One at a Time...
As the mother of a large family, I am often faced with a barrage of questions when someone learns that by large we mean we have twelve children in our family. They range from;
’Did you birth them all”
“Did you always know you wanted a large family?”
“What is their age range?”
2 years up to 24.
And finally; “How DO you DO it?” to which I usually respond: “One at a time.” And that is the secret, one at a time. I am mother to twelve individual children, each with their own personality who each brings their own brand of blessings and challenges to our family. Just as I gave birth to each child, one at a time, I also minister to their needs one at a time. It is difficult and sometimes overwhelming, but it did not happen over night so there has been time to adjust to the increasing demands on one’s time and energy. I think this is what most people have a hard time wrapping their minds around, that while an even dozen children is a large number to parent, our family evolved over the years and did not erupt overnight into the large crew of children they see me with. As our family grew God blessed my husband and I with the insight, the energy and the resources to care for us all. It has not been all roses, but I would not change one iota of the past 24 years.
When my husband and I married we, like most newlyweds, dreamed of a family. We even had a few names already hand picked and waiting for the right child. Did we “plan” to have a large family from the start? I would have to say no. Initially when my husband and I talked about family size I naively dreamed of two baby girls followed by two baby brothers, close enough in age to be good playmates. Little did I know that God would bless us with that, times two with the added bonus of yet another four blessings. How did we determine if, or when, we should say no to being open to more life in our family?
Initially we simply felt called to be parents to as many children as God was willing to bless us with. My husband had a well paying job, we were both healthy and our children were all healthy, even if a few had rocky starts in life. Over time as we matured in our faith and began to study the teachings of the church regarding birth control, giving particular attention to Humane Vitae, we came to realize how instinctively aligned we had been with the teachings of the church and we felt encouraged to maintain our stance of being open to God’s will in our life. This, of course, was one pregnancy at a time. With the addition of each child we needed to review how we were meeting the needs of our family and if another child would take us to the breaking point spiritually, emotionally or financially. We are called, by the church, to responsible parenthood.
It was hard though sometimes when we saw how counter cultural being parents to a large family called us to be. It required my staying home as opposed to the popular concept that a woman must be fulfilled by being a career woman and only in doing so was she worthily contributing to society. It meant that instead of expensive cars, exotic vacations and up the minute fashions hung in our closets, we are content not with last year’s car model, but rather with models from the previous decade, camping vacations and Good Will often has lovely fashions that adorn the hangers in our closets.
Still, as difficult as it can be to be counter cultural in many ways, family size is not about what we want, but rather what is God’s plan for us. How open are we to His will? Some couples are given the cross of infertility and are lead down the path to parenthood through adoption or fostering, or even called to live a life without children. Others are called to have children and of a varying number. We can only know what the right size is for our own family by aligning ourselves with God’s will and honestly seeking to know God and what He is asking of us. Our mother church has offered us wonderful and clear guidelines to help us discern the family size God is calling us to. It is up to us to make use of these wonderful writings and teachings.
As well as becoming familiar with these teachings, I have had to become knowledgeable of my own abilities and limits. This self knowledge has helped me recognize how much I need God’s graces in order to parent the children He has blessed me with. Being the mother of such a large family is a very humbling experience that is filled with joy, challenges and much love.
(photo that accompanied the artcle, eldest child missing from photo)
(photo credit Paul Tomas, to see his work click here. )