Large Family Logistics

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I didn’t set out to have six kids, but it’s been one of the best things to ever happen to me. That said, our life is a little different than that of smaller families.

Large Family Logistics | Life as MOM

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I was the oldest of five kids and, to my mother’s horror, swore never to have children of my own. Apparently, the burden of watching the little kids got too much for me one day. Imagine the irony that I would go on to have more children than my mom! Ha!

My husband and I didn’t decide to have six kids; the idea just kind of grew on us. After having three miscarriages in one year, we realized that we didn’t have all the control over birth that we thought we did. While we didn’t have a direct word from God, we did sense that our family wasn’t complete until a few years ago.

Having a larger than normal family certainly causes more than a few second-looks from passersby, but it has in no way detracted from our quality of life. It’s amazing how far you can stretch your resources when you need to. Besides, we’ve been bulk buying since 1994, so it ain’t no big deal.

Here are some ways that logistically our life may be different from another’s:

1. We need a minivan, at least.

I haven’t driven a car-car since 2001. I miss the easy parking and the better gas mileage, but we’ve managed pretty well with our larger vehicles: first a minivan and now an SUV.

In fact, until the transmission went out for the second time in our 1996 Caravan, we were able to fit all eight of us into it! That was no small feat for a vehicle of that age. It was originally a 7-seater, but we pulled out the captain’s chairs and installed a second back seat bench. Find the details here on how we saved $15,000 on a new minivan.

2. There’s always a mess somewhere.

I am sure that somewhere in the world there is a mother of many with an immaculate house. She does not live here, though. We have our moments of total disaster and our moments of squeaky-clean. Usually we fall somewhere in the middle — once we’ve made order from chaos.

Either my standards have hit rock bottom or I’ve just realized that there are only so many hours in the day. I don’t want to spend them hassling my kids to keep things spotless. They do their chores and we try to keep things picked up, but we don’t freak out all that much.

Just as the third baby doesn’t get a baby book or a sanitized binky, neither does our house get all the attention it could use.

Large Family Logistics | Life as MOM

3. We take up two hotel rooms.

When the big kids were little, we could squeeze six of us in a room, but there’s no way that could happen nowadays. Now that three boys are adult-size, even rooms for four are tight. We just know that when we rent lodging, that we need to plan on two rooms — or we rent a condo with three rooms and a kitchen.

While it was a bummer on our European vacation for the parents not to stay in the same room, we realize it’s only for a season. On the bright side, FishPapa and I each got a chance to interact with three kids in a different way and in sometimes different combinations than we usually do.

4. I count heads a lot.

Certainly, my head counting has eased up as my older kids have grown and become independent young adults. Still. I count. I count on vacation and particularly at meal times to make sure everyone is present and accounted for.

5. The kids count the portions when a meal is served.

Speaking of which, if you don’t show up for meals at our house, you might not get any. As the kids have grown so have their appetites. Leftovers are few and far between. You snooze, you lose, buddy.

The little kids are slowly learning their long division in a very practical way. If there are 52 cupcakes divided among 8 people, how many cupcakes does each person get?

And more importantly, what’s the remainder that Mama will sneak on the sly?

Additionally, a 9×13 pan no longer cuts it for most casseroles. I have to make two pans of enchiladas, lasagne, or Lawnmower Taco — or have lots of side dishes to fill up empty spaces.

Large Family Logistics | Life as MOM

6. There’s never a shortage of playmates.

While the baby in the family might complain of being bored, no one else is guilty of that. There’s just too much to do in a household of eight. There’s always someone to go to the park with, play a video game with, or watch a movie with.

And for the ornery in our midst, there’s always someone to argue with. So we’re good on the entertainment front.

7. I make an extra effort not to burden my older kids with responsibilities.

Having been the eldest of many children, I am trying to be more sensitive to the older ones so that they won’t threaten to deprive me of grandchildren some day. While the older two could probably run the house on their own, I try not to ask them to.

Long ago, I heard the advice: give the job to the youngest one capable of doing it.

This was golden advice. By making sure I don’t heap it all on the big kids, I’m making sure that the babies actually grow up and learn to take care of themselves. My youngest is now the age her eldest brother was when he helped me change diapers (wet ones only), so I’m sure she’s capable of more.

Some people shake their heads in disbelief that we have “so many kids”. It seems like such an oddball rarity to them. I don’t really get that, but I grew up the oldest of five. Each of our kids is so different and so amazing in his or her own way that I really can’t imagine life any other way.

Sure, it’s messy and cumbersome and expensive at times, but it’s pretty remarkable, too. I’m blessed to be their mom and juggle these large family logistics.

Large Family Logistics | Life as Mom

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  1. I love it! Mother of 4 girls here. “Long ago, I heard the advice: give the job to the youngest one capable of doing it.” This is the best advice. I keep upping the chore chart. My oldest was the first take on the dish washing chores after dinner, but now she’s moved onto lawn mowing. My 3rd child is almost old enough to wash dinner dishes on the regular (9), so I will be shifting my 2nd to lawn mowing and the 1st to van cleaning. I figure as long as everyone moves into a new role and responsibility, no one will get annoyed that they are “stuck” doing the same chore forever. We do switch things up monthly with other minor chores but I can hardly expect my 7 year old to clean the van from top to bottom…she can’t reach the top yet lol. My biggest headache these days is organizing the playdates, as homeschoolers our “best friends” are not in the same neighbourhood and I have a lot of driving to do to make things happen for them. My kids are very social (just like their parents) so we do what we can. Some days I double up and everyone has a friend over, but that means my house is pure chaos and the only sane moment is when we make several bowls of homemade popcorn for everyone. I wish I could get more time of the day!!

  2. I’m the middle child of 7 & I have so often said that, while I did enjoy growing up in a larger family… I don’t want that many kids myself. My oldest siblings are 10 & 13 years older than me so I had a lot of experience as “the older child” at home. So between helping a lot with my younger brothers and helping to raise 3 of my cousins I feel like I’ve had kids since I was a young teenager.
    I say all that to say this: While I can, in fact relate to pretty much everything you said, number 7 is so right on!! Parents really need to learn to not put so much on the older kids.

    Thanks for sharing this, you’ve got some really good advice! 😉

  3. Ugh! I wish I would’ve been clued in years ago about not leaning too much on the bigs of the bunch 😔 Littles are very capable of doing some of the tasks. Thank you so much for sharing that bit of advice!

  4. I have 5 children and never regretted it for a moment! I would count heads too. One of the funniest moments for us was a July 4th and we were on the boardwalk by the beach; a police officer asked us if we had a parade permit!

  5. I’m the middle of 5 (both my parents were only children) and married a guy who loved it just being him and his sister. We settled on 2, and it’s lovely and very manageable. But I love hanging out at my best friends’ house where there are 7 beautiful kids and the organized chaos reminds me of my childhood. There is always laughing, often crying, some shouting, and pretty much any counter space has a little something sticky on it. Does not phase me at all…she loves coming here, where there is quiet and calm. I feel like we get the best of both worlds. An acquaintance made a snarky comment about the impact of 7 kids (always amazed by those comments), and I had to say that her 7 are the most loving, responsible and empathetic kids I know. They will rule the world because they know they can-they’ve been given the gift of stepping up!

  6. As the eldest of 8, I can tell anyone who will listen that there exists a dynamic in a large family that smaller families cannot fathom. My stepFIL has 12 children. When people accost him, his standard answer is “we just did it.” It didn’t matter if they were asking about costs, mealtimes or transportation. They had several vehicles to transport that many people at any one time, and let me tell you, no moss grew on them! They were hugely active and no two are alike (including the 2 sets of twins).

    Every family has “that one person” who is something that the other arent’ (the drama-lama, the antagonist, the narcissist, etc). Larger families might have more — it’s just a matter of numbers. You are never alone, and will never have to make decisions for your parents alone when those years come. I wouldn’t trade being One Of Eight, and only wish I could have given that to my own two (but alas, it wasn’t meant to be).

  7. Jessica, wondering when I click “home” on top line the blog comes up on Feb 21 every time. I had to go through the archives to get your recent entries. Something I am doing?

    I especially love your #7. I guess you can guess why when I tell you I am the oldest of 7 !!! Times are different today. Back then life was about parents and kids being plugged into what was important to mom/dad. today its plugging into what is important to the kids. Of course there are always exceptions, but I read recently (not online) that colleges are having to use freshman year to teach students that the world does not revolve around them. …That each one has a story, a need, a frustration, a fear etc.

    1. Sona are you using a PC or a Mac? I am having similar problems getting to the latest posts.

      1. I emailed her separately since I haven’t had time to get on here. The hosting company is looking into this. If you clear your browser history, the new ones will appear. They made some changes earlier today but we won’t know if they worked until the new post goes up tonight. Let me know if you still have the same problem in an hour. Thanks.

        1. It is midnight now and it is still going to the wrong page. I am on a PC. Not having that problem on other sites as far as I can tell.

          1. It fixed it for some people and not others, so I’m completely stumped. What part of the country are you in? Chrome on PC? Have you updated Chrome recently?

          2. He made some more changes this morning and I was able to get home simply by the little refresh button at the top. Let me know if that works? Also, do you have an updated version of Chrome?

        2. today is the first time in months that had all the new articles without me clearing cookies first! YAY!!

          1. Wed morning. still cant get on home!! I will try updating, although like I said above, not having that problem on other sites…so I am stumped.

  8. Hi Jessica,
    I’m an old acquaintance from Saugus. Thank you for sharing your experiences! Now that I have a blended family of 9 I am just beginning to learn these things. I adore my new family and we run into the shock factor from people every everywhere we go. Sometimes it’s good… sometimes not. I appreciate your candid view. Since we’ve been married last July, cooking is a whole new experience for me and I look forward to studying up on your words of wisdom from pantry inventory to saving time and money. My mudroom is now my new pantry! So happy to see your successes. Btw. All our kids are under 18 as well. The youngest is 3. Talk about starting over :-P.

    1. I’m glad you told me which Denise you were. The email would not have clued me in. 🙂 Congratulations on your new family. I think you’ll find your stride. Let me know how I can help!

  9. Great post! I also didn’t want any kids and wanted to be a “career woman”. Ha! I’m now a 40 year old mother of 5, (12, 11.5, 11, 9, and 2) finishing up my last semester in college 🙂 We had 2, adopted 2, and then had 1 more. We tried for #6 but it just didn’t happen. We did foster care for 6 years and sometimes had 10 kids in our 8 bedroom (at the time) home. People would tell me I was crazy, but that the kids were “all so well behaved”.
    I think having a large family is very do-able. It’s a busy life, but it’s so fun too. I think it just requires a lot more planning and cooperation to do things, but the kids know that if they make outings impossible they just don’t get to go next time 🙂

  10. That not leaning on the eldest is a huge thing – so important – they’re not the parents. My eldest is now often the one to offer help, which I’ll generally accept – but I feel good about the help when I’m not feeling like I’m using her as a life raft LOL.

    Good piece 🙂

  11. I love the idea of giving the job to the youngest child capable of handling it.

    I’m also frequently surprised by people’s reactions to large families. I grew up in a church/homeschooling community where almost everyone had big families. We were definitely on the small side with just three kids. Five or six was average, twelve happened. It was such a surprise to emerge from that cocooned world and realize that the standard dialogue more frequently ran along the lines of “we’ve had or one [or two]. We’re all done now!” It just literally hadn’t occurred to me as a kid or teen that people deliberately only had a couple kids. We were always so jealous of our friends in the big families – they always seemed to have the most fun! My husband and I now have three kids with the fourth on the way. We don’t know where we’ll end up, but we so enjoy the gift of our little herd of kids.

  12. I love being a mom of five. I never have a dull moment. I constantly hear remarks of “5 kids, atre you nuts??”

  13. Great article. So encouraging. We mysteriously hit 4+ years of infertility after our first child, and that experienced convinced us to remain open to life. No regrets!

    I especially like your advice to let the youngest capable do a job. That is something I need to work a little harder on as my littles (sob) are not so little anymore.

    1. I let the 6yo go get the bananas I forgot when we were at the grocery today. It’s a small store, but it was a big step to send her on that kind of errand. (And I could see her the whole time. Ha!)