At first glance, it seems obvious that small families would be the easiest to raise, but there are many hidden advantages of having a big family. Any North American mother who has three or more children is generally considered to have a big family, and she’s heard lots of comments about her crew. Strangers say, “Gee, you must be busy!” or “You’ve got your hands full!” And they’re right. Particularly if you’ve got all your kids out in public, you are probably a very busy parent.
The truth is, multiple children in the house means chaos. Each person comes with more noise, more dishes, more tears, and more dirty socks. You are lucky if you can find a quiet corner in your house. (Actually, you are lucky if you can find a vacant corner in your house). On the other hand, lots of things are easier with a big family. There’s no lesson on kids you have to learn twice, so your knowledge base is always growing. Friends with kids are going to love coming to your house, because their kids disappear into the throng of children in the playroom. Every day your kids have a party at their own house – made up of just siblings! Kids aren’t always just work – they are also a wealth of curious energy and a constant source of the best kind of life satisfaction.
If you're making decisions about your family size, consider the following advantages of having lots of kids:
Having one-on-one time with kids is really a beautiful and precious thing. It's so nice to educate and relate to kids with time reading books, painting, or playing house – and you get the added bonus of bringing back your own childhood memories.
Alright now, back to reality.
Who has the time or patience for doing this all day long? Spending time playing with your little one is precious in small doses. Then grown-ups need to move on from pretend time and exercise the adult brain. You have your own grown-up things to get done.
Spend any time around only children, and you'll realize it's impossible to have a to-do list and babysit simultaneously. Putting your toddler down to nap becomes the highlight of your day because it means you have a few minutes to yourself. Your only other slice of silence is when kiddo is enthralled in his favourite cartoon.
Herein lies the beauty of large families: siblings keep one another entertained. Really: it's no myth! Okay, so sometimes it's not the type of entertainment you'd prefer – when they're pulling hair, pushing, and generally driving each other crazy – but multiple children provides the household with built-in playdates every single day. So when you're cooking supper, unloading groceries, or for heaven's sake just trying to get some work done, you might actually get some time when the kids are busying themselves.
There has been lots said lately about today's parents' tendency to overshedule kids, leading to a lack of “unstructured play”. Just the nature of the problem makes it impossible for parents to solve: any play to provide your kids is by definition structured. On the other hand, if youngsters wander off with friends (or siblings) and find something to do, their social skills and brain development are said to benefit. Say what you will about the necessity of playtime, structured or otherwise, I simply call it time in the day for some much needed coffee.
6 Your Money's Worth
First babies are the luckiest creatures on earth – as far as getting new stuff, anyway. Moms who are expecting for the first time pour over baby books and websites, trying earnestly to discern which mobile will foster the cognitive skills Junior needs to get into college. The best baby gear, the trendy toddler clothes, and the best non-toxic toys – the eldest child gets only the best. When you bought all those kid items you realized how expensive kids are.
By the time parents have a second or third child, they’ve figured out the basics they really need, and the painful truth: almost none of the items collected for the first baby were truly necessary.
There are some things you can't do without. You have to have a car seat and stroller, you really need a crib and a high chair, and if you have stairs you should definitely invest in a good baby gate by the time your munchkin crawls.
And all those costs add up, fast. Factor in the new wardrobe you'll need about every two months for the first year of your baby's life, and just making ends meet seems tough, while starting the RESP investments seems like an impossible dream.
When making decisions about the number of kids to have, it makes sense to multiply the budget for one kid for each you intend to raise, but luckily it doesn’t work that way. When you have your second baby you get to use all that expensive baby stuff again. Wow! What a revelation. You can clean up the exersaucer, nursing covers, and playpen without having to spend a dime. You may have to chip in for some new clothes if you have kids of both genders – assuming you'd like your girls to wear pink and boys blue – but all that other stuff gets another go-round. The more children you have, the more use you get out of your infant gadgets.
I was so proud on my fourth kiddo when I pulled a sleeper from the dryer and it had a hole in the toe and a broken zipper. My family had really managed to wear out an item of infant clothing. Imagine! I was so proud. You, too can get the most out of your well-spent dollars by having a large family. Just think how greatful you'll be when you use that stuff ragged and get the most for your money.
5 They look after one another
Children without siblings are on their own. Sure, an only child has his parents’ undying love and undivided attention from the time he’s born, but he doesn’t have any peers to help look after him. So many of life’s situations are better when you have another person who understands your struggle, and nobody understands a family’s inner workings the way a sibling will. More kids means more shoulders to cry on and more likelihood one of your clan will be able to help you out.
Kids from larger families have the benefit of learning from the other’s experiences. Even if you’re firstborn, more kids means you will learn to skate, swim, and ride bikes with other kids, and learn from their techniques and bravery. Children from families with multiple children have the benefit of a bus buddy on their first day of school. The first kid to get a driver’s license gets to gloat to his younger sister – and then he has to act as her chauffeur for after-school activities. Moving to a new school district? Kids are there to support one another.
Siblings can also be a great defence against bullies, and not only because brothers and sisters have already battered a kid from a large family at home. Kids from large families do learn some self-defence by the time they enter school (and this includes running and hiding). But those kids also have power in numbers. Kids might be terrible to each other at home, but if an outsider is doing the intimidating they’re all about protecting their own.
Kids take care of each other at home, too. Depending on spacing between kids, the older ones might be helpful with the baby. Kids with young siblings learn the responsibility it takes to look after another living being – no need to invest in a family pet!
Some people believe that having brothers and sisters affects the way adults interact with the world – and that siblings can be best friends as they grow older. There is security in having a built-in comrade in a crazy world.
4 You learn not to sweat the small stuff
Being a mom is a worrisome chore. You can stress yourself out over almost anything when it comes to your kids – what they're wearing or what TV shows they're watching. As the saying goes, kids don't come with instruction manuals, so it can be really tough to tell when you've got things right. If you worry over every decision, every daily activity, you will go crazy, and that's just what you tend to do with your first couple of kids.
By the time you get to your third baby and beyond, the feeling that every decision is a matter of life and death fades away. It's not that you don't care about your younger kids – the drive to do right by them is just as strong, and the love is every bit as deep as with your firstborn. Once you've done a thing a couple of times you start to get a little bit of confidence about your performance, and childrearing is no different (your first kids made it through their first years alive, right?).
There are no right and wrong techniques for the boundaries you set and the methods you use for teaching your kids. Every bit of experience parents get along the way reinforces their awareness of the resilience kids have to survive their many parenting errors. So even when your son runs through the room buck naked, and your daughter will turn almost any object into a gun to shoot the imaginary bad guy, you don’t have to assume it’s a reflection of your parenting style.
Rearing multiple children teaches perspective, too. When you have many kids to think about, you stop worrying about the many things that can go wrong each day. It becomes secondary to worry about kids’ wardrobes, or stains on their clothes, or dirt on the mudroom floor. You are busy enough to forget that stuff, and that’s really a blessing. Learning to let stuff go becomes a really great life lesson, made easier to learn by having lots of kids.
3 Killer biceps
Moms – any moms at all – are really impressive in their sheer carrying capacity. Working donkeys don’t haul as much stuff as a parent on a day out to the park. Not only does mom usually have her hands beyond full, but because she’s loaded down she also has superior dexterity – watch her while she holds a door open with a foot, closes one with a hip, or drags a vacuum cleaner all around the house while holding a baby in the opposite hand. Some women even get sore arms from lugging baby everywhere.
Imagine now the mother with multiple small children. She’s not only well accustomed to heavy loads and moving objects with any available body parts, now she’ll be reigning in all her kids with the other hand.
When you have lots of kids, you can look forward to really great arms. By necessity you’ll be strong and agile. No gym workout equals juggling kids for a day. Your core is engaged, you’re working multiple muscle groups – this isn’t just a workout, this is a cross-fit training program, and that’s just an average day.
Think about the size of the average kid: inside of a month, a new baby is likely to have reached almost ten pounds. By the time she’s six months old, baby is closer to fifteen pounds, and most toddlers reach 20 pounds before they’re a year old! Your arms get stronger as your baby gains weight, meaning you barely notice when you’re lifting this considerable weight. With each kid you have, you’re lifting more, doing more, and carrying on with your day. You’ll also be extending this type of activity over more years of your life, so it’ll become second nature to be more active even when you’re kids are older. Think of many kids as being good for your health – even if you develop a twitch from all that noise.
Exercise isn’t the only way you’ll improve when you have lots of kids, you are also improving your patience, counselling skills, and academic knowledge as each one comes to you with questions and complaints.
2 You Get the Hang of It
Like anything else in life, practice at parenting makes it easier. Notice I didn’t claim that practice makes perfect, because in childrearing it doesn’t. Nobody will ever be the perfect parent.
The first child leads to a whole life of firsts, and parents have to navigate each one with no experience or background knowledge. How do I introduce first foods? Does my child have to attend preschool? How do I approach potty training? Each new stage is momentous with a first child. Each new skill is amazing and breathtaking, and each new bad habit seems like a mystery you need to solve.
Each child is different, and I’m sure even a tenth child could throw his parents a few curveballs. But with every child reared, parents have a new baseline to work with, new tricks learned. Even just being familiar with the different stages children go through, and having formed an opinion on how it could be handled helps you to feel less overwhelmed when one comes up in your home – again.
As a result, seasoned parents tend to be more relaxed about decisions regarding their children, and therefore find it less stressful. Parents on their fourth child won’t have to run when they hear a toddler crying. Instead, they can recognize the type of yell they’re hearing, and decide how to react. And parents with more kids have an additional litmus to judge the severity of cries in the next room – other kids. Older kids are keen to report when baby’s bonked her head, or if somebody else just took her toy. Parents don’t have to have eyes on their kids all the time to know how they’re doing.
Experienced moms also lessen daily chaos with shortcuts and organizational tricks to get everyone through the day intact. Moms with many children often have tips and tricks they use to make life easier. These tricks are hard-won wisdom that will live on beyond the childhood years, and one of the benefits of having a large family.
1 All the love
Your big family is going to run out of a lot of stuff. You’ll run out of milk about every other weekday. You’ll run out of diapers at midnight when the drugstore just closed. The birthday boy won’t get any ice cream because his big sister just ate the last of it. But one thing you’ll never ever run out of is love. Lots of kids means lots of snuggles, and playtime, and smiles, and fun. This is, by far, the best reason to have a big family – because you love to have love, all the time. As a matter of fact, wanting love and snuggles all the time is necessary for having big families, because you will probably have a kid attached to you 24 hours a day. You will get snuggles even when you sleep – you will probably need a bigger bed, because you will have a least one kid trying to climb in with you every night.
Each time I learned I was pregnant I worried that I couldn’t possibly care for another person as much as I cared for my eldest child. I thought the next baby would come second place just as every other human did after my first baby was born. Boy, was I wrong. Somehow, the world’s strongest attachment between two people grew to envelope another person. The same thing happened each time another child came into our family. Your heart stretches to let in all your kids, each with the same ferocious love you had the first time. What a miraculous thing!
Along with experiencing an ever-expanding circle of familial love, you also get to witness it among others. It is incredible to watch as each new baby enters the family, and see your older kids go crazy over another sibling. By the time your newborn is a couple of months old, she is firmly entrenched in your kids’ hearts. It’s wonderful to see the protection and inclusion kids have for their brothers and sisters. Your respect for your kids will grow when you witness the relationship between them.