August 7, 2008

Downsides of Larger Families

(This is from the Fourth of July. I don't usually (1) match their outfits or (2) have such a FLAG thing going on.)

If you and I were talking, and you expressed equal parts fear of and interest in having more than the standard 2-3 children, you would on most days find me an encouraging person. It's my experience so far that larger families are not as intimidating as they can look, and that five children is not two-and-a-half times harder than (or two-and-a-half times more expensive than) two children.

But in the interest of fairness, I will mention some of the downsides of five kids:

1. There are days when correction and discipline and basic maintenance take up so much time, there is little or no time for playing and affection. Or at least, sometimes it feels that way after their bedtime: like I spent my whole day giving baths, making meals, saying "no" and "just a minute," correcting manners, administering time-outs, and being increasingly stern about homework needing to be done NOW, COME ON, DO YOUR HOMEWORK, STOP DAWDLING!, and spent almost no time at all cuddling and reading and praising. Sometimes crowd control takes up too much of my available parenting time. ...On the other hand, I remember feeling this way with two kids, too.

2. I can't imagine going on vacation with them. I know some people do it, but the idea is overwhelming to me. Also: some hotel rooms only allow two children per adult.

3. In fact, I don't even do shorter trips, like to the pool or to the park. There are just too many children. I know other people do it, but it's too much for me.

4. Babysitters are a problem. Who can take care of FIVE children? And if you DO find someone, imagine what it would COST.

5. It is really, really boring making that many sandwiches every day.

6. The sheer space taken up by all those winter boots and coats.

7. Laundry.

8. Can't keep their names straight. No, really.

9. You need a big car.

10. Certain reasonable expenses are no longer reasonable when they're multiplied by 5.

11. The noise! The noise! OMG, sometimes the noise!

12. Baths. So many.

13. Let's say on Monday morning you bake a double batch of muffins: 24 muffins. That's no small task, and you feel like some sort of superhero for managing it. You'd think you'd be ALL SET for breakfasts for awhile. And yet the next morning after breakfast, a mere 24 hours later, there are only three muffins left.

14. You can use up an entire container of something in one sitting. Yogurt. Cereal. Strawberries. Ice cream.

15. Sometimes everyone talks at once. Or two talk, and then as you're telling them you can't listen to either of them when they both talk at the same time, two more start talking and one more starts crying. This can make your head explode.

16. Nobody gets much one-on-one time. Even a child who's BLEEDING usually has to share the spotlight.

17. Playdates are challenging. For younger kids, I'd like to accompany them to someone else's house---but I have such an enormous uninvited crew to bring with me. And anyone who comes to our house drowns in a sea of children.

18. People don't feel like they can complain to us. Like they think we'd say, "You think TWO is hard? TRY FIVE!" Unfortunately there ARE people who say crappy things like this. Not us, though: we remember how it felt to have two. (Hint: it did not feel easy.)

Well, and that's a pretty daunting list. But I'll bet we could make a similar-length list for ANY size family: the downsides of one, the downsides of two, the downsides of three, etc. ...OH! uh, and the upsides! Yes, upsides. Just as long a list, I'm sure.

Pay-it-forward updates:

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zoot said...

Even when I only had ONE kid I couldnt keep his name straight b/c I had five PETS whose names kept jumping into my head. He loves being called by one of the dogs names' - does great things for his ego. Now that I have three kids? I don't use names anymore. I just say, "Hey. You. In the Red." If I had five? I'd just point.

Jess said...

This post is exactly why we all think that you are a superhero, all the time. Especially because you sound so calm and reasonable as you explain it all. If I were you, my version of this post would come across as much more... HARRIED.

jen said...

15 made me laugh out loud. I can barely even talk to my husband at dinner, but two more, I'd never get a word in!

Also my husband would probably expect me to keep up the activities and "doing stuff" and I think the real reason he doesn't want more kids is that it'd be harder and more expensive to go on vacation.

I'd love to see your list of positives though!

Jen said...

what jess said only i think i would sound SHRILL and sometimes CRAZY!

Cherish said...

I can relate to all of these things and I just had my fourth. With three I could still do things but its just impossible now!

I made 24 muffins yesterday AFTERNOON and there are only 5 left. It was my fault though because I put chocolate chips in half of them.

Amie said...

As a mom of five I have to say great list!

Although, we have taken vacations with five. Even camping.

We don't do much that involves paying for admission, because like you mentioned, even the most reasonable admission charge adds up when you multiply it by so many.

And I am guilty of saying things like "two would be a vacation for me"...

Fiona Picklebottom said...

Oh, all these things and MORE! EXACTLY!

Nowheymama said...

Off-topic comment #1: The older boys look so big! And tall!

Off-topic comment #2: I never thought of flattening out one side of the play yard and putting it against the wall! Have opened up whole new world of play yard possibilities!

nonsoccermom said...

Only fairly recently did I become a mom of two, and I cannot even imagine five!! I'm sure you get used to it but like some previous commenters said, I would sound far more frantic if I had that many kids and were to write this post. Of course, I tend to be low on patience so that would be why...

Erica said...

As one of five, I gotta say it's made my life so much more interesting and exciting. I have four best friends - whether they like it or not! Mom is regarded as a Wonderwoman (and deservedly so - as are all moms). It's a great conversation starter. I loooooove big families!

kirida said...

Oh i love big families. You have so much love in that house, even with all the frenzy.

lfar said...

I have eight brothers and sisters (as in, 9 kids total) and while I realize I'm one of the kids, not one of the parents, I have to say it's really not so hard as people think. We're spaced out by 2-4 years each, so as the fourth I'm significantly older than the youngest few. I feel like i've basically raised them.

When people ask if I want to have a big family, I say, "No, probably just 4 or 5"

Elizabeth said...

It scares me, because as I was reading this, I just kept thinking of the upside to every problem you listed. I actually thought "Aw, someone to eat my muffins!" Does this mean I want to have five kids? I kind of think yes!

g~ said...

I am one of six kids and I LOVED growing up with so many siblings. I love it even more NOW, though as I have so many friends. I mean, social engagements with my brothers and sisters take up most of our social time. What I really love is that we are all having our kids together and since we're so close, all of the kids play together. So, while I only chose to have two kids, my kids get to experience the good things about a big family and the good things about a small family.

d e v a n said...

I loved this list. It confirms some of my worst fears about having more kids though. (can you believe after my last few posts we'd even CONSIDER having more!?)
I like to see how you do it though because as I'm struggling to go to the park I actually think "how does Swistle DO THIS?! I suck."
Now I know, maybe I'm trying to do too much?

Anonymous said...

I come from a family of 5, so I kind of know what you are talking about. Although my family had a group of 3 kids within 5 years and then another 6 years before the last 2 came (twins!).

A lot of things on your list will get easier as the kids get older.....even if just one of the kids is older. Trips to hotels or the pool won't be as scary either.

In the last few years as all of us have gotten older (we are 29, 27, 24, and 17), I have grown to appreciate the big family I had growing up so much more.

KatieBug said...

Great list! My favorite terrible thing is when they all get sick and throw up on each other! :)

Kristin.... said...

Oh yes. And yes, and yes some more. I "only" have 4, but really, some days, it feels like 50. And how you manage not to blog about all the chaos more often amazes me. Because I find it to be overwhelming, crazy and all-together too much about 90% of the time. I think it's made me insane.

Farrell said...

I am an only child and the mother of one. My mother is one of 11. She would have LOVED to have more kids, but got divorced and then remarried "too late" to try for more (I guess. I never really asked).
I like being an only child. Sometimes I wish I had a brother or sister, but I didn't/don't spend too much time on that since it's not the case, so why bother?
My BFFs and (some)cousins to me are like my bros and sisters.
I would have loved to have more than one kid; part selfishly as a little social experiment to see how siblings interact since I never really had that. But not now (you know why; long story).
Sometimes I feel that sophie has more fun with her dad since she has aunts and uncles and cousins on that side, and with me she only has well, me. (and sometimes grandma/grandpa).
But when she gets older, I do want my house to be the one that everyone goes to. I do want my house to be filled with kids, even if they are not mine and don't stay forever (win-win!). I want to host the 13 13-year old girl sleepover; I want "movie nights" at my house: all of Sophie's friends hanging out in the basement and pigging out on all the junk food I bought for them. That's what my mom did for me growing up and I loved it. I always had a friend over. And since there was only one of me, when we did something (Disneyland, Six Flags, even just going out to eat) and I asked to bring a friend, my parents could say "Yes!" because it wasn't that big of a deal to pay for 3 vs. 4. But omigosh can you imagine if each of your kids asked to bring a friend? No way! But I guess they wouldn't ask, because they have each other so that's cool too.
I'll stop rambling now; sorry.

Miss Grace said...

I am from a family of 5 (2 girls, 3 boys, in that order) and I LOVE it. Also (interestingly) though we all five have the same parents, there is a HUGE spread of ages, going 29, 26, 24, 16, 11. So my sister's 18 years older than my youngest brother. And although my parents never confuse me and my sister (even though we are practically identical and the same-ish age) they can't keep my brothers' names straight to save their lives.

I've always said I wanted 5 kids, or as many as I can reasonably convince the other person involved to have.

moo said...

Even only having one child, still there are days when there are only 3 muffins left out of the big batch.

Muffins are delicious.

houndrat said...

Ah, but you make it look so easy.

And I confuse my daughter's name with the dog's.

Dr. Maureen said...

If I am in the room, my eldest sister (by 12 years) routinely calls me by her daughters' names. And them by mine. It's partly because her second daughter's name sounds a lot like my name, but it would probably happen anyway.

SLynnRo said...

You need to get yourself some sponsored vacations ala Jon and kate.

Meredith said...

THANK YOU for this post. I am dying to have a big family - at least four kids, although I am just getting started. I just know that I want a whole house full of kids.

So what do you do when you need a sitter? Or do you just manage to not ever need a sitter?

When you have a newborn, how do you manage to take care of the rest of your family?

AND how are all of your kids so freaking adorable? Your daughter is lucky to have so many brothers - I bet she will be well taken of during her dating years!

Banana said...

I think out of this list The Loud would be the thing that bothered me the most. I come from a small family (one brother - just me and him) and there are a lot of perks to that, but one of the draw backs is that we weren't as close growing up as kids I knew from big families. There is more room to be independent and do your own thing when there are only 2 of you. I used to envy my cousins closeness (they are a family of 5) when we would visit. Family was so important and supporting each other was essential to their ability to manage (does that make sense?). My brother and I basically ignored each other for the first 19 years of our lives (when we weren't busy pushing the other's buttons).

Erin said...

Remember that post you wrote a few times ago, about how we all have "our things" we do, which we make a priority, etc., etc. I still think you somehow have more top priority things that get done everyday than anyone else. Just because you don't go on vacations or to the park doesn't mean you doing other things in their place. Like homemade muffins for breakfast! To me that seems like, holy crap, how does she manage MUFFINS?

Also, thank you for not downplaying how hard it is with fewer kids. I sure do like you.

Swistle said...

Meredith- What we did about the sitter situation is we moved to live near my parents. They're the only ones I think I could leave all five with---and we don't even do that very often. We more often have them come over after the kids' bedtime, and then we go out. And my mom is CRUCIAL to my daily life: she takes all three littlest FREQUENTLY, so that, for example, I can comfortably take the older two to swimming lessons all summer. Extended family = awesome, especially when there are a lot of kids.

The newborn days are tricky, but it was hardest when my firstborn was a toddler and my secondborn was a newborn: that was nearly impossible. When the twins were born, and when Henry was born, my two oldest were old enough to handle stuff. Like, when the twins were born, my oldest could get breakfast for himself and his brother, and both older kids were potty-trained and could get themselves dressed. When Henry was born, the two oldest could play with the twins (or get them a drink, or get down a toy, or put on a DVD, or anything else a toddler might demand) if I was nursing Henry.

Joanne said...

I only have two, but one is a toddler and one is a newborn and it feels hard. But I'm glad one is a boy and one is a girl because I feel like I can be honest and say, when goo-gooing, "YOU are the prettiest girl! YOU are Mommy's favorite boy!" without hurting anyone's feelings.

You're right, it's hard with one, two, or eighteen. It's the thought that occurs to me the most often, this shit is HARD.

Mindy Richmond said...

I really don't know how you have time to blog. Really.

Vacations overwhelm me too and I have just one kiddo. But vacations have always stressed me out, even when it was just me and the hubby. All the packing and unpacking... ugh. I couldn't imagine it with five children. Have you seen the TLC special where the Duggar's go on vacation - across the country? Crazy people.

Misty said...

I would say 60% of the time, I think 4 is a dandy number of kids for our family. I definitely want at 3rd...but I feel like 4 would be the tipping point where a new car, bigger house, more income would be needed. (Although sometimes I secretly wish for your lucky surprise of twins as 3rd and 4th children. Then you have no choice! Such a happy event.)

Also, I have to work to keep our family afloat. I wonder if it is fair to have four kids and still have to have a job. Plus, I always told myself that I didn't want to have kids after I turned 30 and the fourth kid would have to be after the 30 mark. Plus, Honey doesn't want 4. So that weighs, too.

Anyway, just sharing. I love these posts, you know.

nicole said...

Re: #18

I always make a point to encourage/commiserate with parents of fewer children. Parenting in general is challenging, regardless of the nubmer of children and I don't want any person thinking I'm special because I have five and they don't.

carrie said...

Truer words could not have been spoken...I was reading through #1 thinking...jeez I feel like that with only 2 girls....then I read that last sentence of the paragraph.

Big kisses to manage to capture all of the frustrations and joys of having children (no matter how many you have).

SeaBird said...

Being a Mom of preemie twins who had GERD for over a year, I get #18 a lot - other Moms preface their rants/frustrations with, "this is nothing compared to yours, but...." Really, on the Scale of Difficul-ness, having a kid is 8 out of 10. Having twins, or a large family is about a 9. It's definitely harder, but not exponentially so....