I get fatigued by the criticism that is often heaped on big families, especially growing families. Many, if not most, large families are hesitant and downright afraid to announce a new addition to their family, even if the new addition is a puppy!
Critics who are often beloved, extended family will say things like,
- "Just what you need! What are you thinking!"
- "How are you going to afford more!"
- "You want this? Don't even ask me to babysit."
....and on and on.....and on. It is so discouraging!
Equally difficult for big families is the ability to be honest about tough times, especially financial ones because someone will say,
-"I guess you shouldn't have had so many kids"
-"What do you expect! You have too many kids."
-"You haven't taken your poor kids to XYZ!"
Insert the theme park, water park, or movie of your choice for XYZ
So as I am preparing a New Year's Eve post on the blessings of 2014, I realized that I need this post explaining a few things about the realities of big families.
1. The decision for a family to grow is NOT about what a family can afford! It is about what a family can sacrifice. I frankly couldn't afford my first born. Most people probably shouldn't afford any kids, if they really thought about all the what ifs of parenting and what could or might happen. When a family grows, they are saying that they are willing to share and sacrifice all that they have for a new family member out of love.
The growing family is not saying that they have extra money and they want to "pay for" a new kid! Kids are not living room furniture sets. If people want to tell a family that they cannot afford new furniture, go ahead. However, if they want to discourage a family from growing in selflessness, then they need to think about what values a family should teach their kids. Family success is not about how much a family spends per child, it is about how much they sacrifice per child. A child can be lavished in gifts, toys, clothes and entertainment and not feel like their parents love and accept them. The value of a child starts to be established when their joining a family is announced. People need to build up that value, not debate it.
2. Big family values may not look like small family values. Parents of big families do not see it as a failure if their kids don't have snow boots and are using bread wrappers with rubber bands over their shoes. Parents of big families don't view hand-me downs and thrift store clothes as second best.
Big families who cannot "do Disney", NEVER think to themselves, "If we just had fewer kids we could go". Big families instead think things like, "We ended the month with 78 cents in the bank and the dental bill paid so we win!"
It is NOT a
3. Having a BIG family and a small bank account is NOT irresponsible! It is no secret that our family is Dave Ramsey fans. We think he offers the best financial advice out there. The point where we differ is on the goal. Dave suggest saving so you can give, but we feel called by God to invest in our kids. Emergency funds are important and they will get used in a big family. Being debt free (except the mortgage) keeps us sane. Having a retirement savings plan means that we have a hope that we won't live with our kids. BUT we will NEVER live at the level that Dave's full plan offers because we have too many expenses...yes, kids' expenses. Our affluence is not money. Our affluence will be to turn out God fearing, loving and hard working adults with a desire to better the world and who are amazing parents to raise our grand kids!
4. Big families are NOT trying to "milk the system". Sure there are exceptions, but almost ALL big families have two hardworking and industrious parents. These are parents who know the enormity of what they are doing because they live it!
We have 10 kids, and to be frank, it has gotten me gallons of free milk from WIC and reduced price school lunches. That is right...the "system" gave me milk for my kids to drink and a better price on their school lunches. No food stamps. No free phones, cars, etc. NOT ONE!
BIG families don't get a check, just the public condemnation that comes with people thinking that the BIG family is "doing it" for the government check that doesn't exist, even if the kids are disabled! (Pardon the "doing it" pun, I couldn't resist.)
My grocery list alone is probably more responsible for economic stimulation and development in our community than most government programs for small businesses! The reality is that "the system" is milking big families. Doubt that claim? How many of your kids can you count on your taxes? All of them, right? I only get to claim 3 for most sections of the tax code and I have never gotten credit for more than 5 because I would need much more income to claim the deductions of kids 6-10. The tax code is written to help families with 2-3 kids.
So please think before you offer your disapproving opinion on a big family that is growing and/or struggling. BIG families have BIG responsibilities and they know their realities all too well.