Friday, June 19, 2015

What is a Big Family?

Growing up in a family with six children, when people used to ask me how many siblings I have I would say, "Only five."

Our family was not considered to be a big family among the Amish, and I often wished for more siblings, especially sisters. My parents both came from big families, and most of their siblings went on to have large families as well.

I still don't think having six children is a big family, but have discovered what is thought of as a big family varies a lot from culture to culture, from one church denomination to another, and even what part of the country you live in.

The area we live in now a lot of people have only two children, there are of-course still families that have more, but it isn't as common as it was in the Midwest.

With our four children I am still amused when people think we have a big family, and recently at church when we were doing our meet and greet time between song service and the message this one visiting lady who had been sitting in front of us turned around and counted our children. "Oh my!" she says. "You must be really busy and have your work cut out for you. I'll be sure and pray for you."

I wasn't sure how to respond to that, for several different reasons.

1. I don't consider us to have a big family.
2. Our children were standing right there!! How were they supposed to feel? She made it sound as if they were a burden.
3. I never turn prayers down ..... but ...... really??

29 comments:

Martha said...

We had seven children and got all kinds of strange looks and comments, but it doesn't feel like so many now that they're grown up. My house feels... well, empty.

Karien said...

This makes me smile. I have nine children :)

SunnyKaye said...

I actually think that the comment made to you was rather rude. I don't think we should really care how many kids are in a family. I have family members who can't have children and people feel the need to make comments about when they are going to start having kids. It shouldn't be our business how many kids are in a family. Family has "no size". My mom was one of 12 and my dad one of 2. My hubby and I are both the oldest of 3 and we have 2 kids. We often talked of having more kids but when he was in his early 20's he was diagnosed with a painful, genetic condition and we had to make a decision to have more children or stop. Everyone has an opinion but sometimes they should keep them to themselves. Does that mean that I should not give my opinion now either? LOL Good, thought provoking post.

A Joyful Chaos said...

An empty house must be something to have to get used to. I'm not looking forward to that day!

A Joyful Chaos said...

A house full of love. :)

A Joyful Chaos said...

I agree, some people need to learn to be kind, friendly, and supportive no matter what the family size. Whether there are zero children or more than a dozen, it's really no one else's business.
Oh, and feel free to leave your opinions anytime. :)

Martha said...

I scarcely know what to do with an empty house. Even cleaning seems weird.

Leanne Lowry said...

As time goes on I wish I hadn't been afraid of not having enough money or being too young to have children. Now that time is running out I wish I had more than 2.

Momma Chilson said...

As a mother of 14 children I have heard many comments. I try to be kind to comments even when they are rude. But many times my heart breaks because I realize how society views children as a burden. Even more hurtful are friends who think they are funny and it is okay making a wise crack about the size of our family. I thank the Lord for grace to hold my tongue, because it is never funny or okay.

Jo said...

I used to know a farmer who had 19 children and his eldest was hoping to have more. I must say I don't know how people cope with so many littlies. Easier when they start to grow up I suppose.

joanie said...

I was not there, so I can't be sure, but I kind of wonder if she really meant what she said. I have known and loved some people who lack tact yet seem to be quite opinionated. Never meaning to hurt anyone, but just so caught up in their own opinions they don't realize they might offend or hurt. I am not trying to make excuses for this person, but saying I have seen a type of person who tends to say this sort of thing. ( one special lady in my life once asked me, honestly wondering, had I put on 15 or so lbs around my hips? I was younger and defensive and she just couldn't understand what she had done wrong by asking. She did this sort of thing frequently). Some people pick up peculiar ideas and opinions and it just seems to me they are often this type that just say what they think and don't have that sensitivity censor that so many of us have. She very well may have found the idea of having 4 children daunting; I have known people who found the idea of having any children problematic for one reason or another. Someone who finds raising children too challenging are unable to grasp the blessings children bring. If that had happened to me I would have been flabbergasted and not able to think of something to say, but I would have wished I had expressed what a blessing having the children were and just explained gently and briefly.

Alicia said...

People are funny. Having only 7 myself, I understand, they are such a blessing.

Clisby said...

I wish people would learn not to comment on other people's personal lives.

I also don't think 4 is a particularly big family - my mother was one of 9 and I was the eldest of 6. But what I think is "big" or "small" is relevant only to me.

It's not only comments about a large family that are rude and can be hurtful. What about "Well, when are you going to have a little one?" to someone who's had three miscarriages and is wondering whether she'll ever have a baby? What happened to asking about what book you've read lately, or how your tomatoes are doing?

Clisby said...

I wish people would learn not to comment on other people's personal lives.

I also don't think 4 is a particularly big family - my mother was one of 9 and I was the eldest of 6. But what I think is "big" or "small" is relevant only to me.

It's not only comments about a large family that are rude and can be hurtful. What about "Well, when are you going to have a little one?" to someone who's had three miscarriages and is wondering whether she'll ever have a baby? What happened to asking about what book you've read lately, or how your tomatoes are doing?

Lady Anne said...

A lot of comments come from a person's childhood. My sister and I had ZPG (Zero Population Growth) pounded into us from the time we were able to stand up. Hubby and I are a blended family, and I often feel that I must explain why we have three children. When I see a "large" family, my first thought is "Dear Heaven, what are they *thinking*!" It's not right of me, as the size of your family is your own business, but I was simply taught that more than two children - one for you and one for your spouse - was simply irresponsible. And I know, now, that it isn't.

I guess, no matter how old you are, you can't escape your mother!

Betsy said...

I wish I wasn't surprised by that comment but unfortunately I'm not. We had three children and wanted many more but having had a hysterectomy at a young age it wasn't possible. Even with just three, people commented that two should have been enough. I love my children dearly and consider them blessings from the Lord. If he had blessed us with 20 more we would have found a way to raise them.
Blessings,
Betsy

Karen said...

I think perspective has a lot to do with comments. Sometimes, people feel that large families are okay, but the children should be spaced out with several years between each child. A woman at a church once introduced my sister (who had four children) and I (who had 5 children at the time) to her mother. The woman commented that we had "ALL those children." I considered her comment ironic, because she herself had 4 children. Her children were school age though early 20's, while our children were younger.

Hannah said...

Coming from the opposite perspective, due to eleven years of infertility, we were blessed with one adorable little boy. People can be extremely hurtful and jump to all sort of conclusions (we're selfish, materialistic...) about my sweet little family. I have also dealt with many people who seem to think children are the "only" blessing from God and therefore look at me with great sympathy, a smug attitude of superiority b/c they have 4,5,6..children, or let me know the "hopefully there will be more..." as if my sweet boy isn't blessings enough. There is a lot of judgement on both ends of the spectrum, which is sad.

A Joyful Chaos said...

Sorry to hear you have those regrets.

A Joyful Chaos said...

I agree that it's never funny or okay!

A Joyful Chaos said...

Getting them all at one time would be hard, but large families usually add only one or two at a time and with each addition you can't imagine going back to the previous size.

A Joyful Chaos said...

Flabbergasted is a good way to describe how I felt. She probably didn't realize how she sounded.

A Joyful Chaos said...

They are a blessing!

A Joyful Chaos said...

Exactly!

A Joyful Chaos said...

Your children are blessed to have a mother that considers them to be blessings!

A Joyful Chaos said...

You're right. It's all perspective and what you're used to. That is funny though that someone with four children would think your family of five is big. :)

A Joyful Chaos said...

I'm sorry you have had to deal with hurtful comments. I wish people could learn to mind their own business. Even well meaning comments can hurt.

A Joyful Chaos said...

It is hard to change the views we created while growing up, especially when they were drilled into us.

Anonymous said...

Hello from France! I'm discovering your blog and I really love it! I'm reacting to this "children" topic as I am expecting my 4th blessing from the Lord myself and there are indeed some strange comments that can hurt. A family of 4 children can be seen as a very large one, here in France; which is a shame: shouldn't people rejoice for a new baby? Whether he or she is number two or number 12 in a family? Love in Christ, Bénédicte.