Recently I was at a lunch with a bunch of friends. The conversation came around to having children as it usually does with a group of women. Eventually there came up discussion about someone who has 'lots' of kids. With the national average of children per married couple in the USA at less than 2, I suppose even 3 or more is considered 'lots', but this person they were talking about was an overachiever and had a double digit number of kids. The person they were talking about wasn't me. It was someone else, so I just sat there quietly as they discussed the insanity of having so many kids. Maybe you can imagine how I felt. There was various discussion about why anyone would do that? Why would anyone have a bunch of kids? So this post is to try and give a little insight into the answer of that question.
After all let's face it, kids are tons of work and trouble....even the best of them. They are messy. They cry. They fight. Some even bite. They wake you up in the night. They get sick. (As I'm writing this Joy has just thrown up for the 5th time today.) They get hurt. They can bring such heart ache. When they arrive on the scene they can't even eat for themselves or use a proper toilet. As they grow it just gets worse. They get into all kinds of trouble. As soon as they are mobile you have to totally reorganize your house since they are so good at destroying anything they can get their grubby little hands on. Have a couple or more and they can destroy a room in nothing flat leaving only a trail of strewn toys, broken antique dishes and spills of staining substances. I won't even mention the mess they can make in a bathroom. They flush things that shouldn't be flushed and don't flush things that should. They shovel in their little mouths with those fat fingers things that they shouldn't like keys, watch batteries, pennies, dust bunnies, and staples and don't eat the good stuff that you want them to. They deprive you of sleep, hot food, and a good part of your sanity. I say that with each pregnancy I loose thousands of much needed brain cells. So, as you can imagine I don't have very many left. As they get older, believe or not, it just gets harder. They think they have minds of their own and want to use those minds to make their own decisions. They start to assert some independence.
My friends who were having the discussion that day mostly have younger children and they were saying how much work little kids are. Just one can wear out a full grown woman. Two or more and you are toast. Triple teamed and a mom can end up in a pool of tears at the end of long, tiring days. I didn't have the heart to tell them that as they reach adolescence it gets much harder. I do believe that the early years of having children are much more work physically. There is so much that they can't do for themselves and we have to do it for them. However nearing and into the teen years it is so much more work emotionally and spiritually....even when you have great teens like I do....even when you put in lots of work in their early childhood so that you actually enjoy being around them when they are teenagers. I LOVE having teenagers. I love the discussions that we have. I love the contributions they make to our family. I love being a part of their lives. I love their independence and seeing the people that God is molding them into. Yet I feel this real pressure to make sure that I have prepared them well for life. I can see that in just a few short years they will be off on their own and calling all their own shots and I want to make sure that they are as spiritually prepared as they can be for that. In the middle and later teen years we as parents really just become coaches. Hopefully, the older they get they are making more and more of the decisions in their lives and we are just there to be a sounding board, an encourager, and an influencer. We point out blind spots, pour in as much Scripture and wisdom as we can and pray feverently for them. Then even as they fly our coup and spread their wings and have their own lives completely separate of ours, we still pray for them, and worry about them as we continue our relationship with them as adults. The parenting changes, but it never stops. I will always be their momma and they will always be my kids.
So the question remains why would anyone bring all this on themselves especially multiple times? The discussion on this day turned to easy pregnancies. These crazy women who have all these babies must have easy pregnancies or just love being pregnant. Firstly let me say that is NOT true in my case, I think of plenty of other things to do with my body that doesn't involve stretching it out so that it never goes back together the same. Better things than throwing up in every toilet that I walk by. Better things than having aching feet and back from carrying around 30 extra pounds of weight. But even if I did love being pregnant and had easy pregnancies I can tell you with certainty that those 9 months wouldn't be worth all the work that comes after. So, let me just clear up this misconception right here. Most of us who have lots of children don't have easy pregnancies or just enjoy being pregnant. And while I'm at it, let me assure that it's not because we have 'easy' kids either. There is no such thing as an easy kid. Granted, some are not as hard as others, but have enough and you'll get some of all kinds. I'm just going to put a little plug in here too and say that kids that lots of people think are 'easy' aren't really 'easy', it's just that the parents have put in lots of work and so you see their kids being kind, polite, and obedient and you assume they are just easy kids. They aren't, they just have parents who have been consistent in their child training and discipline. But back to our discussion, on why some people have so many kids.
Well I can't presume to speak for all of us, so I'll just answer for me. Why in the world do I have 11 kids and would happily take any more that God sees fit to give me? Well let me answer the one question that I get asked the most first. Yes, I do know what causes babies and no, I don't want to stop. Joe and I were married for almost 4 years before someone challenged us to look at what the Bible had to say about children. We had always planned on having one or two "someday", but that's about as far as we had gotten with our planning. After all we are both last-borns, we were just letting life happen to us and doing what was normal in our culture. When we started looking at what God had to say about children we were blown away. God says that children are a blessing. He calls them a gift. They are a way He rewards us. In fact in Psalm 127 He tells us that children are our reward. The word that is translated 'reward' there really means 'wages' or 'salary'. Children are one of the purposes of marriage and one of the ways that God rewards or pays us. Who doesn't want rewards from God? Why would I purposefully choose to limit the way that God wants to reward me? Do I want to place any limits on any of the other ways that God rewards me? Would I say to God, "I know that you meet my needs by providing money, but I'd like to limit that. I don't want as much money as you can give me. I just want a little money, not too much. It's too hard to manage and too much trouble."? I doubt many of us, if any of us, would say that. We want all the blessings God will give us. All the blessings God will give us except children, that is. Those, we'd like to limit.
As we began to discover what God's Word had to say about children, Joe made a list. On one side of the page he wrote reasons why we should not have children or why we should limit the number of children that we have. On the other side of the paper he wrote down what the Bible had to say about that. What we found was that God had already provided an answer to all of our doubts, concerns, or objections. We determined that all of the reasons we were not having children were at the root unbiblical. How eye opening for a couple who were dedicated to following God with their lives and were even in preparation for following Him in full time ministry. For example we had written down "We don't have the money" but God has said in His Word that "My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory". We had written down that we didn't have the time, but the Bible says "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." In fact what Joe noticed was that every objection he had to letting God be in control of our family planning was that he had already memorized a passage from the Bible that contradicted his reasoning. We just weren't living out our faith as much as we thought we were. After that eye opening exercise we decided to walk by faith in this area and trust God that He knew what He was doing with our family and who He wanted in it.
I find it amusing that when families let God have the control over how many children they have people think it unnatural or strange. Having a large family, yes even one with a double digit number of children, is the natural result of trusting God with how many children He wants to give us instead of trying to limit the number. Yet somehow it's thought of as weird while limiting our blessings to 1, 2, or maybe 3 is accepted as 'normal'. Like I said, somehow that seems backwards to me since the natural result of sexual intimacy is pregnancy. Unless you interfere in this process, it is natural to have a lot of children and strange to just have one or two children. Our culture has changed that so that unless you interfere with the natural process you seem strange because you have lots of kids, when in fact it seems strange to me to interfere in what God has for us. He has given us a time to stop having children. We call it menopause. I know that not everyone who gives God control of their family size has lots of kids. Some don't even have any, but most will have a bunch. It's the natural process of life. It's the way God created us. As I am much closer to that time of life when I won't be able to have any more children than most of those gals around the lunch table the other day, I think understand a little more the preciousness of life. I have a little more perspective to see how quickly time passes and what really does matter in this life. My life is full. Full of beauty. Full of blessings. They sit around my diner table in the evening. I get to buy them Christmas gifts this year. I kiss their precious faces as I tuck them in at night. I hear their prayers. The sweet ones uttered from tiny lips and the powerful ones from lips of young men. I am overwhelmed at times by the miracle of life. I am so thankful that God has chosen to bless me with 11 amazing gifts.
If you are a parent you know that love is just multiplied when you add members of your family, it's not divided. There is more love, not less. There are so many more relationships and family dynamics. Having so many brothers and sisters has enriched the lives of all my children. As far as people who say they like their family size just as it is and don't want to 'rock the boat' so to speak by adding any more kids to the mix, here's my question to you: Which of your children do you wish you didn't have? Of course the answer is none. You love each precious one and can't imagine your life without any of them. Every one of them has enhanced your life and has added so much to your family. I feel like that about all my kids too. I also know that I would feel the same way about any more that God in His infinite wisdom would choose to send my way.
I think that children in our society are seen as a burden not the blessing that they are. As Christians, we need to get our ideology from the Bible not from culture. When our culture says that kids hold us back and tie us down, God teaches us that they ARE our purpose as we teach them about Him and launch them into their own lives. Society says that they are a burden, the Bible says they are a gift. Our culture tells us that children are a liability. The Bible teaches that they are assets. They are a benefit not a disadvantage. So when people say "Better you than me", I wholeheartedly agree with them.
So, why do I have 11 kids? The real answer is I guess I don't really know why God has chosen to bless me so richly, to reward me so much, but I am so thankful that He has. I feel completely honored that God's plan for me was to be the mommy of eleven beautiful lives. I feel blessed to have been given the privilege of being entrusted by God to take care of eleven of His priceless creations. I can think of no greater reward. So why do I have 11 children? Because so far God hasn't given me 12.