There was a time, not so long ago, when it was not unusual for a family to have four, five or more children. These days two is the norm, and in some circles, even three kids are considered a large family.
Perhaps that is why we seem to be so interested in large families; they are so unusual these days that we like to read, see and hear about them. There is Nadya Suleman, better known as “Octomom” after giving birth to the world’s first surviving set of octuplets who joined her six other children and unless you have been living in a cave for the past decade you will have at least heard of the Duggars and their TV show “ 15, 16, 17, 18 However many kids and counting.”
They are not the only ones to have become reality TV fodder either. “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” chronicled the lives of a family with one set of twins and a set of sextuplets.
I am as curious as the next person so it was a no-brainer I’d watch “Mega Families” on Netflix. The program features three households which piqued my interest, so I went on the hunt for information about more mega families.
15 Ziona Chana
Ziona Chana, 72, lives with his 39 wives, 94 children, and 33 grandchildren, all in one giant 100 room house. In the documentary you see the family taking it in turns to do the chores with entire teams dedicated to the laundry, cleaning, and cooking.
All the family members appear very happy with their extended family all under one roof, and the adult children proudly show the filmmakers around the parts of the home they share with their partners and children.
Chana’s wives are all equally happy saying none of them were forced to marry him, that he courted each one traditionally and that they were plucked from dull, almost destitute lives to join a large, loving family. The wives all seem to get along with each other. They sleep in a dormitory style room and take turns spending the night with their husband.
14 The Maher Family
At the time ”Megafamilies” was made Paul, and Edel Maher had nine boys and two daughters. The filmmakers talk to the kids and discover they enjoy being part of a large family and you get to see how Paul and Edel wrangle a house full of little boys into getting up, washed, dressed, fed, and ready for school all without missing a beat.
Breakfast is at 7:30 on the dot. Because the table isn’t big enough to seat everyone at once the little ones get a seat while the older kids stand. Breakfast is finished by 8:00 am, and the kids grab their backpacks which are all lined up in the hallway, in order and head out to the school bus.
The only argument is what order the boys take in the line, but dad chooses the order each day to keep the peace.
13 The Casons
The center of the documentary is probably the Casons. Christi and Dave Cason have 16 children four of whom are under five. Two of their children are fully grown and the remaining nine attend four different schools so you could say life is a bit chaotic.
All of them are squeezed into a three bedroom one bathroom duplex, and during the film, we get to see them move from this home where they have spent 12 years, to a five-bedroom home with two bathrooms and a large garden for the kids.
Watching the family try to organize a move in between the seven loads of laundry a day, and the two shopping carts at a time, shopping trips are amazing to watch. Trying to fill packing cases with one child in the house is a challenge but to do it while some little ones are busy emptying the boxes and climbing into them is an achievement of Olympic proportions.
12 The Bells
Lewis and Tanya Bell live in a ten bedroom house in Harrisburg, Pa. with their 16 children, 14 of whom, including a group of six siblings, they have adopted.
This mega family eats together at four dining tables, and no, there isn’t assigned seating it’s whoever gets there first seating.
Two washers and dryers are kept busy all day, and Tanya has tried everything she can think of to keep track of socks. They have been color coded by child, pegged together in pairs in the wash but nothing worked so now the rule in the house is “If you see two socks in your size grab them, ” and apparently color or pattern doesn’t matter.
The kids are woken in the morning by dad Lewis via an intercom and then the older ones help with the younger ones as everyone gets ready for the day. Mom Tanya inspects everyone before they leave the house and nobody gets to go out in public unless they meet her standards.
11 Rick And Cathy Arndt
The Arndt family consist of Rick and Cathy and their 14 children, one girl and 13 boys ranging in age from 14 to 37. There are no sets of twins or other multiples, each baby was a single birth, and Dad Rick said “It’s hard to get over the stereotypes until people get to know us better,” Arndt said. “Everyone is an individual. We’ve had an only child 14 times. To us, each one is an only child.” Having said that, every one of them has blue eyes.
The Arndt family say the secret to running a smooth mega household is lots of planning and plenty of labels, but they still have time to work out some quirky facts about their family such as:
- On average, there is an Arndt birthday once every 22.8 days
- The family’s total weight is approximately 2,065 pounds
- The Arndts are a dentist’s dream. Between them, they have 380 teeth
10 The Radfords
With baby number 20 on the way, Sue and Noel have agreed that this one will be the last. Their first son was born after Sue became pregnant at 14 and Noel was 18. They were both adopted and so wanted to keep their baby, and son Chris is now 28.
The Radfords have had nine girls, and baby 20 will be their 11th son including Alfie who was stillborn in 2014.
Dad Noel runs a pie company and mom Sue has her hand’s full being at home with the kids all day but they still manage to organize everything between them.
Noel goes to work at 5:00 am but returns home at 8:45 am so he can take four of the children to their school near his bakery. Sue gets one child to school, and one to the nursery with the babies in tow and the older kids take themselves to school.
9 The Belles-Silcock Family
Anne Belles and Jim Silcock met on the internet and married four months after their first meeting in 1998. Since then they have adopted 59 boys all of whom have some kind of disability.
Their home is a hive of activity with nurses, teachers, and aids. Medical and education records are carefully filed along with family data, and Anne has a keepsake box in the garage for each boy. The boxes have pictures and crafts made by each boy, things they have written and family photos. A few of the boys arrive with keepsakes, but most do not. “Not one picture. Not one baby picture,” Belles says. “We’re trying to piece back their history.”
Some people might think the multiple games systems are excessive but as Anne says “You get 20 guys and one game system, what do you think will happen? There’s going to be a war, and it’s going to be Lord of the Flies.”
8 Gil And Kelly Bates
Another family to have a huge number of children, all of whom were single births is the Bates family. Gil and Kelly Bates have ten daughters and nine sons and, so far, six grandbabies.
Four children have flown the nest and started their own families but that still leaves mom, dad, and 15 children to organize.
They live in a six bedroom house where one room is for guests, one for mom and dad, and two each for the boys and girls. They do have eight and a half bathrooms though which they probably need with eight daughters still at home and are the subject of a TV series on UpTV.
7 Daad Mohammed Al Balushi
Known locally and in many places around the world, as “Daddy Cool” Daad Mohammed Al Balushi has had at least 17 wives so far – but only a maximum of four at a time. He has said though that he loves women and would gladly have 20 wives at a time if he was allowed, as long as they had not been previously married.
Daad’s oldest child is 49 years old and his youngest just 16 months and between these two there are an additional 92 children. Daad has said he wants to reach 100 children before he dies, which may not be for some time because the 68-year-old’s dad lived to over 100.
Each of his wives and their children lives in their own luxury home and everyone, including his 15 oldest children who are married with families of their own, meet up once a week in the home of “Daddy Cool.”
6 The Bonell Family
The Bonells are probably the largest family in Australia. Jeni and Ray Bonell have 16 children even though when she got married, Jeni didn’t want any children at all. Ray came from a family of six, and when he shared his desire for a large brood, Jeni told him no way and agreed to two or three. Now Jeni says she would not rule out number 17.
The family car is an old school bus, and the daily routine is kept on schedule with lots of lists and the children being given age appropriate chores. The Bonells are very clear though; the children aren’t there to look after each other, just to help around the house the same way any other child would, mom and dad are firmly in charge. They get to be creative with punishments as well. Who else but the parents of 16 children could turn the threat of matching and folding the families socks into a penalty to be feared?
5 The Ionce Family
Alexandru and Livia Ionce emigrated to Canada from Romania in 1990 and never planned to have such a huge family. They say they decided to let God decide for them, how many children they should have and that has been eight boys and ten girls. Their last child, baby Abigail was born in 2008 when Lavia was 44, and their oldest son was 23.
Dad Alexandru works in construction to support his large brood, and they all like to keep a low profile. So despite the fact that they have had the opportunity to appear in documentaries and TV series, the family have turned down all such offers and have only ever done a handful of interviews.
4 Nancy And Joe Kayes
Like the Bells, Nancy and Joe Kayes have a lot to juggle. Twelve of their 17 children (14 of whom were adopted from overseas) have major medical problems with three of them in wheelchairs.
They didn’t plan to have a big family. After the Kayes had their three biological children, they decided to adopt a six-year-old from Korea called Barbara. Four months after arriving in the country Barbara was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and the Kayes were advised not to go through with the adoption. Backing out was never an option for them, and then Nancy and Joe began to seek out children who were unlikely to be adopted by anyone else. “We think that every child needs to be valued. Every child ought to be entitled to a family,” says Nancy Kaye.
3 Luiz Costa De Oliveira’s “Family”
Stretching the definition of family to include the offspring of one man we have Luiz Costa de Oliveira. Now in his early 90s, Oliveira told his local newspaper that “the best thing God made in the world was women” and he appears to have spent the majority of his life “experiencing” them.
While earning his living as a farm worker, Oliveira still had enough energy at the end of the day to father 17 children with his first wife. He and his second wife also had 17 children, and with the long-term mistress he had during his second marriage he had a further 15 children.
2 The Jeub Family
Mom Wendy was the teenage mother of two children when she met Chris. When they married in 1991 Chris adopted her two children, and they began adding to their family. They named baby number five Noah and joked that it stood for No-ah more Jeubs but that was not the case.
Since Noah, Wendy and Chris have added another 11 children to their home, making for a grand total of 16.
Wendy says her biggest money saving tip is to “shop at home” and making sure she has made the most of their existing resources before running to the store. In a comment that most of us can relate to, Wendy also says she tells the children she is not “a short order cook” and doesn’t make multiple meals according to what everyone likes or doesn’t like.
1 The Collins Family
Finally, a large family in it’s the third generation. Beatrice and Len Collins brought up their 19 children in a time before modern appliances. Every day Beatrice would do five loads of laundry, way before we had dryers, and would clean their tiny bungalow while taking care of the kids during the day when Len was at work at the canoe factory.
Beatrice said that her children, which included two sets of twins, were the Popes doing because of his doctrine on the rhythm method. She liked to tell people that “It doesn’t work.”
Len died at the age of 66, but Beatrice lived to 93 by which time her family had grown from 19 children to a brood that included over 50 grandchildren and in excess of 40 great grandchildren.
Sources: Netflix, Huffington Post, ABC News, Whosays8isenough.org, RTheyAllYours.blogspot.ca, SmilesandTrials.blogspot.ca, AllOurBoys.com, ChilsonChitChat.blogspot.ca, TwelveMakesADozen.blogspot.ca, Kidspot.com.au, DailyMail.co.uk, LargerFamilyLife.com, ThePeterboroughExaminer.com
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