Easy isn’t the goal

Easy isn’t the goal January 22, 2012

This article about family size has been getting a lot of comments and has appeared in my inbox from several sources.  I have to admit that I haven’t even read the entire thing, nor any of the comments, because I had a sense that it would hit a raw nerve with some people.

I have been thinking and praying a lot about the subject of family size, though, because I am at a new volunteer position where a lot of women are learning that I have six children and responding with an interesting combination of shock and awe.  Most of the comments I get in this particular (pro-family) environment are positive, in a way, people have asked me where I hide my halo, why I look so calm and well rested, and of course I have heard the comment which begins the NC Register article, I have such a hard time with just 1 (or 2, 3, even 4)!

I agree with Simcha Fisher, in a lot of ways my life is easier now, with six children, than it was when I was the 23 year old, newlywed, mother of just 1.  I have learned how to parent, and my husband and I have a stronger relationship, so that makes things easier.  I don’t have a nursing baby at the moment, and that makes things way easier.  All of my children are potty trained and they mostly sleep through the night.  I have a system for laundry that I didn’t have then, and a little bit of household help so I can get out from time to time, and more friends who are mothers.

However, most of these things would be true, 10 years later, whether or not I had 5 children in between, and while I am extremely satisfied with my life, I have no doubt that it would be much easier if I only had one 10 year old, or even just the 10 and 9 year olds.  I would have less laundry, they would be in school all day, I could afford a vacation to take my family on an airplane and a trip to the grocery store would only require one cart.  I will join the mothers of 1,2, and 3 and say that even with 6, I don’t know how a mother of 9 does it.  I pray that I get the chance to find out!

There is a lot that is still very, very difficult about having a large family.  It is more or less difficult in different ways for different families.  The chances of a child with special needs is higher.  Only having a brief break between pregnancy and nursing is hard.  Going in to survival mode when 8 people have the stomach flu is hard.  Finding a babysitter who is willing and capable of caring for 6 children is hard.  Making time to meet each of their emotional needs and adjust to their varied temperaments is hard.

The reason that we were created, stated very simply in the Baltimore Catechism, is to know, love and serve God in this life and live with Him in the next.  Our goal is not to find the easiest way to get through life.  What a sad, lazy goal that would be.

We don’t need to try to convince the secular world that having a large family is easy, because it’s not true, but a better argument is that easy isn’t the goal.  We need to work hard to convince young women and men of the next generation that life is worth the struggle.  A life that is hard doesn’t have to be miserable.  It is the struggle to do what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, cheerfully and with a generous spirit.  This struggle is present for all Christians, regardless of family size or vocation, and it is in this struggle that we are sanctified.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Queen B

    Thanks, MA. u00a0

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post, thanks!

  • Rightsaidred Builder

    I just read the article and I thought her main point was that the transition of going from 0-1 is the hardest of all transitions.u00a0 Those days of new motherhood are really, really, hard, and for her it is “easier” emotionally with 9 children than it was with one.u00a0 I tell people that frequently, 0-1 is the biggest life change of them all!u00a0 nnThat being said, I think that having a large family is still very, very, hard, and she downplays that in a way that makes me uncomfortable.u00a0 For me, it just isn’t true that it gets easier by the day, and as you said, that shouldn’t be the goal anyway.

  • Kat

    Great points, MA, thank you.u00a0nJust for an alternate perspective, although life would be easier from a logistical perspective with only 1 10 year-old, I’m not sure that it would be easier from an emotional/psychological well-being perspective. My friends in this situation, whether by choice or not by choice, seem to worry much more that their children aren’t learning generosity, are more influenced by peers than family, etc. etc. Our families bring us a lot of laundry and messy homes, but they also provide a natural safety net and solid home learning environment that it can be hard to create without siblings. Not impossible by any means, but just more challenging.u00a0

  • Kath

    Respecfully, I think you may be missing some of what she’s saying. I am a mother of only one and this post really spoke to me. Not because I think with 6 it will literally be less work. Quite the opposite. As she says here,u00a0nn”Weu2019re so darn busy that itu2019s a sheer delight to take some time to wash some small childu2019s small limbs in a quiet bath, or to read The Story of Ferdinand one more time.u00a0 Taking care of them is easy.u00a0 Itu2019s tiring, itu2019s frustrating, but when I stop and take a breath, I see that itu2019s almost like a charade of work”I think the article is saying that with each child those things we obsess over as new mother become less dramatic. It is about the change that we go through as women when we become mothers. She is growing, just like her children and preparing to some day let them go. So, I think dwelling on, or being uncomfortable with, some of her comments on parenting multiple children is to diminish her main point. It certainly doesn’t glorify the ease of mothering. I think that point is particularly clear in the last lines,n”Your life is hard; your life will be hard.u00a0 That doesnu2019t mean youu2019re doing something wrongu2014it means youu2019re doing it right.”u00a0nI seriously doubt that if you asked her if having 9 children was a breeze that she would say yes. I also can’t imagine anyone reading this in earnest and surmising that conclusion, either.u00a0n

  • Kath

    Also, I think it would be helpful to finish the article. it isn’t long and I think the conclusion is especially poignant. But as always, skip the comments! 🙂

  • DCH

    Kat, I think you bring up a very important point. Thanks! No matter how many children you have, the challenges are different for everyone. We all have challenges, but they might look different for each of us. nn I get so beyond frustrated with the term “just one”. (I know it didn’t originate on this site. I cringed when I read it in the original article.) Right now, “just one” would be the greatest blessing God could bestow on my life, and that would remain true if that is “only” what God had in mind for my family. Today is a reminder that ALL life is sacred.. even if it comes in the form of a smaller family.nnI pray that women everywhere can stop comparing and can begin to lift each other up as women and mothers (whether physical or “just” spiritual- no matter the family size) and be kind, compassionate, and understanding no matter what challenges we as women face… no matter the circumstances.

  • Elenaculshaw

    I agree with you, Mary Alice about the difficulty of raising a large family – it certainly isn’t easy. u00a0However, I also understand when Simcha writes about how difficult looking after just one child is. u00a0I find it much easier when all of mine are here because they tend to head off together and play together while one child needs me all of the time. u00a0I started with twins so I never had just one child to start. u00a0I have always been very thankful that my first two came with a playmate in the womb. u00a0However, I also agree with you that we shouldn’t try to hide how hard raising a large family is. u00a0My husband and I often laugh (and cringe) at what our life would be like if we had stopped after the twins: u00a0I would be working, there would be more money, vacations etc. but we would be missing so much and I would probably be a lot more stressed out and not nearly where the Lord has brought me through the other 4 that came after the twins. u00a0I am amazed at what God can do in my heart through each subsequent child. u00a0

  • Juris Mater

    Thanks for this wonderful post and for bringing this article to our attention, MaryAlice.nnThat is such a depressing ending–that we go through all of this mortification of self only to be prepared to be left as our children move on. So help me if I’m ever left as she suggests. I see my openness to children now as an investment in the future, among other things; a guarantee of being surrounded by life–children and grandchildren and happy activity in my home–into old age.

  • JMB

    My life is so much easier now with my youngest 9 than it was when I had four under nine.u00a0 And I know there are women who love the baby stage and want to hold babies all the time after that period ends for them, but I haven’t found that to be true for me.u00a0 I loved my children because they were mine.u00a0 I’m not saddened that they are growing older nor do I wish I had those early days back again.u00a0 Perhaps I’m just not a sentimental person.nnMA, I agree with you here that expenses are the most difficult aspect of life with a large family.u00a0 We have all but given up whole family air travel, and now do plenty of road trips.u00a0u00a0 This is (and I know this sounds like I’m a spoiled brat) a difficult pill for me to swallow because I love to travel and had this unrealistic fantasy that my family would be able to do a grand European vacation or at least hit a Caribbean beach at one point while still under one roof.u00a0 I’ve learned to compromise by sending off one or two children at a time to far off places, but I secretly envy all those families in Christmas cards who are standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or on a gondola in Venice.u00a0 But then I think, you know I would never trade one of my kids for a life of travel, that’s for sure.

  • Mary Alice

    JMB, I wonder if the financial issues are toughest for those of us living in the more expensive parts of the country, for two reasons.u00a0 First, housing is such an expense, and second, in other, less affluent parts of the country, people might not have neighbors taking exotic trips.u00a0 I don’t have the goal of truly keeping up with the Joneses, but I don’t want my children to be isolated or fall behind because of family size either, so swimming lessons times six, etc, have to be fit into the budget somewhere.u00a0 nnThere is such a difference in geographical areas as far as the cost of childcare, private school, etc.nnAlso, I am totally with you on the baby stuff, I love my babies, but I do find that stage difficult, and I have also found it difficult to be in more than one stage at the same time — 4 under 3 was very hard in some ways, but we just stayed home a lot.u00a0 Right now, the needs of my 4 school age children for activities and stimulation in the late afternoon and early evening conflict with the needs of my toddlers for naps, regular bedtimes and early morning activities.u00a0 This to me is really the hardest part of having a large family, although I suppose it would also be true if you had a smaller family with bigger spaces.u00a0 Some of my kids needs are more physical and others are more intellectual/emotional, but they all have a lot of needs!

  • Lindsay Schlegel

    That last paragraph: Amen!

  • JMB

    Yes, I agree about the cost of living factor.u00a0 That’s why I get so frustrated when politicians talk about income as if it’s a universal standard and there are no geographical variations inu00a0 housing costs, state & local taxes, insurance and education.