Thoughts on Large Families for our 'Tolerant' Modern Society

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Large families are an anomaly in desperate need of an advocate in modern society.

A prompt on a health website asked, “Are you an advocate for any cause?”

I sputtered to myself, “I am not an advocate for anything or anybody!”

Immediately after that statement, a new idea popped into my mind, “Hey, wait a minute. I stand up for large families in modern society!”

Thoughts on Large Families

Thoughts on Large Families

In my experience as a mother of nine children, I have met more condemnation than acceptance and more questions that understanding. Perhaps it is because I do not look like the mother of a large family. I am tiny, look younger than my age, and all my life people have labelled me as cute. People’s first reaction to me is shock. Confusion follows because I am happy.

A joyful, cute, tiny mother of nine simply baffles people. I shatter all their preconceived notions. The typical image of a multipara woman would be a large, matronly, robust, grim, battle-axe of a mother, efficiently marshaling her young charges with little time to coddle or love the poor deprived dears.

Parents with two children cannot fathom how a mother of a large family manages to cope with all the work necessary to keep up a home as well as have enough time to love each child.

However, more children are easier than less. In a large family, a seven-year-old will repeatedly read the same book to a toddler who loves one particular book. A ten-year-old feels important when he can help his six-year-old brother who struggles with reading. A young teenager delights in rocking a tiny, dependant infant to sleep.

For me, family started with three because then community started. A community works and plays together and for little children work is as fun as play. I included everyone in ordinary household chores and made chores fun. A trained Montessorian once declared that I ran my home like a Montessori school. What a wonderful confirmation that was for me.

My kids were not deprived because I usually could not sit and play with them in the traditional sense. Instead they received an expensive, educational experience simply because I integrated them into the running of our home.

It was never too soon to give one of my toddlers a job such as picking up the toys his younger sibling drops from the high chair.The secret was to delegate, each according to his or her talents, but never to order them around like they were in the army. They chopped wood, helped fix the car, weeded the garden, and took care of the animals. If teenagers are still treated like kids or overindulged, they don’t have a purpose and become really angry. When parents appreciate their kids’ contributions, their confidence blossoms and matures.

Employers love my kids because they know how to work and do not take anything for granted. Many have said, “I will give anybody with the last name Juneau a job.”

Large families strengthen the basic foundations of our society. They live lives of greater interconnectedness. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re not an island unto yourself. You learn how to share and barter both skills and things with others. My children who go to college or university adapt well to communal life in a dorm or a shared house. Just imagine, they already know how to share a bathroom with a lot of other people. They know how to get along with opposite personalities, how to give and take. For starters, they know how to cook and clean up after themselves.

Healthy, large families benefit society. So open your mind and heart the next time you see or hear of one. The condemnation is really hard to handle and totally unjust in a society that loves to call itself open-minded and tolerant.

Copyright 2013 Melanie Jean Juneau

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About Author

Melanie Jean Juneau is a mother of nine children who blogs at joy of nine9. Her writing is humorous and heart-warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, the Editor in Chief at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC & author of Echoes of the Divine.

17 Comments

  1. How do you feed a large family short of having your own farm?

    What about families who live in the city where space is tight and options are fewer?

    • buy in bulk, use large chest freezers, can, pickle, freeze in season cheap veggies, make a cold storage( we did before we moved to our farm) and stock it with farmers market apples, carrots. potatoes, other root veggies, make your own bread or get free day old ( we did), barter your skills for meat, eggs ( we did, while still city bound) use clothing exchange toys

      biggest tip? BARTER skills and supplies, reuse, recycle, make do and laugh

      • oh i forgot our biggest asset..GOD . He takes care of us when we ask. I have stories of miracles where mysterious cheqyes came in the post, cars were given to us to fix and a tanlk of heating oil that lasted all winter instead of 3 weeks that still curl my toes

    • I grew up in a large family – 11 – 3 boys and eight girls. I learned how to look out for my siblings, sew clothes, shop for whatever was on sale, share everything and be helpful. We didn’t have alot of “stuff” because we knew our siblings also needed the basics. If our shoes looked pretty worn out, my Dad would say that one of our other siblings needed a turn at new shoes and try to take better care of the shoes we had. My mom always cooked from “scratch” and baked bread, and desserts. All of us have become responsible adults who know how to share, not be worried about being first, or having lots of stuff and mostly being people of faith. I am grateful for the experience.

  2. Charles De Vita on

    Father made the family the foundation of human life – I’m sure He loves your family dearly. Continue to speak for the social and spiritual benefits of family life – speak God’s Truth of the value of a loving and interdependent family and encourage your children to do the same. A family such as yours is a great blessing – one can hope for more beautiful families in the future.

    • Judy Archibald on

      What a wonderful family you have! I love stories of large families and how they work. People have negative attitudes about the Duggars and I admire their love and spirit also. Thanks for sharing and God Bless!
      Judy

        • Judy Archibald on

          They are a Christian family on TV with 19 children. People say terrible things about their “choice” to have a large, self-sufficient family. I guess “choice” is only for women who
          want to be free to have abortions.

  3. Kathleen Soukup on

    My goodness, I needed to read this. I am expecting my eighth child, and know well the “condemnation” of which you speak. It is shocking what some people will say to me, especially in front of my children. I often do not have an answer, as I am dumbstruck by the questions. (One of the most common is “How many more are you going to have?”, as if I can tell the future. Are they really asking if we plan to be voluntarily sterilized? A much too personal question, particularly from strangers.)

    So instead of being on the defensive all the time, I too need to be an advocate for large families,and have ready on my lips the joy and blessings of a large brood. I already have one come back. People often see me and say, “Boy, you have your hands full.” (My daughter recently said to me,”Why are people always saying that to you?” )Next time, I will answer, “Better full than empty.”

    Thanks again for your post.

    • I am thrilled that we connect and your new come back for negative comments is perfect. A few times when someone said, “Are these all yours?” I stopped, counted, then smiled and said, “Yes, isn’t it wonderful!?”

  4. This is a great article! I too am the mom of nine. We raised our family on the family farm, everybody got a chance to care for each other and our menagerie of animals.my husband had a good answer for the critics -“Have I asked you to pay my grocery bill yet?” A year and a half ago, we sold the farm to a couple of our sons and moved to town. My husband has ALS, and our very large family has been the greatest support system.When we found an older home to renovate and make accessible for a wheelchair, the boys did 90% of the work,even moved us in, had everything in place,including a hot meal on the table. We are truly blessed.

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