We have a large family…by anyone’s definition, really. Which means we’ve heard all the stereotypes about large families out there.
Currently, we’ve got 5 children, and we’re expecting #6 late this year. When we go out, we get all kinds of stares, comments, and whispers. Unless, of course, we’re out with our fellow large-family friends, in which case, it all just seems normal. 🙂
And of course, if you have a large family, then you are subject to all kinds of stereotypes and misconceptions about what it’s really like. Everyone knows “that family” for whom all these things (and more) were true…and somehow assumes all large families are the same.
So, from a mama-of-many, who is friends with a lot of others mamas-of-many (as well as friends with people who grew up in large families), it’s time to bust some myths!
15 Stereotypes About Large Families (that aren’t true)
You’ve probably heard at least a few of these…and maybe even believe some of them! So which ones of these are really true…and which ones aren’t?
#1) We’re super religious fundamentalists
While there are surely families who fit this stereotype, a lot of us don’t. Large families vary in their religious beliefs as much as anyone else does, from the super-religious to the not-religious-at-all. The size of someone’s family is no indication of their religious beliefs, and many people’s reasons for having a large family have nothing to do with religion. Don’t assume! 🙂
#2) We didn’t mean to have so many, but can’t figure out birth control (or self control)
This one’s honestly kind of rude. Most of us meant to have so many kids (and yes, we wanted them all). We chose not to use birth control, or to stop using it in order to have another baby.
As for the “self control” issue…that dives into a couple’s sex life, and suggests that they just can’t stop doing it. Which makes me want to say, “Oh, you only have one child, you must never have sex! How sad for you!” Because we all know it doesn’t work that way! See how ridiculous that sounds?
Again, no assumptions. Whether a couple really did want a lot of children or not is none of your business. Those children are here, and the family does not need to explain their family planning decisions to you (or anyone).
#3) We all homeschool
This is a common one — we get strangers who say, “You homeschool, right?” It happens that we do. But we have friends with 5 – 6 children who do not, and they get the same assumption.
Educational decisions are not driven by family size. While many large families homeschool, so do many smaller families. The same is true of public and private school, too.
#4) We’re poor
If we have so many children, we must not be able to make enough money to care for them all, right? Or, the only reason we had so many is because we’re too poor and stupid to stop it from happening.
Regardless of the reason why, a lot of people seem to assume that large families are poor. Many will even make comments like, “I guess it’s fine to have so many kids — as long as I don’t have to pay for them.” (Referencing large families who are on government services.)
This is highly insulting. We’re not poor, and our finances are none of your business, anyway. (It happens that we’ve never been on assistance personally, and I’m not going to speak for those who have — but it happens in both large and smaller families.)
#5) We’re overpopulating the earth and are irresponsible
The Earth is not overpopulated. Explaining this would take far longer than a couple paragraphs — it could be its own post. Birth rates in developed countries are falling.
Many large families (including ours) reuse more things, live in the same size spaces that smaller families do, and are more frugal in their use of resources. It matters to us that we’re taking care of our family and our planet well.
But regardless, our family planning decisions aren’t your business, and making this argument makes you rude — not smart.
#6) One boy and one girl is a “perfect family”
In some peoples’ opinions.
Everyone has a different idea of what a “perfect family” is. If, for you, it is one boy and one girl, and that’s what you have, great! But this is just not universal.
Back when we had just two kids (who happened to be one boy and one girl), we used to get comments like, “Oh! You’re done now!” Nope. Because we aren’t after someone else’s definition of ‘perfect,’ we wanted more kids. Boy or girl.
#7) The kids hate having so many siblings
We’ve all seen the videos online.
The ones where the mom announces she’s pregnant, with #3, or #4, or…whatever. And the kids moan and cry and say “Tell me you’re lying! No!”
While this obviously happens, it’s pretty rare. Most kids (at least in the families we know) enjoy having so many siblings. They get excited about new babies. They love having someone to play with…even if they’re mad at kid A today, they still have kid B to hang out with. There is no shortage of friends.
Our kids really do get along, for the most part – especially when they’re enjoying their hobbies like playing play games for real money. It’s also not like the kids in Cheaper by the Dozen, either, where there were 12 kids who seemed to all happen to live in the same house but not have anything much in common or ever want to spend time together. (That movie drives me crazy because it is so not reality.) What it is like is that our children love spending time as a family, and put family first. They have deep relationships over similar personalities and shared interests. They aren’t just people who happen to live in the same space.
#8) We never spend any time with the kids individually
You’d think that we wouldn’t have time for this, but actually, we do.
Our kids don’t all need our attention all the time. So while some kids are off playing with each other, we’re spending time with just one or two kids.
Maybe all my boys are playing outside, and my daughter’s at my side in the kitchen. Or maybe my little ones are napping or in bed, and my older ones are snuggled up with me and a book. Maybe the older ones are doing school work, and I’m chatting with one or two of the little ones.
There are many times throughout the day that I am talking to or interacting with just one or two kids at a time! It’s not as hard as you think, especially since they are home all day.
#9) Our kids have different moms or dads, or are adopted
This obviously can happen, and we know families where there is a blended situation or where they chose to adopt or foster children.
There are many ways to make a family, though. Sometimes it’s just one mom and one dad who wanted a lot of children (like in our case). Sometimes there is a foster or adopting situation involved. Sometimes adults do divorce, remarry, and have more children.
Just never assume. And please don’t ask in front of the children — they can hear you, and it’s rude.
#10) Our older kids are raising our younger kids
A lot of people think that the only way we could possibly have time for “life” is if our older children are doing most of the work of raising our younger children.
This is very far from the truth in most families! (I won’t say “all” because nothing is universal.)
Yes, our older kids help with our younger ones sometimes — playing with them so we can start dinner, changing the occasional diaper, helping to strap a car seat. But they don’t do bed times, they don’t do discipline, they aren’t by that child’s side all day long.
Really, our older children spend more time helping us by picking up their own messes, helping to cook meals, etc. than taking care of other children. And even so, they have most of their days for playing, learning, or doing whatever they want.
#11) Our kids live on hand-me-downs and never have anything for themselves
This is kind of silly.
Yes, we do pass along clothes and toys to younger siblings. We have 4 boys in a row; so of course we do! (The boys mostly don’t care much what they wear, either, so they don’t mind.) But every kid also gets new or special things that are just for them. Because we care about who they are as individuals, and they have certain clothes or toys that are only theirs, and are never given to a sibling.
Some things are “for the family,” and some things belong to an individual.
Besides, it’s rather wasteful to buy all brand-new clothes for every single kid. We shop thrift stores anyway — remember what I said about being careful with our resources? 🙂
#12) We can’t provide our kids with above-and-beyond experiences in life (college, vacations, etc.)
What some people think are “necessary” in life are honestly pretty “optional.”
Do our kids each have their own rooms? No, and they don’t want that. (Two of our kids are supposed to be sleeping in their own rooms right now, and one of them really hates it.) Do they have designer clothes? Do they get to be on every sports team or take every art or dance class? No!
We don’t think these things are necessary in life. They’re just not.
Instead, our kids get to do coops with friends to learn art or music — parents trade talents so we can all get classes for free. Our kids have supportive and loving grandparents, who take them on vacations sometimes (usually just 1 – 2 kids at a time, so it’s extra special). We do save for college for all of them — probably more proactively than most smaller families.
Our kids have what matters. They don’t have a lot of random busyness that doesn’t.
#13) Our house is always messy
Well, that depends on how you look at it!
There is always something to clean up, unless the kids are all asleep. (And maybe even then.) The amount of mess that is made in a short time can be pretty overwhelming.
But, we also stay on top of things and clean throughout the day, so while you’ll find toys and shoes around sometimes, our house isn’t really that messy.
Everyone has a different comfort level for this, though. Some aren’t satisfied unless the walls and baseboards are sparkling clean (ours aren’t). Others are fine with a fair amount of clutter around (we aren’t). We generally fall in the middle — things are picked up and wiped off, but we don’t worry about the little nooks and crannies everyday.
#14) Our life is really hard and we can barely keep it together
Often, when you see large families out in public, it seems pretty chaotic. The kids are excited and busy and form a small crowd.
First, you have to remember — we’re used to this. What seems chaotic to you, is just normal to us. We aren’t worried and we aren’t stressed by it.
Second, sometimes kids are a little extra rowdy in public because there’s some special event happening. This does not reflect how they are at home.
For the most part? It’s really not as hard as you think, and we’re doing just fine.
#15) Our lives are totally chaotic and loud, all the time
To go along with that last one…a lot of people think that we can’t possibly ever have quiet. But it really isn’t true! Yes, we have a lot of people, yes, our lives are busy.
But we’re happy, we like our life, and we love our children. We wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The Bonus Stereotype: We Want Your Comments
I couldn’t leave this one out.
A lot of people seem to think that when large families are out and about, they’re looking for attention. Many of these people have some little comment to make — usually the same things we’ve heard over and over (like “you have your hands full” or “don’t you know how that happens?”).
While we get it — this isn’t something you see everyday — we’re actually not out in public for your entertainment. We are just trying to live our lives, the same as you are. You don’t actually need to say anything! And if you want to strike up a conversation, talk to us like you would anyone else you’ve just met. No cliches needed.
And please. Don’t point, stare, or whisper comments about us. We can hear you, and we’re not a circus act or a zoo (even if it looks like it to you). Just mind your manners, and let us be, and we’ll do the same! 🙂