Thoughts on My Big Family

Today Isa and I grabbed a late lunch with my friend Susie and her two youngest. It’s fun to be able to head out like that, spur of the moment, knowing that for the most part everyone is going to behave.

As we were leaving the restaurant, my hands were filled with our to go drinks and the leftovers and Isa told me she could just walk next to me without holding my head.

“That’s fine,” I said, “but you have to stay right here next to my leg.”

And she did. She calmly walked beside me and at one point sort of held on to me as we ambled toward the van.

It was such a delight.

I relished the sweet little moment while simultaneously comparing it to the million times I’ve walked through parking lots wound up tight as a board. All those times I’ve been out with my crew — and especially when everyone was so little and wild — where I would repeat directives over and over and just hope and pray no one got hurt. Forever ago, Ethan jutted ahead of me in a parking lot and almost got flattened by a car. You don’t recover from that too quickly (I’m going on thirteen years). I had to yell at him to stop and thank the Lord he was quick to obey.

So here I was today, with just the one and it was easy and wonderful. And I thought…I can see why people think having a ton of kids is a ton of work. It is!

I know there is no ideal family size. Because I know there is beauty in the big and beauty in the small. Because I know there are people out there who would give anything to have six or seven or twelve children and God has seen fit to send them one or two. And I know that once you have one baby, you realize you have already been so overwhelmingly blessed by the Lord that you are in awe of his generosity.

The best each of us can and should do is be grateful for where we are — to be at peace with the situation God has given us. We need to be open to his will — whatever that may be — and remember that there is no One Size Fits All in family life.

And so. Here I am, with my six children and all the wild and crazy it brings. And being out with my one daughter (contrasted with all my years of being out with all my sons) and I recognize it’s a heckuva lot easier. It is. There’s no denying that. Taking one three year old girl to lunch is a whole different ballgame and it’s a kinder, gentler game too.

But you know what? That’s simply an observation, nothing more. It’s not an editorial on whether you should have one child or six. It’s not a theological discussion on big families versus small. It’s just me, in a moment, noting that there are certainly times and places and seasons where life is more challenging than others.

In a few minutes, my boys will all walk in the door from school and it will get loud and crazy. People will be hungry (most definitely) and grumpy (most likely) and I’ll have a few minutes at some point in the afternoon where I will have to count to ten and maybe walk to my room and shut the door and pray for grace and then it will all be good. But really, now that I think about it, I have to do that with each individual child, not always the Pack. Usually when there’s an issue, you can hone in on the culprit.

Gosh. What am I saying? It’s okay to admit that life is hard, sometimes way more than others. It is what it is and you embrace it and do your best. Just because things are difficult and challenging doesn’t mean it’s wrong or a bad decision. Nobody tells someone training for a marathon that she’s nuts. These people are congratulated for running until their toes bleed!

People, family life will make your toes bleed.

Forever ago, when Paul and I started having kids, I didn’t want a big family. I came from a big family and I knew first hand just how hard it could be. Oh sure it was fun and never boring and there were always fun people around (to drive you nuts!). But all those dishes. All that laundry. All those mouths to feed and hearts to protect. I didn’t have what it takes, I was fairly sure of that. Big families were for those folks who always knew they wanted them, who had superhuman strength and patience to spare.

And what do you know, here we are with our six kids (which frankly doesn’t sound like that many). And somedays yes, it’s crazy and I’m all “woah. How did this happen?” And some days I’m just so grateful that I didn’t think about it all so much because there are days when you think you might be drowning but all those other days? The ones where you’re floating along and doing pretty good and putting one foot in front of the other? You’re so glad you are right in the center of where God wants you to be.

That’s the best any of us can do. When we’re there, listening to God and going where he gently leads, we can never go wrong. We will never be bored, we might sometimes be overwhelmed, but we won’t regret the adventure.


  1. It’s a delight to be able to make observations about our lives that are not complaints/editorials/wishes-that-things-were-different. Just observations about how God is working in our lives in that moment, or this moment, and what we learn by it – or in reflecting on it, or in remembering it 10 years later. It seems to me that’s part of what the journey is about: sharing our observations and simply talking with each other about what we think we see/hear/feel. Otherwise no matter what size our family is, it is a lonely world.

    Love seeing everyone grow up {from afar}

  2. I love this!

  3. I loved reading this tonight. I have four children 7 and under, and we are definitely in the “dangerous parking lot” stage. I try to take it in stride and truly do enjoy watching them grow, but I am certainly looking forward to lunching with a lowly three year old someday, too 🙂 .

  4. Michelle Ross says:

    Your posts over the last few days have really spoken to me…I’m at this stage where I’m enjoying the age of each of my bairns and rejoicing over the adventure while watching life pass way too quickly. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Oh Rachel, I loved this. I’ve been a lurker/reader and not a commenter, but I just had to chime in and tell you how much I appreciated this post. We’re discerning a large family (four kids right now between the ages of 10 and 1) and I can appreciate both sides of the issue. Thank you!

  6. This was SO nicely written. I am often at odds with how wistfully I look at people with larger families – We have an only child, and it makes me so sad at time – I always pictured myself with 3 or 4, hoping for at least that many.

    I love reading about big (especially Catholic) families, and this post was one that really did not make me feel less for having our teeny, tiny family of three.

    I am going to be sharing a link to this post on my blog – thank for your writing your heart online for others….

  7. My children have learned how to “glue” themselves to the van, if they get out while I am helping another one out. Then, if my hands are full, they either have to hang on to my pocket or my purse. It’s worked so far. However, the screaming and potential death throes currently coming from my upstairs while they are “cleaning” isn’t working so much.

  8. Parents with many kids are saints! This said from a mom that cannot even handle the single child she has. I wonder how you guys do it. Now about marathon runners ….I am the first one to think “you guys are crazy to run that long and put your body through so much” – Maybe I am just a wimp.

  9. You are right to recognize your large family as a blessing. As someone who has struggled with infertility in the past, I also feel very blessed to have been able to naturally conceive 3 children. It would have been wonderful to have a larger family, but those cards were not in our hands. People don’t often recognize that even someone with 3 children might be grieving for the loss of a still larger family, but children are such a gift that it’s always painful when you can’t have as many as you would happily welcome. We must be thankful for what God has chosen to give us, and accepting of what he has not.

  10. Kris Chatfield says:

    We have friends with all different sized families, for different reasons. We ended up with 5 – also not “intentionally”. In other words, we didn’t plan on a big family, but God just put these babies on our hearts, one at a time. I always wondered if I would “know” when He was done with our family, but somehow, when our youngest was born, I just knew. We felt complete. I remember those days of scary parking lots and making everyone touch me or the car when we were loading up. Each season brings its own challenges, stresses and joys. I’m trying to remember to enjoy where I am, in that moment. Because it’s all so fleeting.

  11. This was a delightful read! Thank you for sharing!