“Im the luckiest boy in the whole world! Wanna know why?” my brand new eight year old cooed excitedly.
Okay, Ill bite.
“Because the cutest baby in the whole wide world lives at our house!!”
Awww. This is precisely why I chose to live a double life.
Allow me to explain what I mean by “double life.” In the early years of our marriage, we had a boy, a girl, then another baby boy. They were blissfully adorable, precocious and the very definition of perpetual motion. And as surreal as it was waking up to rosy cheeks bounding on our bed each morning, three cherubs to care for quickly became very time intensive. Not to mention emotionally taxing. Exhausting. Alright, down right exasperating!
Thats why I completely understood when most of my happily married, fertile friends called it right there. They were done. Done with negotiating with two year olds, done with making a host of strangers exit the public pool, done with toddlers peeing their pants in the middle of Costco, done with permanent markers falling into the wrong little hands. They were eager to move on to that oh-so-elusive Phase II of parenting. You know, the phase that states you are allowed to travel without a stroller. In Phase II everyone knows how to swim, buckle their seatbelt and cut their own meat. Phase II says a mother can tote around a reasonable sized purse again, not the two ton diaper bag responsible for her late onset scoliosis.
Those hard working mommies of my generation are now happily enjoying Phase II and have not looked back. But not me. No. For whatever reason, call it faith, naivet, clinical psychosis, I decided to have another boy, another girl, then another boy all over again.
Thats why I call it my double life. I often feel like Im raising the same boy-girl-boy combo in a weird Groundhog Day-esque way but with a slight twist. The twist being the first boy-girl-boy mashup is still here, growing, changing, and evolving into real bona fide grown ups and theres no stopping them.
While I still daydream about what Phase II must be like, (could I really leave the house with nothing more than my wallet and phone? Surely not. I think Id miss wet wipes too much,) I often wish there were more voices out there advocating for the long, drawn out Phase I of parenthood, or what I call, “building the team.” We could use the cheerleaders.
Im very aware each family situation is different and family size is a very personal issue, but Id like to give perspective and hope to those considering a large family but hesitant because they think they have to be either rich, have the patience of Melanie from Gone With the Wind, or who just dont want to be perceived by the rest of the neighborhood as well…”country mice.”
Large families require real sacrifice, no question, but they also have real rewards. Allow me to name a few.
1.) Plenty of opportunities to learn hard work. Mom is forced to delegate chores and create independent children because there just arent enough hours in her day. In a society with fewer and fewer natural opportunities to develop this life skill, this one is a gem.
2.) Built in playmates. If you’ve ever had to entertain a three year old all day by yourself, you wont underestimate this.
3.) Watching someone you love grow up is one of lifes most beautiful pleasures. Now there are 7 of us with front row seats to the greatest show on earth.
When women of my generation learn I have six children, they often remark how patient I must be, as if I were born with an extra dose of it–a gift. I’ve known too many two year olds to believe that anybody is born with any amount of patience whatsoever. Patience is a learned trait. The good news is, anybody can learn it.
As for the cost, kids are expensive, its true. We’ve had to make hard choices, tighten belts and get creative. But when was that ever a bad thing?
Look, its a 24-hour job no matter how you slice it. One kid, eight kids, you’re still on-call every night. There are no days off and at Christmas the workload doubles. I don’t think my life with six is necessarily harder than when I had two, three, or four, its just different.
So will we have more? I don’t know what the Lord has in store for us. But I have to believe that this long, drawn out, physically laborious Phase I will one day result in an extended, and therefore very exciting, very rewarding Phase II.
And I hear Phase III (i.e., grandchildren) is even more amazing.
Margaret Anderson is a freelance writer, BYU grad, returned missionary and the mother of six beautiful young children. Her work is featured in the new anthology “Motherhood Realized” and you can read more on her blog.