Monday, January 17, 2011

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It Takes A Village...Or A Few Big Sibs (The Beauty of a Big Family)

I have four children – the oldest are five – and I will begin this post by saying that I do not consider this number to be excessively large.  However, wherever I go, I am frequently asked, “Are they all yours?”  I usually simply reply, with exuberance, “They are!”   However, I am sometimes tempted to say that I just borrow extra children for special outings, or the toy store was having a buy one get one sale.  I am not sure that people would find me funny, so I generally avoid such tongue-in-cheek comments.

As long as I can remember, I imagined my life with many children.  I imagined my life making a difference in my community. I imagined my life as a wife and mother.  I imagined my life teaching my children the many things that I learned from my mother and grandmother.  My husband had no such "big family" dreams in his youth.  He never had a longing for constant chaos and little children piled around the dinner table or in our bed.   That being said, I can safely say that he has been won over in relatively short order.

There are many wonderful aspects about having many children running underfoot.  There is an endless supply of hugs and kisses, there is always someone in looking to chat or share a snack, there is a constant stream of one-liners that I love to post on my Facebook page (sometimes just so I remember how funny and cute my kids are even when they aren’t being their funny or cute selves).  In short, there is never a quiet moment between 7am and 7pm, but I think that would probably be the case if I had two children or six.    

I am often asked by other moms if I always feel overwhelmed.  I have to admit that I do not.  Once in a while I definitely would like to go hide in my bedroom and I definitely function better after a large cup of coffee, but the truth is that I try not to let myself get overwhelmed because I try to set manageable expectations for myself.  I have four children but only two hands.  Simply put, this means that my children have to develop a certain amount of independence and patience – I can only help one child at a time put on a coat or shoes, I can only pour one glass of milk at once or serve one or two dinner plates.  All of this requires that my little people develop a bit of patience while they wait for their turn or they just figure out how to do it themselves.  However, this also means that opportunities for teamwork abound.  My son is thrilled to be able to get his little sister breakfast.  My younger daughter, in turn, is overjoyed to be able to entertain the baby while I am cooking dinner.  I love watching them watching out for each other.  They are so proud to be able to make meaningful and measurable contributions to our family.

As a working mom, my children appreciate that I have a role outside of the house that requires them to pitch in a bit more inside the house.  There is always a long list of child-friendly chores that are waiting to be done.  Sweeping, folding laundry, sorting baby diapers (the coveted job!), and picking up toys are just a few daily activities that can be quickly accomplished when tackled by three eager siblings ready to help Mommy tidy up and then settle down for some games or books.

As a group, we have read our way through the entire Magic Tree House book series and are currently working on some Beverly Cleary classics.  We cannot get enough of Zingo and probably own enough puzzles to stock a children’s library.  Sometimes I am in on all the action and sometimes I am cooking dinner, answering the phone, and checking homework.  The beauty of my busy-ness is that my kids have learned to play really well all by themselves.  I love to play with my kids, but they don’t really need me to play with them all the time.  I absolutely enjoy eavesdropping on their play from another room – listening to their imaginative scenarios unfold or watching the big kids help the littles with a puzzle or drawing a picture.

I can’t imagine life with any fewer children.  My life is certainly not quiet, but it certainly is fun.  I feel nothing but contentment as I watch my little people grow and gain skills, independence, and respect for others.  These are attributes that can be difficult to teach in isolation but are easy to learn given the right environment.  Until I find another buy one, get one free sale, I am happy with my family of six and look forward to seeing what is in store for my bright-eyed brood!  

by Erin Brighton, MPH, M.Ed. (Charlotte, NC)      

18 comments:

Amy said...

I have four children: ages 7, 5 1/2, 2, and 7 weeks. I love it, but will admit I do feel overwhelmed at times. My children play very well together and I love how they look out for one another. I, too, always wanted a big family, and I love it! Thanks for sharing your story!

Janine said...

I never wanted kids at all until I met my husband, let alone a gaggle of them, but now I find myself watching 19 Kids and Counting and thinking to myself that they aren't so crazy.

My husband and I had to move back with my parents for 6 months awhile before I got pregnant. It was not ideal to live as newlyweds in my parents' basement but I do sometimes miss living with a bunch of people and not being alone just because my husband wasn't home. It's sort of funny because I am not that extroverted a person and covet my privacy very much.

Momma said...

Thanks for posting this! People often give me a "poor you" look when they see me with my 3 children (all under 3 years old). But I find that my life is extremely full -in the most delightful way!
If they weren't so close together in age, I would have them chasing each other through the house, giggling all the way. They have such an amazing bond. I wouldn't change it for the world!
Glad to know that I am not the only one blessed with a (slightly) larger than average family and actual enjoys it!

heathera said...

Loved this post! We are currently pregnant with our 4th child and so excited. We have always wanted a big family too. Like you, sometimes hiding out does seem like a great idea but overall daily life is great and coffee is a must:) Thanks for sharing!

erin_b said...

Thanks for the comments! I love meeting other moms with four (or more) kiddos. It can be crazy but the fun outweighs the chaos. We definitely feel blessed.

jessicawiant said...

Aw. Such a sweet story! I have only one right now and treasure our one-on-one time, but I long for a little brood to call my own! I definitely want my son to have siblings to be close with. Hopefully we can add to our family soon!

megpie said...

Great post! I have 4, ages 5, 2.5, 2.5, and 3 months. The oldest 3 are boys, and they keep me on my toes!

caedmen said...

Thanks for sharing your story! I am currently pregnant with my second child, and my boys will only be 16 months apart. At first I was terrified and had no idea how to handle 2 babies but then I hear and read of people like you and I think, they survived and they enjoy life and so can I. Thank you. Looking forward to watching my boys grow and learn together and become best buddies:)

strollonby said...

I have four children - 8, 6, 2, 1 - and recently was at the store with all of them. An older man came up to me and asked if they were all mine, and I smiled and said, "Yes, sir!" He then pretended to shoot himself in the head and walked away.
Now I have had a lot of different reactions to my apparently HUGE family (my sister is pregnant with her 8th child, so I don't consider my 4 to be a big deal), but this man's was beyond anything I had ever expected. I was so shocked, and very upset that he would do something like that in front of my children!

Christy said...

LOVE THIS! I have 4 kids age 4 & under. Its amazing how often I get asked the "are those all yours?" question. Just today at the store the lady ringing me up asked if I ran an daycare lol. Ummm, no these are all mint thanks <3. Her eys got big and wide haha.

Emily F said...

Thank you for this post. I only have 2 children right now, but when I tell people I'd like to have 5 they look at me like I am crazy. I've always wanted a big family.

Boise Wiebers said...

Isn't it funny that having 4 kids is by many considered to be a large family? We recently delivered our 7th baby. Luckily for us, we don't tend to get a lot of negative comments from strangers. However, I do tire of the (even if nicely asked), "Are you done yet?" Do people not realize they have just stepped into my bedroom with such questions? I'm sure they wouldn't like it if I asked them how often they had sex with their mate. lol :)

Mandi said...

There is definitely beauty in a big family! We are expecting our 4th and I couldn't be happier. We get to save so much money too, reusing all of these diapers ;)

Maia G said...

I crave a big family! My husband wants to stop at 3, but I need at least 5 (preferable 8).

Amanda Mock said...

Loved this post. This reminds me why I want a big family. Only have a 2.5 year old now and another one due in 12 days, but definitely not done. So cute they fight over diaper laundry.

Lian said...

I remember when I was "great" with my 3rd and the guy at the register was going on and on about how hard it was going to be and how I must just be dreading it and stuff. I said "No, actually, I like my kids and am looking forward to the adventure" and then ignored the rest of the things he was saying... People can really suck. Having 3 has been SUPER hard but seriously wonderful and who would want to live in a world without my children... certainly not me!
erika

Emily Dulin said...

I am so glad that you manage your family so well and you work. There are so many moms out there who look down on working moms. It's inspiration to other working moms out there!

Babs said...

Love you're post! I have four...four and under. My youngest is 1 month. :) My husband and I get all the comments too and them some! I laughed at the "go into my room" part and the cup of coffee. All of which are my sanity too! Children are definitely a blessing and wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. It's such a joy to watch them mature into little people!