Managing Life with a Large Family

Large Family photo
Photo by National Library of Ireland on The Commons

I am the mother of four children. Many people have asked us why we decided to have such a large family. It appears that a family of six is considered large these days. When my grandparents were children they were all members of families with at least ten children a piece. Now that’s a large family! But these days four children feels like a lot. Why do we have four children? We’ve been asked if having a large family is a religious thing. My husband is a minister, but no, it was not a religious thing. We had four children because we did not want to have five. My ten year old son once asked me if his dad and I knew we were going to have this large family. I told him, yes, we did. I believe it is time for “the talk”.

I have also had many people ask, “How do you do it? I t must be crazy at your house with so many kids.” Well, yes it certainly can be crazy at times, but there are ways that my husband and I have found to help make it a bit less crazy having a large family. Fortunately, we did not have them all at once. Truly the poor parents who have the entire litter at once, through the miracle of fertility treatment, are the ones who suffer. We had ours spread out over seven years so the growth of our family was more gradual. We truly didn’t see much change when we went from one child to two children. He had one and I had one. The big jump came when baby number three arrived on the scene. Now we were out numbered. I had one, he had one, and then there was still one left over. We bought a big stroller. That helped.

Then the big decision to have the fourth child truly changed everything. We knew pretty soon we would both have to be on top of our game, and stay there, or there would be mutiny in this large family! We were outnumbered two to one. So how do we manage? Well, early on we knew that daycare and after school care was not an option for us. We wanted to raise our children without that outside help, and to pay for daycare for four children would be just too much money. We have had to be creative from time to time, but we have never wavered from that plan. I am in a profession that allows nighttime work so for the last nine years I have worked two nights a week to help bring in money to meet our budget. It’s not ideal, but at least our children are cared for at home by their parents. I know this is not possible for everyone, so I do feel blessed that we have been able to accomplish this. We live several hours away from grandparents, and have not been able to call on them for help with child care. That is a great option if you live close and they are willing to help out.

It is a huge task to clothe such a large family. We have had a few friends over the years that have passed down clothes for the boys to wear. That has been so wonderful. I have also been a diligent sales shopper. I wait until the absolute final markdowns for the season to buy clothes, and then pack them away until next year. I have found shoes are the hardest thing to save money on, but I do my best to try and find them on sale. I have asked the kids to try not to outgrow their shoes all at the same time. I’m kidding, of course, but it does seem to work out that way more often than not!

Feeding a large family can be challenging as well. I have tried many different strategies over the years. I have clipped coupons. I have gone to the warehouse clubs and bought in bulk. Lately, I just skip the fancy stores and drive to the plain and simple store a few more miles away. I try to buy everything for the week in that one trip. I find that you spend more money unnecessarily if you go every day or even a few times a week. I also try to have a list prepared so I know exactly what I need to buy. Taking the kids along is a bad idea. It’s hard to say no when they are begging you for those extra goodies. It’s true that large families eat more, so we try to eat at home as much as possible. Even a trip to McDonald’s is a thirty dollar meal for us. We do like to treat our kids to meals out, so we try to find those kids eat free deals at local restaurants. Usually, its one kid eats free for every adult entrĂ©e.

It can be stressful with all the activities of a large family. Several years ago my husband and I were so stressed from trying to get each child to their different activities that we finally decided to tighten up in that area. There are so many things for children to do these days, and they all cost money and time. We chose to limit our children to two extracurricular activities a piece. This makes the kids very choosey, and they generally choose to do the things they are really interested in, so we feel like the money spent is well worth it.

Traveling with a large family has its challenges too. We have a minivan and travel with a storage bin that attaches to the rear of the van. This gives the kids more room inside the van so they are not so cramped. We always travel with plenty of snacks and drinks so that we don’t have to buy them on the road. Pillows and special blankets make napping on the road easier and the trip quieter. The best investment we ever made in the area of travel was the built in DVD player and movie screen. Now we determine travel time by the number of movies they’ll be able to watch on the way! There’s much less complaining about boredom, and much less bickering.

Back at home, everyone has their own jobs to do. They are age appropriate and matched to the children’s abilities. Sweeping and vacuuming as well as straightening up the bathroom are huge time savers for me. They all make their own beds and keep their rooms fairly clean. Well, except for the teenager. I am afraid to go in his room sometimes! I am hoping it’s just a faze.

Sometimes our kids complain about having a large family. They see other kids who may get to do more or have more things than they do or get. But most of the time they see that the tradeoff is worth it. There’s always someone to play with and life is never dull. Do I ever regret the decision to have a large family? -Absolutely never. Sure, money is always tight, and we have to be creative, but the joy the kids bring to our lives and to each other makes it all worthwhile. It sometimes makes me wish for just one more…..