The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that “less than 2 per cent of Australian women have six or more children.” Well, I must know so many of that two per cent.
I know families of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and a few with an even dozen. Whenever there is a movie about big families you always see children hanging from fans, piles of horrible food and a mum on the edge of a breakdown. Perhaps that’s why the general public feel they can be so rude to those with a brood. I come from a family of six and my Mum was often asked by strangers: “Why didn’t you buy a television?”, “How do you remember their names?” , or just told “You poor thing!”
So I thought I would share a few home truths – here are ten things I know about big families.
1. Babies come cheap. Before you protest, please hear me out. Many people having a baby think they need to buy every useless gadget on the market. You can buy a pram for a couple of thousand dollars. We got ours free, second hand. There are plenty of ways to waste money on a baby – from expensive designer nappies to buying trendy clothes they will wear for a week. In the end the baby doesn’t care about the money spent on them. They need lots of love and cuddles. Even their food is free at first.
2. Expenses may grow, but so does the love. Of course children become more expensive as they get older and parents have to make sacrifices. So they might not own the flashiest car and they might have their holidays at the coast rather than in Europe. A mother of a big family might not spend her days getting a manicure and shopping the credit card away – but wouldn’t you trade all these things for a beautiful new person?
3. A big family does not mean chaos. Some of these Mums with big families could have been the President of USA – their homes are run with such precision and order. With more children, there just seem to be more strategies in place. Older kids help out with housework and looking after the younger ones. You rarely see kids hanging from the fan or throwing their breakfast at each other.
4. Big families are more fun. The fun and laughs are just multiplied. There are a variety of big personalities and you’re never lonely. I had the best fun playing with my brothers and sisters. We had amazing games of charades, tug-of-war, cops & robbers and putting on plays. And even in the tough times, big families know how to have a laugh. If someone is sick or dying from a big family, the love seems to carry you through it. Just recently I’ve been to two different funerals – both people were from a large family. These were not lonely people and it was beautiful to see so many gather to honour their lives.
5. Parents of big families still have fun. I have so many memories of my parents laughing. Parents of big families appreciate the good things in life. Like anyone else, they enjoy that good meal, having friends over, a glass of wine, a cup of tea, a good TV show. Of course they love each other. And so more children come. It has to be a daring a love – a love full of trust.
6. Every big family is different. I think the personalities become even stronger with more kids. You want to stand out from the crowd and you need to speak up to be heard. They tend be more fervent about their passions whether it’s sport, singing or drama.
7. The heart is made for loving many people. It goes without saying that I never forgot my five siblings’ names. I could even remember the names of all my friends’ brothers and sisters - even if they had six or twelve. And I knew my Mum loved us all. Her heart just kept on growing.
8. Big families don’t need a chef. Growing up, I was more used to cooking for eight than for two. And I think I’m a better cook for it. My Mum can cook for 14 at very short notice. She often entertains large numbers with very little stress.
9. Love brings more love. As my parents grow older I can see their generosity will be rewarded. They won’t be left alone in a nursing home like so many of our elderly. Their example means that we all love babies and so they are able to meet many grandchildren. My Grandfather has met five great-grandchildren already
10. A Mum who has many children still looks beautiful. There are some very good looking Mums out there who have had eight or more children. It’s miraculous but true! And all these Mums with many children have something gorgeous about them. It’s all over their face and eyes – I’m not sure if it’s more joy or pride. They are mums with gumption – not timidly dipping their toe into life but charging ahead like a battle axe.
Clare Horsfall is a Drama & English teacher and more recently, a new mum. This post was first published on her personal blog, Still Reading Bedtime Stories, where she tackles literature, movies, food and the adventure of being a parent.