When people first learn that we have eight children, their minds usually go straight to the disadvantages—cost, time, food, laundry, sanity. Most people don’t comment on all the wonderful things about having a big family because often they don’t know and can’t imagine the blessings.
It’s not their fault. We have far fewer examples of big families in our culture today than we did in the past. In case you fall into that category, I will share some of our reasons why we like being a part of a big family.
I made my own list and then interviewed the other family members to see what thoughts they could add. Interestingly, every single one of them asked, “Is this for your blog?” before they answered me. Now why would they ask that? Hmmmm. It was neat to see that many of our pluses about having a plus-sized family overlapped.
We enjoy having built-in babysitters for date night. They only charge us room and board and they truly love the children they are watching.
Freaking people out for fun. I love to go into to public with just three of my children and have people exclaim, “Oh you have your hands full!” Then I get to smile mischievously and say, “No I don’t. These are less than half of my kids.” And watch their mouths gape open in stunned silence. It makes running errands so much more entertaining! This isn’t a reason why we have a big family, but it’s a fun perk.
Watching my older children love, protect, serve, and delight in their younger siblings. They will make awesome parents someday. They are already more equipped than I was when I had my first baby. They appreciate the hands-on leadership practice they gain from being significantly older than the young children. My mommy heart is delighted when an older child can’t wait to tell the story of the younger one’s latest cute antics.
Watching my little ones adore, imitate, admire, and seek out their big brothers and sisters. My littles adore their big brothers and sisters. It’s so cute when they try to be like them. My littlest guy talks like he doesn’t know he’s only in preschool. He picks up all kinds of useful phrases like shouting “Boom!”, when it turns out he was right after all. I keep telling my oldest son that he can’t leave home after graduation because it will break his little brother’s heart. Crash got very attached to Baconman while Daddy was deployed for six months a couple of years ago. Baconman was his surrogate Daddy and although Daddy has returned, the special bond between the two brothers has not lessened.
Many hands make light work. We can wreck the house like a herd of buffalo and devour food like a swarm of locusts. But when we all work together, we can also get the entire house company ready or prepare the entire Thanksgiving meal in under an hour. Like when my husband announces, “Change of plans. The moving inspector can’t make it tomorrow. He’ll be here in 50 minutes to open every drawer and closet in order to inventory what they need to pack next month.” Go! (Yep, we got it done!)
We have to take 50,000 pictures to get one decent picture with everyone looking at the camera with open eyes and hands down. Okay, that’s not really anybody’s favorite thing, but I do love looking at the pictures of all of us together. Truthfully, I love looking at the outtakes even more. They tell a story on their own.
There’s always something interesting going on somewhere in the house. We have never been accused of being dull nor do we ever suffer from boredom. We are more akin to a 3-ring circus—too many exciting things going on at once to watch them all. My husband and I try desperately to keep the tent over our circus but sometimes the monkeys escape and run amuk with the elephants and well…like I said, never a dull moment.
The buddy system. Whenever we go out somewhere, we divide up the children into “teams of two”. Each older child is responsible for keeping track of one younger one. There are usually two middle children who get stuck together as partners and walk together but refuse to hold hands. Mom and Dad are responsible for counting to eight approximately 1,642,578 times during our outing until we all return home safely. By the grace of God, so far we haven’t lost track of a child—at least not for more than a couple of minutes. The buddy system is a great way to tackle all life’s adventures. Our children learn early the importance and joy of finding and keeping a buddy.
We know how to share. Whether it’s three little girls in one bedroom or several of us taking turns sipping the milkshake (3 sips per person and then you get to the back of line. We rotate through until the milkshake is gone.)—we know that what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine and what’s ours usually gets lost or broken in a move or by someone younger than you.
You are never alone. There is always someone to talk, play, snuggle, laugh, or fight with. A hug is always available for anyone who needs one. There is no shortage of playmates in our home.
I have enough small people to last me until grandkids come. My oldest child is no longer a child. He is practically a man now, perched on the rim of our nest, testing out his wings for that flight that is coming all too soon. I am in utter denial that in a few short months our family will begin to disperse as a new child leaves the home every other year. I often think how if I only had two children (as many people think I should), my full-time mothering days would almost be over. I’m so glad for the six “extra” children the Lord has blessed us with. I’m so glad I still have little ones. It softens the blow a bit about my older children moving on, away from me. And they also keep me too busy to mourn for long. I figure by the time my littles aren’t little anymore, my olders will bring the grandkids around for me to snuggle, hold, and love. My nest doesn’t ever have to be truly empty. We like to refer to it as the “extended nest” plan.
There is no such thing as an overly-timid Meyers. Our children know how to speak up and share their needs and opinions. They know to get their serving of dinner before it’s gone. They know how to be heard over the background noise that is a staple of our home’s atmosphere. I was an extremely shy child and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just the way some of us are made. But I’m pleased that my children have learned (out of necessity) to speak up for themselves and for the causes they feel are important. This is an essential skill set for military family members who are constantly moving to new neighborhoods, schools, and churches. It’s a key to thriving in a challenging and dynamic environment. I suspect one or two of my children might have been the quiet type had they been raised in a quieter environment. Most of them though would be loud and vocal no matter how they grew up.
A lively variety of stages. All stages of raising children have their own set of joys and challenges. We get to experience the fun of every stage all at once. On the same day my oldest child went with his Dad to check out the college he’ll be attending, I went to a preschool parent-teacher conference to discuss my youngest child’s skill with crayons. We are working on getting a job and learning to drive all the way to staying dry at night and keeping out of Mommy’s purse and everything in between all at the same time. Gotta keep those parenting skills sharp!
The Fountain of Youth. I have children who are the same age as women who were born a decade (or more) after me. It’s easy to convince myself that I’m younger too when I hang out with them. My children keep me youthful.
It’s easy to make friends. When we meet a new family, we always have at least one child that is the same gender and close in age to one of yours. We have even met families where 3 or 4 of our kids make nice playmates.
There are too many of us. Too many to sit at the dinner table together. (We are so blessed to have awesome friends who made us a table large enough to hold everybody.) Too many to all snuggle with Mom and Dad on lazy Saturday mornings like we did when the children were all small and there were fewer of them. (We upgraded to a king-size bed and even outgrew that.) Too many for Daddy to catch them all when they play Wrestlemania. (He used to be able to capture all of them at once and tickle them, but now they can team up on him pretty well.) We are so blessed, our arms literally cannot hold all our blessings at once. We give a whole new meaning to the expression, “My cup runneth over.”
We have a 3rd Driver. When you’re trying to get 8 children to their various activities (which always seem to overlap), “divide and conquer” is the name of the game. It is a rare day in the Meyers household that we don’t have a planning meeting to work out the logistics of who goes where and make sure we have enough coverage left for all the small people to be properly supervised. Sometimes it takes me, my husband, and our oldest son all working together to make it happen. Without the 3rd driver, someone would have to miss their activity. We pay for his gas and car insurance in exchange for his chauffeuring skills—a win for all.
Lots and lots of parenting practice. I was a tense, self-doubting, insecure first-time mom. By the time child #8 came on the scene, I had a better grip on what is important and what isn’t. I am much freer to enjoy my children rather than wringing my hands wondering if they will turn out okay despite my numerous and grievous failures as a mom. When I was a brand new mom, even old ladies in the grocery store would stop me and tell me how to be a mom and what I was doing wrong. Now nobody even bothers to give me their inputs or critiques because they think, “Either you know what you’re doing by now, or you’re crazy and I can’t help you.” (Yes, the nurse actually said that to me when my 4th child was born.)
We are a real-life laboratory of personality study. With 10 people living, moving, and camping together, we get to experience a number of different temperament mixes in a wide variety of contexts. We learn how to work well with all types of people—introverts and extroverts; planners and the laid-back spontaneous kind; detailed spreadsheet people who keep things tidy in neat rows and columns and creative people who think so far outside the box, they don’t even know there is a box. We are all continuously working on our people skills. We have to. They are more like survival skills for us.
It develops character. Living and working with so many people forces us to learn to get along with others. My theory is that the more people you live with, the less selfish you are able to be. We learn to serve and help others, clean up messes we didn’t make, be strong when others feel weak, and make sacrifices for those we love and are committed to. We practice living with integrity because these opportunities and choices come up every day. Well-developed character is a necessary ingredient to living, working, and playing with other human beings.
“You will never be lonely because you will always be happy when you finally get to be alone.”
~ A child who may or may not live in our home
and shared on the condition of anonymity
So there’s our top 20. If you have or come from a large family, I’d love to hear what you would add to my list.
If you want to have and/or adopt more children, but aren’t sure if you can handle it, let me assure you that the blessings and joys far exceed any cost. It’s a wild ride, but it’s totally worth the adventure. (You can tell your husband we said so.)
I have spoken to many women who regret not having more children while they still could. I have never had anyone tell me they wished they didn’t have all the children they do.
More children may seem scary before they are actually a part of your family, but once they capture your heart, you are hooked and cannot imagine your life without them. You will never regret opening your heart to children. The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mt 19:14, Mk 10:14, Lk 18:16). The more children you surround yourself with, the more in tune you are with God’s heart for people.
If you only read this out of curiosity, I hope you have been enlightened, entertained, and blessed. I’d love for you to come back to check out more of our family circus.
If you think I’m nuts, that’s okay. You’re not alone. I’m thankful you stopped by and took the time to listen to a little bit of my heart. Maybe now you can imagine me as being a little less crazy than you did when you first started reading. You come back too. Maybe I’ll eventually be able to convince you of my sanity. 😉
If you have a small family and want to keep it that way, that’s great! God doesn’t call everybody to the same life. That would be boring. There’s beauty in diversity. Think about making art using a box of 64 crayons versus only using a single color. Which one is more fun to look at? I’m not saying everybody should have a big family. We’re doing what God called us to. You do what God has called you to. It’s all good.
Our families may all look different from one another, but the essential core of love for our children is the same no matter how many or few of them there are.
Elizabeth is a military spouse, veteran, and mother of eight. Above and beyond caring for her family, her mission is to offer words that sustain the weary and equip people to live a life of faith filled with purpose.
Learn more at elizmeyers.com.