By today’s standards, a family with three children is considered to be a large family. A century ago, my great grandmother had 24 children: 16 survived into adulthood. Today we are afraid of having children; society tells us it is too expensive and not possible. My husband and I have raised seven children. It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2373): “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity.”
Many of our friends have more children than us. One family we know has 8 children, another has 9 children, two have 10 children, two have 11 children, one has 13 children, one has 15 children, and one has 17 children. We all live in the Toronto area, and of these 10 families we have one hundred and eleven children between us as. Believe me, it is one heck of a party when we all get together!
The mothers of these children have all chosen to take on motherhood as their profession and we carry out motherhood it in a very professional way. We do not wish to return to work outside the home for a paycheck to escape the boredom of domestic life as recent studies have suggested, and it is quite obvious that our marital bliss has not disappeared with children as other studies have shown. We have been lucky enough to discover many secrets about life and love, which others will unfortunately miss.
How do we do it?
First, we have to be willing to develop a good prayer life. Parents of large families cannot just be Sunday Catholics. A deep spirituality, daily Mass, weekly Confession, regular spiritual direction, and the family Rosary are some of the ways we get those extra graces we need. A great trust in God and a devotion to the Holy Family makes it all possible.
Then you must remember that mostly children do not come more than one at a time (although occasionally there are twins). With each child, you begin to develop muscles and habits that help make you a bit more organized, a bit more patient, a bit more able to take on one more, as long as you keep on trying. Of course if you roll over and play dead at any point along the way and don’t keep on top of things, things will seem worse than they really are, but the secret is organization.
The mother needs to be continually working on her organizational skills as the family grows. The mother’s actual role is that of “Professional Household Manager.” She has to be willing to delegate responsibilities, even to the two-year-old. She needs to carry a day timer in her diaper bag, or have a Google calendar for each family member and have a clear mission statement for herself and all the family, so that everyone knows their roles and goals. She must have a high standard of principles and have clear and defined rules for the whole family and she must be willing to live simply so that the rest of the family can follow her example. The major tool for her job must be her good example in all areas of life, since the best teaching is done by example. She must always be learning new skills to improve her work environment.
Books such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families give good examples of how this can be done. It is a lot simpler than it sounds and the parents develop many virtues in the process so it is very good for our characters. The effort that the mother must put into her job is no different than what any other person puts into their job, but hers can be more satisfying for she gets to work with and for those she loves. With the help of the sacrament of Reconciliation and spiritual direction she can develop the skills she needs.
Raising a large family is not as expensive as one is led to believe. One of my friends who raised 11 children always reminds me that each kid is born with a loaf of bread in their back pocket. I have found this to be true. There are so many ways in our society where we can all learn to live more simply. We can get good clothing at thrift shops; we can shop in bulk and take advantage of sales. It is better for children to share a bedroom and learn to get along so the house need not be big. We can cut down on Christmas expenses and cut out cable TV, all which are better for the family. We are led to believe it is expensive to live in our society, but we have been misled. We just need to re-examine our spending habits in the sight of God.
Every day can be exciting with a large family, as practically every month has a birthday or an anniversary, some sort of reason to party. My friend with 17 children, most who are married now, said they have so many birthday parties and feast day parties at their home for their children and grandchildren that they are practically always celebrating something. (Their new neighbours even wondered about all the partying.)
Believe me; it is possible, even in today’s society, to take such a chance, and to really succeed in raising a large family if one is only willing to try. The lifestyle that we are providing for these one hundred and eleven children is a lifestyle that will prepare them for today’s world. They are learning how to share, how to care, how to work, how to play, how to be responsible, how to be patient, how to get along with others—all very important for the working world they are going to be entering only too soon. The large family is a school within itself.
Having many children is not the curse society has led us to believe it is. It is a challenge. It forces us to grow up and mature, and it teaches us to set priorities and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
I am also willing to bet that none of my friends who are parents of large families will end up in nursing homes. Odds are at least one of the children will be willing to take us in, if living alone becomes impossible, or we can go visit each one of them for a month or two at a time and they will hardly even notice us. Do not let the old theory that it takes about $100,000 to raise a child in our society scare you off. Rather, think of it like this: having 10 children makes one a millionaire. We are not all called to raise large families, but for those who are, do not let society scare you off.
Photo credit: Louis-Léopold Boilly [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.