Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I Have a Big Family, and I Did It on Purpose

When my friend Allison (not her real name) broke the news to her neighbor that she was expecting Baby #5, her neighbor's eyes widened and she yelled, "Not again!"

The neighbor started to work herself up into a lecture on how crazy my friend was, but the really weird part happened when Allison informed her that this wasn't a planned pregnancy. In fact, it had been a pretty big surprise, for both her and her husband.

Suddenly, the neighbor's demeanor changed. She calmed down. She stopped acting like she was being personally insulted by the contents of Allison's uterus and accepted the fact that there was a fifth baby on the way without further complaint.

It was so bizarre, as if she might just come out and said, "Phew! You really had me worried for a moment there; I thought you actually wanted five!"

I've given a lot of thought to that scene over the years, because of my six children.

I have 6 children, and it's not because I'm crazy or because I'm unfortunate or because I'm not planning ahead or because I'm trying to bug you. I just want them.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Five of the kids and their dad. (The youngest was still in utero when I took this. It's an old photo, I just like it.)

I understand that having big families was easier a few generations ago, when times were different. Households with one stay-at-home parent were more common, and let's not forget that each kid wasn't legally required to have their own rear-facing car seat until they turned 15.

For a lot of reasons, big families are kind of rare now, so I'm okay with having people stare, count heads, or even ask me questions when we go out in public.

Curiosity is one thing and that never bothers me, but the contempt or pity that sometimes accompanies it does.

I don't personally know Allison's neighbor so I'll probably never get the opportunity to tell her that having a house full of kids isn't a tragedy, and wanting it doesn't mean you're crazy.

To me, kids are an amazing blessing and having a lot of them just multiplies the joy.

To me, my big family is more fulfilling than a mission trip to Guatemala, more breathtaking than the view from a cliffside village in Santorini, and sweeter than when you come home and the dog goes so ballistic with joy he's doing triple gainers in the air at the sight of you.

When my daughter nails her violin solo or my son asks the new kid to sit by him at lunch, it makes me prouder than any professional success could (and in my case, I suppose 'professional success' might mean this blog.)

I don't have anything against mission trips, or Mediterranean vacations, or pets, or rocking your paid employment. Or blogs, obviously.

What I'm saying is that as great as those things are, to me they pale in comparison to the work of having and raising a family. And since there's nothing I can think of that would be more meaningful or worthwhile in the long run than raising another little person, I've never been in any rush to hurry out of the baby-making phase of life.

I have a lot of children, not because I'm crazy or unfortunate or not planning ahead or trying to bug you. I just want them.

Of course we all have different mental and physical capabilities, and life has a way of throwing plot twists like miscarriages and surprise pregnancies and a hundred other things into our perfect plans. So I'm not suggesting that everyone should or even could have six kids.

What I am saying is that if you ever see my family crossing the street, there are two things you need to know: one, it's going to look like a Thanksgiving parade for a medium-sized metropolitan area, so put your car in park and get comfortable while we finish crossing.

Two, there's no need to worry about me, my sanity, or my situation because the big family filing through the crosswalk is everything I ever wanted.

Just smile, and maybe catch some candy as we go by.

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14 comments:

  1. This is so sweet :) Jordan and I both have 3 siblings (so 4 including us), and I loved having a "bigger" family. Even 4 children seems large these days when lots of people choose to not have any! We would like to have 3 or maybe 4 kids, but I think what makes me the most incredulous about big families with 4, 5, 6+ children is how they afford that! We are really going to be very tight with 2, so I don't know what our family is going to end up looking like.

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    1. "Big" is a relative term. I know moms with 10 who would laugh at me calling my family big and think "that's cute." (Actually, they wouldn't laugh, they're very nice ladies.)

      Everybody's situation is different, but I think the "kids are so expensive" line is not true. I spent some time playing with the FDA's calculator and it's a joke. (I wrote a post about it called "Babies Do Not Cost a Fortune" if you're curious.) You certainly can spend a lot of money on kids, but at the end of the day what they need is love. All the enrichment classes, expensive vacations and day trips, cute nursery, and even a lot of toys and clothes are optional. Of course if your health insurance sucks it can be expensive to birth them, and if you can't get around using formula or daycare I don't deny how expensive that is.

      With big decisions like how many kids to have, I think all you can do is be prayerful about it and have faith that whatever the answer to your prayer is, God will help you figure out how to make it work.

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  2. I love this. I have a neighbor, who upon confirming that I was indeed pregnant, with my fourth, asked if I was going to have any more. I hadn't even HAD my 4th and she was already dying to know if I'd be crazy enough to have more, because I think she thinks I'm crazy.

    But, I've always wanted a big family. I'm planning on having at least one or two more. We'll see. :) Great post.

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    1. I noticed too that there comes a certain point where people stop asking "You're done, right?" and start asking, "Are you going to have MORE?" or "When's the next one coming?"

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  3. I always planned to have six children, and it was so wonderful to have them.. They loved and support each other. They are all good people.

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  4. This was really nice to read. I'm always so impressed by parents with so many kids. I have two and I think I've hit my limit. I'm also not the kind of person that would survive being a nurse, teacher, or daycare provider but I certainly admire those that are. My kids are 19 months apart and I had a neighbour give me the side eye when I told her it was planned. In retrospect we were a little crazy, but children are gifts and as long as they aren't terrorizing the neighborhood they just mean more eventual able bodies to rake that neighbour's lawn.

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  5. Jenny, I love this! I've never really understood why complete strangers feel so insulted by a married couple's number of children. It's so funny! I also think it's interesting how regional the determination of "big family" is. When I lived in a teeny tiny town in Upstate New York years ago, there were four of us kids (my mom got pregnant with #5 right before we moved), and people were like "WOW, you have a huge family!" But when we then moved to Wichita, Kansas, and proudly said, "Yes, I'm one of five kids," it was no big deal, because there are tons of huge Catholic families out there, and 5-6 kids seems fairly standard. So now that I live in Oklahoma, when people ask me if I come from a big family, I have to ask what they consider "big" family.

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  6. A friend of mine and I were just talking about this recently.. a few of my friends have 4, 5, or 6 kids and they said the comments they get from complete strangers is absurd. The comments I hear about having two close together is pretty silly sometimes too. "Oh my, you have your hands full" or "What were you thinking" as I'm carrying an infant seat on one arm and a toddler in the other. And the famous "You have a boy and a girl now so your done right?" Ugh. Is that really anyone elses business or right to judge?! I would definitely smile (and internally praise the Mom behind the big family) and catch the candy as your parade marched by ;)

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  7. You are the mother of all mother parades!!

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  8. I never understood why it bothers other people so bad when someone else has a big family. We have 3 kids and I get looks. I grew up thinking 3 kids was a small family.

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    1. I think if you look up "big family" in the dictionary, it says "a family with one more child than you have."

      That's the only explanation.

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  9. Yes!!! My Mom always wanted 10. Actually, that's how she picked out my dad. She told him, at 19, that she wanted 10 kids and he said "Okay." I think he was too in love with her 80s hair in order to say anything other than "Okay." They only got to have seven because things got really scary for both Sarah and Mom, so they decided any more wouldn't be safe. It's telling that most of the kids in my family want ridiculously large amounts of children, too. Big families are a whole lot of fun. We're always taking care of kids from a couple different families so plenty of kids to love and invest in--they are such a worthwhile investment!

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    1. I think you hit the nail right on the head. Someone told me once that I was doing my kids a disservice by having to split myself among so many of them. I didn't think there was any truth to what she said, but that night I was talking about it with Phillip later and he asked, "Well, how would the kids react if we were pregnant again?"

      The younger ones obviously wouldn't have a clue what that meant but we thought about each of the older 4 and were both almost positive that they'd be really excited. And then the next day my 5-year-old asked if we could have another baby.

      I think if having this many has been a good experience for them, then there must be something to this big family thing, after all!

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