Our combined family has five kids total, ranging in age from 1 to 8 years old. Naturally, the dynamics of our home life are different from people with one child, or three kids, or no custody schedules to hash out. Heck, our own family dynamics have transformed greatly since we went from four to five children just over a year ago.
There is a certain peace, an odd tranquility, that sets in when the children in your family outnumber the amount of parental hands. It’s like you know you can’t physically attend to everyone at every second and a whole bundle of guilt just lifts right off your shoulders. I’ve never felt more at ease as a parent than since we became a combined family of seven. I’m actually less stressed now than I was with just three. I can’t really explain it – I just know it to be true.
In the past year of having five kids under our roof several days each week, a few things have shifted. Most of these happened without any big announcement or conscious effort on my part. They just changed.
Truths in Families with Five Kids (or More)
You realize that “cute” is overrated.
Getting dressed in clean, weather-appropriate clothing is good enough, every time and in every situation. Have you ever seen a baby or elementary school aged kid? They’ve sort of got the whole “cute” thing wrapped up. I admit to dressing my kids for my own benefit from time to time (see picture below) but being overly focused on outfits, and matching hair bows, is just not on my agenda. I appreciate it when other parents pull off cute on a regular basis, but I don’t feel badly that it just isn’t for our family.
You not only accept help, you put people to work.
Warning: Don’t offer to help me with something unless you really plan to do it. Because I will hold you to it. Want to make us dinner? I’ll give you the best day of the week and best time to drop it off.
Mention carpooling to an activity that our kids share? I’ll email you right now a schedule that works for both of us. It isn’t that I’m trying to take advantage of the good nature of my friends or family; it’s that my mind is in constant planning mode. I answer questions in the immediate and put you in my scheduling app.
Your older kids step up.
Speaking of help, when you have a family with 3+ children, the older ones have to pick up some of the slack. It’s just the way it goes. Everyone grabs a bag when we return from the grocery store to take inside (even the ones who stayed home). My three oldest know how to sort clean laundry, put their own away, and load the dishwasher. Sometimes they have to “watch” the baby for a few minutes while I attend to some other disaster in another room. They know it is their responsibility to entertain her in those moments and keep her safe. I do ask for help – but a lot of it just happens naturally as part of the family dynamic.
You stop sweating (most of) the small stuff.
When you have a lot of kids, you realize nothing will ever be completely done. You don’t stop trying but you do stop stressing. Your to-do list of chores, homework, fitness endeavors, and kid extra-curriculars will never be DONE. So you just keep going, and spend more time enjoying what is happening in the present, than worrying about everything that isn’t getting done.
You realize it’s not really that hard.
When people ask me “how” we do it with so many kids, I’m not really sure how to respond.
How do we take care of five perfectly healthy children in a home that is safe, fits us all, and is always a comfortable temperature? How do we feed everyone with the money we both make at our full-time jobs that allow us to work from home almost all of the time? How do we keep everyone healthy with the amazing healthcare we are offered in this country, that we can afford because of my husband’s employer and the previously mentioned jobs?
I’m confused. What part of our life is so very hard that having five kids who are relatively easy would make it so difficult?
I know that question and its cousins (like “Do you ever sleep?”) are asked with awe and good intentions. And truth be told, some days ARE really hard. Some days I feel overwhelmed or sad for no particular reason other than the number of people who are constantly asking me for something. But I’m not a martyr. I’m not a better mom because I have a few more kids than most people. I’m not a superhero for loving my incredibly-lovable stepkids. I’m blessed/lucky to have what I do and proud of my big family.
I don’t know how families with two full-time, outside-the-home working parents do it. I don’t know how families with children with special needs do it. I don’t know how single moms and dads do it without a committed parenting partner by their sides. But they do it, and so do we. What seems hard about our family to some is considered easy by other families’ standards. The size of your family is just a number and that number doesn’t matter all that much when it comes down to the basics of parenting.
Do you have five kids? How has your parenting perspective changed as you’ve added more children?
Tags: big families