Did You Ever Consider Having A Big Family?

Did You Ever Consider Having A Big Family asks popular lifestyle blogger, Gabrielle of Design Mom

Did You Ever Consider Having A Big Family asks popular lifestyle blogger, Gabrielle of Design Mom

The other day, I received an email with a question about big families from a reader named Megan, and I thought you might like to chime in with some advice. Here’s the email:

I’m a mom to four boys under the age of 6. I have 3 year old twins, a 5 year old, and a 6 year old. All of our boys are adopted from South Korea, and we are super lucky to be their parents. I’d love your thoughts on something. How did you decide to have a big family? My husband and I love having a big family and would like to add another kid or 2 (either by adoption or biologically…I don’t know yet), but we feel like a circus act everywhere we go currently!

We have not decided to have a large family for religious reasons (although we do have a faith practice) and we aren’t trying to save kids by adopting them. We just like having a big family and happened to decide to adopt the kids we have. I’m wondering how you decided to have a large family when it’s clearly not the “norm” to have a larger family?

We are constantly asked really personal questions about our family, people make so many comments about how are hands are full, and to be honest I think people don’t always want to hang out with us because we have a larger family. I get really overwhelmed when I’m in public because my boys (and I) feel like all eyes are on us. I’d love to hear how you handle it/decided to have a large family. — Megan

Did You Ever Consider Having A Big Family asks popular lifestyle blogger, Gabrielle of Design Mom

I was intrigued by Megan’s questions, and her email got me curious. If you’re reading, how do you personally define a big family? Is there a certain number of kids that you think of? Or is there some other factor you use?

How do you Define a Big Family?

In my own experience, yes, some of that big family feeling comes from physically having lots of people in the room. But some of that feeling also depends on the ages of the kids. For example, I was definitely more overwhelmed when I was parenting 3 kids age 4 and under, than I was when kid number six arrived. So for me, is 3 kids a big family?

As far as how we chose to have a big family, I think for us, it was almost the default option. Both my husband and I grew up as one of 8 kids — four girls, four boys each. So growing up in a big family was familiar to us, and as a young married couple, we discussed wanting to have a big family of our own too. But I don’t think we had a particular number in mind. I do remember thinking that if we wanted to have lots of kids, we had better start early. And we did. I had baby number one at age 23, just a week after I graduated from college.

How do you Handle your Big Family Whilst out in Public?

As for being a circus when you’re out in public, I hear you. We use the same word when we think of our family on outings. It’s a lot of people and it does feel like a circus, and yes, it draws a lot of comments. How to handle it? Well, first, I can tell you that it does get better as the kids get older. And second, our best strategy was just to acknowledge the chaos. We be honest about situations that we knew would be too crazy, by skipping them or sending just one parent with a couple of kids.

Did You Ever Consider Having A Big Family asks popular lifestyle blogger, Gabrielle of Design Mom

We’d also try to get out in front of the craziness by being open about it. For many years we had a default response when someone invited our family to their home for dinner (which happened especially often in France). We’d basically say, “Oh. You you do not want to invite us for dinner. We are a circus! We are so many people, it will be overwhelming. Come to our house instead.” If they insisted on having us over, which they sometimes did, at least we had warned them of the tsunami coming their way.

And of course, a lot of handling the circus comes down to teaching your kids how to behave when you’re out and about. Which every parent has to do, but it just feels magnified with lots of kids. And I suppose that’s why things get easier as the kids get older — they’ve had much more practice behaving well. Even still today, before we get out of the car at any destination — a friend’s home, the mall, the park, a museum, wherever — the kids get behavior reminders from us. Be aware of your volume (we can be loud when we’re together). Be aware of people around you and make sure we’re not walking in a wide line on the side walk and blocking paths. Be patient because it can take a little while to find a good spot for the whole family at restaurants. Be flexible because if this outing isn’t working out, we may need to change our plans. And look out for your siblings.

Lastly, 3 tips to help them as they’re learning how to behave on outings: 1) Remember that bad behavior mostly comes down to tired or hungry kids. So have snacks in your bag, or make frequent food stops as needed. And 2) be willing to shut down the outing if the kids are just too tired. Whatever the activity is, it’s not worth losing your temper at the kids. It’s okay to go home. Honestly, if they’re little, they probably won’t remember the fun activity even if it’s great. 3) Have mental games or challenges at the ready (like 20 Questions, or spotting patterns — how many blue cars or red pants can you find?) for those times when the family has to wait and be patient.

Okay, Dear Readers. Your turn.

What advice would you give Megan? What is a “big family” to you? And how did you decide whether to have a big family or not? Was it even on the table for you as an option? Also, how do you teach your kids how to behave on outings? Any tips you’d add?

P.S. — 18 tips for traveling with a big family.

105 thoughts on “Did You Ever Consider Having A Big Family?”

  1. Pingback: Did You Ever Consider Having A Big Family? – parenting.newspaperperiod.com

  2. Thank you for sharing the article. I live in a big family :) My grandparents have 3 daughters and 4 sons, I have many cousins, and it’s very happy in special occasions, when everyone gathers. Having a big family is not easy, but I like the idea :) I’d love to be around with a lot of grandchildren.

  3. HI THERE ! I’m french, I’ve loved this article so much that I needed to talk about it on my blog. So, if you’re okay, I used one of your photos to illustrate what I write about your blog, and there is a direct link from my blog to yours. Let me know if you’re not comfortable with that, please Gabrielle !
    See you!

    Sophie

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  5. Two big family scenarios:
    My brother gave me the perfect response to the very common question, “Are you Mormon or Catholic?” Answer: “Nope, we are just dumb Protestants!!”. Humor bridges the gap right away.
    Secondly, as stated before, I often got the “You have your hands full! I”m glad it is you and not me!”. I usually responded by saying “I’m glad too!”, which often took them off guard and a few minutes to decide if I was being kind or not. I usually walked away before they decided! Lol!!

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  7. We have 4 kids. (last one is a junior now)
    We both grew up in families with 8 kids, so frankly 4 seemed easy. That made it easier to take them out, and then they were socialized too. I’ll admit we’d sit there, jaws dropped, watching other families struggle with kids that seemed to have never been in public before. A lot of basic manners don’t seem to be taught anymore.
    From the beginning dates were a priority for us, sometimes as a couple, sometimes with many other couples. Sure there have been a handful of friends who had kids the right ages and personalities that made getting together with everyone pretty easy, but for the most part we found our night groove.
    Just put the kids to bed, plant a sitter on the couch with a couple movies and snacks and voila! Dinners, movies, plays, game nights etc… It was always easy to get a sitter when all they had to do was hang out:)

  8. I will add we have 3 girls and then 1 boy, so of course the most annoying comments are similar to “had to keep trying for that boy, huh?”
    As if my girls are sub-par. ugh.
    Also, I realize this thread is over 2 years old. In fact I probably commented the first time around! Ha! Any other very late commenters out there?:)

  9. I came from a family with two kids. My husband is one of four kids. We have seven kids. The oldest is eight and our youngest are five months old. We also have three sets of twins. Here’s the quick version of our story: After a couple of years of infertility and two losses, we had our daughter through IVF. We froze one embryo from that cycle, but our clinic accidentally destroyed it (so heartbreaking). They offered us a free IVF, but we didn’t want to use it, so we did a less invasive form of fertility treatments to try for baby #2. We were shocked to get twin boys after six cycles. We tried for a fourth for two years with no luck. We hadn’t wanted to use the free IVF but decided to go for it because we knew we wanted one more. That time around, we fertilized very few eggs because we didn’t want to have “extra” embryos. But we had “unprecedented results” and got four embryos out of it – a set of twin girls and a set of twin boys. So…technically…our fifth, sixth and seventh babies are our “IVF Oops Babies.” I have no qualms about them knowing that they weren’t necessarily part of the original plan. I often say, “We wouldn’t have been brave enough to go for it on our own, so I’m SO THANKFUL it was kind of decided for us.” Could we have opted to not transfer the embryos to my uterus? Absolutely. But when we decided to do IVF, we made a commitment to give every single embryo we created the best chance at life, and here we are!

    Sometimes my husband and I look around and laugh to each other, “What the HECK were we thinking?!?!” Other times, it all feels genuinely overwhelming, and I spend all day three (or more) steps behind the messes and urgent needs, all the while internally listing my own personal shortcomings as a mom. Most of the time, though, it’s a really joy-filled, hilarious, active, loving, fun life. While we didn’t necessarily set out to have a big family, I do think that we were kind of made for it. We’re both pretty low maintenance, requiring little to no alone time (although it’s LOVELY when we are able to steal away for a bit). And while we would love to be traveling, shopping, going on dates or even being able to watch a movie here and there (haha), we really do feel more than content with the at-home “dates” that we squeeze in between the babies going to bed and our own early bedtime…since we know we’ll be up at least a couple times per night. (Let’s be real…I get up. He keeps sleeping. Haha.) We also naturally have more collective vs. individualistic mindsets, so I don’t have much of a drive to achieve things by or for myself. I’m okay with being in the background and cheering on my friends, kids, etc in their careers, hobbies and accomplishments. We are also more than okay with having hand-me-down clothes, furniture, etc. My husband’s colleagues tease him about his old clothes and twenty-year-old car, but we just don’t really care about that stuff, which is why the financial aspect isn’t as big of a deal (yet…we realize they’re only going to get more expensive). Lastly, we don’t do activities, sports, clubs, etc. Maybe here and there, but they are EXTREMELY limited, so we aren’t running all around like taxi drivers. Our kids tend to be homebodies anyways, so it’s worked out well so far. (Again, we’ll see what happens when they’re teenagers.)

    We get A LOT of comments from people when we take all of the kids out. Especially if I do it alone. I really don’t mind. I get that it’s unusual to see a family with seven children so close in age. Usually I can see them counting and then they realize that we have three sets of twins and their jaw drops. I get that it’s hard for them to not comment, so I tend to be really positive and nice in my response. Most people ask, “Do twins run in your family?” Which is just the slightly more polite way of asking whether we used infertility treatments. Ninety percent of the time, I answer honestly, even telling a micro version of our story to people who seem genuinely interested and ask/comment with respect and warmth. The other ten percent of the time, though, I just say, “Now they do!”

    I do feel self conscious about our family’s carbon footprint. We create a lot of trash/recycling. We eat a lot of food. We drive a large vehicle. So we are trying to slowly but surely get better about all of this. I also feel self conscious about the fact that, just because we are mostly used to the “chaos” and volume of having seven kids ages eight and under, most other people aren’t. So I know that it’s usually best for us to invite people to our house or to do things outdoors with friends.

    I do agree with and am so grateful for the commenters who said, “So much of it is about the age of the kids vs. the number of kids,” and the commenters who said, “I would rather hang out with a family who had lots of well-behaved kids vs. a family with a couple of whiny/misbehaving kids.” Our kids understand that we hold them to MUCH higher standards than most of their peers because when we enter someone’s home/restaurant/church/whatever, we are a FORCE. And that force can be for good or…not so good. We don’t tolerate whining, baby talk, yelling/screaming, or really anything that people might find annoying. Haha. Now that some of them are a little older, we are constantly telling them, “Do not expand to fill space available.” And, “Leave a place better than you found it.” We are also on them a million times/day about their volume. Some of these things haven’t sunken in yet, but we have to remind ourselves that these are planting years, not reaping years. The reaping will come in time. Overall, I feel really proud to take my kids out in public. When people say, “I don’t know how you do it,” or my LEAST FAVORITE COMMENT EVER – “You’re amazing!” (oh please), I always give my kids credit because this season is a really hard and physically demanding one, but we’re doing it together. All nine of us. It takes sacrifices and flexibility and a spirit of servanthood, not just from my husband and I, but from ALL of us. We make a great team, and at the end of the day, no matter how tired I am, there is so much satisfaction in that.

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