What is a LARGE Family?

"What is a LARGE Family?" by Kate Daneluk (CatholicMom.com)

Graph created by Kate Daneluk. All rights reserved.


Recently, an interesting question came up on a Facebook group: What constitutes a “large” family? I was surprised how varied the answers were. Reasons given ranged from simply being larger than the national or regional average, to feeling overwhelmed, to needing to purchase specialty vehicles.

I never would consider 3 children a large family. I grew up with 2 sisters. Most of the families in our area had two to four children, so that seemed average to me. My dad’s brother and sister each had 8, so that is what a “large family” looked like to me. I babysat for a family with 7 and everyone talked about them being a large family, so that affected my perception too.

What I learned from the Facebook discussion is that so many parts of our life are subjective. Look back a few generations and larger families are more common. Not only was abortion, birth control and even natural family planning fairly unknown and unavailable, but large families were more desired, particularly in agricultural areas. Most women married much younger, opening a bigger childbirth window. So those who were able to have many children usually did.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you have a “large” family or not. As Catholics we agree to be “accept children lovingly” into our new family in the Sacrament of Marriage. Being open to life is examined beautifully in Humanae Vitae, but it doesn’t mean everyone is called to or given the ability to have a certain number of children. So while I didn’t consider my family “large” until we had 5, I was surprised that some people thought anything over the average 2.3 pushed into the large category and that so many thought 4 was a large family. Many of the reasons given included the struggles of coping with more children in a world that no longer supports this.

Equally surprising, a few moms didn’t think anything less than 8-9 children was enough to hit the large sphere. These moms thought it was because they aren’t “overwhelmed enough” to think of their families as large. So is there an automatic implication that a “large” family is one where parents must be overwhelmed? Large is a relative term. A large beverage can be anywhere from 16-48 ounces depending on where you are. This thought inspired this:

You may be a large family IF you have:


  • Your whole world just changed. Nothing will ever be larger than this!


  • The children’s lives and schedules begin to dictate your schedule in a way you never thought possible.
  • Their stuff starts to take over every room of your house.


  • No more man-to-man defense. It is always zone.
  • The “family” deals at hotels and restaurants no longer apply to you.
  • You will need to adjust recipes to feed more than four.


  • If you haven’t pulled the trigger yet: Minivan!
  • Oh, and you may be seriously considering moving.
  • You start storing clothes for hand-me-downs with military precision, but still manage to miss items you had in storage while your youngest wears shoes no one noticed were 2 sizes too small.
  • It’s getting harder and harder to find a spot to sit in a restaurant.


  • You find yourself googling “large family hacks” online at least once a week.
  • You have to get 2 rooms to legally stay in a hotel. See ya tomorrow, honey!
  • Suddenly, one set of dishes/glasses/flatware is not enough to get through one day.
  • Costco is your regular grocery store.
  • You read a recipe promising to make enough chicken for 4 meals and realize that you can’t fit enough chicken in your jumbo crockpot to do that for your brood.


  • You are afraid your washing machine may sue you for unfair working conditions since it hasn’t had a day off since . . .
  • Your babies know all the lyrics to the top 40 because they spend so much time with teenagers and never watch Sesame Street.
  • MINIvan? Ha! You have been driving a passenger van with an “I used to be cool” sticker on it for a year.
  • Airbnb or Winnebago are the only way you can go on vacation without spending a year’s salary.
  • You make a good living but haven’t paid federal taxes in years because you have so many dependents.
  • The government doesn’t believe you when you file your taxes with yet another dependent and demands further proof that your children actually exist. (Yes, this actually happened to us.)


  • Figuring out where all the kids should sleep reminds you of doing the seating chart at your wedding.
  • You don’t always notice when friends or neighbors are at your table or in your car.
  • You count heads. Several times a day.
  • You don’t think about it so much anymore but there is a system and a chart for everything in your house.
  • You are considering applying for a CDL so you can drive a bus.
  • You have 3 refrigerators or freezers scattered around your house.
  • You have to do math to fill out all the birthdays on the school and medical forms.

What do you think constitutes a “large” family?

Copyright 2017 Kate Daneluk


About Author

Kate Daneluk is a wife, mother of six, and co-founder of Making Music Praying Twice. With a background in music, theology and education, she contributes articles and resources to various publications.


  1. It’s like the size of your purse. The bigger the bag, the more you can put in it.

    Mine had room for six. That was a big family for me. I had our first at 25 and the last at 35. Whew!!!

    I concur with your stats on the six category. Our washing machine has called a strike, more than a few times. Also, we jumped to a 12 passenger from the minivan and drove it for 8 years.
    I still think it’s relative though, in a way. To say , “Oh I have just one, or just two, or just three,” is subjective. I think of the verse, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Just one, or each one of my kids is a handful; in a good way.

    Most of ours are out on their own, at least partially and my husband asks when I look up from my phone, “Anything about any of the kids?” We like the action of having more than a few.
    Also, we have an autistic adult who is dependent upon us. That probably makes a difference.

  2. Salome Ellen on

    I think “you count heads” is the best definition of a large family. I have a funny story; in high school my daughter (third of six) was on an academic team with her boyfriend (oldest of seven.) When we took the team to the state competition, I noticed that whenever we walked anywhere – like to lunch – the pair of them was always at the end of the line. At first I wondered if they might be trying to slip away, but then I realized: he’s automatically dropping back to make sure everyone is in line. I was right! ;-D

  3. Jann Elaine on

    My favorite story about what is a “big” family is when I met my (now) husband, who is from a very catholic part of Nigeria. He asked me how “big” my family was and I chuckled and said “oh, it’s big! There’s FOUR of us kids. So that makes SIX with my parents.” He chuckled back and when I asked him why he explained that he had 11…and it wasn’t necessarily considered “big” where he was from, just normal. It’s all relative…

  4. Mischelle Zabinski on

    This article is amazing! Love the list at the end. Having 5 kids myself over a twenty year span with the oldest being 25 and the youngest 5. I am still amazed at how shocked people are when I tell them we have 5 (and yes same parents for all five). This shock soon becomes awe when I let explain the age differences. Family size is based on what God’ know we can handle.

  5. Kelly Guest on

    I, too, loved your article as it made me nod and lol. I have 9. But 3 did me in and changed everything for me. From zone defense to no naptime or catch up moments, going from one task to the next with unexpected surprises inbetween, my desire for organization and sense of control (or my natural inclination to be anal, as my husband would put it) went out the window! While I don’t consider 3 to be a large family, I do often tell people that if they can handle 3, they can do 9! At 3 you are totally depended on God getting you through!

    • My great grandmother had 12 who survived past infancy. She always threw out, “The first five are the hardest.” My first child was a whirlwind who took 100% focus all the time. I never understood how others were managing to have more when I couldn’t even sleep through the night. We ended up with 3.5 years between her and her brother. But, her more mellow brother was super pleasant when the next one came along even though he was a mere 18 months. Like you pointed out Kelly, it isn’t always about volume. Ages, personalities, your personality, it all comes into play.

  6. Terrific! I laughed so hard my husband looked over to see why and then joined in. I admit to several points in the six and seven category even though we only have four so far😀

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.