I once had the honor of watching a Sesame Street episode where Kermit the Frog was interviewing the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. For those that don’t recall, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
I was curious, as was Kermit; how many children did she actually have? How many, in fact was TOO many?
As it turns out, 8.
I have 7.
So apparently I don’t have SUCH a big family.
How do I manage with my crew? I’ve been asked this many times. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
- In the various “Orthodox” circles where I travel, my family may be considered large, average, or “that’s a sneeze”. Some people reading this may be chuckling at the notion that I have a lot on my plate.
- I am one of 7 kids. So this feels normal to me.
- My husband is one of 8 kids… he and Kermit may have something to talk about.
- Did you ever notice that people think a “large family” is anything with more kids than they grew up with? Likewise, a “small” family would be… anything smaller than they grew up with. My, what an objective and scientific group us humans are.
- Since my sibs and sibs-in-law are all used to this, as are many of my friends, we are not a novelty or a curiosity. It’s considered normal for me to have a couple of friends’ kids or nieces/nephews for sleepovers or playdates; likewise, my kids would go over to friends, neighbors, or relatives even when they have a houseful. Multiple pregnancies, nursing moms, and childbirth are all part of the fabric of lives. We’re used to this and it’s part of the culture. This implicit and practical support is everything.
- I am the oldest girl and the second child in my family. My mom is a very smart woman, and guided us to help in a way that was empowering and also taught us responsibility, commitment, and selflessness. She let us help in ways that we wanted to by offering me choices (would you like to do the grocery shopping or bathe the kids?). Contrary to some media reports I’ve seen, this did not make me resentful, neurotic, un-religious, or give me an eating disorder. It made me a healthy, responsible member of society. Did I always want to help? NO. But the doing when I wasn’t in the mood helped me get out of the selfish zone that many teens live in.
- I loved my younger sisters and brothers. (Okay, my older brother too.) I sincerely was so excited each time my mother had another child. My kids are like this too. Once would be quite surprised at how kids in large families beg their folks to have more (assuming it’s a healthy household). When I had six, my kids were literally hounding me: When are you going to have another baby?? So they LOVE getting the baby after a nap, feeding her Cheerios, walking her in the stroller, and…. Well, the diaper changing is still mainly my and my husband’s job. J
- I hire paid help when I need to and I don’t consider it a luxury. We don’t go on expensive vacations, and I buy clothes on the cheap, but help in the home is a total priority. And I DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT. Healthy mom, healthy kids. It’s that simple.
- My big kids totally help me (see #6). Sometimes they love doing it, and sometimes they don’t, but girls and boys alike help out with: cleaning up, laundry, grocery shopping, various gofer errands around the house, setting the table and clearing away, babysitting, and, yes, even diaper changing. Despite the effort this involves on my part, I am a firm believer that this is good for my kids (and for me). Some call it Pyramid Parenting. My husband and I are at the top, and we delegate to the younger ones to help out with the even-younger-ones. It needs to be done with sensitivity so the goal is accomplished without resentment and we need to constantly check ourselves that each child receives adequate attention and alone-time. Do I always succeed? No, but I think for the most part we do OK.
- I pray. As often as I can. For many things, but specifically, that God should help me be a good parent, gift me with the wisdom to make the right decisions for my kids and the strength to care for them as they need. For good health and good influences. That they might grow up to be spiritual, healthy in body and mind, to do good deeds, be good Jews, honest and upright, marry well, and be a credit to all.
- My husband and I are an absolute team. We share the load, whether that load is physical, job-related, kid-related, house-related. This is huge.
- Am I overwhelmed? Sometimes. Are parents of two kids ever overwhelmed? Are non-parents sometimes overwhelmed?? We all get overwhelmed sometimes. That’s OK. That’s just life.
And finally, Kermit, I’d like to say that I think we need to get this family into reality TV… An elderly octomom, the whole living in the shoe piece… would you say??