5 Tips for Young Parents and Large Families

Here are 5 tips for young parents who are afraid or discouraged about having a large family with all the sacrifices that come with it. Here’s the good news. A large family is a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. My wife Joy and I have 7 children. It’s a blessing. Take a look at these whippersnappers:

IMG_2702

6 of the 7 Marshall Children
Von Trapps, move over!

If you can’t see the photos, click here.

Before getting started, I want to stress that growing a family is not chiefly about skill. It’s about attitude. It’s a mind game.

Parenting is a mind game. It’s primarily about keeping your mind in a healthy state. If you lose track on sleep and start mentally rehashing all the sacrifices you’re making, you’ll become depressed and discouraged. Trust me.

Around baby #5 I got really psyched out

I was 30 years old with the fifth baby in the oven. It was then that I began to graph out Joy’s potential rates of fertility in Microsoft Excel.

“Let’s see, we probably have another 20 years until Joy’s fertility ends. Okay, we’ve had babies every 1.4 years. Twins once already. So, yeah, we are on track for at about 28.6 kids. What? 28.6 kids! Why didn’t the priest mention this possibility?

After documenting my destiny in MS Excel, I poured a scotch. I’d sit in a dark room by myself while I stared into my future plight as the Catholic version of the Duggars. My negativity led me to deep discouragement.

As I looked into the procreation crystal ball, I laid out the plan…

Joy and I would eventually purchase two beat up “pre-owned” passenger vans with permanent stains on the seats. I’d drive one. Joy (wearing a homemade denim jumper) would drive the other. The children would be skinny for lack of food. I saw myself wearing a threadbare sports coat to my minimum wage teaching position as part time instructor at a homeschooling co-op.

Our extended family would laugh behind our back. They wouldn’t invite us to family parties because of “all those kids.” And we ourselves wouldn’t want to go anyway because our kids would break stuff and then we’d have to pay for it.

Our home would be a plain two bedroom house – one room for Joy and me and a few young children. The rest of the kids would be in the other room, sleeping in cabinet drawers and three to a bed. Could 28.6 children sleep in one house? We’d just have to make it work.

I made myself depressed. I wasn’t sleeping well. I had just begun working on my PhD. This was about the time in my life when my first book came out The Crucified Rabbi.

5 Tips for Young Parents

Around this time, a very successful and impressive Catholic man that I knew (he had 10 beautiful children) took me out for a Starbucks. He explained to me the secrets to having a large family. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the health of you soul, mind, and body. You must also have a tight and healthy marriage.

So here are the five tips. Print it out. Don’t lose it.

1. Mental Prayer every day. Get out your smart phone and set the timer for 15 minutes. Sit in front of a picture of Jesus for 15 minutes. If you’re mind wanders (it will), don’t give up. Just sit there. Do that every day for 21 days until it’s an ingrained habit. It takes 21 days to make a practice a habit. Talk to Jesus every day. Pour out your heart entirely. Leaving nothing hidden. He is your God, Savior, Friend, and Healer.

2. Sleep. If Joy and I get into a fight or if I start feeling like George Bailey on Christmas Eve, it’s usually because I’m sleep deprived. Joy is the same way, but I’m worse. You must sleep and the family must sleep. There are too many moving pieces. A large family is heavy machinery. You must be alert and rested.

Make a plan with your spouse so that each of you get naps, sleep in, or go to bed early.

Lack of sleep is like being drunk. You do and say dumb things when you’re operating on lack of sleep. Get some rest and restore your wits.

3. Positive outlook. Do you ever sit around and count all the ways why your life stinks? Do you compare yourself to that cute 2 child family in the designer clothes and Mercedes Benz that has it so “easy”?

Let me tell you where those thought patterns will lead you. That kind of thinking will lead you to hatred of God. That’s right. If everything sucks and you’ve got a raw deal in life, guess where the mind naturally wants to lay the blame? God.

Do you want to worry yourself into someone who hates God?

When I’m nervous, scared, or bummed, I play a game that Joy’s mother taught me. You go through the alphabet and thank God for something at each letter. “A. I’m thankful for art. B. I’m grateful for my brother. C. I’m grateful for my children. D. I thank God for my dog (even though he’s barking right now). E. I’m thank full for my excellent job. F. I’m thankful for my friend Billy.” By the time your thanking God for “zebras” you’re feeling pretty good. You’re focusing on all the great things in your life and recognizing them as coming from God.

It gives a boost to your soul.

Gratitude is the antidote for discouragement. Your life is wonderful and worth living. Many will disagree with me but I think all Christians should be optimists. God is in charge. He wins in the end. If that’s the case, we should be optimists.

4. Fun. Yes, have some fun. Put some music on and have a dance party with your kids. Have you danced the robot with your children? The twist? The sprinkler? The shopping cart? The smurf? The cabbage patch? Running man? Why not?

Put together a puzzle. Go on a road trip. Take your kids to your childhood house or school. Fly a kite. Make something in the garage. Make a fun meal together and drink out of fancy glasses.

If children see their parents discouraged and depressed, are they going to be attracted to that lifestyle (depressed Christian lifestyle)? No.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s father was a Lutheran minister. Nietzsche, who said “God is dead,” rejected Christianity because it presented a “God who did not dance.” Let me tell you: God does dance!

“Because this my son was dead and is come to life again, was lost and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field and when he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.” (Luke 15:24–25, D-R)

It’s a pity that Nietzsche was blind to this truth. Life doesn’t need to be bland to be holy. Add some salt for flavor. (“Stay salty my friends!”)

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Our new baby is ready to dance!

5. Discover Mentors. Life is short. These little babies will be grandparents one day soon. Remember that life is about seasons. Some seasons are for sowing seeds. Some seeds are for harvesting the crops. Other seasons, nothing at all happens in the field.

Joy and I find great encouragement by being around other large families and by being mentored by people older than us who have already done it. When you have seven children, it’s nice to be talked off the ledge by someone who has eleven children. Mentors help you identify the seasons and chapters in life. Your pattern of life will change over time. It’s good to see it in others.

It’s like sports. The enthusiasm of the team can lift the spirits of a discouraged team member. Don’t go it alone. Invest in a support group. It won’t find you. You must work to find it. Be bold. Walk up to that 60 year old couple who raised 9 kids and have them over after church. Get to know them.

Question: Now it’s your turn. Feel free to add more tips or criticize what I’ve said. How can young parents starting off keep joy in their vocations? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please share this on Facebook to some parents (especially dads) who need some encouragement along the way!

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  • Sarah Frasier

    Absolutely DO NOT sweat what you do not manage to get done, whether it’s dishes or laundry piling up, or the craft project you’ve been meaning to get to with one of the kiddos! At the end of the day, focus on what you have accomplished and feel proud for that; one day life will be far less hectic, your house and yard will look spic-and-span, and you will miss your small children.
    And most importantly, DO NOT point out to your spouse what THEY did not get done, either. It is never helpful and often conveys a lack of gratitude. If you need to talk about specific projects getting done, do it after a good night’s sleep…as suggested above.

    • Sarah,

      That’s right. Spouses need to encourage each other every day. It’s a team effort.

  • Diane Schwind

    This is fabulous advice! I will definitely be sharing!!

  • Abigail Fuhrmann

    As a new mom who wants lots of children, I greatly appreciate this insight. I can tell the days I have not prayed enough or slept enough, like today. I have found that my daily Examen really helps me stay aware of my emotions and feelings so that I don’t slip into despair (at least 8 out of 10 times it works; I’m not perfect). Also, I ask our Blessed Mother for her sweet intercession when I’m up three times a night with my cute, fussy baby boy. It all helps.

  • Guest

    Family dance parties are the best. I am a Father of 10 children. The Friday night dance party is memories our children still talk about. They see mom and dad being silly, but dancing! (Incredibly well I might add!) I would only add that each child has different needs and you do need to make time for each child individually. Parents need to be accessible to their children on the child’s level. Division of labor at home needs to be fun and a game made of it. There is always time to finish laundry, dishes, and cleaning if every one pitches in. Dad has to be the enforcer of this and explain to the kids, especially the boys, that by helping with the laundry, dishes, and cleaning, you honor your Parents, but especially their Mother! Pray together. The Family Rosary is incredibly powerful! At least on Sundays, more if you can, but don’t force the kids. They will see the Love their parents have for the Mother of God, and will eventually join in. All of your points are spot on Taylor. The last thing I would add is to not be afraid to let your children see your success and failures. Many parents mistake this as a means of giving up their authority. We would like to invite the Marshall’s over for a Friday night dance party sometime soon!

    • Great advice, there, Guest. Some of our friends have a strobe light for family dance parties. The kids love it!

      I should also add that apologizing in front of each other (even the parents) when you mess up is good for the family.

  • Camila

    Dr. Marshall, I enjoy your family/marriage posts so much. So you and your wife ARE humans after all (I was starting to wonder if angelic beings can have babies – jk!)! Your post is incredibly encouraging.

    Thank you.

    • Yes, we’re normal human beings. We get tired, cranky, even angry. My dear Joy knows it all too well!

  • Guest

    I so wish that I could have had a house full of children, but at almost forty, I have 2 (and I love them both to pieces) and it’s pretty obvious I’m not going to have more. I lost two babies, and have health issues, and a husband who is 13 years older than I (and not on the large family bandwagon – although I can’t blame him, when we got married I was good with the idea of two). So I thank God for my two wonderful children daily, send up prayers for my lost ones, and best wishes for those with large families, and delight in my many nieces and nephews, most of whom thankfully live close by.

    • Ella McGovern

      I have six and lost three and at this point (very soon to be 47), I don’t think we are going to have any more. I still regret the number of years I was a Baptist and used artificial birth control. I think you did the best you could and that is all anyone can ask.

  • Mary

    I think this is excellent advice! If I were to add anything, it would be to give your worries to Jesus and his Blessed Mother. Ask them to watch over you and your family, and then trust them to do it. Accept whatever your future may hold as God’s will. Then you won’t have to worry and you won’t be abandoned.

  • Jeni

    3 small kiddos and already in over my head. Actually my mom told me twice today that I am not mentally stable enough for more kids in her opinion. I hope that’s not true, but for the time being I guess I will try to get my head in the game with some of these great tips. But eek. The littles (and laundry) are usually always winning.

    • Lenetta

      I know a little of how you feel, Jeni… I only have two and my oldest is in school all day! The good thing is with nfp we can say not right now (which I believe is a heroic thing in itself!) without saying no forever. Not sure how old your three are, but I’ve heard that three under five is the toughest because you don’t have much help. Perhaps as they get older and more self sufficient, you might feel differently. and you might not! But just keep on keepin’ on. <3

      • Jeni

        Thanks–yes I have heard that too. I’m hoping that it gets easier at least for a little bit sometime soon! My oldest just turned 5 and she has complex special needs and is a bit delayed so it’s just all-around craziness. Yey for NFP 🙂

    • Adrien Lee

      well, sometimes you have to be a bit mentally unstable to survive but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. there does come a time when you just have to surrender. surrender to the fact that life is going to be a bit crazy and messy for a while – especially the house and the laundry. surrender to the fact that you are going to always be a little bit sleep deprived and a little bit confused and a little bit hungry (for a HOT meal) for a time being. Once i surrendered the weight of the “martha stewart” wanna be it got easier. pick your battles and surrender to the ones you know you just can’t win at that moment in time. God knows what you can handle and he won’t give you any more than you can . . . that being said . . . he knows that you can handle more WITH his help. The Lord provides in all sorts of ways. from a much needed shower while by the grace of God all three sleep or a friend who stops by ignoring the mess to keep you company (and sane) with a cup of coffee. My mom often says how overwhelmed I am and how much work I have (currently growing baby # 7). I learned that it was not that she was saying i wasn’t capable but out of concern for me and my “work load”. I am blessed abundantly with some pretty fantastic kiddos, a super human husband and an amazing community around us. Once i surrendered I realized that the “crazy” is the fun part and the weight of the “work load” doesn’t have to consume me.

      • Jeni

        7!! I am hoping we get there someday. Yeah I’m working on the community part. Having a hard time with it, but I’m trying my best and praying about it.

  • Bridget Green

    The one thing I’d say is that you are working under the assumption that most young parents feel daunted or crushed under the weight of all those children. Some of us did in fact sign up for this. 🙂 My husband and I have 7 (6 here, 1 in heaven) and have been married for 9 years. We live in an apartment. We drive one old 12 passenger van (my 8th baby). I homeschool and my husband works part time for UPS, and we manage. Then again, I’m from a family of 16. I laughed when I read that you made that little spreadsheet. My father did the same thing, only with all of us. He set it up to see how many grandkids he would have if all of his sons and daughters had followed the exact same marriage and fertility schedule as he and mom. He’s greatly depressed that he doesn’t have over 100 of them by now. He only has 52. 🙂

    • 52 grandchildren! That’s is wonderful.

      “And mayst thou see thy children’s children.” (Psalm 127:6, D-R)

    • bree

      Where in the country can u afford to live on one part time salary? We may need to move 😉

  • Jenny Carroll

    Also don’t count your blessings too soon. For every large family, I know two more who have few or no children, not from want of trying. Fertility slows down as you get older, a baby every second year on your twenties, may not continue into your thirties or indeed the forties.

  • Ricardo

    Thank you Taylor for this! I have five children and often do find myself pondering the future of our financial security. We’ve been working on our family and marriage for 19 years and all throughout, God has been good and we’ve always managed with His help. but when things get tough, we get into exactly what you described above, a bit of wallowing in pity like drunkards! I will definitely re-read this and share it with my wife.

  • Elleblue Jones

    I have a cousin and he and his wife had 12 children. Only one set of twins. I loved visiting their home. It was quiet and organized and each child had chores. Because they had 8 boys all of them learned to take care of the younger siblings. Mom cooked and everyone else set the table and cleared. The parents were respectful with each other and the children and that’s how the kids treated everyone. They had dinner together every night and sports and other lessons did not interfere with family time or church activities and mass. I still say it’s all about role modeling. I never heard these parents lecture or yell at the children.
    I would have loved to have had a family that large!

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  • Katherine Wilson Hsiao

    Thank you so much for this. I have 4 boys, one of whom has special needs and literally seizes all night, plus I’m 7 months pregnant with our fifth son. Although when I think about it, I know how blessed I am, I’m very guilty of focusing on how difficult life is..especially since my husband and I are in a never ending cycle of sleep deprivation. I’m definitely going to go through the alphabet next time I’m lying in bed, holding my sick son and being angry at God. God bless you!

    • I prayed a Hail Mary for your sleep. You’re a hero.

      • Katherine Wilson Hsiao

        Thank you!!

        • Jessica

          Are you able to find anyone to help? Are there any grants or funding to hire some overnight help?

          • Katherine Wilson Hsiao

            Jessica, thank you for asking. Because our son’s disease, Dravet syndrome, has quite a high sudden death rate, usually occurring in sleep, my husband and I feel like one of us wants to be with him while he sleeps. We do have help some during the day. As grim as the picture is, our little saint is the biggest blessing for both my husband and our other children. Thank you for caring and please pray for him, if you think of it…Kael ishis

  • Jens Sweet Plantains

    I would also add that you should never assume that everyone else has it all together – whether it’s the family of four in the designer clothes, or the family of 12 whose children all seem to act perfectly. One of the worst things you can do is compare yourself and your family to others – your reality will always fall short of what you see of another family.

    When I was a child and I would get bummed out or sulky, my mother always told me to start acting like I was having a good time – lo and behold, I’d end up happy and positive…what a lesson! When I do this in my daily life with four kids, ages 6 and under, I find that despite the chaos or other hardships, I am able to have a positive outlook and enjoy my kids.

    Thanks for such a great post!

    • It’s amazing what smiling will do to your physical and mental feeling. I try to smile even when I feel bad.

  • Connie

    Loved this article. I too have 7 children. They are all grown now into responsible adults- how that happened I have no idea!!!!! ha! We are proud grandparents of 9 grandchildren and 1 on the way! Raising a large family was a challenge, a struggle, and with many sacrifices- for all of us, including the children who didn’t have all the “stuff” their friends had. Instead they had a stay at home mom who was always there for them. They learned a strong work ethic instead which has made them all hard working successful adults. We had more ups and downs that the coolest roller coaster at any park!!! But we survived them all and stood by each other. I would never change a thing we’ve done over the past 40 years, including the tough life lessons that were learned- especially the toughest ones- they made all of us stronger!

    • Thank you for this wonderful multi-generational snap snot. It sounds full of joy.

  • kristin

    i also have 7 children and this was just what i needed to read today 🙂 thank you!

  • Jennifer Rabey

    I only have 2 children and opted to read because my sister in law has 7 and I was curious. We talk often about their struggles and joys in having such a large family.
    Anyways… Me with my 2 children…. I found this post to be full of wonderful advice. I often have days with only 2 that I should be stopping to thank God for A-Z and not be focusing on the box of cheerio’s dumped on the kitchen floor, the broken lamp or the screeching of 2 little girls who have forgotten to share.
    Thank You!

  • Shannon Marie Federoff

    I am an “old” mom with a large family (#1 is twenty-one years old, and #11 is nine months). Everything you say is spot on. But I need to caution you not to paint too rosy a picture of this kind of family life. Despite your best efforts, your children will sin. The older children may even sin quite seriously. You’ll be constantly asking for St. Monica’s intersession! There may be mental illness…. like our daughter who is a recovering anorexic. And there will be other things out of your control, as well…. serious illnesses, accidents that leave scars, one of our teenagers just was diagnosed last year with a debilitating joint disease and will need a wheelchair one day. And it will break your heart. But thats OK, Christ’s heart was broken for us, too.

    Having a large family and homeschooling, joyfully practicing the Faith, having a strong family culture…. keep doing these things. They are right and good and gladden the heart. But don’t believe that they will keep heartbreak away. God chastises the son whom he loves. Expect suffering in this life, too. Don’t think you must be “doing it wrong” if at times, there is little comfort in being a mother of many. God is good, and no life is easy.

    • isabel kissinger

      amen to that…

    • td10

      Thank you for this wisdom- as a 46 year old old ma who’s expecting # 11 and who’s oldest is 23, I completely understand. But even in their missteps-often due largely to an impossible culture- I see a sense of responsibility. My 21 year old told me that knowing he’s idolized by his 16 year old brother has curbed his behavior on more than one occasion, and that they k ow many younger eyes are watching them and influenced. This is a benefit that children in small families might not have. But I, too, have worn out my rosaries and St Michael’s chaplet and have called upon Monica, Augustine, Philomena and anyone else up there that might be available. We pray our way through these years and trust Christ not to lose them..

      • youngish mom

        I just *love* that you are 46 and expecting! You don’t know how happy that makes me! Thank you for sharing and I will pray for you!

        • td10

          Thanks so much for your prayers!! Our baby boy, Benedict John, is now ten weeks old and I’m happy to report that his was one of my healthiest, most uneventful pregnancies. He’s precious, such a gift. Not too shabby for an old lady like me!! So even though I had my doubts when I realized I had a little surprise on the way (“Lord, what could you possibly be thinking!??”) God,as usual, knew what he was doing. I’m grateful for the many prayers that ushered him safely into the world. God Bless-

  • Leonie

    From a mom’s point of view, it’s hard to keep a large family running smoothly (and homeschooling) while you are pregnant. It’s hard to feel sick for months and then know it’ll be months again after the baby is born until you feel “normal.” And, as you get older, it’s harder and harder. It’s worth it of course, but hard. Prayers for all expectant moms!

  • Mom of 6

    Best advice I received: Treat your children the way you want them to treat your grandchildren.

  • Maria Teresa Schau

    Dr. Marshall, i would add #6: Frequent reception of confession and the Holy Eucharist. Having 9 kids (11 yrs to 5 mths old, we beat your averages ;), when asked how we manage, i alwayssay, we don’t, the grace of God is at work here. Without His grace ee don’t stand a chance.

  • Natalie

    This quote resonates in my soul ever so often especially when we are given the gift of children. Being an only child and now a mother of ‘only’ 4 children I can see with my heart how the gift of children in the context of multiple children can greatly effect the entire family in a positive way that forces almost in many cases a family unit to simplify and come together to appreciate the less worldly “things” that beg to steal our time and our hearts from what is true, good and beautiful in the eyes of our Creator and therefore what we are created for as we are made in His image and likeness.

    “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, can fully find himself only through a sincere gift of himself.”
    ― John Paul II

  • Liz

    I don’t have a string community in “real life” that supports large families. My husband and I just joyfully welcomed our second son after two years of marriage. We are both convicted that God is in control of our family and hope he sees us fit to give more. Unfortunately before I left the hospital from giving birth my family started pressuring me to get on birth control. No matter the explanation they do not understand and although I don’t want to give into them, it hurts me so deeply that the people who raised me are now in such severe opposition with my faith. Has anyone else experienced this and how do you deal with it? Thanks!

    • Meg

      I know how you feel! I wish there was a way to find young Catholic couples who are planning on having large families! My Church is small with not many young people.Other churches around me are less traditional and people aren’t very open to just letting God send the Children when He wants to! :[ I have a four month old and would love to have a large family, but my husband and I already are feeling depressed that we have no one outside our family to encourage us or at least empathize with being newly married young Catholic parents without a penny to spare. Everyone is still living at home with Mommy and Daddy or going to college for a million years. You wouldn’t happen to be from lower NY would you? If so, FRIENDS PLEASE?!?!?!?

      • Liz

        Meg, I’m far far south from you but your story sounds exactly like mine! Feel free to email me elizabeth.guptill@gmail.com An encouraging pen pal is always welcomed!!

      • Sarah Marie

        Meg! I’m in Central PA, so maybe not too far from you to meet up someday. I agree with Liz- an encouraging email pal or pen pal is always a comfort. Feel free to email me as well. sarah[dot]dozier[at]rocketmail[dot]com. My husband and I are on our first (baby girl just turned 7 months). I EBF so fertility hasn’t returned yet, but I hope that when it does I’ll be ready to say “yes” to another soul. 🙂

    • Meg

      and about the Birth Control…outside my family and a very VERY small number of people that I know online, I know very very very few people who are against birth control. 🙁 People just don’t get it. The doctor was trying to force it on me last checkup…ugh. She’s like what do you want 15 kids? I was like…ummyeah.

      • Jean

        Time to change doctors? 😉

  • denise

    My husband (physical therapist) and I (former teacher) have 6 children. Sydney 13, JohnWessley 11, Sophia 9, Jace 7, Sage 3, and Jarett 2 years. I have four in Catholic school right now too! I can’t imagine life any different. We agree it is about sacrafice, however we believe our family is worth it. I manage our big family with structured (yet flexible) scheduling, and lots of team work. All of my children have responsibilities at home, church, and school. Don’t get me wrong we don’t function like a clock, but we manage better than most small families that I know. We definitely have our moments of chaos!! However, my children our well mannered, A students, chore doing, sibling arguing, altar serving, ballet, and sports kids. We are busy, but the time of day we hold true is dinner time. We always eat together, and we all have a turn to talk about our day. If there is an extra curricular that interferes with this time or academics we don’t do it. And YES! we dance like crazy here, how could we not, were a party everywhere we go!! Congrats on your big family!

  • Erika

    We have 14 children, I feel like crying after reading this. I am overwhelmed most days, with homeschooling and cleaning. I am thankful for the happy and beautiful children, but at this moment I’m also thankful for Blues Clues on Amazon Prime instant view.

    • JMJT

      I had a friend in NYC years ago who had a large family ..some of the children were home-schooled. She told me that people were always amazed and asked her how she managed . She said she would tell them, ” Well, I have a washer/dryer, and dishwasher. We don’t spend much on clothes; my house is not too clean and I don’t bake my own bread.” She added, “You always seem to be able to have a little money for what you like most, and I have books .”(many of which were used).”

    • Shannon Marie Federoff

      Maybe we need someone to write a post: “5 Tips for Old Parents and Large Families!”

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  • Dwight A. Lindley III

    Love this, Taylor–one of the best things you’ve written.

    thanks,
    –D

  • diane

    Only 5 kids, 3 of them legally adults. I still have to remind myself ‘You stop; they go’. My big career is gone. My ‘perfect’ house always needs a coat of paint, floors redone, and something always needs to be steamed cleaned, but the kids are thriving and that is all that really matters. I have stopped, so that they may go. Once you accept it, things go much easier. Glory be to God.

    • Kim

      I am struggling with this idea myself right now… Husband has finished his master’s degree, and out first little one is 9 months right now. Husband is looking for full time work, but we COULD stay where we are and both of us keep working part time. OR he could work full time and make the same as what we are making together. Hardest thing for me is to figure out what God wants… I LOVE what I do: I direct music for our Latin mass parish, and the last 4 years have been truly the best in my life. I am afraid of change, the change that will mean I stop so my children can have more of me. I fear God asking me to “surrender” my gift of music to him in a different way. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, it WILL happen in the next couple years. Husband is also a bit afraid of the change that is to come. We have been happy and comfortable working together to make ends meet, that the thought of him solely providing is a bit daunting to him. Prayers for our little family and our discernment.

  • Ben Wright

    My first kid is just two and a half weeks old… I’ve had all of the feelings, good and bad listed above in abundance. My wife and I love the A to Z idea. Just trying to say my prayers and cope as a new dad!

    • Jessica

      The first years of the first kid are harder than any other I think. Well, the second adds a bit, but still it’s nothing like that first one. Best to you guys! Accept lots of help, and ask for it if it’s not offered.

  • Kelly Werkowitch

    Love our big family! We have five. Life is sometimes crazy and the house is usually a mess but it is full! Full of laughter and love. I would like to add a tip for families of all sizes. Don’t neglect your marriage! Have date nights. Talk. Share your faith. Sometimes our date night is at home after the kids are in bed! Your healthy marriage will strengthen your whole family. Your faith, family and marriage is a model for your children to emulate.
    My husband jokingly tells our kids “When you all are grown and gone, we will be stuck with each other!”. That is why we still date!

  • Victor

    Beautiful family Doctor and you must really be in Joy! 🙂
    All kidding aside, today while taking my wife so she could purchase something, while I waited in the car, a cousin of mine passed by and she stopped to speak with me and I eventually said to her, How did your mother ever take care of seventeen children and reminded her that I only knew the first five or six. Long story short, I don’t think she was counting the one that died.
    I should have had your help back when I was raising only five girls cause I might not have taken four nervous so called break down. Long story short, my last fourth one took place in the early nineties and I’ve still got that same old young doctor cause we picked him after our old one died. When I first saw our new doctor was when he was doing I guess his last year of training and when my wife convinced me that I needed something to help me sleep. this good doctor asked me what the problem was and I started naming the alphabets and then asked him which one of the alpha boys he wanted to talk too. Long story short, I really can’t blame him now for having sent me for a visit to the funny farm….::)
    Good Luck Doctor and God Bless

  • secondeve

    We have six children, 30-18. Use memory to become grateful. Yes even act as if you’re happy and you can become happy. Fathers take out each child to breakfast and listen to whatever they talk about. Honor them on birthdays, each family member say something they love about them; it takes practice and patience. Try not to work on the Lord’s Day but enjoy each other, let them take turns choosing the plan. Mothers and fathers love and honor each other in their presence. Ask forgiveness and give it it to them and especially to children. Ask their forgiveness. The effect can be miraculous. Carefully look for what makes each one unique and encourage that. Never correct them in front of others; pull them aside, no shaming. Don’t make assumptions about how they feel or try to control the feelings. They are theirs, respect that. Guide them to think through them when possible. Try to go on a date with your spouse every week even if it’s sitting in the van alone! Sleep and take walks, just looking at the clouds helps! Time will fly away. You will have to let them go, and it will be painful. Look at the self giving love of Jesus for you on the cross. Pray the Rosary every week at least once and yes sit in God’s presence 15 minutes a day! So many good things to discover with a big family, don’t forget to laugh even with silly movies! thanks so much Dr. Marshall!

  • anniem

    How beautiful. I wish someone had told me these things. I spent all my time worrying about money and how the house looked and whether the kids would come home from school-all the wrong things. Plus I spanked the older ones. And listened to the secular culture that told parents we really did not know how to raise children and teens. Now I spend a lot of time praying for them to return to the Faith. I know this is all part of God’s plan…

  • Nikki

    I love this. We have five-oldest 8, youngest 1. And my husband is on the cusp of starting his PhD in Math. Thank you…just more encouragement that people out there do it and even thrive. It never hurts to have a sense of humor and also a sense that we can’t do it alone. God is with us!

  • C Harris

    Sit down and hold your beautiful new baby in your arms and let them fall asleep. The peace and calm that comes over both of you and your whole family is worth it. There is always more washing, more cleaning or something else to do. Your babies grow up so enjoy every minute and teach your children the value of just being together. A hug and a cuddle can cure so many things. Be affectionate to your husband and children and teach them the same. It makes for a calm and loving home, which is the most important. Children remember the love not the clean clothes. All our love does come from our faith and it multiplies. Cathy and Leo parents of 13 children.

  • Apparent tales

    I love this post! I laughed so hard and almost nodded my head off in agreeement! We have 4 in 6 years of marriage and I’m only 29. We’ve done the spreadsheet! It is a terrible thing to do! As someone said fertility changes over time and shouldn’t be taken for granted…. So hopefully I won’t have 34 kids. We do want and pray we will havemore children one day even though the thought terrifies me on this day.

    My youngest is 5 months and I just said today how good it feels not being pregnant right now!! Someone said being pregnant and managing a big family is quite challenging- amen! Our daughter is first and one of our three sons has special needs. So any sort of pregnancy or newborn self deprevation sends the usual overwhelming feeling way over the top most days, but even then at the end of each day I aways lay in bed grateful beyond words for these precious gifts from God. I vow to do better, pray to be more patient and usually wake up doing the best that I can on that given day.

    Right now I’ve been struggling with how to face the judgement and criticism from my (not catholic or even religious) family, friends and even total strangers. Clearly I do have my hands full, it’s a busy season as you were saying, but it won’t always be this way. What are good things you say to the comments and stares or even judgement from close family? Do you feel pressure to always be the good example or people will quickly say “told you it’s irresponsible!”? And last, everyone talks about how important it is for the father to have one on one time with the kid, but isn’t this good for the mother to do too?

  • Katherine Boyes

    And for those blessed without …
    “Their sons are enriched and bequeath their abundance to their little ones. But I in justice shall behold your face; on waking I shall be content in your presence.” Psalm 17:14-15

  • Helen

    “get enough sleep” = good advice for us all

  • v.butterfield

    Great post and spot on. I’m a stay at home, homeschooling mom to soon to be 18 kids (well, only 15 still at home) plus I school 4 of my 9 grandkids. People ask all the time how we do it…my come back is: one day at a time by the Grace of God. I also keep in mind – if I’m worried, I need God. If I have God, I have no need to worry. God has always provided for all our needs as we needed them. When I struggle to sleep (which is rare LOL), my blessings prayers are from A-Z, but maybe with a twist. I may say – I am thankful for Ashley (one of my daughters) then I’ll say a prayer for Ashley. I try to think of only one thing for that letter and the next time I have to do the A-Z thing, I think of someone or something else. If I fall asleep before Z and the next night I struggle for sleep…I try to remember where I left off the night before and begin there. That way all the letters have a chance. Rarely do I make it to Z in one or even two nights. And for what it is worth, to those who think we have to give each child one on one time…..most kids really don’t want one on one time with just a parent. They want to bring a friend, just so happens that most of the time my kids’ friends are each other. So I may take all 3 teen girls somewhere for that “one on one” time. Or all 5 teen boys. We always have dinner together (breakfast and lunch too, except for Dad) because we do homeschool. Remember, if God called us to it (larger than typical families) He takes us through it, and He doesn’t call the prepared, He prepares the called. So if He is calling you to do something that seems farfetched…..hang on tight, it’ll be the ride of your life. I wouldn’t change anything about our larger than typical family or my daily life. I don’t feel I gave up anything for this life. My call has always been to be a mom…I had no clue it would be for 18 kids LOL I was thinking “maybe 4”.
    God’s Blessings be with you all as you answer God with “I am here God, what’s up?”

  • John M. Stegeman

    As a new parent of only one, I can’t imagine what life is going to be like when we hit 2, let along 5-6-7-8 or more, but we’re open to God’s gift of life and hope for his grace to help us through.

    Still, I read this and find myself praying He will better conform my will to His, because that doesn’t sound like a happy time.

    That’s my problem though, I believe your advice is good.

  • Doug

    Taylor, this was a spectacular post! Thanks!!!

  • Maria

    Thank you for such a beautiful and realistic piece! I am the oldest of 7 and there is nothing better in the world. It is God who has made our family as awesome as it is. My parents have taught us our faith well. They draw their strength from God, especially by going to adoration, and catching a daily mass in addition to Sunday when they can. They’ve taught us to obey and trust God, and guess what, it works. I have 6 best friends, well, 8 including mom and dad. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Siblings are the best gift you can give your children. I can’t tell you how many ways growing up with a bunch of siblings has been beneficial. We learn to share, to be responsible; us older kids know how to make a bottle and change diapers, etc (parenting skills we’ll have for our future), we had a job chart so everyone learns to pitch in and clean, and so much more. Keeping the right attitude, the focus on God, and drawing your strength from Him will work beautiful wonders. Of course, God gave us each other, community. He helps us through others, so take #5 to heart, reach out to other families and share your journey. And definitely, get sleep. 🙂 And if you are unable to have a bunch or any kids, realize that your ATTITUDE – openness to life – is life giving to others. Pray to God to know His calling for you. I have no doubt that He has an incredible plan for you to give life to others in a very special way. God Bless all of you!

  • yugee

    Also interact with other parents with large families, it will help children also come to the realization that there are other families as large as their own.

  • Sarah

    This is wonderful! Thank you! And I will definitely pass this on. We have six children—10 to 2 with a set of twins in there! So, I can definitely relate to all of the above. My husband is struggling with the sleep part lately; it has come out of nowhere but is definitely a cross right now. Praying for his recovery soon … And praying for that mentor couple as well! 🙂

  • Therese Warmus

    Fun, fun, fun! (Love your rebooted site!) Dr. Marshall, you are just what families need. 😉

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  • Momannb6

    I was told often that I had too many children. I was shamed in public by random strangers, neighbors who had opinions, and even family. I want to make an announcement. At sixty, I do not regret having six kids. I DO regret not having more. They are my only wealth, outside Jesus. Oh I have quite a normal retirement, and I have been careful about the housing since day one, but if this economy teaches anything, it is only that there are very few REAL investments. You have ou family. If you are fortunate to live in a safe affordable spot, you may have a good piece of real estate, that is more a blessing than a burden. You have your religion which if you have passed on will yield the wealth that is grandchildren.
    I regret EVERY time I contracepted. I even regret trying so hard to avoid pregnancy “legalistically”. Every kid has been more than a blessing, more than a blessing. Even those I miscarried. social pThe social pressure of people who lived on charge cards, and had two or three kids and accused ME of hogging the world’s resources should have not troubled my mind. My children and my children’s children will support THEIR indebted social security, make their world safe, and are making our world a better place to live. Every child is a joy, and especially children born into loving LARGE families. These children are treasures.

    • Momannb6

      Thank you for the big picture perspective. If love to share a cup of coffee and learn more from you.

  • Hope

    Parts of this made me laugh out loud (the excel sheet and fitting 28 kids in 2 bedrooms)! Other parts re-solidified those truths about Christian priorities that I too often forget about. Thank you!

  • wife at livinglegym

    #6 read blogs of other large families for enouragement! Thanks for sharing. My husband also has a blog about daily life in a large family.

  • Mina Milburn

    Extra emphasis on #4! Not taking time to have fun with your kids is like buying a piano and not ever playing it, or buying Great Books and not reading them, only worse because the piano and books will be the same for generations, but your children will not be children for long. The very best thing about kids is that they are fun! Do not miss having fun with your kids every day, it is the reward for all the work of family life, it may even be the point. I can imagine if the Fall hadn’t happened: Eve: “Father, what is this thing growing in me?” God: “It’s a baby! a tiny human!” Eve: “how fascinating, what will we do with it?” God: “Oh, we’ll play peek-a-boo and dance the hokey-pokey and climb trees just for fun!” Eve: “wow! The Garden just gets better & better doesn’t it Adam? Adam?” Adam: “zzzzz- zzzzz”

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  • Katrina

    Thank you for this. Much needed after a week of sick kids, and changes of plan due to said sick kids.

  • Michelle

    Maybe this is a plus for those of us who quality for a post that I will now look for entitled, “Large Families with Old Parents”. My poor DH. Our oldest is 23, 20, 14, 10, 7, twin 3’s, and newbie 11 months. The plus is that my fertility is almost over ~ looking up ~ sorry God. It’s always been about His will anyway. Thankfully, I do love babies. The bigger ones????………LOL. That is laugh out loud right? JK.

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  • Rocio Fernandez

    I am the eleventh out of twelve children. We are a very close family with 33 nephews and nieces and I love it! My parents certainly did many of the things the article mentioned. I have to say that my biggest treasure is my family, I feel one of the luckiest women because of all the love I have because of my huge family. It takes work and it is always rewarding. Too bad I was only able to have 3 children of my own.

  • Cheryl Biermann

    Find a parish that values every family size, afterall we don’t know why they have two, do we? Also remember they aren’t here forever, some may even die too young, one of mine did, the main thing is to raise them to be joy filled Catholics in all that entails. God bless you.

  • Jacqueline

    I want to pin so many of your articles on Pinterest! Could you add a Pinterest button, please!

  • Elizabeth

    As one mother of eight told me, “Don’t compare the interior of your family life with the exterior of someone else’s family life.”

  • Jenny Cook

    Thanks for this article. My husband and I are considering coming into full communion with the church (we are Protestants) and this has been a bone of contention. As you know, most Protestants view birth control as God’s gift to married couples and there is a strong undercurrent of, “Parents with lots of kids must be irresponsible…haven’t they heard of birth control??” I am happy to say I have never encountered this attitude in the Catholic church we are attending right now, and I’m equally happy that when the moms get together, talking about getting tubes tied or sending the hubby in for the snip snip are NOT part of the conversation.

  • td10

    I want to encourage all parents of large families, not only as a mother to 11, but as a sibling to 12. My brothers and sisters are remarkable people, my best friends and the greatest gift,other than faith, that our parents gave to us. Our 50 nieces and nephews are a formidable support system and safety net to each other and always travel in a gaggle. They are never lonely and face the struggles of growing up with a true friends by their sides. We do a weekly Rosary with extended family( 40 or 50 for the Rosary is a modest count) and the cantankerous teenagers are the most likely attendees. The first question my little ones ask on Monday morning is,”Who’s having the Rosary ‘party’ on Friday?” My parents, though not perfect, were such a beautiful example of sacrificial love. My dad, who passed away 10 years ago, left behind a legacy of service and selflessness for his children and grandchildren to emulate. Facing every manner of hardship along the way, my parents relied on an arsenal of unshakeable faith, unabashed love for their children, and a deep respect for the sacramental vows they made to each other. They also remained”in love” through their entire marriage. I remember being a little girl, diving around the seats of our old volkswagon van, waiting for my mother to emerge from the grocery store, my dad would spot her first as she hurried with an overloaded cart, probably very pregnant, wearing one of his old work shirts and no lipstick, he’d say like a love-struck teenager,”Isn’t your mother the most beautiful woman in the world?” No matter what the world tells us, we know better. Our vocation as parents to many only increases our opportunities for love and service, a lesson which will alter history in the hands of the generations who come from the holy union of our marriage.

  • LeAnna

    Thank you so much for this! It was such a great reminder. I’ve found that on the days that I remind myself that my vocation is “married life” it gets a lot easier to cope even if things are feeling insane. It reminds me that this is the path that God has chosen for me and that I’m serving Him through caring for my family. That mindset makes a difference!

  • Catherine

    People have to be really careful with home schooling. It is not for everyone and I have seen the stress break up 2 families. While people want to be in control of their children’s learning, some parents are not suited to it, so sending kids to school is okay because even if they pick up language and behaviour which is not acceptable in the family, at least parents are home to talk about and guide their kids with family values. After all, in real life, we don’t live in communes but with a range of people.
    I am a teacher and never wanted to home school my kids. I wanted to be their mother in many different ways but not with them 24/ 7. I wanted them to have their own daily news and share their academic life with me when they came home.
    As a matter of fact, I stayed home full time when I had kids because they were my life and I wanted to be there for them. When they started primary school, people started asking me when I was going to return to work. I felt my family still needed me at home, so I stayed home. When they all hit secondary school, people started asking me when I would be returning to teaching and I realised my kids were older, but they had different needs now, so I still wanted to stay home for them. I became a single mum at this stage and found work I could do from home to support us.
    Well, in Australia, kids go to universities in the state in which they live so this allows them to still live at home…and yes, I was there for them. They have all graduated now and fully appreciate that I invested so much time for love of them, and now I am back teaching full time and I love it. At last…spending money for me now.

    Catherine