Someone asked me recently if I had always wanted a big family. I quickly answered, “Yes!”
I wasn’t raised in a large family, but growing up, I baby-sat for several families with four or more kids. All the neighborhood kids would come over to play and it was utter chaos. I can remember setting out an assembly line of PB & J sandwiches to feed 10+ kids for lunch. I loved the energy, the lack of stillness, and the busy household. But the one thing I didn’t take into consideration about these big families I enjoyed being around, was that at the end of the day, I went home to a quiet house!
Now, as a mother to four of my own, the noise and craziness last all hours of the day. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned about parenting a large family.
1. Time goes by so fast
I really do feel like I blinked and my youngest turned one. Whenever I reach a hard phase of parenting, I tell myself, “Just wait a few weeks and this phase will end.” It feels like seconds ago that I had intense health issues while nursing a newborn. It seems like minutes ago that my infant started walking and caused chaos everywhere he went. Lastly, I swear it was days ago that I had two toddlers whom I dressed in their daytime clothes under their pajamas to save time the following morning. When they woke up–and we were inevitably running late–I could just unzip their onesies and voila! They were ready to go.
2. There is always something to do
I have been joking lately that if I had known how hard it was to cart around kids to school and sports, that I wouldn’t have had so many! Chauffeuring can be hard work, but we keep activities to a minimum while our kids are young, because we want them to enjoy their childhood with their siblings. I know the amount of commitments will increase as my kids age, so right now, we spend a LOT of time in our home. I love these years of always having someone to hold, someone to cook for, someone waiting for me to read them a book.
3. You get better at chores and housework
Who feels like their best talents lie in the arenas of chores and parenting? Nobody! I definitely didn’t go to college to get a degree in Life Skills or Domesticity. Yet these are the things that take up the bulk of my time. My secret to managing the house is that from 3:45-7:30 pm every day, I do not sit down. When we get home from school and sports, I send my kids all to the shower to bathe until the hot water runs out, so by the time they’re done, dinner is ready. Then they eat, read each other books, and get ready for bed while I clean the kitchen. By the time we’re all finished with our tasks, we can snuggle and end the day on a positive note. Many other rooms of my house are a disaster, but during the week, we go to bed with a clean kitchen and family room. Weekends are for tackling the playroom and bedrooms. I deep clean a few places once a month and then hire a cleaning lady when the budget allows it.
4. You learn to see the big picture
It has really helped my mentality over the years to remember that a lot of this never ends. There will ALWAYS be dinner to cook, another load of laundry magically appears when the last sock gets put away, dishes fill my clean sink after it’s wiped it down, and toys get left out every day. These things used to make me mad. I used to huff and puff around the house, annoyed with everyone not being able to pick up their own stuff. It honestly would surprise me to find a messy kitchen after every single meal. Somewhere along the line, my perspective has shifted and I just see this as part of the gift of parenting. 90% of the time, I let the little annoyances go.
4. It is expensive
The diapers are nothing compared to the cost of dance classes and baseball training. Not to mention the fact that my kids are all under the age of six, but when I cook dinner I am making at least two pounds of ground beef just to feed them all tacos. I can’t imagine how many pizzas I will have to order when they’re all teenagers.
5. Traveling is trickier
We always thought we would travel a lot with our kids because it is a high priority to my husband and me. However, the high cost of flights and shortage of beds in hotel rooms holds us back. Our families invite us on trips but we find ourselves saying no while our kids are so young. We hope to give them more experiences as they get older and can appreciate adventure a little more than they do now.
6. It can be isolating
Once I asked my husband if he thought we got less social invitations now that we have more kids. He gave me a look and answered: “Duh.” Our group can be a bit overwhelming, especially around our friends that have older kids and are out of the baby season. My best times to connect with girlfriends are throughout the day over the phone or after the kids go to bed for a much needed girls’ night out.
7. Keep low expectations about alone time
I remember when my daughter was an infant and I could count on being alone for chunks of time while she napped. Once my son was born, those times got smaller but there would still be about an hour a day I could sit and relax. Then, when the third baby came, that time shrunk as my older kids stopped napping. With four kids, I am almost never alone. Even when I go to run an errand, it is easier to take someone with me, and I am so used to it, I barely notice! When I get frustrated, I often tell myself that these days will be over soon and I will miss them desperately. It also helps to remember I am not “entitled” to alone time now that I have children. There are days when I feel like mothering has drained my every last emotional resource, and my husband understands why I quietly slip out the back door to take a walk or to wander the aisles at the grocery store.
8. Sickness is the hardest part
When someone gets sick, it is hard to stop passing the germs and sometimes people get the same virus or bacterial infection more than once before it is done with our family. There is nothing like hearing a child get the stomach flu in the middle of the night, knowing this is likely the beginning of weeks of being home-bound, days spent washing sheets and doling out shots of apple cider vinegar! Some of our kids have had minor but chronic issues resulting in dozens of doctor trips. I told my husband that if I ever mention having more kids, he just needs to say the word: “You need to go see a specialist” to me to snap me back to reality.
9. It is a LOT of fun
There is nothing like hearing my two-year-old yell, “GROUP HUG!” and seeing the six people I love most run from every corner of the house to laugh and tackle one another. There are sacrifices financially, physically, and emotionally, but like every parent would say, it’s all worth it.
10. One thing is the same, no matter what
When I had my first child, my world felt complete. I would not say that my heart is fuller or I experience more love because I have more kids. It is a different path for each family and I passionately love my personal parenthood journey. No matter how many kids you have, each one brings something to your life that lasts forever. It is an honor to be a parent in every type of capacity!