In Defense of the Bigger Family

I posted a blog a little while ago about some of the humility I gained as I became mother to more and more children (I only have three of course). I received more good feedback on that post than I had on any other I had ever made.

Of course, with the good comes the bad. I also really offended some moms of one child. Normally I am not bothered by a little negative feedback. Truthfully, I am amazed that anybody reads, considering I am just a ranting small town girl with a computer.

For some reason though, this got to me. Maybe it was because how they read it was so different from how I meant it. Of course, I never intended to insult women who choose or can only have one child. As I read through some of the things they said about me on a mom of one forum I was also kind of amazed at how ostracized these mom's felt from other moms who had many kids, but also how they looked down on bigger families.

In my post I poked fun at myself and my bad moments and some of the chaos that accompanies the addition of each new child. There were lots of comments about how much preferable it was to have one child and avoid the crazy moments and some even mentioned that they were glad they were not crazy moms but could really devote time to their one child and care for them and never forget their name.

(For the record, in the post I said that I was a great mom when I only had one. Ummm, that was a lie.....or a joke. I have never been a great mom. I was never a great person BEFORE I had kids. And guess what, as I have more I am still.....HUMAN! I don't know if having more kids has made me more crazy and less patient. It has just made me more ME. And I, much like most other people, am flawed. Flawed people end up being flawed parents, no matter how many kids they have or don't have.)

I don't think there is anything wrong with having one child. I also remember what it was like to have one (believe it or not) since even though I have more now, I started with one. I remember being worried to add another child. I wondered how I could give them the attention that I was able to give my first. Could I care for them enough? Would I be calm and kind and loving? It was the scariest part of adding a child for me, wondering if I could give what I needed to, and also wondering what it would take away from my first and dearly loved baby.

So, despite the fact that it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks, and I shouldn't care anyway, I can not help but note some of the benefits I find for my family as we add more children. Maybe there are times when I poke fun at the chaos, the emotions and the craziness that is being a mother. That does not mean I don't love it. (This was also pointed out, that I focused on all the negative aspects of mothering many). So, here are some of the things I notice that I LOVE about having children. (Note- again, not condemning you if you choose to have none or one- seriously, not my business! I have never met you! And of course, you can give your kids all of this with just one!)

Do you give them enough care?

I am sure it depends on your birth spacing, but I found that for me, I did parent my second child differently than my first. Personally I don't think that is a bad thing. I have heard women worry about this a lot. To me though, if you treat every child the same, you are not only not learning anything, you are also not honoring the differences in those children.

Yes, my second child did not get picked up every time she rolled over and whimpered. My first did. I remember the first time I really heard him cry. He was a few weeks old. The ONLY reason he cried like that was because he was in a car seat. I was the first time I couldn't pick him up at the first noise. He was horrified, red and screaming. As was I. I think I was pretty close to a panic attack and considered swearing off outings for the rest of his life.

My second did not get picked up at the first noise. I was literally sometimes cleaning up toddler poop when she was awaken slightly. I found, much to my amazement, that sometimes by the time I got to her, she was soundly asleep again. (Mind you this did not go on into screaming fits or last long, it was just that sometimes babies make a noise, and fall back asleep.) I honestly did not know this was possible with my first.

So- yes, I gave my kids different things. I met their needs differently. They had different needs because they were different children and because the situation was different. That is OK in my book.
Do you give your kids the attention they need?

Some mom's find that though love never runs out, sometimes time does. More children can sometimes mean less one on one time with each one. I have found though that though I can't give as much of myself to each child, I am so glad that I can give them each other.

My kids love each other. I have been so grateful on so many occasions that I have been able to give them sibling relationships. They LOVE having new babies. They ask for another one every time we get a new one. I do not see any jealously of the new one, only love. This is not to say that there is no acting out or desire for baby attention or regression. Some of those things happen. But the kids love each other.

I can not imagine not having my siblings and I am grateful that my kids will have each other after I am gone. The sibling relationship is usually the longest relationship that most people have in their lifetime. I have no regrets about my kids being able to have that.

Yes, but do they get to be KIDS? Don't kids get responsibility piled on them too early when there are lots of siblings?

I have met people form big families who choose to have no children or only one because they felt like they had to raise their siblings. I only have a few kids so I don't feel like this is an issue. And of course, I make an effort not to do this to my kids.

I will say though that when a new baby comes into the family, I do expect some things from the other kids. I will ask a toddler to help get a diaper or a glass of water or a baby toy. I might notice that since I am not doing everything for the other child, surprise surprise, they start to do it themselves!

Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. Kids love to help and it makes them feel great about themselves. (Just like it makes adults feel good to serve.) Letting a child do things on their own, is also not a burden but a blessing.

Could you do this with one child- of course. Could you wait on 5 or 6 kids hand and foot- yes (seen that too). But, as I have more I expect more and I realize they are capable of more than I thought they were. There is nothing wrong with children learning that a family takes work and that they are an important part of that work.

But you can't afford your kids....

It is edging towards Christmas once again in our house. I am sure that someday money will not be a point of stress and contention. Unfortunately, that day is not here yet. I will admit, that I would love to have gobs of cash. Really, I would love it.

That being said, my kids only notice what we don't have if I point it out. Do they want lots of things? Yes. They do. And as their mom, I naturally want to give them these things. When I have more, I give more (monetarily speaking).

I notice though that the more I give them in materials, the less I care for how grateful they are. It is hard to go without. But I don't know if it is a bad thing for kids to learn that they don't get everything they want. Having less money to go around forces you to say no sometimes and it forces children to learn that stuff is not always necessary.

The End...

I am grateful that anybody reads this blog. I am sorry that anybody was offended. I do not however take back anything I said. I poke fun at myself. I make fun of the hard moments. I admit that they happen. It makes me feel better to be honest about my life. You know what else, I think it makes other mothers feel better too. So much of the time we are just trying to look like we have got it together. But if everybody looks perfect and put together, you sure feel lonely when you are not that way. If I can do anything from my little wooden chair I would love to make other mothers feel less alone. You are not alone.

Can having more than one child be crazy and hard? Yes. I don't know if it is any crazier or harder than having one though. LIFE is just crazy and hard. That is part of it. We can learn form it and laugh at it and be honest about it, or we can cry in our rooms alone. I choose to laugh. Most days.....


Krista Eger said…
I am baffled that people argue that having one child is better because you can do more for them. What does that matter? What was important to me as a child was not what my mom did for me, how she did it, or how much time she spent with me, but that she LOVED me! If a child doesn't know anything different than being an only child, do you think they even appreciate it? Do you think they care that you're spending more quality time with them than the family down the block? They don't notice or care! However, having siblings is something they do notice. I absolutely LOVE my siblings. I can't imagine how awful life would be without them! I am SO grateful that my mom was willing to sacrifice some attention and things she wanted to give us all so that we could have siblings. In my opinion that was the best thing she could give us! They're more important than any benefit there is to being an only child! I have 9 nieces and nephews! I'm the youngest so I have been an Aunt since I was 13! And NOTHING was more awesome and rewarding than being an aunt! Not to mention how amazing it is to have a sister! My sister was there for both of my births. She held my leg (I had an epidural with my first) when I pushed my son out and she was there rubbing my back when I had the urge to push my daughter out and supported the fact that I had her at home. She was actually the first person to hold her other than me (she held her while I moved to my bed). Just thinking about this is making me tear up. In my own personal opinion, if you are choosing to have one child and think you are better than people who choose to have more, well guess what, you may just have your priorities mixed up.
Of course not every sibling relationship is going to be perfect, but does that mean you should rob them of the chance? Maybe if you were traumatized by your own then that makes total sense, but don't judge those who choose differently!
Emily said…
I think more people read this blog than you know, and some of them are really too sensitive, but that's not your problem.
Keep writing, keep being honest and being yourself, and don't worry about the prickly ones.
I'm an only. My husband is an only. For those people who insist that Onlys are better off, I can name two people right here who HATED being only children, and I could run down a list of reasons why it sucks so hard. This isn't to make any body feel bad, but there are TWO sides of this story, and the other deserves to be told.

When you are an Only:

1.) You are soley responsible for caring for your aging parents. No siblings to share that responsibility with. Your parents got to raise one person as a team. YOU get to take care of two aging parents by yourself. Not exactly fair because you're probably also going to be doing that while trying to have your own family.

2.) There's nobody in the whole world who understands your parents the way you do - nobody who shared DNA, hereditary traits, AND a home with them for the first 20 years.

3.) Parents focus ALL their attention on you, meaning that you never get away with anything (the way every child needs to - it's how we learn) and you're their only hope for grandkids, taking over the family business, etc, etc etc. They have literally put all their eggs in YOUR basket. That's a lot of pressure on a kid.

4.) No built in friends. Sure, many siblings squabble when they're little, but when they're older, they're usually the people who are in your wedding, the people you call when your heart is broken, and the people who will be there for you no matter what because, after all, they are your siblings. My dad has 6 brothers and they are all like best friends. Maybe not all the time... but most of the time. Me and my husband will NEVER get to have that.

5.) Only children have a much harder time sharing things like space, time, attention, money, responsibility, etc. If you never had to share living space with other young humans as a kid, it's a skill that has to be learned in adulthood. I'm much better at this, but my husband still seems to think that he is the only person that exists anywhere in the world.

THAT is why, when we decided to have one, we knew immediately that we wouldn't have ONLY one. That just sucked way too much for us growing up. I'd rather be "crazy" and let my kids commiserate over that together.
mealzrox88 said…
Well I like this post, so thankyou for writing it :-)

I often worry that, because we had such a hard time with the birth and early months with our daughter, people will think we are nuts doing it again! Even though I've dreamed of a the delights and chaos that comes with a big(ger) family, it's still scary. So thankyou for sharing the GOOD bits about having a big(ger) family :-) It's nice to know it's not all stress!

As for the backlash you got with the last post- it happens. You can never please everyone. Just keep doing what you are doing! Don't let it stop you writing how you want to write. There will always be haters, but there will be even more people out there who love your writing (and don't get the wrong message from it!)

Keep up the good work!
Marcy said…
The timing on this post is incredible... I am hoping to give birth to kiddo #2 any day now. I come from large-ish families (my mom is 1 of 7, I'm 1 of 4) and I *love* how big and loud our family reunions get! I always wanted to have lots of kids... though now that I'm going through it, I wonder if we'll go past 2. I have some worries about how I'll manage mothering 2 kids... and it is here that this post really helps, helping me remember that it'll be ok, that I'll probably do a decent job with 2 (as I feel I've done a decent job with 1 so far). And who knows, maybe we'll feel up to more one day... I do love those sibling relationships, and I'd love for my kids to have more of them (I'm just not sure I'd survive raising them! lol).

So, in short, thank you. =)
Diana said…
Great points! And one thing I've learned as a blogger is that there are a LOT of people out there who are WAY too sensitive and who are just waiting to take anything that one writes and be insulted about it. Seriously! It stinks!

And I totally agree with all points made by The Feminist Breeder. I hated being an only child, for all the reasons she listed. I decided that I would never have an only child, because I did not enjoy the experience at all.

Loved what you wrote!
Jocelyn said…
I read a quote once that said, "One child takes up 100% of your time, so more children can't possibly take up more than 100% of your time." I love my 6 children, but honestly the only big differences between my life now and my life when I had one child, is the noise level and the laundry.
Mama Birth said…
Thanks so much for your feedback and additional comments.
Also- pretty cool that the Feminist Breeder read my blog....
I feel famous!
LivandLex said…
I am getting ready to welcome my 3rd child soon. I am not a perfect parent now, nor was I when I had my first. I have grown much though from learning from each of my children and I feel like as they grow and our family grows I am learning every day how to be a better mom to them. I am truly blessed to have their energy and enthusiasm in my life. For me more children means more work to do and more frustrating moments but this is of course overshadowed by the joy that the kids bring into my life. I would not be the same person without them.
Barefooted Mama said…
I grew up as an only and would never want that for my own kids. we have 3 at the moment and have plans for as many as i can 'trick' my husband into :D

Sometimes you need someone - who isn't your parent- who can show you the ropes or help you out or lean on. Sometimes you need someone to have bunk beds with and giggle in the middle of the night with.
Anna Q said…
I was worried when pregnant with #2 how it would affect #1. In honesty, he did act out for a few weeks as #2 had colic for 8 weeks and took most of dh's and my time. Since then though, it's been pretty much smooth sailing. He is a much nicer child to be around and complete strangers compliment him on his good manners and thoughtfullness for others. I'm sure there's ways to teach this to an only, but it's so much easier when there's another child right in the house for them to learn from.

The kids add so much joy to each other's lives. They play together and laugh and hug and kiss and get along more than I could have ever dreamt. I felt that it took parenting from 2D to 3D, it added a whole new dimension to life to give my child a sibling.

I can't wait to have more :)

p.s. I'm a much better parent now than I was with only one (experience!), although not nearly as good as I thought I was before I had any haha!
Kaia/Joey/Orion said…
Oh Mama B.
I was an only child for 16 years until my brother was born. I dreamed of having a big family. We're expanding our family, but not the way we want because of money. Once hubby and I get better jobs, we'll expand our family even more.

Your blog did not offend me at all. I loved being with family...we have a huge family. Hubby has two siblings, I have a 7 year old sibling.
I love reading your blogs. You are human and if you need to release some steam, go ahead. If you need to praise your heart out, go ahead. No one has the right to call you out and make you feel bad about your opinions.

Keep on writing, Mama B. We all love you.
MADMommy said…
a) i would love to know who these supermoms of singletons are because i have only one child and i STILL have crazy moments, and i definitely have forgotten her name a time or two!!

b) i get so angry at these people who are complaining that the children are raising their siblings because i did help raise my sister who is 13 years younger than me and I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT. I changed diapers, gave baths, fed bottles, read books, kissed boo boos, took her places, took her to her first day of kindergarten (with my mom ofcourse), she even slept in my bed with me when she was little.

my only regret is that i didnt spend MORE time with her. she kept me grounded and kept me from doing things I shouldn't have been doing in high school because I knew she was looking up to me. I wasted so much time with "friends" who i never spoke to again, but that sweet little brown eyed girl is still in my life, loves me, and still thinks im the coolest sissy ever.

when i moved out of my moms house i cried for weeks because i missed her so much and that was really hard. now she comes to stay with me practically all summer and i hate it when she leaves.
Lou S said…
I'm one of 13; specifically - 5th. I and my siblings definitely got to be kids. :D Was there a day we didn't get to play?? [I don't think so.] We had chores; we got to help get younger siblings ready to go out; never needed a baby-sitter. If there was trouble, we could go to our parents and know that it would be dealt with. Sometimes things don't get picked up on, but that happens everywhere, no matter how many or how few children are around - in the home, at school...

but - in school we were made fun of by classmates; could I have gotten through that if my parents hadn't listened to us? [I don't think so.]

Now, I don't live near my family. Married with one son. It gets lonely sometimes - if we go too long without family/friend visits. Worse, if I feel pressured to be overprotective of my son. Something that the way my parents raised us helps me to fight against doing.
I started reading your blog because of the post you mentioned. Not only did it make me feel like I was not alone (just had my second 4 months ago) but it made me think and realize things as well. If I'd read it before when I only had one, I don't think I would have been offended. Everyone makes different choices and that's ok. And parent the second is very different. I think both my daughters might end up better people for it. I parent the second differently with definitely less undivided attention than the first, but also enjoy her just being a baby, and hold and snuggle her, as she may be the last. It's a whole different perspective that, as you pointed out in the original post, you can't know until you have two.
This comment has been removed by the author.
As a mom of 5, I can say that having multiple children is hard. Having my first was hard...just in a different way. My children all love each other (it's very apparent when other kids come around...they are protective of each other).

My daughter has several friends who are only children and I find it funny that those children call and ask if they can come to our house to play. They dote on my sons (who are 4 and 6 years younger than they are) and love holding the newborn twins. I've heard them say, "I wish I had a brother/sister..." on many occasions and I've heard the parents say, "With just the one, I can spend more time with him/her..."

I spend a lot of time with all of my kids. Lately, though, they've all been following me around as I care for the twins. But, each weekend, I take one child with me to somewhere they like for a couple of hours (while the twins sleep). At dinnertime, we all talk as we eat (and I'm nursing the twins) and my husband and I catch up with them then, too.

Sometimes it's hard to understand what others are talking about when you've never experienced it before.

Neither is better...just different.
Jessica said…
It is funny how polarizing things can get, people get all wrapped up in feeling defensive when uncomfortable or pushed to think about a reality that might be different than their own. A supervisor I once had (I worked with young children and families for a number of years) once said to me that in social societies there needs to be diversity. Diversity in parenting styles, in family systems, and in family size. So really there is no one "best" family size. And when you think about families, how blended and unique all families really are (especially getting into extended families) All of our individual beautiful, unique families collectively make up culture and society and make it that much more vibrant and exciting.
amanda said…
we have five children. our oldest just turned 6. then it's 4.3.2. and 9 months. with two miscarriages between the 2 y/o and 9 month old. i used to get bugged by the rude comments all the time. and can't believe some of them. ((just yesterday a 9 y/o little girl counted our kids as we walked out a diner and said "they better not have six or seven" 9(my hubby heard it, if i had i would've told her how rude she was) )) i've learned that i just need to be confident in the calling God has placed on me and our family. and who cares what "they" say...because what do "they" know anyways. :)
Bronwyn said…
Awesome post. I love that you point out siblings can be life-long friends. That is the longest relationship anyone has a chance of having. We meet spouses later on, and parents usually die before us, and we can't count on meeting and keeping childhood friends. But siblings will always be there. I'm one of 6, and my husband is one of 4. Our own 4 kids range from 7 to 5 months. We have crazy moments, and I think everyone does. I used to get names mixed up with the dog or the horse, so just having one kid doesn't guarantee that. But I wouldn't trade any of it. And I totally agree with Feminist Breeder about getting all the attention focused on you. I got a little taste of this because I'm youngest, and got my parents to myself at the end. I felt like everything I did was multiplied by 6. So yeah, I always knew I'd have multiple kids.
Ally said…
This is way belated because I'm a random linkee. I have two and am expecting #3, my oldest is 3.5. I have a mama friend with 6 between 18 and 6mo, and while I know there are logistical issues and it's hard to go out to restaurants and each kid only gets one Christmas present, that baby gets all the love and cuddles a baby could ever want (WAY more even than a mom to one could give, simply because she's only one person)and the older kids run little businesses and know how to cook and are generally convinced of their own value because they CONTRIBUTE in a way an only child, or one of two in a functional two-parent household, probably never has to. They are capable in a way I deeply wish I had been as a teenager, and confident because of it. I also remember my first's baby/toddlerhood - he was bored and lonely with 100% of Mama's time, because (guess what?) Mama is an adult and has needs and responsibilities that aren't met by playing with a 1yo all day. Both of my kiddos are much happier playing with each other than either with me, and I would much rather have #4 than have a single child all over.