The Challenges of a Large Family Don't Outweigh the Joys

5 years ago

Someone very dear to me, who has only one child and is currently debating whether or not to have a second, asked me recently why I decided to have such a big family. It was a question that caught me a bit off guard and we were in the middle of a crowd, so it wasn't the ideal time or place for a serious discussion. I told her that I've always wanted a big family, that I love being busy and surrounded by people I love.

While this is true, it's not the complete answer, and as my mind went back to that conversation we had, I decided that I needed to elaborate.

For myself, to work through my thoughts, but also for this cherished friend, whom I love and admire very much. I don't want to sugar-coat things because I personally think it's great to have more than one child. That's not fair to her, because each family has to decide for themselves what the right number of children is for them. All I should be doing is providing the information I can, that I've gleaned from my own experiences, in order to help her reach her own decision.

I wrote a post, In Defense of Larger Families before, as a response to a post that was entitled 7 reasons having 4 kids is a bad idea, if you want to check that out. But this is slightly different.

What I wrote in that post about finding having two children to be easier than one is true in many ways, the most obvious being that the onus is no longer 100% on the parent to entertain the older child. I love playing with my kids, reading to them, teaching them -- don't get me wrong. But I also like getting a break now and then. It's good for my kids and for myself for us to each have a bit of alone time during the day. Not that you can't get alone time with just one child, because you can -- just not as often or for as long, in my very limited personal experience.

However there are other things that change with the addition of a second child. Let's consider clothes, for a start. You know how, with the addition of just one family member, suddenly you find yourself with twice as much laundry to do as before, wondering how that's even possible when the new member is so tiny and comprises only one third of the make-up of the family? Well a second child doubles that again. Don't ask me how, that's just the way it works. Then there are the clothes they outgrow, which need to be taken out of drawers, sorted, and stored or donated -- each time they go through a growth spurt or when the season changes. Sometimes I feel like my life revolves around children's clothes.

Toys are a big consideration as well. For example, when Ian and I planned out our future (ha!) and discussed having our children, we had every intention of having a few simple, old-fashioned wooden toys, cards and board games, some dress-up clothes... and not much else. It wouldn't matter what sex the babies were, because who cares about stereotypes, we thought. A boy can play with a doll just as well as a girl can play with a car. We could have a few of each, gender neutral, and that would be the end of it. We were so naive. What we had failed to take into consideration: gifts. Our toy room (yup, you read that right, there is an entire ROOM dedicated to all the crap fantastic stuff they have to play with) was supposed to be just this:

Ian made that chest himself. We are very minimalist. Our families are... not. In other words, the more kids you have, the more crap toys and miscellanea you will accumulate. We are not "princess"-ish people at all. And yet my daughter has just about every princess-y thing imaginable. So if your first child is of one sex and you find that you are already tight for space, you very seriously need to consider whether you will have room for all the stuff required for a second child, especially if he/she is of the opposite sex. Cause you need different toys as our child grows, in addition to all the younger stuff that you need to hang onto. **

The last big one, for me, is energy. In the long run, there's not a huge difference. But in the beginning, when you bring that new baby home... well, that part sucks. Because as fabulous and yummy-smelling and adorably chunky as a new baby is, there is a serious lack of sleep in the beginning. (Spoiler alert-shocking, I know.) And if your partner is back at work after a few days (as mine has always been), it's doubly hard. That's all fine and good, because you went through it once before and survived just fine, right? Right. Except that now you need to have the energy for a toddler as well. One who will be outgrowing naps and needing lots of extra attention in order to feel secure, with the arrival of the new baby. Again, though, the tough adjustment period doesn't last very long.

I am not writing this to discourage you -- honestly, I'm not. I think that having kids is the most wonderful experience in the world. In fact, if I were able to afford it, I'd have several more! But I'm me. And you're you. I can't tell you what would be right for you because only you know that. What I can tell you is that I'm an A-type to the extreme, very organized and very high-energy. Seriously, I'm like the energizer bunny on crack. While I embrace the chaos and wouldn't change it for anything in the world, there are days when it's very, very hard. Last Monday is a prime example of that.

I can tell you that yes, while there is MUCH more laundry and cleaning the more children you have, it's just so fun... all of it. Each child is so different, so wonderful, so talented in a different way -- they constantly amaze me. Some days my heart is so full of love I feel as though it will burst. And that? THAT makes everything else pale in comparison. Because when I sit down in the rocking chair at night and 3 such distinct little people, who all reflect different aspects of Ian or myself, climb onto my lap and snuggle up against me for stories...well, it just doesn't get any better than that.

**For the record, we are very grateful for the gifts people lavish upon our children. We just weren't prepared for the magnitude of your generosity.


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