Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Hardest Parts of Having a Big Family

When I write about big families like mine, I tend to talk about the funny and the heartwarming side. Mostly because I truly do feel like I'm living my best life over here raising 6 quirky and amazing kids. 

Family picture courtesy of my youngest child.

But for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction (I learned that from my high schooler's physics class,) so it makes sense that raising a large family also comes with its own set of heartaches and headaches.

So in the vein of honesty for honesty's sake, here are the most difficult things about being hopelessly outnumbered by miniature versions of yourself.

So. Much. Noise.

When we send the kids outside to play, I think the guards at the Canadian border can tell. Never have you heard such auditory chaos, including (but not limited to) happy whooping, excited shouting, heated arguments, and injured crying.

Things don't get much better inside the house. Someone is pounding on the piano. Teenagers are thundering up and down the stairs and talking over each other to be heard. I may be exaggerating a little, but it's objectively loud. I know because one of our daughters has sensory issues and she frequently comes to the dinner table wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

There's No Pleasing Everyone

Speaking of dinner, no matter what you're eating there's always someone who doesn't like it. I know this happens in every family sometimes, but in a big family it's a 100% certainty at every single meal. 

Unanimous decisions exist, but more often than not there's at least one person who doesn't want to go to the beach or doesn't like the choice for movie night. You try to accommodate everyone's preferences as much as possible, but at the end of the day kids in big families have to learn to compromise.

It Takes Us Forever to Assemble

You know that scene from Home Alone where everyone is frantically running around, tripping over each other and yelling, trying to get out the door? Well, that's us but not just when we're leaving on vacation. It's literally anytime we have to go anywhere.

It also takes us forever to assemble for mealtimes or family prayer. No one listens the first time we call, because they don't want to be the only one sitting at the table for 15 minutes, and on the off-chance a child does do exactly what we asked they get bored waiting for everyone else and wander away. We often resort to a final countdown and then just start whether we're missing people or not.

It's Impossible Not to Be Overscheduled

"Overscheduled" becomes a lifestyle when you have multiple children, and I honestly can't figure out how to avoid it. Even if each child is only involved in one or two activities it means that collectively, your family is swamped. 

You're on the road all the time (note to self: set up more carpools!) and dinner for at least one kid every night is sandwiches in the car, which (surprise!) not everyone likes. It takes a month to schedule family movie night, because that's how often you have a 2-hour chunk of time when everyone is home before the youngest kids have to go to bed.

Your Family Is Overwhelming to Others

No one invites eight people over for dinner, unless you're friends with other families of eight and you can eat outside. My kids report that their friends, who have families half the size and houses twice as big, get overwhelmed with the level of activity over here and sometimes prefer to meet up at their houses instead. 

This might be rooted in my own personal insecurities, but I also worry about scaring people off with the size of my brood before they get to know us. The first time I meet you, I might be intentionally vague about the number of kids I have until you see that the one or two I've got with me are good kids you wouldn't mind hanging out with yours.

Your Choice of Activities is Limited

Hotel rooms have occupancy limits. Family memberships only cover 4 to 6 people. It takes 20 minutes for us all to order food at McDonald's, not that we eat there often because it also costs $100. Some things other families don't think twice about are just too hard or too expensive to be worth it for us.

If you have a big family, your children probably also span a wide range of ages, which narrows your choices even more. What activities can you do that are fun for your teenager but still appropriate for your toddler? We do a lot of beaches and hiking, both of which also happen to be free so that works out nicely.

Mental and Physical Exhaustion

You're up late with teenagers, up early with preschoolers, and maybe even up at night with a baby. Your body is busy meeting the needs of little kids and your mind is preoccupied with the problems of the big kids. 

Part of it is probably that I'm just getting older myself, but always being on-duty and juggling so many different parenting toolboxes at once means that I'm definitely more tired now than I've ever been. 

These are the biggest challenges I've faced while raising a big family, but it's worth saying again that for each one there's a silver lining. There's more work, but more people to help out. There's more sacrifice, but also more joy.

The bottom line is that watching your child's miraculous personality unfold is life's greatest privilege, and the fact that I get to do this  not just one time, but six  makes me feel ridiculously lucky, regardless of the difficulties.

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PurpleSlob said...

My 7 yo PP has those headphones too. When she first went to KG, she came home crying cuz the cafe at dismissal was so loud. Those are a life saver!!
That family is great!! Make sure u date it, have him write/try to write his name, and archive that bad boy!! A cute book would be all the kids' drawings, as they grow! One just of family pix, when each ere 3 or 4, would be darling!! Then, make a new book every yr as a present for Philip! Oops, now I can't remember whether it's one l or two. I do remember you wrote whole post about his name difficulties!
You are very blessed with precious ones! I just could not handle that much! God knew!! 2 was perfect, now 2 grands. Probably the only ones I'll ever have, except the miscarried one in heaven. 2 is the perfect number of those too! I have enough time, and money to keep them in crafts!! Talk about money! lol I can not even imagine $100 at Mickey D's!! Wow
Who didn't want to go to the beach?? Secretly, I don't blame them. All that hot sun, and sand in your undies!!
Thank you SO much for keeping me entertained always!! I love watching your kids grow, well, you know what I mean!!
<3 My blog went to just in case you were loooking for me! And if things weren't hectic enough, my Sis and I started a blog! It's so fun to collaborate with her!
Ok, enough blather! Bye till next Fri!

AnneMarie said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences! Yes to all of these! I'm the second oldest of 6 kids, so it was a Big Deal when I reached high school and would, while at Forensics tournaments with my classmates, get to eat out at restaurants that weren't McDonald's or Wendys! Also, when my Grandpa was still alive, it was routine that when we'd have gatherings at his house (he raised seven kids, and even though my mom is the only one who got married with kids, it was still a lot of people at any family gathering) he would announce when we'd pray before a meal and just start. Inevitably, people would be racing down the hall as he prayed, but he had learned that it would take forever and a day to actually get everyone assembled to pray before eating haha!

It's pretty loud over here too. I only have 3 kids so far (hopefully, God willing, we will have more someday-we'd love to have a big family) but it's noisy! The idea of listening to music or audiobooks is so foreign to me-aside from the occasional podcast episode, if the house is miraculously quiet, I want to savor that silence and not fill it with alternative sources of noise ;)

Kassie said...

Thank you for faithfully writing these posts. I read them all the time but rarely comment (I think I maybe did once?).

I also have six kids (2-14 years old) and relate to - and am inspired by - much of what you write in your blog. This post is spot on and all very real.