Five Things I Love About Having Five Children

People inside Lancaster county are pretty used to large families. My dad had seven brothers and sisters. My mom was one of five. I was one of four. It’s the whole Amish thing.

But when Maile first got pregnant with Leo, our fifth child, and we told people who aren’t from around here, they gave us a funny look. As my friend Rob Stennett writes over at his blog The Perfect Father (regarding when his wife got pregnant with #4), people think you either:

1. Are Mormon or Catholic

2. Like to have sex but don’t know how to use birth control

3. Have plans to start your own farm and therefore need a cheap/free child labor force

(None of those apply to me, in case you were wondering.)

I’ve actually found living with five children to be very rewarding. I like the feel of a big family. I like making the rounds each night, tucking everyone in, saying prayers, reading stories. Below, I’ve listed five of the things I love about having five children (besides these five I also have some deeper philosophical thoughts about turning five children into world-changers, but it all sounds rather ambitious and most of the time I’m happy if they brush their teeth before bed and remember to wear their shoes when we leave the house).

Anyway, here they are. Five things I love about having five children:

1) I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore. When our oldest child was born, we were swamped by the tidal wave of public opinion. Cloth diapers or disposable? Cry-it-out or co-sleep? Optimal time to start feeding the baby solids? Demand-feeding or schedule-feeding?

Good Lord. Every single decision felt so crucial.

No longer. By the time Leo arrived, I really didn’t care anymore what you thought about how I was raising my child. Honestly. You can think whatever you want. We can still be friends. Besides, those kinds of dualistic ways of looking at the world are so extreme and unhelpful.

2) The oldest take care of the youngest. Our oldest daughter is better at putting Leo to sleep than I am. Cade is better at making Leo laugh than I am. It’s actually pretty wonderful, watching your kids take care of each other, even if this means they insist on kissing the baby when he’s asleep.

3) We fill up an entire pew at St. James. I don’t know why I like this, but I do. Probably because I’m antisocial and don’t like sitting with other people.

4) On November 1st, we have enough candy to start our own candy store. (Sometime I’ll tell you about the Halloween night our 4th child absolutely lost it because he was so crammed full of sugar, and as a result of his crazy, when we got home, Maile threw everyone’s candy in the trash…sometime I’ll tell you about that, but it’s still too close, and I may or may not have taken candy out of the trash for myself.)

5) You can pretty much always come up with an excuse for not going somewhere. I’m the kind of person who always feels bad saying no, who always wants to make everyone else happy. So having five children is great because there’s almost always at least one kid who’s sick, one kid who’s taking a nap, or one kid who has a lot of homework to do. Now I don’t have to let people down – I can blame it on one of my children!

So what do you think? Is five kids way too many? Just right? Or not enough (you Duggar, you)?

16 Replies to “Five Things I Love About Having Five Children”

  1. I’ve always had the mindset of the “more the merrier,” because I grew up in a fairly large family. We can play almost any competitive game — from soccer to board games — without desperately searching for more people to join. Dinners are always full of conversation and fun. We have lots of great (and not so great) memories of family road trips. Also, I’ve learned to get along with different personality types and share life, which makes spending time with coworkers, peers, etc. more enjoyable. The list goes on…. I recognize that those experiences can take place without a large family, but I think it’s neat to have so many friends/teammates/”lesson teachers” living in the same house.

    Fun post! Just a heads up on the St. James pew one…. My family used to fit in one row. Now that my siblings have grown, we take up a pew and a half, so we’re starting to share with other families again. ;)

  2. This made me smile! Growing up my sister wanted kids and I did desire to have any. I couldn’t fathom that God had or even could gift me with nurturing little people. Fast forward years and my husband and I have a family that includes 5 kids, although we parent 7 presently as we are also foster parents. LOVE big families. #3. That’s me!

  3. Shawn, as you may or may not know, we had #5 this year as well. It’s a blast, though sometimes I feel overwhelmed and let the little things bother me too much – you know, need to stop and smell the roses a little more often. Reason #2 is happening a little more often for us lately and #4 is definitely one of my favorites as well. ;-)

  4. There were four kids, then seven years, then I came along followed by another brother.

    This has been a while; Truman was in the White House when I was born. But Mama said she got a lot of criticism. The Manz family, next mile north, had kids in every grade of school at once, but they were Apostolic; Methodists weren’t just allowed to use birth control, they were *expected* to. And Mama breast-fed, which was something only white trash did back then.

    But I had a big family to start with, and a little one for the second half. Let me tell you, big families are best BY FAR.

    Marsha and I wanted a big family, but I ended up with just one live birth for five kids when the plumbing broke. I was relieved that at least my wife lived through that, but she was inconsolable, and I wanted to bash the idiots who came up to her and said, “Well, you’ve got one. That’s enough!” No, the others all had names, and had definite personalities, and we mourned them all.

    You have no idea how much joy you spread when you write of your kids. I’m sure I’m not the only one who lives vicariously through your blog posts. And I have no doubt that your growing herd of kids – you need nine for a baseball team, right? – will make a big impact on the world.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead

  5. Oh, Shawn, big families are just the BEST! I loved all of your reasons that you like having five kids. Another huge plus that I would like to add is that having a big family almost automatically takes care of the whole “child-centered” home that is so pervasive in our culture. This approach tends to turn out self-absorbed kids with hovering, stressed parents who focus all their energy on the unending needs of their children. They can never, no matter how hard they try, ever do enough for their kids who constantly require more from them. In a family with lots of kids, good parents must, of necessity, pull back from constantly striving to be WITH their children in every single moment of their little lives. Instead, because there are so many more kids than parents, those little ones learn early in life that mom and dad will be there FOR them if and when they are needed. They instinctively learn that happiness is not something somebody else makes for you. Many times these children grow up to be creative, do-it-yourself-ers who take initiative and gain confidence in their own ability to figure things out. And the whole concept allows mom and dad to focus on a “marriage-centered” home, where the parents see their relationship as the nucleus of the family, with children as satellites that revolve around the nucleus, sort of like the planets to the sun.

    NOTE: Carl and I read a book many years ago that resonated with us, called A Family of Value, by John Rosemond. It is no longer sold in bookstores but I think you can still find it on Amazon. If the whole “marriage-centered vs. child-centered family” approach to raising children intrigues you as it does me, I’d recommend reading the book. If nothing else, it gets you to thinking and stimulates great conversation!

  6. Poignant for me as I sit here heavily pregnant with our fifth. I love it, soul-deep love it. Maybe because I feel the enforced sanctification of the daily dying to self in folding laundry (again), de-crustifying the highchair (again), and being publicly humbled by a child’s behavior (again). Everything is on repeat and yet everything is changing, too fast they outgrow their clothes and their heads approach my chin line, and where DOES THE TIME GO. REALLY. But every time a new baby comes into our home, we all begin again. A new chapter is beginning and we’re all eager to write our part.

  7. I have a friend from India who says the rule is to “replicate yourself once.” Two has been good for me. It’s all I can handle…and as it is, I barely handle it. But I have other friends who have seven kids–and to them, and to you and Maile I say, “I have so much admiration for you…you’re such good people…don’t stop now. Keep ’em coming. The world needs your kids.”

  8. 3 is great for us now… maybe we will adopt down the road, who knows. 5 is perfect for you… and I have to say… thank you for posting #5…I ALWAYS feel bad for not doing something… but we tend to use the kids to not attend or do… and we would so much rather be home!!

  9. Love what you shared on here, plus #3 has me thinking you’re onto something. Five kids is definitely not too many, especially considering how much it fills your life with joy. Kids are a gift, period. I’ve never understood those who choose to judge people for having large families. While I only have two sons, I have a huge extended family. I have five siblings and both of my parents came from families with ten kids. Family is so incredibly important, in so many ways I think the bigger, the better.

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