Having nine kids throws us into that category. Actually, with nine I believe we have earned the title of "mega-family" :)
Although I personally don't feel that nine is all that many, I do know that in today's society we are definitely not the norm. And because of this, we get stopped and counted and questioned wherever we go. It's just the way it is. When we walk into a restaurant, people stop talking for a half-second and all eyes are on us as our troop marches to our table.
Mom...they're counting us again.
We get asked a lot WHY we have so many kids.
Why do you want so many kids?
It's hard to answer that question with just one answer.
Because we love children just doesn't cut it (although it's true) but in all fairness, a person with just one or two kids can love children, too. So that answer isn't good enough.
Another comment I get a lot is...
You must be crazy, having so many kids!
Nine kids? You're crazy!
Crazy? As in....insane? Really?
I am many things, but crazy I am not.
We are not crazy.
Let me explain: Crazy is doing something over and over again even though it does not work, brings you sadness, pain or unhappiness. So see, I would be crazy if I did not enjoy being the mom of so many -- if I complained all the time, was overwhelmed all the time, sad or depressed, and didn't enjoy my children.... and yet kept having more. Now, that would be crazy, I agree. But I certainly don't fit the crazy definition. Neither does my husband.
It's very true that not everyone wants nine or ten children. And that's okay! For some, three is their perfect number, or five, or maybe just one. For others, nine or ten is their perfect number. Or twelve. (or in the Duggars case, 19!) We all have different personalities with different limitations. I think it's important to know and trust your limitations. Rich and I know our limitations, and I trust that you all know yours. And just as I would never tell anyone how many children is right for them, it's my simple wish that others extend me that same courtesy. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case.
You see, for some reason, when you have four or more children that opens you up for getting advice on what you should do regarding your family size. Anyone reading this ever experience what I'm saying here? What is UP with that, anyway?! I mean, seriously. Is there a sign on my forehead that reads: How many children do you think I should have? I need your opinions because I really don't know what I'm doing.
I really don't understand why people think it's their business how many children we have. Afterall, when was the last time we asked anyone for money to help raise our kids? I'll answer that: Never! And when was the last time anyone saw me stressed out and unhappy or depressed? or complaining that I'm so tired? You don't hear that from me. What you do hear and see is happiness and joy and sometimes the typical mom frustration that comes with having any number of kids. And maybe my house isn't the cleanest or tidiest on the block, but who cares about that? Seriously. Whoever judges me on how clean or tidy my house is can just go pound sand. What you need to look for is happy parents and happy children. If you see that, then all is well. What I have is a happy family. What we do works for us. And that's a fact.
What confuses me the most is when people tell us that we should be "done". When I ask them why they say that, the most common answer I get is this: because you have to stop sometime. What kind of answer is that? Of course we will have to stop sometime. You think we don't know that? Eventually, in time, the female body is no longer able to reproduce. It happens. We get old. I get that. I would never be one who would go to extreme measures to tamper with nature or alter my body so that I can concieve a baby in my 50's. So yes, eventually my reproductive system will call it quits. I know that. I accept that. Eventually that day will come.
But today is not that day.
Today, the facts are these: I have a lot of energy. My health is great. My births are extremely easy. My babies are healthy. My husband is healthy. We enjoy our life. We enjoy our kids. We are not overwhelmed (no matter if you think it would overwhelm you to have this many kids, we are different than you, our circumstances are different than yours, our limitations are different than yours, and it's important to remember that) We pay for all of our needs ourselves. We don't depend on others for anything -- not for childcare, not for money. Our kids are happy. We are a married couple. Yes! A married couple! (I'm no Octomom) And we truly believe that God blesses us through our children. Children are God's rewards. We don't want to turn away any rewards from God. I understand that not many can grasp that concept, and that's okay! But just know that this is how we feel, what we believe, and please respect that. That's all we ask.
The infamous Are You Going to Have More question is easy for me to answer.
We. Don't. Know.
We serioulsy do not know.
I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know if at the age of 42 my body will drop an egg at exactly the right time to create a baby. Maybe my system has slowed down? Maybe I have no eggs left? I really don't know. I'm not concerned about that. I don't stay up at night worrying about that. I figure, if we have another, then we have another! How wonderful! But if not, then that's okay, too. One thing I can say with certainty is that we would welcome another baby in a heartbeat. Are we trying for another baby? No, not really. But we aren't preventing, either. And I have yet to give away our baby clothes. So there's the answer to that one.
The most common question that I get asked is How do you do it? I've got my hands full with just two! (or 3, or 4...) And to that I say... we are all different. Not everyone can handle many children, or would want to, but our experience is that it gets easier, the more you have. However, hardly anyone believes me when I say this. And unless you've experienced it, it's really hard to explain. I found an article recently that did a pretty good job describing what I mean. Below is a portion of that article (and two or three comments of my own added) that relates to me and my family, and I think it helps to answer the WHY question. You can find the entire article here: Why Big Families Might Be Easier
Why Big Families Might Be Easier
Patience. I never have to teach patience. My children know that I can’t drop everything for them if I have a baby in my arms.
Work Ethic. My children have learned to work because there are always chores to do in a small house packed with little messy lunatics. And they all learn quickly that sometimes they have to clean up a mess even though they didn’t make it.
Humility. My children have learned it’s not always their turn. They’ve accepted they can’t always get their way because other people have to get their way sometimes. They’ve learned that some children are better at certain things than they are.
Foreign language skills. You can learn a lot of Spanish by watching ten years of Dora the Explorer that you just can’t pick up in two. And now with the Diego spin off I’m practically fluent.
Laughter. The children have learned to laugh at the insane non sequiturs of younger siblings. They’ve learned that laughing just feels better when ten people are doing it along with you.
Competition. Do I really need to go into this? Everything is a competition in big families. The children compete over who reads faster, who drinks their milk faster, who gets to the bathroom first…etc. Everything is a competition and they’re all keeping score.
Life isn’t fair. Sometimes you just give it to the baby because you want a little quiet. Not all the time. But sometimes.
Just say “No.” Being able to say “no” may be the most undervalued skill in this world. The need to be liked is pervasive. The need to be cool even more so. Having brothers and sisters teaches children to say “no” about 143 times a day. It’s a good skill.
Praying. They learn that nothing beats praying together as a family.
Nature/Nurture. Having many children has taught me that nature has a lot more to do with who my kids are than nurture. This is helpful, especially when your children misbehave you don’t have to feel bad about it. Just say “Stupid nature!!!” and blame your spouse’s genes.
Namecalling. You can occasionally call your child by the wrong name and still not be considered a terrible parent. They know who you mean just from your tone. Sometimes if you need something done you can call the wrong name and someone will still show up. That helps.
Spying. My children have learned that they can’t get away with anything. I have spies who look a lot like them who are willing to drop the dime on them for anything. Even at school I’ve got a child in just about every grade. If they do something I’ll hear. That keeps them nervous. And I like keeping my kids a little nervous.
Friendship. The children have many friends. They’ve got girly friends, crying friends, fun loving friends, consoling friends, and crazy friends. And they all have the same last name. And they’ll be there forever for each other. No matter what.
Efficiency. We can get in and out of the car -- children buckled and unbuckled from car seats and seatbelts -- faster than most families of four. (If you want a visualization of this, just think of a raceway and the cars that go in for their pit stop. We are awesome at pit stops!)
Social Darwinism. The children have learned that in our house, it is often survival of the fittest. Whatever is put in front of you, you'd better eat. Or it will be gobbled up by the kid next to you. And sometimes, on especially busy and hectic days, cheese and crackers is dinner. So eat up!
Love. I think my children have learned to love because there are others around them to love and who love them. I honestly can think of no better way to teach children to love than siblings.
And here are my nine rewards the summer of 2009, all lined up in a row, poolside. What I love most about this photo is that on the end you see Andrew, who at the time just turned three, and he is holding tightly onto Aria. Right at the moment this photo was taken, Aria started to lean slightly forward and instinctively Andrew reached out and yanked her back so that she wouldn't fall. And then I snapped the picture. Even at the tender age of three he was already aware of his role as her big brother and protector. It makes my heart swell with joy when I witness the bonds my children are forming with each other, and the life lessons they are learning along the way :)