I never planned to have a large family. In fact, I was firmly in the "never let yourself be out-numbered by your kids" camp. Then I became a single mom of two, met a divorced dad of two, and before I knew it I had four kids — sort of like the Brady Bunch. Still, and much to my surprise, my family didn't feel complete. So my partner and I decided to have baby number five. I honestly didn't "get" large families until I had one, but now that I do I feel confident in saying there are things every mom with a big family wants other moms to know. I guess you could say it's time to set the record straight.
I don't really get why having five kids seems to completely weird people out. I mean, it's not like my partner and I have procreated enough times to secure our own show on TLC or anything. Still, apparently we have enough children to warrant a few stares, rude comments, and bad jokes anytime we dare to appear in public.
It's also really hard to have a big family sometimes. Like, it literally takes an hour to leave the house, if not longer. Even if my partner and I stay really organized, it seems like someone is always missing a shoe (it's usually right where they left it), or forgets their homework, lunch, or musical instrument at home. Don't even get me started on bedtime, because it's goddamn exhausting. Since my kids range in age from baby to tween, I have diapers and puberty to worry about, not to mention everything in between. The worst part, though? When you have a big family people get seriously pissed if you complain about it. Like, ever. I mean, "If we didn't want the trouble of five children, why did we even have them?" Yes, people have actually asked me that question. To my face. They were dead serious.
Like any parent with any number of children, you have your good days and bad days when you're managing a large household. Having five children shouldn't keep me from voicing my very legitimate frustrations, though, and it definitely shouldn't mean I have to deal with judgment from others. So, in the name of mutual understanding, here are just a few things every mom with a big family wants every other mom to know:
Sometimes it feels like people expect me to apologize for having a big family. And if I'm not apologizing, I should be ashamed. It's not like my family is to blame for the overpopulation of the planet, people.
Even if every single one of my children were unplanned, I still wouldn't be ashamed to be their mom and stepmom. My children exist, and I'm goddamn glad they do. I am done apologizing for them.
I swear I've heard it all, from "Are they all yours?" to "Don't you know how those things are made?" Honestly, even if you mean well and you're trying to be funny or whatever (and for the record, I'm not convinced you mean well at all) I don't find your extremely personal questions at all funny.
Someone's family size is personal, my friends. So asking about my desire to be a mother, what kind of birth control I use, my plans to get pregnant or prevent pregnancy, and my personal beliefs about family size is so inappropriate. I mean, I haven't asked you about your sex life, so why are you asking about mine?
Sometimes I love having a big family and other times it really sucks. But you know what's the absolute worst? When people imply that if I didn't want to have a hard time, I shouldn't have had so many kids. It's not as if anyone can predict how parenting will work out, and we all have moments when things are not perfect. Let us vent.
For families like ours, statements about how hard it must be and questions about how we can afford our children or if any of them were unplanned, make me feel like sh*t. No, I don’t live in a shoe. No, we aren’t part of a religion that prohibits birth control. Yes, I know how to use birth control. No, it didn't fail. Please stop, already.
Those comments are judgmental, shaming, and disgusting. Jokes about birth control usage and failure are not funny. It’s anti-choice and anti-feminist to shame or question someone’s reproductive choices just because they are different from yours.
I used to be a type A control-freak. Now, I'm more of a hot mess. We need to keep a certain level of organization — checklists and Google calendars are our friends — to even get through the day remotely on schedule. I am the first to admit that my lawn doesn't get mowed as often as it used to, and our laundry pile is pretty much the real The Neverending Story.
People say the phrase, "I don't know how you do it" to me so often that it has sort of lost its meaning. I am not Wonder Woman or Super Mom. I make mistakes and things fall through the cracks. For the most part, though, my family is happy and healthy, and that's all that matters.
Sometimes, when my husband and I are home alone with the baby, I think wistfully about how easy it is to not be outnumbered by your own children, and wonder what it would have been like if I would have met him 15 years ago and we just had one kid together. Of course, then the baby has a blow out, the cat pukes on the floor, and I think, nah, parenting is hard no matter how many kids you have. Besides, we miss our kids when they aren't here.
Having five children ranging in age from 6 months old to 11 years old is about as hard as it sounds. Some nights, mostly at bedtime, I just want to throw in the towel or run away from home. I don't, though. Instead, I pop some popcorn and watch a movie as a family, or send them outside to jump on the trampoline until they're too tired to function. If all else fails, I cry, because it's OK to cry.
The biggest thing that surprised me about having a big family was that some days having five kids is totally easier than having one. I'm serious. I mean, they entertain each other, the oldest can hold the baby while I poop, and for the most part they are friends, which is so awesome.
So far, my life has totally not gone as planned. I mean, if you would have told me that one day I would have a family big enough to make a minivan seem small and a school bus seem necessary, I would have probably rolled my eyes. But, honestly, now that this is my life, I wouldn't have it any other way.