Monday, January 07, 2008

So you want a big family?

My sweet friend kittyhox paid me the highest compliment in a comment the other day, and asked a very good question:

Lately I've been thinking I really would like five children. I think it's because I DVR and watch Seventh Heaven all the time. Although, come to think of it, they end up with SEVEN children. So maybe it's your influence?

At what point did you decide to have a big family? Now that we have ONE I just feel like I want to have a little one around at all times.

When we first got married, there was no question that we wanted children. We believe children are a gift from God, and that His plan is for one generation to pass on the knowledge of God to the next generation.

But then there was the question of how many: Dennis came from a family of three, so he wanted three. I came from four kids, so I wanted four. So that already put us in the counter-culture group by wanting more than the standard "one boy and one girl."

But going to school sidelined those plans for the first eight years of our marriage (here's a summary). So by the time we were ready for our first, not only was I fearful that I would never get pregnant, I had obsessed about babies to such a degree that we had unbelievably unrealistic expectations of parenthood. I was surprised at how hard it was!

However, God is good. It’s funny, because as bad at baby-managing as I started off, I always had that same feeling kittyhox had. Once we got through the first few months, and I started to get into a groove, I just loved having a baby around. When I found out I was pregnant when Allie (now 14) was only 9 months old, I was actually excited.

We had our moments of insanity, we had financial difficulties, we moved, we had our communication issues, I was working part time and hating it, but even through all that, there was a thread of joy that held us together and made us hopeful about the future.

By the time Neal (now 13) was two and Allie was three, I was ready for our third (here’s a post that explains that a bit).

Here’s where the big family thing started coming in. Two things were happening: (1) I needed some serious help managing my home with three kids, and (2) we needed parenting help.

I read a lot of James Dobson, which gave me the courage to train and discipline my kids. We were also in a Sunday school that talked about Biblical parenting. Even though this tended to fuel some unrealistic expectations for having "perfect" kids, this foundation gave us an indispensable framework for obedience that made having three kids in one house possible.

Then somewhere along the way, someone introduced me to Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s books and materials. I found myself drawn to the “realness” of their family life with six kids. I remember reading once that their boys got into a tussle and made a hole in the wall. I also read where they were at a restaurant on the way to a conference where they were supposed to speak to parents about Christian parenting, and they felt like failures because their kids were all fighting!

At first I was shocked that “Christian leaders” could have kids that were not perfect, but the more I read, the more I realized this is the kind of example I was looking for. They held the same biblical beliefs as I did, but they were flexible, took things in stride, and (most importantly) were FUN! I liked reading stories of the interactions they had with their kids (whether positive or negative) and I felt like, “I can do this.”

When I was looking for household help, I read every organizing book I could get my hands on. Most made me feel like a failure, but one made its way into my heart: Bonnie’s Household Organizer. I still love the way Bonnie McCullough talks about her kids – five of them - she weaves tenderly training them in with staying on top of the laundry. Also somewhere in that search, I came across a book called Raising a Large Family by Katherine Schlaerth. I think it’s out of print now, but she had me hooked on the idea of having lots of kids (which, in our culture, is three or more) in her introduction: “It's the best thing we never planned.”

And that’s enough for today. I’ll talk more about this later this week. I'm supposed to be househunting, remember?


Here's a candid conversation about large family life with Dennis and Barbara Rainey that pretty much sums up what I would say if asked the question, "How has having a large family impacted your life?"

I especially echo Barbara's first line: "Well, I'm tired a lot."


Beck said...

A WONDERFUL post, Kathrine!
I would love more kids. But I have really dangerous pregnancies, so it's scary even thinking about it - and my husband says that he is more then content with three, so I've been trying to quiet the yearning for more children. Sigh.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

That was my comment deleted above... it had a ridiculous amount of mommybrain typos that made it illegible! ha!

I, too, have a hard time when I am pregnant. Mine are just hard, not necessarily dangerous, although this present pregnancy may beg me to differ -ha! I have 3 under the age of four and am 12 weeks pregnant with number four. The last 8 weeks of "all day sickness" have been very dark, but I know God is pulling me through this. Still I am asking God, "You know that we wanted a large family, but how can we ever have any more when I live in such a pitiful state for the first trimester?" Once the babies are here, everything really becomes so wonderful. It's hard, but much more manageable than the nine months beforehand.

God is teaching my husband and me so much during this time. I guess my comment doesn't really have a point, except that I can relate to wanting a large family. I never thought the sickness and struggles during pregnancy would make me question it so much, though.

I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this!

Queen to my 3 Boys said...

Great post! Any specific recommendations from Dennis and Barbara Rainey? Any suggestions on dealing with 5-year-old arguing & sassiness?

Anonymous said...

Hi Katherine!

Nothing has made me feel as inept, unqualified, and clueless as having children. Truly! But you know I've come to see what a wonderful place that is to be in.

I feel needy. Desparately needy! Of God's Help, His wisdom, His energy, His ways.

My kids drive me to my knees. That in and of itself is a GIFT!

One more thought on large families: my experience (5 kids ages 8 and under) is that everything is intensified - the laughter, the squabbling, etc. The tough parts can be tough, but the good parts are REALLY good!

Chris in Canada

Anonymous said...

Hi Katherine!

Nothing has made me feel as inept, unqualified, and clueless as having children. Truly! But you know I've come to see what a wonderful place that is to be in.

I feel needy. Desparately needy! Of God's Help, His wisdom, His energy, His ways.

My kids drive me to my knees. That in and of itself is a GIFT!

One more thought on large families: my experience (5 kids ages 8 and under) is that everything is intensified - the laughter, the squabbling, etc. The tough parts can be tough, but the good parts are REALLY good!

Chris in Canada

Jen said...

How wonderful. Sometimes I wished we had 3 children or even 4. My friends look at me as if I'm mom is up for whatever....we only have a 3 bdr home...our dream we prayed for home and I couldn't put a baby girl in with wouldn't be fair to her and my only hope would be a boy...and God is the only one who chooses that card....I enjoyed this post and am glad you are back. Good luck finding your dream home.

Laura said...

I LOVE the Dennis and Barbara books - but maybe I'm a little biased! Having more than 2 kids is a lot of work. We have a 3 bedroom house with 3 girls and 1 boy. I have to stay on to p of things or it gets out of control FAST! But what a blessing! I wouldn't want it any other way! Except maybe if there wasn't the laundry.

Christine said...

Yay for bigger families! You are a wonderful example of realness yourself, Katherine. Happy New Year!

fAiThFuL cHiCk said...

I echo the tired feeling, my friend.

I never thought I would even have kids, much less three. Now I cannot imagine my life without them.

Happy househunting...

Debbie said...

I recently crossed into the world of "Large Families" this past September w/ the birth of child #5, a sweet baby girl. And I just can't figure myself out, but I would not mind having another one! Only God knows for sure if there is another little angel up there for our family.

I would definitely say that having a large family is the best thing we never planned. It is crazy, loud, busy, crowded, and wonderful all rolled into one!

Katherine, thanks for your many posts about your family life that are so real. You help me realize that this insanity is, well, normal! Ha!

Valarie said...

Great post Katherine! I have 3 kids in my house, 2 stepkids who come to visit and 2 babies waiting for me in heaven. I used to say that I wanted a house full of kids but God gave me His perfect portion and it's just right! My grandmother had 14 kids! CAN YOU IMAGINE? She used to say she kept having babies to give the older kids something to do!! hahaha

Family O'Foxes said...

great post!
thumbs up!


Dena said...

We just added a 3rd child to our family this past year and I am so surprised by how many people think we have a lot of children. I can't imagine the comments you must get, b/c I get so many about "having my hands full", etc. with only 3.
3 seems like just right for me, where as with 2, I felt like we weren't complete.
My husband would like to adopt again, but I really feel like we are just right where we are!

Dimple Queen said...

I would sometimes LOVE to have a third child, but I get so stinkin' scared. Scared that I just won't be able to do it since I already feel that way with the two I have. I feel like I have so much love to give still but at the same time there are MANY days I feel like a monster! I feel like the picture on beck's comment above!!! I don't like to feel that way.

I loved being pregnant, I didn't gain more than 25-30 pounds with either pregnancy and took it off really quick. I loved the sweet smell of those babies and the selfish feeling of being needed 24/7!

But then I stop and think that BOTH of my kids are finally potty trained! And one is about to be in Kindergarten and in 2 more years there will not be a daycare bill!!! But then the flip side to that is that we are about to have one out of daycare, and we are already use to paying for 2 in day care, so that really wouldn't be that much of "financial" woe now would it......hmmmmmm.....

I guess it really all comes down to my faith doesn't it??

"Oh great God, be close enought to hear You now!" (a line from a Nichole Noredeman song I am listening to right now!)

Elspeth said...

We are expecting #5 in four and a half months, and while I'm thrilled and excited, part of me wonders, "how am I going to be able to do this?" I know that sound silly because there can't be much of a difference between four and five, but that's my irrational mommy fear kicking in. Truthfully, it was my husband's idea to jump back into the baby making business after 11 years since we'd had baby. I thought he was nuts but I felt God tugging at my heart to honor Him by honoring my husband and our Little Princess (now 17 months) has brought me more joy than I ever thought imaginable. I'm gonna have to check out a couple of those books you mentioned-particularly the one on home organization.

The First Lady said...


Reading your post makes me yearn for another one. I have 9 month old.
Blessings on you and the family.

Peapod Four said...

I have two (5 and 1) but I'm pretty sure we're aren't done. We could settle here, but then I think we'd be easily pulled into that materialism the Rainey's referred to. I've always said I was either having 2 or 4. (I'm the oldest of 3.) When I read your posts, and those of other larger families, I am so enticed by all the family dynamics. I love the interactions between the kids! I know it's not easy and all fun, but the good parts really draw me. Who knows. Maybe one day I'll be a mom of four!

Unknown said...

I love Dennis Rainey. At first I thought he was a little dry, but I listen to his Family Life Today podcast, and yes, he's so real, and yet uncompromising in his beliefs and expectations.

Tabatha C. said...

Im so glad I found this site. I was not to long ago a single mother of two beautiful children after my husband became addicted to drugs and started a downward spiral of domestic abuse, and stealing from anyone he could to pay for his habit. He just left one day and we havent seen him again. I met the most wonderful man and he went threw the same situation and was left a single dad of three kids. We are now a family of seven unless you count his dad who also lives with us that will make eight.
Going from two kids to five has been a huge adjustment and I times I could use some help. I love having a big family. The ages are 1,1,21/2,6, and 8.
I am deeply devoted to the Lord God and am looking for any Christian advice on lots of topics.