing can beat the feeling we had of all of us being in the temple together- Eight siblings, eight spouses. For my in-laws it was the highlight of their lives and you can bet they thought all their sacrifice through the years was worth it. I’m not sure how they did it-but it can be done! And we all get along too!

  73. Anonymous to protect the innocent

    August 26, 2008

    “Just keep having them until the idea of having one more made me want to die” — LOL! I think your approach to family planning is not too unlike mine. I’ve also really worked to get my kids here, although for different reasons (health challenges.)

    I wish I could remember which guy it was on one of the LDS blogs who, when this topic came up, said, “We have eight children. We only wanted two children, but we wanted to have two GOOD ones.” So funny.

  74. Anonymous post of epic proportions

    August 27, 2008

    Thank you for this post, and for all the comments. I, too, am the oldest of six kids, and became the second-mom to the younger kids. I loved the responsibility (typical Type A, oldest child syndrome here) that my parents afforded me, and the bonds that connected me to my younger siblings. Did we have lots of money? No. Did we go on fancy vacations? No. Did we have instant playmates? Yes. Did we have an instant support network? Yes, and still do. I wouldn’t trade any of my siblings (although during my teenage years when my little brother would embarrass me by wearing my, uh, unmentionables to answer the door when dates came to pick me up, I might have been persuaded to trade HIM in!) for more money or for better vacations.

    I wanted eight kids of my own. Then I had miscarriage after miscarriage and alternated between blaming God and blaming myself. What was I doing wrong? Should I have been doing something I wasn’t? What it boiled down to was a temper tantrum on my part: “WHY aren’t you (God) giving ME what I want.” One of my wisest friends suggested that I try *gasp* reframing my prayers in the form of questions, such as, “What would you have me do instead of having babies right now? or What can I learn from this experience to help prepare me for future events?” as opposed to demanding Him to bend His will to mine. Anyone who has a two-year old can probably relate. Sigh.

    After six years years of painful fertility treatments, multiple miscarriages, and emotional/spiritual contrition, I got pregnant. I don’t think it hinged on whether I was or wasn’t doing the right things. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Biology happens. I do NOT think that God was purposely keeping me from having children at that point. However, I DO think that HE can aid us in making the most of and getting the most out of difficult situations. I taught HS for over a decade, got a Master’s degree, traveled to Europe and all over the states with my husband, forging an amazing relationship with him in the process.

    Four horrendous pregnancies later, which included being hooked up to an IV for hydration, vomiting non-stop for months-to the point where a home health nurse had to help care for me, placenta previa, toxemia blah blah blah you name it, I probably had it-I have four beautiful, wonderful children. And that is all I can handle. I mentioned in passing to God that perhaps He could have given me twins or triplets had He expected me to have more than four children given the deplorable condition I was in during my pregnancies. I thought the idea of a twofer was brilliant! There was no response from Him, however, so I’m pretty sure He’s fine with my having only four.

    I spent years desperately dreaming of being pregnant, then months wishing the pregnancies were over. People who know me now have no idea what I went through to get those kids here, so I guess it’s just dangerous to judge anyone’s situation because there’s more to it than one realizes. Case in point: I was told by a well-meaning (I think) home teacher that I was going to hell b/c I’d been married for several years and wasn’t pregnant yet. I snapped and harangued him with the list of procedures I had been undergoing and he certainly left my home more sheepishly than he entered it.

    If we can all give everyone the benefit of the doubt, that everyone is doing their best with their circumstances, we’d all have more free time on our hands:-)

    My point is that even though I wanted a big, big family, circumstances prevented that from happening. It’s a personal decision that really shouldn’t be anyone else’s business..ha ha…I live in Utah now, so I know how THAT works! Have as many kids as you feel you’re able, care for them, love them, bring them up to be contributing members of society, and then sleep well at night knowing that you’re doing your part.

  75. Mish

    September 12, 2008

    I enjoyed this post! I am ‘only’ 24, have been married for 5 great years, and have 3 children. I grew up in UT and I guess it never occurred to me that having a bunch of kids in my early 20’s was strange….until my husband joined the Navy and we moved to VA. What an eye-opening experience! I love having my kids, and I have a lot more energy than some of the older moms-of-tots in my ward. Yes, I too get comment after comment concerning my age, number of kids, yadayadayada. Families are fun. I think the Lord is pleased with any family courageous enough to bring a child into the world AND take care of it during a time when families seem to matter the least in society.

  76. Katherine

    October 10, 2008

    I realize I’m coming to this conversation a bit late, but this is a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I’m from a family of 5 children. Growing up Mormon, I absorbed the idea that limiting family size was a bit iniquitous and that it’s my duty to have a lot of children–as many as I can handle (but err on the side of a lot rather than a few). Once I got to college and was actually reaching marriageable age, the idea of having lots of kids rather scared me. I get overwhelmed by logistics (I have trouble balancing more than 4 classes a semester) and I get emotionally fatigued very quickly. I firmly believe that Motherhood will be my most important calling in life, but I can hardly take care of my own needs and can’t imagine having the emotional and physical energy for more than 3-4 children (though my ideas will obviously change once I begin having the young ‘uns).

    Anyway, in order to resolve my guilt surrounding this issue, I did a bit of investigating. This is going to sound kind of funny, but I looked up every single one of the current First Presidency and Twelve Apostles and recorded how many children they each have. Turns out half of them have 3 or fewer children. The other half have 5-10 children each. Anyway, I realized that the Lord’s commandment is simply to have children. The number really isn’t as important as fulfilling the call to be a mother/father, and there’s room for all kinds of diversity within the Church.

  77. Stacey

    October 19, 2008

    This is so us right now!! I’m expecting number six and have experienced every single thing in your list!! Thanks for the laugh!

  78. Amy

    February 17, 2009

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    It is so nice to know someone out there understands my life. I have to say you are a fortuante mother if your large family has many daughters that can be dressed like twins. Somehow it doesn’t have the same affect with my sons–they just look like a basketball team or something.

  79. jordy

    May 31, 2009

    First off, I am one of seven children from a Mormon family. To be truthful, I find your blog post offensive. Practically each paragraph talks all about how much YOU are suffering due to the large amount of children you have. Have you ever thought that its not so fun for your kids, either? You most likely grew up in a medium to small family, which is why you thought it would be so wonderful to have a dozen kids, or whatever, in the first place.

    As an older child of a family of seven, I was changing diapers, cleaning, cooking, and babysitting my younger siblings before I was ten years old. Where other children would be playing and enjoying their childhood, I was helping to raise my parents children. All because of my parent’s (specifically my mom’s) insatiable need for babies. Babies, not children. Once the infant reached about age 3, she would have another baby, and we (older children) would take care of the children she left behind. I recently talked to my younger brother, and asked him about what it was like growing up. He said that he felt like no one ever wanted him around. My mom would hand him off to me or my older siblings, while she tended to the newest baby. None of us wanted to care for him (or any of the children we were handed), my mom because she always had a baby, and us older children because we were children missing out on childhood.

    It is sad for everyone involved.

  80. Jennie

    June 1, 2009

    Coming from a small family can be a drag too. How about having a parent try to micromanage every aspect of your life? Or having nobody to hang out with? If you ask around I think you’ll find that feeling “not wanted” is just as possible for children in a small family.

    I personally like my kids older. Babies are not my favorite. So I really enjoy spending time with my children as they get bigger.

    Do my kids have more responsibilities than their friends with one or two siblings? Absolutely. And that’s one of the benefits. While their friends spend all day playing video games while their moms make their beds, my kids are learning to work hard and watch out for each other. I think taking care of each other is a good thing.

  81. Katey

    September 10, 2009

    I am a youngest child of 5, I have two brother’s and a sister from my “sperm” donor, and a sister from my mother and i was the 5th. I am a mother of 4 wonderful children and one one the way, I can understand some of the hardship’s and i have to say it has been a blessing to have the support from my step dad and mother and my mother in law..
    I have been with my husband for 8 years. we started our “family” when he was 16 and i had just turned 19. I love him to death but i have learned that the expectations i have for him will never come true and he helps out when he wants to help out and i am the main on to take care of the kids.
    I remember growing up going to alot of differant things camping, skiing, fishing. The siciety here anymore dont do that.. they think that is u dont have any money to stay home and sit around.. no i like to go running around and playing with the kids.. cause as much as i hate to say they are entertained so am i!.
    Oh and my oldest child is 6 years old and i have a 4 year old along with a 3 year old and 2 year old three girls and 1 boy.

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