6 Cheers for Big Families!


Three of The 6 Little McGhees learn sign language.
As a parent coach and certified counselor, I have some family dynamics education and understanding of the highs and lows of larger families.  But let’s get real. I have ONE brother, and (while it may feel like a lot to me) three kids, so I have no idea what it is really like to grow up with many siblings, nor to parent many different children!

Like many of you, when I see a happy family of seven on the street, I try not to stare.  I look at the mother with a mix of amazement, wonder, and disbelief.  It’s like seeing a shooting star, “Wait, is that real?”  Like shooting stars, you know large families are out there, but you cannot quite believe it when you see it. 

I know how hard I work with three kids, so I wonder about all the needs that exist in a large family, from the minute to the big.  And I will admit to wondering, “Is this is what that family wanted?  Did they choose that?” 

Since my own experience cannot help me, I decided to turn to best source I have: my Meghan Leahy Facebook Page!  I have many friends who are both one of many children, as well have many children themselves!  They were kind enough to answer a couple of questions for me, so that we can really learn what is like to be part of a big family

So, firstly, I wanted to learn about what it is like to be a child in a big family!  Dianne V. (one of five) says: “I loved having a variety of siblings with whom I’ve been closer with during various stages of life. I also liked the balance that several kids brought to the parent-child relationship: they were interested in what I did but were not watching my every move as though their own happiness and fulfillment depended on my next move.”  And Karen R. says, there was “always someone to play with, if I wanted.”  All those needs for constant play dates?  Not so necessary when you are one of many in your home!  With five or six children in the house, someone is always doing something interesting.

And when I asked these women if they felt they were missing something when they were growing up, like more individualized attention, the results were mixed. 

Dianne V says, “I didn’t feel like things were overlooked for us as I was growing up. I could tell my parents were always trying to meet our various needs, even if it wasn’t always perfect,” while Karen R. says that some “individual alone time” was missed.

The parent who has four or more kids definitely said that one of the biggest challenges for big families?  TIME.  Dianne V. says “Some of the biggest challenges of having a larger family are figuring out how to ‘get it all done,’ how to still find time for your marriage and yourself” and Patricia R. says, “Coordination of activities and interests, as well as the volume of things to do.”  One or two adults for four, five, or six kids? 

And with that many human bodies in one place, the amount of stuff can take a toll on even the most organized mom!  Amy D. says there is “the constant chaos. The house is always messy and someone is always crying.”  I didn’t even ask about food, but imagine that shopping with these parents would be a true lesson in organization.  The only true option?  Letting some things go, which Amy D. admits she is working on that, every day.

Beyond the worries about time for self, time for marriage, and some worries about seeing each child for who he or she is (which I think most parents worry about those issues), the overwhelming message I received was just how much these parents loved their big families!  

Dianne V. says, “What makes me happiest about being a parent of 4 children is helping them cultivate loving relationships with each other and seeing the moments where this love shines through between the siblings.”

I love being able to see them grow into individuals. They are so different from each other and so great in their own ways,” states Cara B.

Karen B. says, “The love!! It multiplies exponentially.”

And Amy D. says her family is so close that “we function as a unit. What I mean by that is that when one child is gone the rest are out of sorts.”

And all that staring I do when I see a big family?  Well, big families would like you to know that they are quite happy with their decisions, thankyouverymuch. 

Dianne V. says she sometimes feels she has to “apologize for the existence of her kids,” and “that they’re not mistakes, just four awesome kids with their own personalities that make getting up in the morning one of the best feelings on earth (next to sleep itself).”

Cara B. also sometimes feels judged.  “I feel self-conscious about how many kids I have in my 1-2 kid household town. I get a lot of comments that are something along the lines of how ‘full my hands are,’ and it feels more critical than supportive.”

So, what did I learn here?  First of all, I am going to stop staring!   Secondly, while parents of many children may worry about making it all work, most kids of large families report feeling loved, taken care of, and truly enjoying having so many different relationships at their disposal!  So, three cheers for big families!  Nope, let’s make that "SIX" cheers for big families!


For More Multiple Love be sure to Tune in to Six Little McGhees on Wednesdays @ 10/9C!




A mother of three young children and a parent coach, Meghan Leahy teaches parenting techniques to both individuals and groups in the Washington D.C. area, as well as all over the country. Meghan is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post parenting blog "On Parenting." To find out more, please visit Positively Parenting.








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