Monday, March 24, 2014

The Downsides of a Big Family

You know what, there are some "downsides" to large families. Let's just get that out there. Growing up in a large family (11 living) and marrying into a large family (DH is the oldest of 9 and his mom is 2nd oldest of 15), I came out loving it.

I know that it's hard to grow up in a large family and hard to raise a large family because of the constant exposure to shock, rudeness and even cruelty. People from big families can get defensive understandably, and even try to hyperfocus on the many benefits. But I think it's fair to mention the harder parts.

First off, it seems people consider 3-4 kids to be a big family, yet that is "small" in my book. I start to think big past 6-8 kids. That's generally when you bust out of society's limit and that's where the downsides begin.

You have to buy special vehicles if you want to drive together as a family, you can't fit onto one membership at a local museum or zoo, sibling discounts for classes no longer count, etc. Anytime you go to an event, restaurant or other area with seating, you need special arrangements or even a reservation.

In some cases, they don't understand you are a "traditional family" and try to demand a deposit or fee. The large group gratuities almost always apply. You stand around, a show to the other diners, while waiting for tables to free up so they can all be squished together. People stare. Point.

Which brings me to the next downside: being inherently countercultural. Even if you don't want to make a statement or don't care about what the rest of the world thinks, anytime you go anywhere or do anything, you're under intense scrutiny (positive or negative, although usually negative). You can't just take your family to the park or the museum. All the strangers there feel entitled to ask questions, to judge you, to delve into your personal life and to openly compare your children (while the children are able to hear).

You are accosted by comments from everyone, glares, conversations, nosy questions, etc. Even positive attention is still unsolicited attention and can be especially frustrating when you are struggling to care for several young children while a complete stranger expects gratitude and attention.

If you go out to eat, people stop by your table and want to know, are they all from the same father? How old are they? Why are they so good? How do you afford them? I mean, really? It's our night out not a Q&A session...but this was definitely my experience growing up. My dad had some good zingers.

Flying can be very prohibitive, so vacations take a lot of planning and saving. It's not that you can't travel around the world. It's just that you might reconsider it as a high priority when you fill a small jet. We did manage a big family vacation to Cozumel when about half of us were older so we could scuba dive the magnificent reefs out there. It took about 6 months of planning.

The other thing that I feel people don't talk about much is consciously bringing vulnerability into your's scary to me at least. This is my true fear. I know with each child we welcome into our family, that is my heart walking around in the world. It's crushing to worry for so many people, and I say this as a sibling, too.

I think about my brother who can be deployed halfway around the world, my SIL is in Spain right now, my other brother who is having his first baby. Purple Sister raising her child, an adorable nephew I love so deeply. Yes, you have sooooo much joy and love that it's unbelieveable. The offshoots of sibling relationships. The aging big family that develops nieces and nephews, cousins and grandchildren, wow! It's almost impossible to describe the depths of love in a big family. Yet, that love also means increased potential to feel suffering and loss.

We deflect a lot, and we have to handle a lot of criticism. Please be gentle on big families, for we are very aware of the cost and we're not talking about a fancy vacation or eating out.

Only 3 people were missing from the 2013 photo shoot. :) I say only 3...quite a
feat if you're familiar with big families that scatter around the world lol.
Related on the blog:

My Purple Sister:

Growing up unvaccinated:

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