Larger Families

I read today that Jools Oliver, the wife of chef Jamie Oliver, is expecting her fifth child. I love hearing that someone is pregnant. I am always hugely excited when I hear that one of my friends or family members are expecting a baby. I love to hear about scans, check-ups, birth details, everything. It’s one of my favourite topics. Impending parenthood is a very exciting time. To hear that someone is fortunate enough to be expecting a child – well there is nothing better. I was especially interested today to hear that Jools Oliver was pregnant, not because I’m a big celebrity fan, but because this is baby number 5. They can now prepare to have to defend their family size!

Families have gotten smaller, this is undeniable. People are having less children for many different reasons, some by choice, some by circumstance. A third child tips the balance in the children’s favour. For the first time ever, you have more children than hands. It’s unchartered territory and you’re relying on someone to behave! Four children and you’re going against the norm. Logistics and practicalities come more into play and you may need to consider a mom-mobile type car. On the plus side you’re already used to the lack of hands so the transition can be sometimes smoother. Five children upwards – people start wondering, “what’s wrong with you??!”

I’ve heard all the jokes from “haven’t you figured out what’s causing it yet?” to “you need to get a television”. I have received plenty of positive comments about having a big family from the “they’ll have friends for life” type remark to people sharing happy memories of having grown up in large families themselves. I’ve had parents say their children have had great fun when they have come on a playdate with one of my children, only to find when they get here there is a readymade army of willing participants available to play most games imaginable.There have also been plenty of negative comments too, and sometimes they come from the most unexpected sources. My daughter has felt uncomfortable during a geography lesson when a cause of global warming was laid at the feet of large families. She tried to explain that we tend to holiday in Ireland, our mom-mobile rarely travels anywhere with a free seat (at this stage I’m close to putting children on the roof), we don’t eat much meat and because we’re fortunate enough to live close by to their schools, the children all walk there each day. She discussed how much we recycle, how clothes can be handed down and how when the house is heated nine people are kept warm, whereas in some houses the same amount of heat might be used for just one person. She suggested our carbon footprint might not be quite as big as was possibly thought! During another lesson, however, they learned how big families were generally born to the uneducated. It can be sometimes hard to deal with the sweeping generalisations.

I have had all sorts of questions put to me as to why I have worked my uterus so hard. Two people asked if it was driven by religious beliefs. It is not. Many more have suggested it’s because of my uneven gender balance. I’ve explained here that had gender been the driving force, I’d have stopped after two. I had a much more socially acceptable “gentleman’s family” then. The reason I have such a large family is much more simple. It’s because I love children and I’ve been fortunate enough to have seven. Getting there and the journey since hasn’t all been plain sailing. Rearing children is very hard work, we all know that, but I never take my good luck for granted. I count my lucky stars every day that this crazy, hectic, exhausting, life full of love is mine. Being a parent is a privilege. A privilege that I have been blessed with seven times. A privilege denied to many.