A prompt on a health website asked, “Are you an advocate for any cause?”
I sputtered to myself, “I am not an advocate for anything or anybody!”
Immediately after that statement, a new idea popped into my mind, “Hey, wait a minute. I stand up for large families in modern society!”
As a mother of nine children, I have met more condemnation than acceptance and more questions than understanding. Perhaps it is because I do not look like the mother of a large family. I am tiny, look younger than my age, and all my life people have labeled me as “cute.” People’s first reaction to me is shock. Confusion follows because I am happy.
A joyful, cute, tiny mother of nine simply baffles people. I shatter all their preconceived notions. The typical image of a multipara woman would be a large, matronly, robust, grim, battle-axe of a mother, efficiently marshaling her young charges with little time to coddle or love the poor deprived dears.
Parents with two children cannot fathom how a mother of a large family manages to cope with all the work necessary to keep up a home as well as have enough time to love each child.
However, in many ways, more children are easier than less. In a large family, a seven-year-old will repeatedly read the same book to a toddler who loves one particular book. A ten-year-old feels important when he can help his six-year-old brother who struggles with reading. A young teenager delights in rocking a tiny, dependent infant to sleep.
For me, family started with three because then community started. A community works and plays together and for little children work is as fun as play. I included everyone in ordinary household chores and made chores fun. A trained Montessorian once declared that I ran my home like a Montessori school. What a wonderful confirmation that was for me.
My kids were not deprived because I usually could not sit and play with them in the traditional sense. Instead they received an inexpensive educational experience simply because I integrated them into the running of our home.
It was never too soon to give one of my toddlers a job such as picking up the toys his younger sibling drops from the high chair. The secret was to delegate, each according to his or her talents, but never to order them around like they were in the army. They chopped wood, helped fix the car, weeded the garden, and took care of the animals. If teenagers are still treated like kids or overindulged, they don’t have a purpose and become really angry. When parents appreciate their kids’ contributions, their confidence blossoms and matures.
Employers love my kids because they know how to work and do not take anything for granted. Many have said, “I will give anybody with the last name Juneau a job.”
Large families strengthen the basic foundations of our society. They live lives of greater interconnectedness. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re not an island unto yourself. You learn how to share and barter both skills and things with others. My children who go to college or university adapt well to communal life in a dorm or a shared house. Just imagine, they already know how to share a bathroom with a lot of other people. They know how to get along with opposite personalities, how to give and take. For starters, they know how to cook and clean up after themselves.
Healthy, large families benefit society. So open your mind and heart the next time you see or hear of one. The condemnation is really hard to handle and totally unjust in a society that loves to call itself open-minded and tolerant.