Opinion Saturday: Big Families

I am really excited to be nearing completion on my book about mothering a large family, and I am in need of some voices to help round out the final chapter. If you grew up in a large family (> 3 kids) or if you have more than three children, I hope you’ll consider answering the following questions:

What do you think is one of the tough things about living in or raising a large family?

What do you think are some of the greatest benefits of being in a large family?

You have until Wednesday to answer. You can answer either or both questions. Be sure to say whether you are writing from the parent’s perspective or the child’s perspective– I am hoping to get feedback from both. I will email to ask permission before I use anyone’s words in my book. I will also be picking one comment as my Golden Keyboard winner this week. So come on, big-family people! Hit me with your best thought!

{ 51 Comments }

  1. From a father of 4 boys, I find one of the most challenging things is feeling like I spend enough quality one on one time with each of them. Sure we limit the number allowed to gang up on me in wrestling matches, but that isn’t the same as climbing a tree, looking under rocks for crayfish or having breakfast at the local diner.

    The ironic thing is sometimes I feel like I capitalize on their numbers and expect them to play with one another rather than expect personal time with me (which some seem to need more than others!)

    I guess the secret is to be intentional about spending focused time when you can and cherish the moments when it happens because the rest of the time a flying body tackle could happen at any moment …

    Good thing our Heavenly Father is the Supreme Multitasker!

  2. As the oldest of 5, I’m unable to think of anything from my childhood to list as a tough thing. I would have loved more brothers & sisters. I didn’t mind hand me downs (or hand me overs, as we called things we traded with each other when we wore the same sizes). I loved playing Barbies, house, etc with my sisters.

    As a mother to 4 (so far), I love when they play together, I love teaching them things and guiding their learning, I love reading with them, and kissing each head as I check on them when I go to bed. It is tough when I’m not feeling well, didn’t get enough sleep, etc and they still need care, but heck, that’d happen with 1. 😉

    Angela 🙂

  3. I don’t really have anything to add, but I agree with Sam. I have four kids and finding time to really connect with them one on one can be challenging.
    I cannot wait until that book is out, Mary! I’m looking forward to it!

  4. I sometimes find it hard to balance the needs of the big kids with those of the little kids. It can be hard sometimes to stay up until the 17 year olds curfew to make sure she’s not late knowing that I’ll be getting up early with the babies. Or having to find babysitters so that I can take the 10 year old to the movies. Sometimes I think it would be easier if there wasn’t such big age differences. Probably not though!

  5. Well, I may only have 3, and be considered by y’all to be less than a “big family,” but it’s all relative, isn’t it?

    I agree with the two commenters that mentioned connecting with each child in a valuable way. I *am* able to do it with just the three and homeschooling them helps, but it is a continual dying to self. And of course, well worth every bit of effort. 🙂

  6. I am the oldest of 8 kids and have 5 of my own…

    The best thing is always having someone to talk to, play with, enjoy. Throughout the years, my sibling I’m best friends with has changed, and continues to, depending on where I am in my life… and it helps that we have a large selection to choose from.
    I feel I’m a much better parent having come from a large family… as I know what noises, messes, commotion, giggling, and conflicts will come….not that there aren’t suprises… but I seem to roll with it easier because of my own background.
    I have also found myself remember my own childhood through my own kids… Hearing the girls giggle late into the night brings back particularly wonderful memories. Watching them grow and become more independent remind me of my own growth and my own fledgling wings, desperate to become my own person.
    In my own conversations with my mom about her sadness at not being able to spend as much quality time with each child individually… I realize that I rarely felt she didn’t spend quality time with me. My memories are of all the great things she did with us… all the wonderful things she taught us and the legacy of self reliance and self worth she gave us. It gives me hope that my own will remember the same.
    Great fodder for thought… thanks for that.

  7. As the middle of three kids,all two years apart from each other (12-14-16), there are so many things to think of. My dad is the second youngest of nine, my mom the middle of three. They were prepared for the business.
    With three very active kids, (me- dance, bowling, softball and tennis. brother – hockey, bowling, cross country and track. sister – bowling, softball, tennis, broomball, NHS, tutoring. For all – working, friends and religion classes) it was never easy to have sit down dinners. There was always something going on. We all did way to much. It took us all graduating and moving out to have a weekly dinner with mom.
    There were so many great things along with the chaos. We had someone to get in trouble with, someone to have a bad day with, and someone to always listen even if mom and dad weren’t home.
    My sister and I always had a rough relationship, but when she went to college it made me realize how valuable she was growing up. Between love lessons, playing with toys and learning life lessons from her, she is now my best friend.
    My brother and I were always very close growing up. We were more the outdoor kids, while my older sister was the indoor kid. We would climb trees, go to the bike jumps or just ride around the city (it was small and 15 years ago). We would go everywhere together, and that didn’t change until we were much older.
    While we didn’t have much long term one-on-one time with our parents, the relationships were great. My mom is still someone I talk to everyday.
    They allowed us to make our choices, and handle what came from them. They allowed me to change schools after 10th grade, for something that I loved. This included allowing my to travel 25 miles everyday for school, and trusting me to do this safely. They drove us to camps, work, classes and friends houses without batting an eye. My parents were always on the move, even if one or two of the kids were at home. Something was always going on.
    I couldn’t have gotten through some of the things I went through without my family, everyone of them made major impact in who I am.

  8. Well, I’ll have to think about that later to see if there’s anything at all I might add.

    I just wanted to say, though, that I’m thrilled to hear about the progress on your book! I have been wanting to ask you about it, but did not want to discourage you if it was still glaring at you from the To Do list while you work through things with the new girls and the rest of life. Go, Mary!

  9. As the mother of almost 12, I can say with all certainty that the most amazing part of having a large family is the fact that it drives you to your knees before the Father so often. There is no self-delusion that you can somehow “be enough” for your children…that you can somehow meet their needs…because it’s apparent 24/7 that you can’t. Becoming a parent exposes flaws in ones makeup that one might never see otherwise. Each child reflects just how well I am doing, and with so many it’s pretty much like living in a carnival house o’ mirrors. It can be cripplingly humbling sometimes, but it keeps me dependent upon His grace, and His grace alone.

  10. By the way, Mary; I was wondering just today how your book was coming along! I’m delighted to hear that you’re so close to completion, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I know it will bless many.

  11. Pam Jardin says:

    Iam the fourth in a family of six, mother to eight(three home grown and 5 adopted), and raise three grandchildren full time. From my own childhood I remember the fights and fun we had and pray my sister left for college soon so I could have mine own bed ( 3 in a bed) she was 10 years older then me. Also my Mom always telling us how luck we were conpared to our cousins 13 in that family. But we all begged to go stay at their house. With my own kids who are all grown now its nice to see that they’re still close and love to talk about all the things they thought they got away with.LOL As I look back I don’t know how I lived through it and at times I didn’t thank I would. Now with these little ones I know that everything little that I worried about wasn’t as important as I thought. Still could use more hours in a day.

  12. As and only child, but mom to three, I have a unique perspective of things. There were so many times when I watched friends with their siblings and almost envied that relationship. As a parent of three, I strive to find a way to nurture the love between them. I find it hard to not see one almost feeling left out from time to time and worry about showing each of them that I love them and love them all equally. I love seeing how protective they are of each other and have hopes that I instill a value in them to always be there for each other. And feel frustrated when they argue over something small. Somedays I could almost scream as I watch my oldest, the practical jokester, torment a sibling for the umptenth time. But almost want to laugh when my middle child, my quiet laid back only girl, finally pulls one on her brothers after they have tormented her all day. And still have to find that balance of equality for them all.

    I do agree with what the others have said about finding one on one time with them all being somewhat more difficult than if I had less children. Though for us we have been lucky to have different family and friends that will take a child or two and watch them for us so we can be alone with one. I find probably one of the hardest things is encouraging each child to follow their different interests and finding the time to promote them. One loves basketball, another is bored with it, yet the third, likes the idea of the game, but his ears can’t stand the noise of the actual event. And even with these differences I enjoy encouraging their similarities. All of my children love animals, though their favorites are different, one child is my cat caretaker and adores our cats, another one prefers our dogs, and the third would love to have some birds for pets. They all share and intense love of animals that always gives them something to talk about.

    Your other question is benefits of a large family, and though I never experienced it as a child myself, I am enjoying the fact that with my own comes so much activity. There is always something to do or someone to talk to. Never a time that anyone should have to be alone. And when all those activities are done and we sit down for the night, it is wonderful to share all of our perspectives of how the day went and to know that there are always these people to love eachother and be there for eachother. That is something I find absolutely wonderful about having three children.

  13. I am the oldest of seven and a mother of three.

    Even though I am six years older than my next sibling, and my two sisters are eight and eleven years younger than I, they are some of my very dearest friends now. There is something so special about a sibling bond and when you have that multiplied over and over, it is one of God’s greatest gifts. Even though I was married and out of the house when they were still little girls, my sisters and I share a unique history, memories of the same home, struggles with and deep love for the same parents. Three of my brothers are still teenagers and I love getting to know them as they mature into men, and not just as the sweet babies I tended to. I am so grateful for my family.

    Oh, and don’t let me forget the “sibling information network”. It’s an amazing thing.

    But I truly do take my position as eldest seriously. I have the opportunity to encourage godliness and wise decision-making in areas that my parents may have very little knowledge of or influence over. I am able to be an unthreatening voice of reason in the middle of turmoil.

    The downsides pale in comparison, but I felt a few growing up, though they are probably less universal in nature than the advantages. First, as the oldest, I started with my own room and eventually ended up sharing with my two little sisters. We had a very small house. And, being surrounded by much younger children, I really did long for some space and privacy at times. But, it’s funny, I never really did like being alone for long and still don’t.

    Another downside was the annoyance that a small infraction on my part, when preceded by several small infractions on my siblings’ parts, ended up being treated as much worse than it would have been alone. You could call it “the domino effect.” As a mom, I can certainly relate to the chaos overload, but it really made me (temporarily) wish I was an only child still somtimes. :^)

    Now I have three of my own, and there are many reasons why that is a good number of children for us right now, but I always end up feeling like it’s not enough. Because siblings are priceless. My family is my sweetest treasure. And those with many children, who whole-heartedly serve God together, are truly very blessed.

    Your large family makes my heart smile, Mary.

  14. I am one of five and a mother to six children, ranging from kindergarten to a senior in high school. I think it keeps me on my toes having to fill so many different roles to their different ages – for example, teaching one to ride a bike and another to drive a car. I sure wish they’d stick to bikes as their main mode of transportation! Easier on the nerves.

    Another benefit is that I am always “the best Mom in the world” to at least one kid, and often as many as 3 or 4 of them might think of me with high regards 🙂

    Another benefit to having a large family, especially if your number of children are a factor of 12, is that you can easily divide yourself between the kids during your retirement. Two months/ year at each kid’s house should hopefully do the trick to not wear out our welcome. I guess we are stopping at six kids, since the next factor of twelve would be 12 – yikes!!

    All kidding aside, what touches my heart more than anything is to see the relationships that blossom between the children and to catch those moments when they let genuine love and caring slip through. I hope that those moments will be what keeps them close to each other, no matter what corner of this world they land in.

    That is probably one of the scariest things about older child adoption and adopting out of birth order. It takes a lot of wisdom, patience and faith to help nurture that sibling bond that just formed so naturally with the other kids. At least in a large family, there are multiple opportunities for that bonding to occur and multiple sibling relationships to observe and hopefully emulate.

  15. I won’t repeat anything that was already said, though I definitely could. One thing I don’t think I read in any of the comments about parenting a large family was regarding at what age to make the break between the big kids and the little kids.

    I have three girls (5-9) and then three boys (2-5) and the gender gap makes a much more natural break. It is not always appropriate, however, for my youngest or second daughter to participate in the big kid activities, and they don’t like being lumped in with the littel boys.

    I don’t know. Maybe the problem is unique to me.

  16. I’m the second of four children and I can’t think of anything tough about it. Especially for us because my father made really good money so it’s not like we ever had to do without luxuries. Although, managing the hot water use with four teens in a house is an issue. I can’t imagine how people manage when they have 20+ kids.

    The greatest benefits of being in a large-ish family were first, that you can always find someone to play a game. A lot of board games need more than two players, and you don’t necessarily want to play chess with the same person every day of your childhood, so having several siblings is good. Second, you can form secret clubs within your family, which is fun. Third, less direct parental attention per person. Less one-on-one interaction of any kind, for that matter. Which is great for me because I don’t function well in one-on-one interactions. I like group interactions much better. And fourth, chores are split more ways. We rotated kitchen cleaning duties, one week to each kid. So you have kitchen chores one week on, three weeks off. Not a bad schedule. 🙂

    Yeah, large families are awesome. Even though mine is pretty dysfunctional, at least there were four of us to cope with it! LOL

  17. Hi Mary,
    As #3 of 6 and now the mother of 4, I can say without a doubt I love big families! My siblings really are my greatest friends–as my husband’s 4 brothers are for him. Ordinary events become parties because there are just so darn many people! I love the commotion and laughter–someone is always doing something fun or interesting or totally hilarious. They comfort each other too when things aren’t so great. It’s not always just my husband or me who has the advice. Sometimes wisdom from a first grader is just what the kindergartner needs.

    I will say that right now three out of 4 are sick with nasty colds and sore throats. Three different visitors during the night makes for no sleep. That’s when this job feels hard.

  18. I’m the third of four, and the only thing I didn’t like was being grouped with the “little kids” until I was 16. My older siblings were the “big kids” when they were 4 and 7. And the age gap in my family was tough on me. I had two older siblings who were really close, and then our younger sister was four years younger than me. I always felt like I wanted to hang out with my older brother, who was closer in age, but I got stuck with my little sister.

    My husband is the 4th of 7, and I have to say I love going to family gatherings because the table never feels empty. And there’s always something to do! We’ve got one, and we’re very young, so I’m hopeful we’ll have a nice big family before we’re done.

  19. Umm Skandar says:

    I am a the eldest of three and the mother of three children. And although that is far from a large family in the on-line world of blogs I frequent, in real life, we live in a world of only and two-child families. Every morning after I get my first grader settled in her classroom, baby brother — age two — cannot leave without kissing his older brother behind. So we march into the fourth grade classroom, and Wilie gets his hug and kiss. I look over them and witness a sea of sweet faces with the silent wish that they had a baby brother who offered such direct love to start their morning. Another parent calls my youngest “the little brother of the whole class.”

    My parents worked very hard to foster a close sibling relationship between my siblings and they remain my closest friends and supporters in all aspects of my life. I hope that my children will find their siblings to be lifelong friends as well.

  20. I grew up # 4 out of 11. Lack of money was probably the worst thing. When I was a kid I hated not having nice cloths (this was probably made worse by the fact that my mom did not drive so she couldn’t even sale or thrift store shop). As an adult I wish I would have had better dental care. I have a lot of fillings now from inadequate dental care that we just could not afford when I was young. I also had extremly crowded teeth that I had straightened as an adult. I learned to smile only with my mouth closed because people would comment.

    If I had a choice I would never ask for a smaller family. I have 5 sisters and they are my best friends. I talk to all of them on a regular basis. (by the way-my mom used to pray because she thought we would all hate each other as adults so we must have fought a lot!) My kids have about 40 cousins with more added every year. They say that their cousins are their best friends. My 5 year old has 4 boy cousins his age, my 8 year has 5 girl cousins she plays with and my 11 year old has 2 girl and 6 boy cousins he plays with.

    I unfortunatly was able to have 3 kids. I always thought I would have a “small” family of about 6.

  21. Veronica Mitchell says:

    I grew up in a family with four kids, and I am pregnant with my fourth child (my oldest is only 4).

    As an adult, I love the companionship and sense of alliance I feel with my brother and sisters. They understand me in a way that no one else ever could. Even though we live far away from each other, we have a sense of home with each other. On the rare occasions when we all get together, the laughter and the stories last for hours.

    I think coming from a large-ish family taught me a lot about being an individual. I don’t think I felt the same pressure to cave in to my friends’ demands that I saw in other kids. I was already part of a herd, and I was already an individual in that herd: I didn’t need to be just like my friends.

    As a parent, I find I already have a certain joyful embrace of chaos. I love the sound of my kids all pattering after me when I announce there are cookies, or the way we all snuggle together first thing in the morning. Having my children in one big pack, even though it is exhausting sometimes, has restructured our lives so our expectations are different, and somehow that has left more room for contentment than we had before we had children.

  22. Hi Mary! I am SO excited for you, finishing a BOOK, wow! You are awesome!

    Speaking from the perspective of someone who PLANS on having a large family (4+ kids) I would love to answer your questions.

    Challenges include staying organized so as not to lose my mind and making sure each child gets the love and one-on-one attention they deserve from us Parents. I want our kids to love growing up in a large family, not wishing the reverse.

    Benefits include a much larger and deeper support system. I have seen this first hand recently since the passing of my Step-Mom’s Mom. There are 9 kids in her family and they came together to take care of each other in the most beautiful way. It was like calling in the troops, you just knew they would all be okay.

    Jamie

  23. well, i was the 2nd of 5 kids. thinking about it, the only difficult thing i could think of was this; when we were kids, it seemed like factions would develop, making arguments all the more dramatic.

    but now, we are 12-30, and having my brother and sisters means so much to me. they are my closest friends, and i feel grateful we’re all living in the same area for now.

  24. I was an only child and am now a mother of 4. I always wanted brothers and sisters so it was really important to me that my kids have siblings. I find the biggest disadvantage to having a large family is just that I was an only child so all of the noise and sibling rivalry is really new to me. I have had to reach out to larger families for alot of advice. Also, I have a 10 year gap between child #1 and the rest so that has been challenging at times.
    What I love about having a bigger than average family is all of the activity and fun we get to have together. Getting to do a craft, play hide and seek, board games and story time is so much more fun with more than one kid. I love having my kids friends over but we don’t need a playdate to pull off a board game or other event. Also, having more children allows for so many opportunities to develop strong relationships with a variety of personalities. I think my kids will be very well rounded when they grow up because they will have so many more experiences (than I had) with people and family life.

  25. I am a mom of 3 kiddos with number 4 on the way via adoption. I am soo excited have a large family. I grew up with just 1 brother and always wished I had more siblings.

    Since everyone already covered the “normal’ thoughts on a large family, I will share some of the things that I think are positives (but may be a littel off from what everyone else shared).

    I love the idea that when my kiddos are grown that I have a higher probability of at least one being able to be home for Christmas:)

    I also hope that my children can have incredibly close bonds in adulthood. With more siblings, you have a greater chance to really connect with one. My brother and I get along, but we are really night and day. I think with many siblings, you may not really click with one, but there may be another that you are bosom buddies with.

    I LOVE that my kiddos will have so many built in playmates. In many ways, it makes my job easier!

    Above all, I really love having a large family for the chaos and the laughter! I’m not a perfect mom, but I’m trying to have fun a long the way!!

  26. I have 10 children but grew up in a family with just 3 children. The toughest thing for me has been to give up trying to recreate for my children what I experienced growing up. You just cannot do everything for ten children that you can for three. Impossible. I have to keep reminding myself that God put these children, every single one of them, in our family for good reason. It wasn’t His plan to put them in a three-sibling family.

    As to the benefits, it’s hard to pick just one. The network of support ranks pretty high. You always have someone to play with or laugh with or cry with, even when the parents aren’t there. The younger children have lots of helpers they can go to besides the parents.

  27. As the mother of 4 adopted children I worry the most about the bond between my adopted children and my bio ones. There isn’t that built in luxury of time spent in the trenches of siblinghood learning to bond with each other. It often seems the 2 bios ( i hate that word but use it for lack of a better one) split off together and the 4 younger adopted children play mostly on their own. It’s difficult to know how to teach them this skill if you even can.

  28. As the oldest of ten children, I think the most difficult part of growing up in a big family was probably laundry. I mean that completely honestly – there were few to no “real” problems in our family. Of course we argued, and we fought for our parents’ attention, and we were all a little disappointed that we couldn’t pursue any and every “extra”, but when it all is said and done, none of us could have had a better childhood and preparation for life. Our parents raised us to be good, well-rounded, unselfish Christians and if I do say so, they did rather well. (Generally speaking.) 🙂

    But OH the laundry…there were mountains of it; neverending piles of socks and jeans and skirts and the occasional Chapstick or five dollar bill that would screw up the load and turn us sister against brother! 🙂 Of course, Mom’s rule was that if you found money in the laundry that wasn’t sufficiently ruined, you got to keep it. Laundered Chapstick, on the other hand, was not highly desired. In hindsight, I think the potential for small bills and change was just about the only positive thing one could say about laundry.

    Now, as a mother of only three (we’re hoping for more!), I crave the closeness and security of a large family for my children. I want them to experience the “buddy” system (where every older kid helps a younger kid), I want them to know the feeling of realizing your best friend is and will always be your brother, I want them to learn to give and take as few kids can – I want them to be able to dish it out and take it back and I want them to learn firsthand how to negotiate, problem-solve, and share. I want them to get frustrated at their parents for “just having too many children” while silently praising God that their parents did just that. I want them to lean on their siblings and learn to lead; learn to teach and to be taught, and learn how to love and be loved unconditionally by everyone in their family. And yes, I want them to be pros at laundry! 😉

  29. From the child’s perspective (as one of the middle kids), an answer to both questions–

    The tough part-I rarely got time alone with my either of my parents. I don’t remember ever being alone for an extended time with my mother until she came to stay with me when I had my first child.

    The good part-I rarely had to be alone with my parents. When I got in trouble, it was usually with a sibling, so the discipline was somewhat diffused.

  30. i’m a mother of four, hopefully with more to come, and my husband and i both grew up in very small families- 2 and 1 child families, respectively. we absolutely love our growing family, and could list a hundred things that make it wonderful.

    one i thought of just now, though, is that there is very little room for selfishness (but oh, of course it still happens!). we see that we all need to daily give up a little (or a lot!) of our own agenda so we can live life together. we don’t seem to opperate on a “my, mine mentality” as much as some of my friend’s families do, but know that most things (a toy, a game, a snack, abook, a movie) are best and most enjoyed when enjoyed with someone else. we are never, never lonely, and we help one another when we’re having a bad day, or need to clean up a mess.

    i wouldn’t have known what to say would be good about a large family when the journey of motherhood started, but as our family grows we see these things happenning in our hearts and our children’s and we just wouldn’t trade it.

  31. As the oldest of 6, I was most appreciative of the entire family atmosphere. There is a gap of 7 years between myself and my next sibling, and although I did miss out on the close sibling relationship, I did benefit from the joy and frenzy of living in a busy household. I found that when I was a teenager the only thing that could my angst from the day was a rousing wrestle session with my 2 year old brother. He was by far the most adorable child, and such a riot. I’m sure my Mom accomplished a lot while I was keeping him occupied! I actually felt sorry for my friends who did not have such a household that seemed “fully alive.”

    As a parent of 5, I’m sure I echo many others who have written that they are afraid they don’t spend enough time with each individual child. My other fear is connected to this issue. Since I home school, I try so hard to meet the learning needs of each one. My fear is that I miss something, or approach something in a wrong manner for that particular child. Also taking into account each child’s personality and tendencies… it can be overwhelming!
    But, this forces me all the more to rely on God and realize that I cannot do this without Him. Because, ultimately,these children are His. And He knows best how to raise and nourish each one.

    I just have to remember to keep asking Him for His grace. And this is what is the best part about having a large family too. Our relationship with God is so important, and it helps us to become better people all around. We have all grown so much, and continue to grow. And we get to do it together.

    🙂

  32. One of toughest things about growing up in a big family (I was born in 1961, 5th of 6 kids): I didn’t receive enough one-on-one attention and affection from mom and dad. I knew I was loved, and I didn’t have a big problem with all the structure that was needed, or with sharing everything, or with wearing hand-me-downs. I just needed more hugs, more conversations, more explanations, and my parents were too busy to give me that.

    One of the greatest benefits of growing up in a big family: I learned to accept all kinds of people and be open to their ideas. The six of us have very different personalities, talents, and passions. All of us are very smart in very different ways. When I left home, I knew I could love anyone and I knew that everyone deserved to be loved. I also knew that it was fun to try new things, that everyone had something of value to offer, and that it was okay to not be good at everything. And I knew, much to my mom’s credit, that it is okay to be different.

    -BW

  33. I’m the mother of five and grew up in a family with two children. Let me just say this is a whole different ballgame, and it’s been a real eye-opening experience. Anyone who’s been through it and survives is probably qualified to do just about anything, in my opinion. You learn A LOT as a parent to many and you wear many hats. We are a homeschooling family so the children are always at home, and that means there is always something going on. It’s never dull and boring (well, except doing laundry or washing dishes)…or lonely. Last night, I asked these questions of my two oldests. My son said jwhat many of you have said is a benefit of a big family, “There’s always someone to play with.” My oldest daughter said one drawback is, “The little kids like to mess around in your stuff!”

    For me, it is a privilege to watch (and teach) so many different little ones grow up and become who God wants them to be. It’s also a challenge to be enough of a person myself to be able to accommodate them all in that “becoming”.

    A tough thing is all the “stuff” (detritus, accoutrements) that accompanies all these little ones. I find that I must spend quite a bit of time cleaning, moving, repairing, storing, sorting, etc. other people’s stuff. I guess it keeps me out of trouble!

  34. I’m the fifth of nine children. The span between oldest and youngest being 21 years. My husband is the youngest of five. The span between him and the oldest (twins) is 24 years.

    Tough stuff: I think that in a large family it is very difficult for oldest and youngest kids to feel especially close. They are raised by totally different parents because parents change over time as they adjust to the needs of their growing family and learn wisdom through the years. My youngest brother once got in an argument with my little sister that my oldest brother was an uncle, not a sibling. But, it really can feel like that. If there is much more than ten years between the oldest and youngest, the kids don’t really grow up “together”, and you really have to work hard to build bonds.

    Greatest things:

    When you live in a large family, you’re bound to have at least a sibling or two that you become best friends with. Maybe it’s that sibling that is close to you in age where you really pushed each other’s buttons until you learned where they all were. Or maybe you are the eldest and you really connected well with the baby of the family to the point where you feel a certain sense of protectiveness that you don’t have for other siblings. It’s not that you don’t love all your siblings, but you may not exactly click with all their spouses, or the way they parent. There is that one (or, hopefully, more), that you would trust your kids to if you died suddenly; the one who maybe married someone whose personality is similar to your spouse’s and you can just pick up the phone and chat for hours with them.

    You learn that entertaining a crowd of people isn’t intimidating. In fact, you have a hard time in college making meals for just yourself! You learn how to interact with a variety of personalities, how to be a peacemaker, how to work, how to mentor others.

  35. I am the mother of 4, 5 and under and there are many tough things, organization and keeping up with housework being the first that come to mind.
    But the benefits are huge. My favorite thing to remind myself of when I hear kids fighting is that God is working things into and out of them now, at very young ages that are very hard to have worked on when you are older. These kids will never struggle with not knowing how to deal with other people. They are learning now to understand and accept people’s differences. They are learning how to communicate their own desires, and how to deal with it when those desires are not met. how many adults are learning those same lessons, but with many many years of behavior already ingrained in them?

  36. I am a mother to 5 children ages 3 mo. to 9 years and I love having a large family! The biggest challenge I face is keeping up with everything. We homeschool and I work at home so I feel as if nothing ever gets DONE. There is always laundry, dishes, schoolwork (we homeschool), cleaning and cooking that has to be done. Its very tiring at times to attempt to keep up. But on the flip side, there is always someone to hug, play games with, read to, draw with, or just sit and watch cartoons. There is no way to be bored in a house with 7 people. They are also learning how to communicate and get along with people of all ages. They are forced to learn to share and engage in situations where they must find a solution that pleases everyone. They have to learn to work together to get things done. These are valuable lessons that adults often do not learn, so I feel it is a blessing for my children to learn these at a young age. I was an only child so I delight in watching the relationships form between my children that I know will last a lifetime. My children are such a blessing in my life and I am loving every minute of it!

  37. I am the fourth child of eight in my family. My father was a teacher and my mom was a stay-at-home-mom, so our life was lived simply. We ate out once a year, ice cream was a special treat, vacations were always camping trips, and our clothes were often homemade. All of my happiest childhood memories involve my brothers and sisters, and activities like hide-and-go seek, canoeing on the Colorado River, and gazing at the stars on our front lawn while wrestling with Daddy.
    There were times when I felt angry and ashamed that we didn’t have more money. When the fair came to town, we just couldn’t afford to go on all the rides like my friends. My parents couldn’t pay for all of my dance lessons, so I worked at the studio to cover some of them. Sometimes my school shoes got pretty ratty before they were replaced. I remember being made fun of sometimes at school for being “poor.” I worked as a custodian to pay for my college tuition.
    As it turns out, what I thought was the biggest disadvantage of being in a large family – not having very much money – was actually the biggest advantage. We really grew up knowing the difference between a need and a desire. That lesson was taught daily, without any lecturing, and it has stayed with me. Now that I am an adult and have more spending money, it is still easy for me to pass by the expensive purses and shoes without having any desire to get them. My husband and I have no credit card debt or car payments. We aren’t plagued by the money issues that so many of our generation are, and I know that is because I grew up knowing that the happiness I felt couldn’t be bought with money. I only pray that I can teach my own two kids that lesson despite the money that we now have. Maybe I will just have to keep having more children until the money spreads a little thinner!

  38. As the 4th of 8 kids growing up, I would say that one-on-one time with my mom and dad was the thing I craved most. Mom always seemed to be busy with the youngest child or whoever was misbehaving at the time. And Dad was working to support our family, as well as taking care of our church congregation as a pastor. I did learn to be very self-sufficient, which I feel has served me well in my life.

    I also didn’t like feeling “on display” while out places. We heard the comment “Eight is enough” MANY times, as well as “Don’t your mom and dad know how to quit having kids?” I often felt embarrassed to be part of such a large crowd.

    As an adult, I LOVE having many sisters. My sisters are my best friends. [:-) I feel a little sad that my daughter, who has 3 brothers, won’t know the joy of a sister to confide in. But I do feel like I have more time to spend one-on-one with her as she grows. (And of course she has lots of cousins as friends, too.)

    We are also a homeschooling family, so I know all my kids get lots of hands-on parental attention and nurturing every day.

    My mom has been my #1 HERO ever since I grew up enough to realize how amazing she is. I marvel at how she raised eight children while maintaining a happy marriage and working as a home birth nurse. I am thankful that she taught us all how to take care of the home and each other. She modeled how to look on the positive side of things, to be appreciative, and to put the best construction on things. One of her favorite sayings (and one I use often) is”Take one contraction at a time.” When things are overwhelming or confusing, that helps me remember to step back, take a breath and slow down enough to put things in perspective.

  39. I am the oldest of five with an age span of over 13 years between me and my youngest sibling. I think the one of the biggest challenges for a big family is that it can be easy for a kid to get “lost in the shuffle”. Parents can tend to spend a lot of time caring for the household and physical needs of the younger children and have little energy left over to notice the less obvious needs of the older children – especially those are reserved, want to please, and don’t want to cause trouble.

    In my own experience, I never doubted that my parents loved me, but I saw how busy and stressed my mom was and rarely knew how to approach her with my own issues.

    One of my favorite things about growing up in a large family is the camaraderie that develops between siblings that I have rarely observed in smaller families. And in my family at least, there was always something or someone to make you laugh – never a dull moment!

  40. As the oldest of five children I struggled with finding a place to be by myself. My siblings would always follow me and want to play but there were times I just wanted to be left alone. As I got into my high school years one could find me wandering in the farm fields around our house just to get away.

    The biggest benefit is the bond we developed between the kids. At the time it did not seem as if there was a bond. But, now as adults with our own families we are very close and I can see how beneficial it was for us to grow up in a large family. I pray that my five children (soon to be six) will see the same benefits and be just as close when they have their own families.

  41. As the oldest of five children I struggled with finding a place to be by myself. My siblings would always follow me and want to play but there were times I just wanted to be left alone. As I got into my high school years one could find me wandering in the farm fields around our house just to get away.

    The biggest benefit is the bond we developed between the kids. At the time it did not seem as if there was a bond. But, now as adults with our own families we are very close and I can see how beneficial it was for us to grow up in a large family. I pray that my five children (soon to be six) will see the same benefits and be just as close when they have their own families.

  42. I’m the oldest of 4, which is not reallly a very big family. I can’t think of a negative thing I can blame on having 3 sisters. When I hear people talk about overpopulation, I think there is more than enough food to feed the world, we just need more people who are good at sharing. And that’s what you learn in a bigger family.

  43. Geraldine says:

    I am the oldest of 13, now aged 10-30, and now am expecting my 9th baby. I think one of the advantages of having a large family is that there is always a baby to love. I remember very well how jealous one of my best friends (the oldest of 4) was every time I got a new baby brother or sister. Another advantage is that there is so many cousins for my kids to play with now. I do need to be careful not to let any kid get “lost in the shuffle” but I would list that as a challenge, not necessarily a disadvantge. Another advantage is that when I started having babies, I had a pretty good idea what to do. Of course it’s different when you have your own, versus taking care of a baby brother or sister, but there are some women out there who, before they had their first baby, have never changed a diaper or bathed a baby, while I had plenty of experience with both. Another advantage that I see in my kids is that they become much more responsible. If I’m busy feeding a baby, they sometimes need to pitch in to care for a toddler who just got hurt, or to set the table or whatever. And if I have to mow the lawn the older ones will watch the younger ones. I don’t think there are any real disadvantages to having a large family; I loved it when I was growing up, and my kids are just as ecstatic now, whenever they get a new brother or sister. Another advantge of having grown up in a large family, is that I now have lots of available babysitters, where my kids love to go to, everytime I need to take someone to the doctor or whatever. I always used to feel sorry for whoever would be the youngest of my brothers or sisters, because that one wouldn’t have a baby to love, but now my youngest sister is ten, and has 24 nieces and nephews, 19 of them aged 5 and under, with 3 more on the way, and that includes a set of 6 month old twins that live right next door, and she likes nothing better than to go from one baby to the next, holding and loving them.

  44. I am the fourth child of eight in my family. My father was a teacher and my mom was a stay-at-home-mom, so our life was lived simply. We ate out once a year, ice cream was a special treat, vacations were always camping trips, and our clothes were often homemade. All of my happiest childhood memories involve my brothers and sisters, and activities like hide-and-go seek, canoeing on the Colorado River, and gazing at the stars on our front lawn while wrestling with Daddy.
    There were times when I felt angry and ashamed that we didn’t have more money. When the fair came to town, we just couldn’t afford to go on all the rides like my friends. My parents couldn’t pay for all of my dance lessons, so I worked at the studio to cover some of them. Sometimes my school shoes got pretty ratty before they were replaced. I remember being made fun of sometimes at school for being “poor.” I worked as a custodian to pay for my college tuition. The crunch of money was often felt.
    As it turns out, what I thought was the biggest disadvantage of being in a large family – not having very much money – was actually the biggest advantage. We really grew up knowing the difference between a need and a desire. That lesson was taught daily, without any lecturing, and it has stayed with me. Now that I am an adult and have more spending money, it is still easy for me to pass by the expensive purses and shoes without having any desire to get them. My husband and I have no credit card debt or car payments. We aren’t plagued by the money issues that so many of our generation are, and I know that is because I grew up knowing that the happiness I felt couldn’t be bought with money. I only pray that I can teach my own two kids that lesson despite the money that we now have. Maybe I will just have to keep having more children until the money spreads a little thinner!

  45. Mrs Glory says:

    Hope i’m not too late to comment.
    I’m from the UK and an only child who went on to have five children.

    The worst thing about having a large family? There are two; the first is that, if I’m honest, it’s been a bit of a shock having so many (although I admit, compared to most large families, it’s small). The youngest was a surprise and I had kind of expected him to “slot in”, that one more wouldn’t make a difference. But it’s not been like that. It’s been hard. I’m not sure if that’s because there’s only 16 months between my youngest two (my smallest gap), because I’m always tired, because I’m older or if I’m simply doing something wrong!

    Connected to this is the guilt. I feel guilty about the things I perceive my older ones to be missing out on. There’s less money, time with parents (can’t seem to be organised even to do bedtime stories even!), less fun trips out (no going to the theatre as a family), we always have to split up, partly due to cost partly because of the ages of the youngest two. I know this won’t last forever, but do feel my oldest three are missing out.

    And the best thing about large families? That’s got to be the gift of each other. Hopefully, they will enjoy and have each other long after me and their Dad have gone. That’s my wish anyway.

  46. What do you think are some of the greatest benefits of being in a large family?

    I grew up up in a family of 6 girls! My dad was an only child and they wanted a boy to carry on the family name, but decided 6 was enough 🙂 One very big advantage to a large family, that you don’t fully realize until you’re all grown with kids of your own, is HAVING EACH OTHER as you get older. It really IS a gift! I have thanked my parents on more than one occasion for having all of us, raising us in a stable, loving home, and staying together amidst all the struggles for 60 years! As much as we want them to, parents don’t live forever. Lots of siblings and the resulting nieces, nephews, and cousins are their gifts to the family for the future!

  47. i was the oldest of three…but my dad came from 11, and my husband from 7. i now have 5, with plans to add more thru adoption. i am trying to think of the hard stuff…well, there is the money aspect…we send our kids to our parish school, and they are all involved in sports. there is the time aspect. trying to give everyone enough time is hard. trying to recognize when they need a little extra attention is crucial. not to mention making time to volunteer at school, make it to all the practices and games, and girl scouts and 4-H meetings. and only 3 of the 5 are school-aged! i had my 5 in less than 9 years.
    now the best thing.. well there are so many! my kids have each other (whether they appreciate it now..well i KNOW they will in years to come). they learn to share and cooperate because they have to. they are more independant because they see how to do things and learn by sibling examples. seeing the joy in the older kids eyes when they helped a younger sib accomplish something.

  48. I grew up with just one brother and no cousins. (I’m a child of only children.) I longed for more siblings growing up and even invented 10 others so my parents would have a nice even dozen. I had to make due with imaginary ones as all the badgering I did at my parents for more brothers and sisters obviously didn’t work.

    I’m now a mother of 6, waiting to bring home our 7th (we’re adopting). While I agree that finding enough time with each individual child is tricky, it’s not the thing I find most difficult. That award would have to go to all issues involving clothing. The washing, the folding, the putting away, the mending, the buying, the storing. Oh, the storing! If someone has a great system for storing outgrown clothes I would love to hear it. But I don’t suppose there are too many systems aside from the place in a labelled cardboard box system. My children all manage to get dressed everyday in clean clothes which look fairly decent, but I feel as though I’m just one step ahead of chaos.

  49. I know, I’m late. Sorry. Life. I’ve only read the first few comments, and agree with them. Juggling different ages and stages is a challenge! And your, “Never Alone,” post can’t be beat as a statement of benefit! I hope that it’s included prominently in your book =).

    In thinking about it, I kept coming to the conclusion that some of the benefits and challenges of larger families are all rolled into one…

    One thing about having many kids is that you’re much more likely to lose the comfort (and pride) of knowing How To Be a Good Parent. The more children you have, the more likely you are to meet the Real Life Antithesis of whatever theories you have about chidren and the raising of them! With one or two, it’s easy to figure those out and think you have it down. Having many children forces you to abandon cookbook recipes, methods, theories and judgements, and strips parenting down to just real life parents, in a unique family, interscting with each and every real life, individual child. Humble relationship. Family. That’s challenging, hard work and humbling, too. And I think it can make you a better person, parent and friend. In a way, the more I parent, the less I know. And the more I parent I know for sure what I do know. It’s boiled down to what’s true, real and lasting.

  50. I am a mom of 4 sons, but missed the deadline. Loved reading the comments.

    I simply wanted to say that I can’t wait to read your book. It could only be heartwarming and inspiring. 🙂