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.