Thoughts on Large Families, Saintly Patience, and Being a SAHM

SAHMI was chatting with a lady today who was shocked that I am pregnant with baby number ten (most people are). Our conversation was typical for the way these kind of interactions go:

Nice Lady: Wow. Number ten! You must have the patience of a saint!
Me: No, not really.
Nice Lady: No, really you must.
Me: No, honestly I don’t.
Nice Lady: You must. I mean really, just look at you. You look so young, you don’t look old enough to have ten kids. What are the age ranges?
Me: My oldest is nineteen then my next is twelve . From there we have most of the ages down to one.
Nice Lady: Wow. I’m serious though, I don’t see any gray hairs, you look so happy and well. Do you homeschool the kids?
Me: Yes, I do.
Nice Lady: See, you even homeschool! You must have the patience of a saint.

I thanked her for being kind and then we talked about teaching kids math. What struck me today about this conversation is how honestly surprised she was that I didn’t look like someone with ten kids. I wanted to ask her just what does she expect a mom of ten to look like?! And the insistence on me having saintly patience isn’t new either but I always find it to be a funny assumption.

Now, she caught me on one of my better days and I do have a few gray hairs, she just didn’t notice! But I have had this conversation more times than I could recall. I know some of my other lady friends with large families have had similar comments said to them (both about looking too young and being saintly). I am still wondering what people think a mom of ten should look like–Cruella De Vil, maybe?! Why is that exactly?

Cruella-de-vil-4

I think it must have something to do with this idea that has been ingrained in us–that kids are a negative (at least having more than one or two children is). The idea of sacrificing oneself to have more than the acceptable one or two children is ridiculous; unnecessary; selfish even. Why would you? There are obvious negative ideas surrounding “too many children”. Even older people who have come from large families make statements of surprised disbelief. They then proceed to say, “My mom had eight and my grandma twelve (then why are you saying, ‘Holy cow–that’s a lot of kids!’?).” Most people are nice and not trying to be rude. The reactions just strike me as odd. I think the reactions must be coming from two things:

1.) Few couples have large families anymore.  The connection with large families and homeschooling is common, too.

2.) We have accepted,  even if only in part, the Culture of Death’s lies that a lot of children are bad. There is almost always something negative said about large families, even by people who end up saying something nice after the negative comments.

The saintly patience comments are interesting too. I promise I don’t have saintly patience. Sure, I have made an effort and have struggled for years to be patient with the kids. Some days are better than others, some days I am better about it than I was in the past. Then, some days I’m not. Point is, having a lot of children doesn’t mean I am somehow more inclined to being patient or have virtues other moms don’t. Through my vocation as a mom and wife I am ‘working out my salvation’ day by day, moment by moment, and on those really hard days it feels like nanosecond by nanosecond!

This leads me to another thought related to motherhood. I have also been told by people that they don’t know how I stay home and homeschool. Other ladies have told me they could never be a stay-at-home-mom. I’ve heard teenage girls discuss the idea and say they don’t know if they could do it; they might want a career. Now, I am not judging or putting down anyone who isn’t a stay-at-home mom or a homeschooler–at all. But I do want to address these comments too. I didn’t have any intentions of being a stay-at-home homeschooling mom either. As a teenager I was getting my pilot’s license and had every intention of being a professional pilot. Life happened though, literally. A little life came along and changed my world view. Changed everything. That change led me and Manny straight to God and His Church and set us on the path we have now been on for almost twenty years. For our family that path includes me staying home and homeschooling.

Some days I wish I could do something else besides run the household, teach math and reading, and change diapers. I have so many ideas and dreams that probably won’t ever be touched. Letting those things go to put my family first is a part of my dying to self; it’s part of my daily struggle for salvation. We each have one and our paths are different; I am not saying mine is the only way. There are plenty of saints who have walked numerous and various paths to testify to the variety of ways we each get to heaven. My point is, I personally am not more inclined to be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. I live this life because my husband and I believe this is the life God has called us to.

princessbrideWhat I do know for sure is God knows what He is doing. Children can be exhausting, and during much of pregnancy I feel like life is being sucked out of me in the same way the torture machine sucks life out of it’s victims in The Princess Bride. Manny and I have both given up things we have wanted to do in life to raise the family God has given us. That’s not because we are somehow saintlier than anyone else nor does it mean we always dreamed of living the life we do, but because God has graced us to live this life and in spite of how hard things are we wouldn’t trade our children for anything.

Children bring hope and joy where there was none. They bring laughter and energy when you think you can’t go another moment longer. They reveal the love of God in their eyes, smiles, beauty, hugs and kisses. They keep us from being too self-centered and keep our eyes on what matters in life.

So Dear Nice Lady, no I do not have saintly patience. I appreciate your kind words that I look better than I should but maybe you have the wrong idea of what a mom of ten should look like! No, I didn’t always plan on having ten kids (this pregnancy was a surprise actually). Being a stay-at-home mom who homeschools is a huge blessing and gift but wasn’t part of my life plans anymore than it was a part of my husband’s plans.  All of that is way too cumbersome (and too personal) to explain in such quick conversations with people, but I’m sure some of our readers will relate.

16 Comments

  1. We have 6 children (we also homeschool) & hear similar comments. Usually I just try to smile & say, “We’ve been blessed!” 🙂 I laughed at your Cruella De Vil comment! I might feel like her on my worst days…but I do try not to have that expression.. 😉 God’s blessings be upon you & your beautiful family!

    • I think right at number five we started getting the comments about having a large family–that’s the breaking point! Haha!

      I’m sure all of us moms feel like Cruella some of the time!

      God bless you and your family, too! Thanks for reading. 🙂

  2. I really related to this piece. I think having a big family gives me lots of chances to be patient so while my percent of successful acts of patience is the same as everyone else’s, the sheer volume seems impressive.

  3. Br. Gregory says:

    You might be surprised, but back where I used to live, if you have more than two children it’s already seen as a huge family and people make comments like “poor dears”.
    Also, even though I studied in a Catholic private school, in History class we were fed the historical-materialist drivel about families being numerous because they needed more hands to work the soil.

    • That’s sad. I’m not surprised that over two is seen as too many in some places. I’ve noticed people’s attitudes vary throughout the different states, and also depending on the type of people you’re talking to.

  4. The Cruella de Vil remark is fantastic 🙂 Maybe some people just have a hard idea visualizing themselves in your role, so it’s tough for them to understand. I think it’s sad that you’ve heard people say “I could never be a SAHM.” Those kinds of “I could never” comments are disappointing, because it really can close people off to God’s plans for them, and they can trap themselves into one certain mindset or mentality. Just as you didn’t really plan on the SAHM life, there are probably plenty other SAHMs who didn’t plan on it, either!

  5. I think you’re right, AnneMarie. A lot of people often say, “I can’t imagine..” because large families are few and far between these days some people probably do have a hard time visualizing what my daily life is like. Most people are nice and don’t mean anything bad, but then there are some people who have bought into all the lies of the Culture of Death–which is very sad. Thanks for reading!

  6. I find my large family to be overwhelming and admit I wish that I had stopped with 2 children. Please pray for us.

    • I’m sorry you are overwhelmed. I know how that feels. When things get hard in life having a large family can really make things even harder. There are many times I tell God the cross is too heavy and I need help. His grace never fails even if the cross is just as heavy. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

      You and your family will be in our prayers.

      God bless,

      Jessica

  7. I’m sorry you are overwhelmed. I know how that feels. When things get hard in life having a large family can really make things even harder. There are many times I tell God the cross is too heavy and I need help. His grace never fails even if the cross is just as heavy. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

    You and your family will be in our prayers.

    God bless,

    Jessica

  8. Sarah@TheOrthodoxMama says:

    We have three children, and my youngest two are very close in age (fifteen months apart). I was amazed at the comments that people felt free to make to me when I was pregnant with our third! I do choose to be a work-outside-the-home mom, but I applaud and appreciate those moms who decide to stay home. God leads us on many paths. Thanks for the article!

    • Hi Sarah! It’s something how free people feel to comment on people’s family size and choices. I remember so many comments even when we had a much smaller family.

      I also appreciate the struggles working moms have especially moms trying to raise their family as faithful Christians–it’s so hard for all of us no matter which paths we take. Thanks for reading!

  9. Herr Morgenholz says:

    I applaud you. I have a 4 kids. I used to be the stay at home homeschool mom, but circumstances changed, and I had to go back to work. I miss those days and think my kids would be better off. Don’t let people’s comments dissuade you. And be happy you look so young! Since I started going gray in my 20’s and had my 4th at 40 (surprise) I often get asked if she’s my grandaughter.Keep doing what you are doing and God Bless you.

    • Thanks for the encouragement!

      Sorry things changed. God is with us though, even in the changes we don’t like, He is with your kids too.

      Surprise baby at 40–God is full of surprises isn’t He?! I recently turned 37 and am so feeling it this pregnancy. I’m just taking it one day at a time!

      Thanks for reading and the encouraging words, I appreciate them!
      God bless you too. 🙂

  10. This is great fodder for tomorrow’s program.

    Blessings.

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