Big Family Life: It’s Harder… and Easier.

Big Family Life: It's harder... and easier. // jessconnell.com

It’s probably the most common thing I hear in the grocery store: “I couldn’t handle any more children. I haven’t even got patience for these TWO!”

The funny thing is that I don’t ask people why they don’t have more children.

Especially when I’m going through the checkout line… I can assure you my mind is fully occupied! I don’t have time to sit around wondering why perfect strangers have made the fertility decisions they have. But many of them offer this information immediately after exclaiming shock at how many children we have.

And.

To be fair.

We do have seven children. And I’m now showing with baby #8.

(The lady at the discount grocery store cackled the other day when I confirmed her suspicion about my belly. CACKLED. I’m so glad to have these years of taking these things in stride and learning to smile about it. Anyway, it really was funny to see how much joy it gave her in her everyday routine. It clearly made her day. And Ethan and I laughed about it for  a while afterward, so maybe it made our day too.)

But if I could write a letter to the random strangers , here’s what I’d say:

Dear Stranger Looking at Our Large Family:

There’s something I think you’re missing when you look at us.

You look at this trail of stairstep children and heap of groceries, and think, oh there’s no way I could ever do that!

Maybe you think, “WOW! That takes EXTRA patience. EXTRA super-hero mom stuff.” Or maybe you think, “that lady is NUTS. Who needs that many kids? Just know when to call it QUITS already!!”

And I get it. I do.

I think I would have gawked at us. I probably would have counted them all to be sure, like you just did. Back when Doug & I met and were dreaming of a life together, we wanted “more kids than average,” but for us I think we meant something like four. Five, max. Having eight kids would have sounded to my ears like something akin to joining the looney bin.

First, let me tell you about this “patience” you accuse me of possessing. I don’t have much. Truth is, in some ways I have less than I used to. But yes, in some ways I have more. Just like anyone who faces challenges in a particular area of life, our capacities expand to the demands we face. So while I do have more patience than I used to, I am still just a normal gal who has to work to love the people in my home.

The thing is… you’re right in many ways– it’s harder.

  • I can’t be as selfish as I want to be. While I do prioritize self-care, I don’t get a ton of me-time. I don’t get as much sleep as I might prefer.
  • I can’t let discipline stuff go, cause it gets out of hand FAST. So I can’t be as lazy in parenting as I want to be.
  • I can’t control it all. There’s no way. I’ve had to relinquish control again and again.
  • I have to have better systems than I used to have. We just started a 6-week meal plan again, after about 6 years of flying by the seat of our pants for meals. But it was time to start that bad boy back up again, so now each day I know what’s for dinner. Yay, systems!
  • And there’s just more. More strain on furniture, more time spent letting a virus cycle through our family, more quantity of food to cook, more noise, more shoes piled at the door, more spankings, more tantrums to handle.

But I think sometimes the thing you don’t know is this: in many ways, you’re absolutely wrong.

In many ways, it’s easier.

  • I can’t be as selfish as I want to be. Not if I want to be an upright person. I suppose I could try to be a hypocrite, but I have 14 eyes that would (if not now, eventually) call me out on that ruse. It’s such a GIFT that I can’t be as selfish as I want to be. This ultimately makes my life easier… making me less of a whiner, less of a navel-gazer.
  • I can’t let discipline stuff go. And how GOOD that is! Even when it’s driven by a selfish desire for easier days ahead, I can’t be as lazy in parenting as I would naturally be… and that is SO GOOD… for me and for them! It makes me a more consistent mother, and gives them a more consistent upbringing.
  • I can’t control it all. This is a wonderful thing for me (as a woman) to come to grips with! No, I can’t micromanage my life and the lives of everyone I love. It’s GOOD for me to go ahead and give this up now rather than trying to cling to it and have to face reality when they head out into the wide world. This forces me to rely fully on God’s grace and sovereignty. He is good and faithful and I can trust Him to control and work in all the ways I never can.
  • I have to have better systems, and this is just flat out good for me. I would SOOOOO be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gal, but this large family kicks my tail into gear, and I’m grateful. It’s part of the way God is changing me into a more self-disciplined person.
  • And there’s just more. More smiles, more snuggles, more opportunities to ask for forgiveness, more opportunities to offer forgiveness, more personalities to make me marvel at God’s creative power, more up-close chances to see God at work in various people’s lives, more funny quirkiness to enjoy each day in our home, and more people who might–by God’s grace– come to Heaven with Doug and I… there’s just more.

The truth is, I couldn’t be more grateful for each of these little people. They each are a unique expression of God in terms of personality, faith, weakness, and strength.

And God uses each one of them to grace the world, and to change my heart in unique ways. I’m so thankful for them! Even with the tantrums and the noise and exhaustion.

God’s gifts are always so good. Each one is so RIGHT. And these particular eight gifts God has given us…

Well they probably look like they make life harder. And they do.

But they also make it much, much easier.

~Jess

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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11 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    Wonderfully written ! Thank you. I had someone the other day tell me they felt sorry for me because in have 6 kids. I said you shouldn’t feel sorry for me, they are a great blessing.

  2. Tracy says:

    Oh man this is so good and so true! There is a kind of crazy synergy that happens with lots of kids…more playmates, more teammates, more coworkers, more friends, more bandaid-applicators, more birthday cakes, more joy. And yes, a lot more mess and crumbs and food -ha!
    Blessings and gifts in them all.
    And I so agree with you. I have often thought that if only I had been as diligent and organized back when I only had one or two kids! But the sheer enormity of the task with lots of people demands that I get up early, work on a schedule, have a plan for laundry and food, and generally manage things.
    Thanks for the encouragement this morning Jess!

  3. shannon bradbury says:

    Love this Jess! We have a bigger family than average(5). And I get these comments a lot! Especially about “extra” patience and why we homeschool and how I should take a break! LOL! Thank you for your encouragement! :)

  4. Amanda Sundby-Banry says:

    Beautiful!

  5. Diana says:

    Amen! Your post mirrors my thoughts exactly. Of course, I don’t have a large family yet (only four children at the moment), but from the perspective of where I came from (an only child who knew NO families with more than two children), it’s a huge seismic shift in the larger-family direction. What you wrote above has been my experience down to the last detail! :)

  6. Kami says:

    This was really great. And definitely rings true for me.

  7. Jennifer Collins says:

    Beautifully written!

  8. Erin says:

    I am always a bit surprised when I get rude or questionable comments with four kids. Is four kids a big family? The other day I was at a children’s farm with my kids and a very sweet looking old man was handing out stickers. He came over to us and asked “Are these all yours?” I smiled and said yes, but I cringed inside awaiting his comment. (I had a terrible experience when my 3rd and 4th were newborns and an old man came up to me, nudged me with his elbow, and said “You know how that happens don’t ya honey?”). Anyway, the sticker man replied “Well now, aren’t you blessed. Enjoy every single minute with them Mom.” Oh how he made my day. I have never ever received that comment before.

    • Allison says:

      That story makes me smile. I love when people respond that way. I only have 3, but even with 3 stair-stepped little boys, I’ve gotten a few awkward comments, and it’s so encouraging when someone says a word of encouragement and validation that my little ones are really a worthwhile investment.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes, I think 4 qualifies!

      I think people write off 3 as a possible “oops” baby, but 4 is when it starts getting purposefully big. “You did that on purpose…” they think (and they’re right!) :)

      It’s definitely nice to get those occasional encouraging/kind comments! They’re rare but oh-so-welcome! :)

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