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:
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?
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!”)
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!