Pros & Cons of Big Families
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I didn’t come from a big family, and I never dreamed I would have one someday. The oldest of three, I had my own space in our quiet, predictable home. Different grade levels and separate schools divided me from my siblings, and my husband grew up in a similar way.
Although we both felt grateful for our parents and our childhood, My husband and I wanted something different for our future family. Our goal was to homeschool, and we decided we would have as many children as God gave us. Some friends and family members thought the idea was cool, while others thought we were crazy.
Over the years, our big family of eleven children has gathered compliments, questions, and many wide-eyed stares. Raising a large family has held many surprises. Things haven’t always gone as planned, and there have been plenty of stressful days. However, having a big happy family has provided learning and refining that has shaped me as an individual. Having a big family has brought daily, lifelong blessings that I never expected. Perhaps you have a big family, or dream of having one someday. If so, here are some things to consider, and along with helpful tips to make it a more pleasant journey.
Big Family Bonuses
Although there are challenges in having a big family, there are also lifelong bonuses and many advantages of having a big family. (I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks!)
Big Families are a Worthwhile Investment
I believe there is nothing more gratifying than investing in living souls. As a parent, those souls may become your biggest fans, your closest comforters, and even your grownup friends. Every day, I am in awe of who they are becoming, and it’s tremendously satisfying to watch them learn, grow, and conquer life decisions. (It’s definitely been worth all the dirty diapers, toddler fuss, and teenage angst!)
Big Families Bring Close Relationships
Our five adult children still enjoy being together, and they include their siblings when they plan events, take trips, and host parties. When our entire family gets together for a holiday or birthday, it’s like we have our own language of inside jokes and family memories, all wrapped up with good humor and a deep sense of belonging.
Big Families Provide Lifelong Support
Thankfully, we parents are not yet incapacitated by age or infirmity. When we are, I believe that our children will do their part to take care of us. I have already seen our children pitch in to spend time with Grandma, help one another move, and express support during hard times.
Big Family Drawbacks
Even with all the rich potential benefits, it is wise to consider the potential challenges and costs of living with a large family.
Big Families Have Big Food Budgets
Hefty food bills are a big family reality. Although there are ways to cut corners on groceries, food purchases are one of the biggest expenses that go along with having a big family. I still remember the days when I used to bring everyone to the grocery store. It was typical for me to maneuver two carts through the store – one to hold piles of food, and one to hold all the kids.
Large Families Use Large Vehicles
When we launched our family, we started with a minivan. We graduated to a Suburban, and eventually drove a huge 15-passenger van. Large, gas-guzzling vehicles get less mileage than economy-sized cars, but a large family needs a large vehicle.
Vacations Cost More For Big Families
Between gas, flights, food, hotels and attractions, vacations can strain a big family budget. Camping or staying with relatives can ease costs, but vacations are simply more expensive for big families.
Time for Yourself is Rare
While raising a big family, it’s difficult to carve out time for yourself. Most of my children were born between 15 months and two years apart, and I didn’t really expect time to myself when they were all little. If I wanted to go anywhere, I usually took a few children with me. I eventually discussed this need with my husband, and landed a few weekly hours to spend all by myself.
Large Families = Lots of Laundry
Diaper blowouts, toddler messes and ordinary dirt add up to an ever-present pile of laundry. Big families often purchase more than one washing machine and dryer, which costs more, requires space and adds energy costs.
Big Families Need More Square Footage
Housing more people requires more space, even with shared rooms and bunk beds. By using bunk beds with trundles (two bunk beds for the girls and two for the boys) we made it work with one big room for the girls and one big room for the boys. Besides the bedrooms, it’s nice to have a large kitchen and several bathrooms, too.
Big Families Mean Less Time as a Couple
Thanks to Grandma and a few trusted babysitters, we did have a few date nights in those early years. It’s tough to make time for yourselves, unless you can count on help from others.
5 Tips for Big Happy Families
When people think of big families, they may envision noise, expense, and constant disorder. Big family life can be messy sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be chaotic. If you want to raise a big happy family, it helps to lay down guidelines and expectations so you can survive and thrive. Here are some tips to make life easier for big families.
1. Ask for Help
Big families need help sometimes. It’s great when people reach out, but you may need to ask for help when you welcome a new baby, battle sickness, or need to get away with your spouse. Consider enlisting extended family members, or paying for a reliable babysitter.
2. Train Your Children
As a former gym teacher, my husband found ideal ways to maintain discipline, getting everyone in line while making it fun. Inclined to bend the rules and get slack on consequences, I found it harder to require obedience. However, I learned that I would have to practice at home and stay consistent if I expected my children to behave in public. Training children to listen and obey is a lost art, but it makes for a happier home and more peaceful public outings. Training children takes time, but the benefits are worth it.
3. Develop Family Routines
Even if you have a busy family, it is helpful to maintain predictable routines. Sticking to a regular bedtime was always a priority for us. Other routines included consistent nap times and rest periods for babies and toddlers (and sometimes mom). We aimed for an hour of quiet time every day, even for non-nappers. Quiet play, reading or coloring created a calm space in an otherwise busy day.
4. Plan Easy Birthdays
Birthdays at our home meant that each child got to choose the menu and a movie. Other than that, we didn’t host huge birthday parties with lots of other kids. Birthday parties simply included the family, and perhaps one chosen guest.
5. Keep Meals Simple
Large family meals can get expensive. Keep meals simple, and involve the children if possible. Soup is a staple in our home, and sometimes we make it together. Children enjoy chopping vegetables (supervised, of course) and it’s amazing how they enjoy eating their creations. For a simple lunch, I often serve leftovers.
Big Family FAQs
How can I keep all those kids busy?
Surprisingly, an ideal way to keep kids busy is by providing meaningful work for them. Little ones love to help, so take advantage of that and don’t shoo them away. If they learn to work when they are little, they realize that work can be fun and satisfying. Let your toddler do safe and simple tasks alongside you in the kitchen or in the yard. This prevents boredom, and it’s the perfect way to train the best future helpers.
How can big families cut food costs?
We have used local food sharing programs, and I love finding discounted meat or clearance bakery goods. Growing food in your own garden is also a superb idea and it solves two problems: it keeps kids busy when school’s out, and it adds produce to the family table.
How do big families take vacations?
Our family has not taken many big vacations, but when we do, we usually travel in our 15-passenger van. We try to bring food along or cook our own meals. We often stay with friends and family, and then return the favor when they are in the area. Although we aren’t a camping family, many big families are, and it’s an ideal way to vacation with a large group. Hotel alternatives (such as Vrbo) give more space and privacy than a hotel and are often more economical.
How can big families eat out on a budget?
If you want to eat out, watch for local specials. In our area, some restaurants advertise “Taco Tuesday” specials, or BOGO deals. When we take our children to a local all-you-can-eat buffet, we make it our biggest meal, eating light the rest of the day.
How can I maintain a great relationship with my spouse?
Plan to touch base daily with your spouse. Once you make it a sacred habit, your children will understand that you need time alone. Some couples call this “couch time.” Date nights don’t have to be lengthy or expensive, but spending regular time together is important for any relationship.
Big families bring bountiful blessings, and the rewards often come in unexpected ways. Along with the perks, there are definitely some real challenges and expenses. If you dream of raising a big family, consider the pros and cons and discuss it with your spouse. Whatever your family size, being a parent is a shockingly joyous experience!