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Several weeks ago I was asked for my opinion on large families, since you all know I intend to have one. The recent premature birth of the Duggars’ 19th child brought up the questions again. So, I’m finally getting around to answering it! It’s been too busy on the blog until now. :)

And please, if you’re going to comment on this post, read the WHOLE thing and give it some time to sink in first. I’ve thought about this subject for a very, very long time. And those of you who are against large families and/or older children taking responsibility for younger children, please know my mother agrees with you and shared this sentiment with me over and over growing up, and I found it unfair at times that a few of my friends with younger siblings were often babysitting. So it has taken me a long, long time to come to the perspective I currently have, after experiencing many different situations and ways of thinking.

Large Families Are a Blessing

I believe that large families are a blessing. They are not for everyone, obviously, but God intends some to have large families. Some have said “but it’s not fair to the children.” Here is something to think about: everyone has an opinion about their siblings and the families they were raised in. Some wish they had more siblings. Some wish they had less. Some loved it just the way it was. Some didn’t like a particular sibling. Some felt closest to a particular sibling, maybe even more than their parents. But you don’t choose to have another child because one of your children does (or doesn’t) want another. If you weren’t planning more and your children BEGGED for a sibling, would you have another? Probably not. It’s your body and your adult life, and you wouldn’t want to go through the pregnancy and have another child to raise if you didn’t feel ready, even if your children wanted another sibling. Likewise, it’s not their decision to say you shouldn’t have more children. This is YOUR life (most of your life happens as an adult and it’s your time to choose how you want to live it!), not theirs. When they are adults, they can choose their own experience. Love it or hate it, they’ve had the childhood they’re going to have. Not to mention that even if you only have two children (or even just one!), you can’t always please everyone with everything. So it is most important to please God, and then yourself, NOT your children.

Within a family, I believe that everyone has a special and unique relationship with everyone else. It’s not merely about the parents’ relationship with each child, but the childrens’ relationship with each other. Siblings can, and do, share very special and meaningful relationships with one another. I know that already in our family, the first thing Bekah says when she wakes up in the morning or from nap is “Brother?” She doesn’t stop asking until she gets to see him. He smiles at her more readily than anyone else, even when she’s just poking at him or getting in his face. They seem to have a special bond. I don’t have anything to do with that. If she hears him crying, she goes over and pats him or gives him a pacifier or a toy. She offers him her food or her drink (although he’s not allowed to have it). She LOVES him. I hope that they always have a special relationship with each other. I believe this type of relationship between siblings should be fostered because it is the first model for friendship.

Children don’t know how to have healthy relationships outside their families if they don’t have healthy relationships within them. Having their siblings around helps them to learn to get along with others, and negotiate the sometimes difficult areas like sharing, listening, turn-taking, etc. While these skills can be learned in other ways, they are built in to large families.

ALL members of a family have a responsibility towards all other members. It’s not unreasonable to expect a child to take care of things for himself — putting his clothes in the hamper, making his bed, clearing his dishes from the table. It’s also not unreasonable to expect him to help a family member. Perhaps removing a younger child’s shoes, reading a story to someone, getting someone a glass of water while he’s getting himself one. When our children are little, we are training them. Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” If you wish your child to think of others first, you will need to teach him to do so when he is young. When your child is a young adult and is staying with you, would you be hurt if he went into the kitchen and got himself a snack and didn’t offer you any? Or didn’t thank you after you made him dinner? He needs to be taught this attitude of helpfulness and gratitude when he is young.

It isn’t really a burden for a child to have to spend a short amount of time helping a younger sibling each day. A half hour or an hour of being a child’s “buddy” is not a huge chunk out of the older sibling’s day (not saying I would choose this system, just saying it isn’t as horrible as some have made it out to be). It can also help to foster that special relationship between those two siblings. They may truly enjoy studying together, or practicing their musical instruments together. And I certainly hope that siblings (generally) enjoy playing together! Even if, on occasion, they don’t, it is still part of being a family to help one another. It is the responsibility of EVERYONE to help everyone else when they need it.

I believe that today, we are fostering too much independence in our children. We teach them that they must have space, and privacy, and always the freedom to do their own thing. We teach them that as children, they should have their own activities. We push them outside the family as soon as they are old enough and tell them to go make friends, don’t worry about helping at home. Some families don’t even give kids chores for this reason (yes…I have read a book where a parent firmly stated her policy was not to give her kid any chores at all…or even to teach her manners. As this parent only had one child, I don’t really believe her. Perhaps it worked out okay for her ONE child, but every child is different and many would do poorly with that system!). We really push kids to be independent VERY early, from putting their in their own rooms from birth, weaning them betwen 6 and 12 months (if not sooner), disciplining them early but so gently they don’t actually get it (“You better come back here! I’m going to count to 10! If you don’t come, I’m going to come and get you!” Um…that teaches the child…what, exactly?). Why do we push our children to be so independent? Why is that necessary? And what happens when they grow up?

I envision a family where everyone focuses on each other as their primary relationships. They have friends, of course, but if their family needs them (whether it is to help a sibling, do their chores, or have a fun family outing), they say, “I’ll have to catch you next time.” I envision a family where they help their siblings because they WANT to, not because they have to. I envision a family that is so close and loving that when all the children are grown, if one says, “I need help,” everyone else says, “Tell me what you need and I’ll do it.” That is the kind of love and help that I see from my family.

When I think of large families, I’m not thinking of just what’s happening today. I’m not thinking of my individuals who are independent and will grow up to remain that way. No, they’ll grow up to form their own families (whatever size). They will never be really independent. I think it does them a great disservice to teach them to expect space and privacy when they will probably never really have it. They need to learn to live with others instead. Yes, this culture loves to emphasize individualism, but I don’t like it or believe in it. I think we need each other. I think we need to be in community with others, part of a family, at all times. We need to give when we can, and
learn to receive when we need it. People don’t do well at either these days.

As for the Duggars, I can’t speak for them. I don’t agree with everything they believe or have chosen to do. I don’t think in any way that we will be a copy of them or even very similar to them. Being Christians and wanting a lot of children are all we have in common (and debt free, hopefully!). I don’t make all my children dress alike and the girls wear their hair long and only wear dresses. I won’t make all my kids play the piano and the violin (they can choose any instrument, or sport, etc.). I don’t serve them processed food. I won’t give them dormitory-style bedrooms (because everyone needs a space where they can have a few minutes to themselves, even if they’re sharing with one other sibling). But in general, comparing us to the Duggars isn’t really fair. They’re just another family out there and there are things I agree with and things I don’t.

So that’s my general take on the subject. Families are all about each other, they are inherently interlocked, and they all have a responsibility towards one another. Independence is pushed far too much. It’s every adult’s decision how many children to have and what kind of life they want to lead and how they want to teach their children (and for those children, they’ll have their chance too, for most of their life). And ultimately…what is MOST important in a family? That the family is LOVING!! Size doesn’t matter, responsibilities (or lack thereof), etc. It’s that the parents are loving and giving and they teach the children to be that way too. That is what the children will remember when they are adults, not the minor annoyances.

Right now, I know I’m not the perfect parent (who is?). I know I yell sometimes when Bekah has ignored me for the 14th time in the last half hour. I know we have really bad days. But when she picks up a doll, or sees a real baby, she holds it, kisses it, strokes its hair, offers it a toy…she’s gentle and loving towards it. So I know that those moments are what really stick in her head. I have NEVER seen her yell at a doll or try to hurt it or do anything but treat it lovingly. So despite my totally imperfect parenting, something must be going right, huh?

What do you think about large families?


This is the writings of:

Kate is wife to Ben and mommy to Bekah (5), Daniel (4), Jacob (2), and Nathan (born March 2013). She is passionate about God, health, and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and a book entitled A Practical Guide to Children's Health. When she's not blogging, she's in the kitchen, sewing, or homeschooling her children. You can also find her as a contributor at Keeper of the Home.

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33 Comments

  1. I plan to think about this before I respond, but my initial take is that an hour a day spent "parenting" really is a great deal of time when school, chores, and other responsibilities are included, especially because kids are not the parents and shouldn't have parental responsibilities.

    Kids only get ONE childhood. Why wouldn't a parent want to make it the best possible childhood? Saying, "they will have their chance" when they are adults seems self-serving and mean-spirited. THIS is their only chance at childhood; they can recreate themselves over and over again as adults, but childhood is out of their hands; their parents decisions impact how their childhood will be. It's up to parents to consider the ramifications of working outside the home, being in debt, having a large family, etc. All choices are valid, but all choices have consequences – good and bad.

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  2. Lola,

    I'm honestly hurt that you would consider my thoughts "self-serving and mean-spirited." I don't even know what to say to that. I absolutely intend the best for my children, even if I'm not raising them in a way you agree with. I think a loving, giving, helping large family is a wonderful thing, and that there are potential drawbacks to ANY family situation or size. What matters most is that the parents are happy and doing their best to keep everything running smoothly and everyone's needs attended to. The rest is written into the post above. Please choose your words carefully if you choose to respond again.

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  3. Kate-

    I didn't intend for the words to be hurtful. Please accept my apology. We do disagree, however. What matters most to me is that the CHILDREN are happy, not the parents. We had our childhoods; I think we should let them have their childhoods too. Loving and giving families are a great goal. But the parents should model the goal, not force it upon children. I want my children to WANT to help each other and not feel obligated. I'm hoping to form their character for life not forcing their character during childhood.

    In my experience, requiring children to care for one another as "mini-parents" breeds resentment. My friends who had to do this had either no children of their own or very few. They had already done the parenting thing! I think that's sad as I have found parenting to be very fulfilling. The difference is, I CHOSE it.

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  4. Lola,

    Perhaps my original post was misunderstood. I don't intend to FORCE my children to help one another. I want them to WANT to. Obviously if they say "I'm really busy with my homework/chores/playing a game with other sibling right now" I will do it myself. I want to foster their relationships with one another. I believe that the sibling relationships are really, really special and that a lot of parents don't foster them as much as they should. I feel, to some degree, that I missed out on that because everyone in my family was busy doing their own thing all the time. I wished I had a sibling to help or at least play with! I used to pretend my brother was my baby (until he discovered computer games, anyway) because I enjoyed playing with him. I know not all children will feel that way. But I am hoping to encourage those who do to do as they want to.

    As for their childhood, I'm training up their entire character, not turning them into mini-parents. I want my children to be helpful and friendly to EVERYONE. I want them to have patience to wait their turn. I want them to be loving. I want so much for them. Childhood is a time to practice being that way, through many different experiences. Should they have time to play and just be a kid? Absolutely! Should they also have some responsibilities and requirements? Of course! And different families accomplish that in different ways, depending on their size, personalities, dynamics, etc.

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  5. Having traveled a bit outside of the country over the last few years, I've had an opportunity to see how families operate in other places in the world. To put it frankly, Americans are the only people who are incredibly worried about pushing their kids to take responsibility at a young age. In Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Chile, I saw (in both the cities and the rural areas) children as young as 3 or 4 taking care of infant siblings. 3 or 4 year olds carrying their siblings around with the other kids, voluntarily not participating in games like jump rope because of their sense of responsibility (even if adults offer to hold the baby). I've heard (haven't traveled there yet) that in most Asian countries, even including some of the "more advanced" ones (Japan, China) that the situation is the same there – children we wouldn't let babysit watching siblings while parents work or shop.

    Personally, I loved having "kid time" but I really craved time where I got to "be a grown up" by putting away groceries (we did this even when my little brother was 2 or 3) and keeping the pantry organized, bringing my mom the next load of laundry that needed to be done (I got to figure out which load needed it – I was so grown up!), feeding the dog or cats, etc. As a kid, that really meant more to me than the time that I spent running around outside with the neighbor kids.

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  6. I LOVED running around outside with the neighbor kids. Some of my favorite memories of childhood are playing in the woods, building forts, catching fireflies, riding bikes, etc with my neighborhood friends. The freedom of summer was a beautiful feeling. I had pets to take care of and chores around the house as well. But I didn't WANT to be grown up or feel grown up when I was 10 years old. I wanted to be a 10-year-old.

    One memory that particularly sticks out happened when I was probably 7 or 8. My family was out to eat and my sister, 4, needed to go to the bathroom. My dad asked me if I would take her, but my mom said, "I'll take her, Courtney's not her mother." I remember feeling a lot of gratitude toward my mom when she said that. She had a very valid point; my sister was not my child to take care of. Of course I helped out other times, but I didn't want to be responsible for this child constantly. I was naturally more independent than that. You seem to be pretty independent yourself, Kate.

    Emma, your claims about Japan are false. Having studied Japan and having Japanese family members, I know that the mother plays a central role in raising children. Children are not assigned household chores because school is their "job," and chores will get in the way of their school performance. Yes, adults interfere with children's interactions with each other much less than adults here, but they are monitoring them from afar to make sure no real damage is done. I doubt parents would leave young children completely unsupervised while they worked or shopped. Most of the mothers would not be working anyway, since their job is to raise children.

    I think it's great that you want a large family! What if something were to happen that inhibited you from having more children? Would you consider adoption?

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  7. I was the youngest of 5 kids and despite having chores to do (everyone did them on Saturdays) we had plenty of time to play. My siblings are all fairly close and help each other when in need. I became an Aunt when I was 8 years old and consequently, spent a lot of time babysitting. I rarely got paid, but I did it because I recognized the need. My siblings repaid me in other ways, which is how I want my kids to feel in our family. Everyone works together for the common good of the home and we all reap the benefits.

    I agree with you Kate, that fostering positive relationships within the family where we display kindness, generosity, patience, and love is key.

    Even now, at 18 months, Liea loves to help feed the dogs. If she doesn't want to, we don't force the issue. But the fact is that the dogs need fed twice a day, everyday. They are part of our family and we ALL pitch in. Some days Daddy does it, some days Mommy does it, and Liea usually helps. I find that the problem with "chores" is that usually kids are told to do them alone and then it truly becomes a chore. If you bring fun and laughter into your life, family, and home then it won't seem like such a chore. We fully intend to do household chores together and teach our kids to anticipate needs. After all… if we don't teach it now, when will they learn?

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  8. I think I may not be expressing myself clearly. I do think that kids should have some responsibility, but I think the responsibilty should be for themselves not forced responsibility for others (siblings). Helping with groceries, laundry, cooking, etc. is different from being responsible for those chores. Grabbing a diaper to help mommy or reading to a sibling is different from being responsible for a sibling. Kids should keep their rooms or others spaces clean, organize their backpacks and belongings, and take care of pets. These gradual responsibilites are appropriate and provide them with learning opportunities on their paths to adulthood.

    When I talk about giving kids time to be kids, I don't mean sending them out to play with the neighbor kids or playing video games or being on the computer. I'm thinking of giving them time to read, daydream, play instruments, write, play with legos or plastic animals or blocks, do puzzles, and other mind-expanding, imaginitave activities. Kids need to discover their own interests so that they can discover what they want to do when they are grown-ups. Fostering cooperation and sharing amongst siblings is, of course, part of growing up and should also occur.

    Emma, kids may take care of kids in Mexico and other South American countries, but many of those families are very poor and the families have no other choice. My cousin lives in and raised his kids in Japan (his wife is Japanese). They do not expect siblings to take responsibility for one another. In fact, most mothers in Japan do not work so that they can devote themselves entirely to their families. The mothers even buy copies of the textbooks that their kids use in school each day and learn the lessons right along with the kids so that the moms can help with homework. As far as China goes, they have a one child rule so no one is responible for their sibling since they typically don't have any. Perhaps you should compare our methods of child-rearing to some of the European countries in order to gain a more apt comparison.

    Lastly, while, Kate, you may have longed for a sibling to play with, not everyone,as you said, does. Some people gain their inner peace and energy by being around others, and some people gain these things through being alone. I think it's important to respect the emotional needs of all people, especially children. Let them find their likes and dislikes, inner peace, and wants and desires in childhood instead of during a midlife crisis. Siblings can be a blessing if they are siblings and not the older child's responsibility. Having kids is the parents' choice and, except in unusual circumstances (parent death or illness), the parents' responsibility. I'm sure you will do a great job, but I've known women who wanted large families to satisfy their own childhood desires or attachment needs. They have the kids even if they can't afford them (paying only for the boys' college and not the girls')or find the time to adequately care for and monitor the kids they have.

    I see every child as equally valuable, and can't understand requiring more responsibility of older children vs. younger. In fact, I find that philosophy unfair and very sad for the older children.

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  9. Liesl-

    You may have felt differently about having a semi-large family if you were the oldest of five instead of the youngest. Your responsibilty was limited to occaisionally watching a neice or nephew, not every day responsibilities of a younger sibling. helping around the house is different from being responsible for a sibling.

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  10. Anonymous-

    Yes, I agree. Helping around the house is different from being responsible for a sibling. But working together and helping a sibling tie their shoes or go to the bathroom is also different than requiring an older sibling to hold parental responsiblities for younger siblings. Children should never be put in a position where they have to discipline another sibling. My sister would leave her two teenage boys at home together, but no one boy was in "charge." They were old enough to hold each other accountable for the short periods of time they were privilaged to be trusted alone at home.

    No, my Mom couldn't have done it without my two oldest siblings to hold us babies when we were little. (My sister is the oldest and was 19 when I was born, which also meant she wasn't there much as she was away at college.) But my oldest siblings enjoyed that time with us and ultimately it bonded us for a time later in life when we would become very close.

    However, I also think having 5 children is very different from having 19 so I'm not really sure why people would even compare Kate to them.

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  11. I didn't actually see anyone but Kate compare herself to the Duggars. I think five kids is different from 10, which is different from 15, which is different from 19. It stands to reason that the more kids you have, the more the older kids will have to assume parental responsibilities. Some of those older kids will enjoy the responsibility as you claim your sisters did; others will not. Like you said it depends on how much responsibilty is given to the older siblings.

    I've known four large families of 8, 9, 10, and 11 kids. The family of eight only paid for their boys to go to college because there wasn't enough money to pay for everyone. I see this as unfair to the girls. The family of nine lived in a three bedroom ranch and all of the girls had basement bedrooms separated by curtains on a rod. They personal space was limited and quite sad. None of the kids had a college fund. The family of ten still has kids at home. The kids have had a combination of home schooling, public schooling, and private schooling. So far all of the older kids have gone to college. This family is a really exemplary large family. The kids are happy, well-adjusted, ang genuinely like each other. They are all permitted and encouraged to pursue their own interests. The family of 11 is very sad. They appeared on "Super-Nanny" when they were still a family of 10. The kids were responsible for so much of the household and the child care because the mom was overwhelmed. Super Nanny told the mom to put aside her dream of having 12 kids until she could handle the 10 that she had. Number 11 was recently born, and not much has changed. I feel sorry for every on of those 11 children.

    My point is that large families can be great, but most parents can't handle large amounts of kids without help. It's probably best to evaluate how the family is functioning after the birth of each child. When it starts to feel overwhelming, people should probably stop having kids for a while. Setting a "goal" to have a certain number of kids in a certain number of years, like the family of 11 above, doesn't seem like the best strategy to me as it does not honor the children, the gifts from God, that one already has.

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  12. Lola,

    No one's said anything about the Duggars here, but on my earlier posts about "Quiverfull" and others, I was asked several times what I thought about the Duggars and compared to them there.

    Truly, our goal is to welcome all the gifts God gives us. This post was to justify why we feel that, if we do end up with the large family we'd like, it won't necessarily be a bad thing. I agree with what Liesel said; asking a child to tie another's shoes is not the same as disciplining another child! I occasionally ask Bekah now to go hand Daniel his toy back if I'm in the middle of something. And I don't think there's anything wrong with it. But I wouldn't even permit my children to discipline or in any way train one another because they are NOT the parents.

    As far as chores being overwhelming, it sounds like that family of 11 you know wasn't very organized. I plan to teach all of my children to do their own laundry by the time they're 8 or so. They will slowly take more and more responsibility for themselves. Which they should, as they age! If children are all pitching in and the parents (PARENTS) are disciplining and training them appropriately, the house should usually run smoothly. Obviously I'm only running a house of two right now, but we stop and take the time to discipline Bekah as needed so that if something really important happens, we're prepared. Like today, she took her arms out of her carseat straps and she was in BIG trouble. We were parked at the time so there was no danger, but what if that hadn't been the case? I'm way, way off my point here…. If the parents are the leaders of the household, organizing everyone and everything and merely asking for their children to pitch in to hold the details together (putting their own clothes in the hamper, their dishes in the dishwasher, tying a sibling's shoes, helping find a lost hat, etc.) then it should work fine! Does that make sense?

    I think in general we do agree…it's possibly just in the details that we don't.

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  13. I don't understand the families that set "goals" for how many children they'll have. You can't plan that; it's up to God. Besides, aren't they satisfied with the ones they already have? Some people can't have children at ALL, and it seems greedy to me to keep wanting more and more and more….

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  14. Kara,

    Everyone has ideas in their head about how many children they'd ideally like to have. Some even go as far as doing genetic sex selection or keep having children until they get a particular gender! I would say THAT is what is selfish, wanting a particular child.

    I don't think it's selfish to want children or to put a number on it. I feel that God is calling me to be a mother of many. And if, for some reason, I never have another, I will be grateful for the ones I have and I will love them, as I already do. But, in the same way, if God gives me 12 more, who am I to say no? I'm really not sure why you find that selfish, and I hope I just misunderstood your comment. It is up to each of us to really listen to God and what He is calling us to do. And sharing what God is laying on us is a good thing.

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  15. Kate,

    I was referring to the family Lola mentioned who wanted 12 but wasn't taking care of the ones they already had. And yes, I think selecting a specific gender is selfish. I'm not sure what I think about doing genetic testing to avoid a certain gene, like finding an egg that doesn't have a life threatening disease that one parent may have and doesn't want to pass on. Do you have any thoughts on this?

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  16. Kara,

    I think sex selection, or wanting to choose a baby's physical characteristics (hair color, eye color, etc.) are definitely selfish and this use of technology shouldn't even be allowed. As far as serious, chronic illnesses…I wouldn't ever want to be put in that position. It's impossible to say, a parent must deal with a child who is severely disabled or who couldn't even survive the pregnancy. But other the other hand, all life is sacred and killing an embryo because it isn't desirable (even if that embryo isn't desirable because of a literally fatal flaw) seems horrible too.

    I would say it is all best left up to God. There is something He is trying to teach us with every part of our lives. If we lose a child, or are given a severely disabled child to raise, that is His will. I personally will not get any testing in future pregnancies (no ultrasounds, no blood tests, etc.) because I don't want to know. (Please note that if something is WRONG I will allow testing…but I will refuse all routine tests. Except for the finger stick to test for anemia.)

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  17. Kate-

    The problems in the family of 11 weren't organizational. The mother was overwhelmed by the demands of 11 children in 15 years. She had the three oldest children doing most of the housework and watching the school-age children play outside while she was inside caring for the younger children. The older children were unable to pursue their own interests, simple things like roller-skating with friends, because they were so busy caring for the eight other children, doing household chores, and going to school.

    While organization is important in all families, especially large families, someone still needs to meets the needs of the babies and toddlers (typically mom) leaving the needs of the five, six, seven, eight-year-olds needs to the kids that are 11, 12 13, etc. My opinion is that adults should not have more children than they can care for by themselves. Placing that responsibility on older children is just wrong. I don't believe that God's plan is for kids to take on the responsibilities of parents. Once a couple reaches the limit of kids that they can care for without their childrens' help, they should stop having children. I know some people are opposed to birth control, so they should stop having sex. No sex; no babies. It's that simple.

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  18. Aren't you going to have glucose testing?

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  19. Anonymous,

    No. I didn't have it with Daniel, either. It is unnecessary in low-risk, young women (according to ACOG). My midwives monitor any sugar/protein in my urine with small test strips and IF there was a concern, I would consider following up with a glucose test. However, glucose tests are not particularly accurate. The best measure of blood sugar and gestational diabetes is to test your blood sugar at home before and after meals (according to your midwives' instructions) while eating your normal meals, so that you can determine if your blood sugar is normal over time (this is done for a week). I'll cover this in more detail in another post.

    Lola,

    Not all people are cut out to be parents of many — and some, not parents at all. But some are. It depends on many, many factors. And again, it's very different for a parent to ask a child to help another child put their shoes on than it is for them to expect a child to take responsibility for another child or children for a large part of the day. While I don't think it's good, at all, for families to have so many children that they are overwhelmed, not every family would find it overwhelming. All families are different.

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  20. Katie,

    I grew up in a small family of three kids, however my parents shared the sentiments of having the older kids be responsible for the younger one. While I do agree that it helps breed responsibility, the one down side is the fact that it could also make the younger sibs look up to the older sibs more as a "parent-figure" than an actual sibling. Case in point, there's a five year gap between my sister and I, and she will not tell me anything in her personal life to save her life, just because she sees me as a figure of authority. I love her, and she loves me, and we would go out to get our nails done or go shopping, but I can sense that she is not entirely herself around me. I am glad that helping to raise her has made me a more responsible and mature adult, but frankly I miss the part where I get to just be the big sister who she can talk to about the innermost darkest secrets. I want to be able to share my secrets with her too, but when I start to tell her stuff, she often deflects and wont talk about it, but I hear her sharing these things with her friends. When I ask her why she wont share such with me, she always says "you're my big sister and kinda like a mom to me, its just weird discussing that with you"… I dont know what your take is on this, but I feel like I spent my childhood being an mini-parent, and now I am spending my adulthood still being a mini-parent…

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  21. Anonymous-

    That is very interesting. I would say I used to have that kind of relationship with my sister (she is 19 years older than me) but over time it has developed into one where we do share everything with each other. I think it just takes time and a continued willingness to foster your mini-parent/child relationship into more. I think sometimes you can't avoid that happening when there are large gaps. I have 3 brothers between my sister and I, but we are the only girls. And I have to say that my sister has assumed a mini-parent role at times in my life when she really saved my life. Truly. God truly had a plan in place for my teen years with my sister being my "second mom."

    I think I have a similar relationship to my oldest niece. We go shopping and do fun things together, but she doesn't share a lot with me. I persist and always try to share things in my life, but we're about 9 years apart in age and I know over time it will change.

    As Kate said, it is truly up to God. You can plan and I don't think that's wrong, but if God wants you to have more kids then you will! My Mom had two of us after having her tubes tied. I was born when my Mom was 44 years old.

    And I don't think that NOT having sex within a marriage is a healthy way to avoid pregnancy. It's a very unhealthy way to live. You are supposed to have sex regularly in marriage for a lot of reasons. There are other ways to avoid pregnancy without being on birth control pills or shots.

    Liesel

    Reply

  22. Liesel,

    what are the other ways?

    Reply

  23. Liesel-

    If couples are unwilling to use other methods of birth control and are unable to care for their children, then not having sex is a very valid method of birth conrol. Who says couples are "supposed to have sex regularly for lots of reasons"? There are many times in a marriage when sex is not an option (postpartum, during an extended illness or injury, etc.). Is abstaining at those times a "very unhealthy way to live"? Abstaining in order to not have excessive amounts of children is no less healthy than abstaining postpartum. Abstaining in order to give your existing children a good quality life is not only healthy, it is noble. People may enjoy sex, but it is not a necessity.

    Reply

  24. Kara-
    You can do natural family planning (only having sex during non-fertile times where you have to daily track your cycle using your body's natural signs such as vaginal mucus and body temperature), use condoms, or pull out during climax to name a few.

    Anonymous-
    I'm sure we will not agree on this point. I believe that sex is a very sacred part of a marriage and abstaining from it for long periods of time is breeding ground for hostility and resentment. If both parents are truly and completely ok with this as a method of birth control then go for it, but as patient as my husband may be, he would not be willing to abstain from sex for years at time as a method of birth control and nor would I. Sex is a very special and obviously intimate part of our relationship that brings us closer together.

    I understand that there are people unwilling to use birth control (The Duggars) and I will always argue that Natural Family Planning is a perfectly reasonable birth control measure. After all… God did give us the capacity to understand how our own bodies work! And I maintain that if God really intends for you to have a child then he'll just really mess up your cycle and make it happen :)

    Liesel

    Reply

  25. Liesel,

    What about those who are strongly against birth control of any kind? Are the methods you mentioned above considered birth control in that sense? Some religions forbid males to masturbate because it wastes the sperm that could have created life. If you believed that, wouldn't you also believe that condoms and pulling out were of the same wasteful nature?

    Reply

  26. Liesel-

    I believe that sex a very PLEASURABLE part of marriige, and the act of creating a child is sacred. However, if additional children are not something a couple can handle and they are against ALL froms of birth control, then abstaining is the only answer. Sex without the the acceptance of possible creation is really all about pleasure not sacredness.

    I absolutely agree with you the Natural Family Planning is perfectly reasonable. In fact, I'm for any method of birth control that a couple chooses for themselves. That doesn't mean I would choose the method for myself, but none of us know the extenuating circurmstances of anybody else's marriage. We all need to decide what a reasonable size family is for ourselves and how we manage that is size is between God and us.

    As for your husband not being okay with abstaining, what would he do if you were unable to have sex for some reason? Would you no longer be close? Would he stick with the marriage? I think that it's sad if your marriage and closeness depends on sex. Sex is great, but hardly a necessity.

    Reply

  27. Anonymous-

    I bled for almost 3 months after giving birth. We did not have sex at all during that time. For almost a year postpartum there were many problems that resulted in us not being able to have sex and it was hard for both of us. We were both ok though and continued to work toward being able to share in intimacy again and thoroughly talked about how each of us was feeling during that time.

    The fact is that I AM able to have sex so hypothesizing about the what ifs are simply useless. Of course we would find ways of remaining close and stick together even if there were circumstances that prohibited sex long term.

    And each person is different. Each couple is different. So while it may not be a necessity for some, for others it is.

    Liesel

    Reply

  28. Obviously abstaining from sex is necessity for some people and not for others. That was my point. Or did you mean sex is a necessity for some and not for others? I can't tell because of your pronoun (it) has no antecedent.

    Sex is ALWAYS a choice and never a necessity. If it were a necessity, we would have not priests, nuns, or other people who abstain. Sex is, quite simply, a pleasure. People who refuse all forms of birth control can, and should, abstain if they can't care for their children by themselves. To do otherwise is to say that either taxpayers should pay for their inability to abstain from sex through financial compensation, or that their older children should pay for their inability to abstain by being miniature parents. We are human, not animals. We have the ability to make decisions that affect our offspring and limit our offspring. I really can't understand how you, or any reasonable, rational person, could even begin to think you could rationalize creating children you cannot care for simply because you like sex!

    Reply

  29. There's a Duggars' special on TLC tonight that covers the birth of 19.

    Reply

  30. I read this yesterday, Matthew 19

    1-2 When Jesus had completed these teachings, he left Galilee and crossed the region of Judea on the other side of the Jordan. Great crowds followed him there, and he healed them.

    3 One day the Pharisees were badgering him: “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?”

    4-6 He answered, “Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh—no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.”

    7 They shot back in rebuttal, “If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”

    8-9 Jesus said, “Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hard heartedness, but it is not part of God’s original plan. I’m holding you to the original plan, and holding you liable for adultery if you divorce your faithful wife and then marry someone else. I make an exception in cases where the spouse has committed adultery.”

    10 Jesus’ disciples objected, “If those are the terms of marriage, we’re stuck. Why get married?”

    11-12 But Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.”

    I feel like its hard. I’ve been married for 5 months and I pray that I will grow into the largeness of marriage, by the grace of God. Please!

    Reply

  31. Here’s a question I ask all Christians who say that deciding how many children is their choice and not God’s:

    If God is sovereign over everything, and expresses a desire to be #1 in the Bible, where do you get from the Bible that He does not want to be in charge of your fertility and family size?

    I know the question has a challenging tone to it, sorry about that it doesn’t ‘in my head’, but I cannot seem to write it in a way that is less snarky and still gets the real gist of what I am wondering is other Christian’s reasoning behind not letting God lead in this aspect of their lives. I’m truly interested in CHRISTIAN’s perspectives only, b/c it’s no surprise that secular people and I would disagree on this. Thanks :)

    Reply

  32. There is already a HUGE overpopulation problem on this planet that is stressing our resources and polluting the environment more and more. Why add to it? Why aren’t two kids, enough to replace yourselves, enough? I find it telling that this is never addressed anywhere on this blog.

    Reply

    • I normally wouldn’t even post or reply to such a comment, but hey — you caught me in an interesting mood.

      First of all, I already have four children and I wouldn’t trade any of them. So why would you comment that I should only have two? I already have more, it’s done. I cannot wrap my brain around that one.

      Second, my family size is really none of your business. Yes, I’ve chosen to share that we’d like a large family, but I did not ask for input on whether or not we ought to have one. That decision is between me, my husband, and God. I’m not going to sit here and tell you or anyone else the ‘right’ number of children for your family, and you shouldn’t do that to anyone else, either.

      Third, not everything is a conspiracy. I’ve never specifically addressed overpopulation but it’s not because I’m purposely not doing so. I might just write a post on it because of you and others like you who think that it is okay to tell others how many children they should have. For the record, I don’t believe in it. In the majority of the developed nations (U.S., Canada, and throughout Europe), birth rates are falling rapidly, and are now between 1.4 and 1.9 children per family — BELOW replacement rate. In other words, we NEED a small percentage of big families to make up for those who are having no children or just one child. Is it wrong to have fewer than two children? Nope. No more than it’s wrong to have more than two children.

      Please. If you disagree, make a different choice with your life. But don’t tell me how I should live mine.

      Reply

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