During the movie The Sound of Music, the nun-in-training, Maria, is told to go to the Mother Superior’s office. There, Maria is told that she is not quite fitting in with the Abbey’s ways and that for a time, she will be sent to a family in the nearby city of Salzburg, Austria and be a governess for a widowed Naval Officer’s children. Maria takes the news pretty well, and then asks how many children are in the family. The Mother Superior replies that there are seven children in the family and Maria, her voice rising with incredulity and shock, keeps saying over and over, “Seven?? Seven Children??!!” That scene always makes me laugh because I am a mom and I have seven children. That admission sort of sounds like an introduction to a support group meeting, doesn’t it?
When my husband and I married in June of 1988( we will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year!), we had discussed children as a part of our future life together. We thought three would be a nice number. Babies one through three arrived in 1991, 1994, and 1996. Before we sat down and re-evaluated our plan of only having three children, we found out that baby number four was coming, and would arrive in 1998. Again, before we sat down to discuss if four children was our limit, we found out babies five and six(twins this time!), would be born in 2000. Baby seven arrived in 2003. Our children now range in age from 21 to 10. We have had a few young married couples ask us how did we do it when our kids were small so I thought I ought to write a post about life in a large family.
With only one child, life would seem much simpler and easier and probably less-costly at times, but from a sister-in-law’s perspective as she was an only child, if a sibling can happen, let that sibling happen for being an only child can be so lonely at times. With two children, when out and about, or in the home, Mom can deal with one of the children while Dad deals with the other one. However, once the number of children in the family surpasses two, that means mom and dad will always be outnumbered with child related tasks. Being outnumbered doesn’t mean being outwitted, let’s make that clear right away!
Large families mean larger vehicles. When we knew twins were on the way, my husband thought ahead and realized that nine people wouldn’t be able to fit in a minivan at all. Ford Econoline van, here we come! It does help to have a relative who works for the Ford Motor Company(my brother), so the “family discount” was quite helpful when we went giant van shopping. All of those who want people to get rid of their gas guzzling vehicles and get electric cars? Those types of cars won’t work for a large family. Also, the friends of kids in a large family always think that getting to travel around in a giant van is very cool!
Large families, when visiting museums, or zoos, or amusement parks have to pick and choose and plan ahead as to what exhibits, rides, or snacks they’re willing to pay extra for. When we visited Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry about 7 years ago, it was cheaper to buy a year’s family membership to get in for a lower admission rate. At the St. Louis Zoo, my kids knew we wouldn’t be riding the trains or the carousel as those rides mean an extra fee has to be paid. It is great that the zoo is free, but it is also a challenge to try and find a free parking spot for a giant van in Forest Park, so sometimes I would give in and pay the zoo parking lot fee. Food items cost a lot at these sites so a large family will tend to pack a picnic lunch for all, and bring along water bottles too.
Sam’s Club or Costco, are nice for large families. because many items used by a family are sold in bulk amounts. Aldis is also a boon for large families. If you don’t have one near you, I feel very sorry for you! Aldis, a German-based grocery store chain that has hit the U.S.( and is making a dent in Wal-Mart’s sales), is a bag your own groceries type of store. Some name brand items are sold, but more often than not, items sold are Aldis brand. Items are priced much lower than similar products sold at a full-service grocery store, and those lower prices are very helpful for large families.
Larger families believe in hand-me down clothing. Luckily for us, our boys have all had the same build and it’s been easy to pass the clothes right on down the line. Same for the girls; a few fashionable styles have been outdated from big sister by the time they got to the twin sisters, but just a few items. Shoes, haven’t been passed on as easily, except for snow boots, so Pay Less Shoe stores have been also helpful for our large family.
Large families get stared at, a lot. When we go out to a restaurant(not a common occurance, eating out in restaurants), we have to wait for a table for 9, and often we have to agree to two booths next to one another. We take up an entire church pew. When I would do the grocery shopping with two carts, a twin in each one, the oldest child pushing one cart, me pushing the other cart, and the other children trailing behind me, I would usually get the question, “Are they all yours??!!” I would just smile and say yes and go right on with my shopping. What I really wanted to say was something very sarcastic, such as, ” No! I just found them all in the parking lot and decided to bring them in the store with me!”
Large families are loud, at home, of course. Lots of kids are hard on the furniture, walls, carpets, windows, their toys, etc. However, before I make you think our house is pure bedlam, there are also many, many moments of laughter, and shared jokes, and love. Big brothers and sisters learn to pitch in and help with the younger siblings. Help dress them, help them with bandaids, help get mom or dad for someone, help read someone a story, play with someone, teach them to play a board game or a card game. I have greatly enjoyed listening in as my older children would sit down and tell their younger siblings what junior high or high school will be like. Older siblings helping with younger siblings is good preparation in how to be a parent. Lots of children means lots of training on house care chores and yard care chores. I am guilty of letting my kids not do as much as they can, since I can do some tasks much faster and to my satisfaction, but I have been making more of a daily effort in having the five we still have at home help more and more with the chores. After all, one day they’ll have their own homes and they have to know how to care for them.
LIfe would have been easier if we had only had three children. If that were the case, we would only have one child at home now, as the oldest two have left the nest and are flying quite well on their own. We would be facing the “empty nest” after August of 2014. Finances wouldn’t be quite as tight, probably. Then I look over the younger four and I cannot imagine life without them. In 8 years we will finally experience the “empty nest” so until then, I will rejoice in my large family, feeling very glad and thankful for the blessings that my children are to my husband and I; they help to keep us young, he once told me, and he has been quite right in that statement.