Is bigger better?
Years ago, ten or more children constituted a large family. Today, families with more than three children are considered immense, earning stares of awe and sometimes scorn. The sheer insanity and excitement of having so many people under one roof provides each member with a cornucopia of challenges and joys.
Why on earth would anyone want to have so many kids? They're noisy, they rarely pick up after themselves, and the amount of laundry in a house with four children is astronomical. Astoundingly, parents of large families find the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. In fact most find little complain about, other than counting heads at Wal-Mart. If you're thinking of adding to your brood, read on about what these parents, kids, and family psychologist say about parenting "over-size" families.
"The kids always have someone to play with," says Kellie Head, humor columnist and mother of six children, ages ranging from 2 to 17. "If they run out of clothes because Mom's behind on the laundry, there's always a sibling's drawer to raid." Head jokes that her children always have something to look forward to when they ogle their older siblings' things. "If it's clothes, they know they'll get them eventually, and if it's a toy, they pray their older brother will soon grow bored with it."
"The kids look out for each other and give a heads up when trouble is underfoot," says Sheri McGregor, freelance writer and novelist, and mother of five children ages ranging from 8 to 16. "They're concerned when one does something not so smart, and they usually tell us about it." McGregor knows her children share secrets with each other that she's not always privy to, and that's okay with her. "There's always someone to bounce thoughts off of."
Too Many Kids?
"Even the drawbacks can be turned into positives," McGregor says. "The kids are rarely alone, but that teaches them sharing and generosity." McGregor makes sure each of her children gets alone time with a parent on a regular basis, and they appreciate it because they know how much effort goes into a "date."
"Economic challenges make parents think twice before adding onto a family," says Dr. Kevin Leman, family psychologist, author of more than a dozen books and father of five children ages ranging from 6 to 28. "However, the reality of not being able to buy everything children want prepares them for financial thinking when they are older -- after all, most things in life aren't free."
Not everyone agrees that large families benefit children. As children become more independent, some parents may struggle with feelings of loneliness and rejection. If a parent's motivation for having more children is to replace the symbiotic relationship found in infancy, it will work only until the new baby becomes more self-reliant.
If a family of three isn't already emotionally healthy, adding more children won't make it any healthier. Parents need to ask themselves important questions when evaluating their family situation. Are the parents in charge? Can parents consider input from children while still being the family leaders? Does everyone feel included? Do people have close relationships outside the family as well as within?
Some feel that the world is over populated, that our standard of living in America drains natural resources as the population grows. Head once received a nasty note outlining why she shouldn't have so many children. The author of the note didn't bother to ask if Head's family recycles, practices low water usage, or re-uses valuable resources such as clothing. The author also did not care to find out whether Head's children were loved, fed, clothed and attended to. "She made a blanket accusation, which I didn't dignify with a response."
Dr. Leman advises dragging out the humor when dealing with intrusive questions. "Offer a response that ends the personal attack and lightens the mood -- 'We've talked to the physician and he's given us the okay to have a dozen more,' or 'We've got the twin walkers, cribs, and highchairs on order; care to donate?'"
Sometimes dad is attacked as much as mom is. Again Dr. Leman suggests using humor to avoid discussing something that shouldn't have been asked in the first place. "I tell them my little guys can really swim," Dr. Leman says. "Most people understand I'm not talking about my three-year-old, but rather my ability to reproduce." Head's husband just shrugs off rude comments by telling people that one can't chose what one is good at. Most people either laugh at the attempt to joke away a tense moment, or they'll drop the subject because they realize it isn't their concern.
Your life journey
For some, the more the merrier is the best route. Others like to travel in smaller groups. Whether you choose to have one, two, or six children, the road ahead is bumpy. Pack your patience, love and pride. But, leave your sense of humor on the front seat. You'll need that before you make your first pit stop.