Are they all yours?
Don’t you know what causes that?
You sure have your hands full!
Are you done yet?
In today’s family economy, our family of seven is not the norm, and perfect strangers are quick to point out that my crew looks more like a homegrown basketball team than a family. Sometimes I think only Jim Gaffigan gets me.
According to Pew Research, back in the 70’s families with four or more kids were more common than families with two kids, but today that family dynamic has flipped. When people think of large families, they often think of chaos, noise, and lots of laundry. Yes, those things come with the territory, but there are also many blessings of raising a big family.
My husband and I both grew up as one of two siblings, so when we talked about growing our own family, the idea of creating three tiny humans seemed radical and, dare I say it—brave. I know, we deserve a medal of honor.
After giving birth to our three mini-me’s, we felt called to pursue adoption through foster care. We welcomed a nine-week-old baby girl into our family and eventually adopted her when she was 19-months-old. We thought our family was complete: two boys, two girls. Picture perfect. Then, three months later we received a call that our daughter’s biological mom had given birth to a baby boy. Gulp. We are currently fostering this little guy with plans to adopt him as well . . . bringing our grand offspring total to five.
We are busting out of our minivan, drowning in dishes and laundry, and losing count of how many Lunchables our kids eat each week (I know, they shouldn’t even be eating that processed junk, but I have five kids, people! Cut me some slack.) As I walk through Target with my five kids hanging off the cart like trapeze artists, I often feel like the star of a circus freak show. People stare. People smile sympathetically. People are curious. They see the chaos, they hear the shrills, they smell the foul odor coming from two un-potty-trained little tykes and wonder why we would subject ourselves to such exhaustion.
7 Blessings of Raising a Big Family
Yes, there are many challenges to raising a big family, but we have also discovered many joys along the way. For anyone considering raising a large family—or wondering how those of us do it—read on for some encouragement and insight into the seven blessings of raising a big family.
- Big families force parents to stay organized and to delegate. Organization is my love language. I love bins and boxes and salivate when I see a Container Store. I don’t carry a whistle around my neck like Captain von Trapp, but I did create three checklists for my children (morning, afternoon, evening) to help them complete daily tasks and chores. Instead of nagging, I simply say, “Have you completed your checklist?” It gives them ownership, independence and freedom to complete their responsibilities within a reasonable time frame.
- Big families help kids develop teamwork and a strong work ethic. I can’t feed the baby, pack the lunches, load the dishwasher, play with the toddler, take out the trash, and check the homework all at the same time (I’m good, but not that good). With seven people functioning in one space, we must work together to get our daily needs met. This means a rotating chore chart outlining expectations and everyone pitching in with occasional family projects.
- Big families provide ample opportunities for conflict resolution skills. Our children are considerate, yet unpredictable: playing together harmoniously one minute, with a volcanic argument erupting the next. We teach our children four options for solving conflicts:
- Let it go (thank you Elsa and Anna) . . . decide the relationship is more important than being right; the issue is not a big deal and move one.
- Talk it out . . . listen to each other’s perspective and reach a compromise.
- Walk away . . . if the problem cannot be solved, leave the area before things escalate.
- Ask an adult for help . . . this should always be the last resort. We want to raise problem solvers, not not tattle-talers.
- Big families provide instant best friends. Our kids range in age from 11-months to 11-years. They fight well, play well, and sometimes even plot against mom and dad well. Each child has a unique relationship with the other, and it is fun to see this change and grow over the years.
- Big families cultivate hearts of generosity. Our children learn to give and share on a daily basis, whether it’s clothes, sports equipment, or toys. With five kids, room sharing is inevitable (just ask the Brady Bunch). We tell our kids that they’ll share a room in college and when they get married, so they might as well start now. They also enjoy joint birthday parties and ask for foster care donations instead of gifts.
- Big families help us learn to live with less. We don’t take fancy vacations. Our kids have never been to Disneyworld (they are so deprived). Coupons, not preference, determine what restaurant we patron. We buy most things on sale and learn that life is more about quality time than quality stuff.
- Big families mean big tax credits. This was my husband’s contribution to the blog. Enough said.