Family Matters: Unexpected benefits to big family living

Published on Wednesday, 30 August 2017 16:08 - Written by

JENNIFER FLANDERS, Family Matters

I love children and have wanted a bunch of them for as long as I can remember. Not surprisingly, this fact significantly narrowed the field of potential marriage partners back when I was in college.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” an interested classmate might venture.

“That depends,” I’d answer matter-of-factly. “How many kids do you want to have when you get married?”

Subtlety has never my strong suit.    

This line of questioning quickly scared off most would-be suitors, but I didn’t want to risk falling in love with someone who didn’t share my desire for a big family. So I held out… and my patience eventually paid off.

Mr. Right finally showed up a few weeks before graduation. Not only was he interested (in me!), but he gave the desired response to all of my questions - and didn’t seem intimidated by my asking them. The rest, as they say, is history: I married him 16 months later, got pregnant two weeks into our honeymoon, and spent the following quarter of a century either pregnant or nursing (or both).

Life as the mother of many has been every bit as blissful as I imagined. Sure, there have been lots of unexpected challenges, but there have also been plenty of unanticipated rewards. Here are a few of my favorites:

1.    Boredom Busters: There is never a dull moment in a home filled with children, and there is always somebody to play with. Neighbors and schoolmates will come and go, but siblings are friends you can keep for life.

2.    Conversation Starters: Big families invite all sorts of inquiries: “Are all these kids yours?” “Don’t you know what causes that?” “Do you want to have any more?” In our experience, the folks asking such questions aren’t trying to be rude - they’re genuinely curious - so we answer as graciously and amicably as we possibly can. What a great way to meet people!

3.    Group Discounts: A really big family can qualify for discounted group admission rates without even trying. And do we ever get our money’s worth on those annual zoo and museum memberships - especially the ones that offer reciprocal benefits at sister sites.

4.    A Deeper Admiration: The love I felt for my husband when we first wed increased manifold when he became the father of my children. I enjoy watching him interact with our older kids, but there is something so specially endearing about the way he cuddles and cootchy-coos our babies that it makes me grateful God gave us so many to draw that tenderness out of him.

5.    Household Help: A wise man once observed, “Many hands make light labor.” Of course, many hands make bigger messes to begin with, but when everyone pitches in to help clean up, household chores are knocked out in short order, and kids learn responsibility and other important life skills from an early age.

6.    No PMS: Between pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can literally go for years without having a monthly cycle. I’m not gonna lie - that was really nice while it lasted.

7.    Youthful Beauty: Pregnancy keeps you looking young (glossy hair and glowing complexion), but the children themselves keep you feeling young. It’s a wondrous thing to see the world through the eyes of a child, so filled with awe and excitement over each new discovery. Their energy, enthusiasm, and laughter are infectious.

8.    Best Foot Forward: Not only do children help refine their parents’ character qualities, but they polish one another, as well. Siblings have a way of knocking off one another’s rough edges, so they’re less likely to make fools of themselves in public. Corny jokes and lame pranks can be tested (then reworked as needed or altogether abandoned) at home, where the stakes are lower and the audience more forgiving.

9.    Empty Nest Postponed: When you are blessed with many children, you don’t have to give up all your favorite things about one stage of life to enjoy the niceties of the next. You’ll still have little ones at home to cuddle even after first ones move away. That’s a happy distraction during what might otherwise be a bittersweet time.

The majority of Jennifer Flanders’ twelve children are adults now, but with eight grandchildren (and a ninth on the way), she still gets to enjoy plenty of sweet baby snuggles. To read more from Jennifer, check out her books: amazon.com/author/jenniferflanders