by Elizabeth, a mother of ten (so far)

Occasionally I hear negative comments about how I have too many children and about how I will probably "brainwash" my children into wanting lots of children too. I do not believe that I have brainwashed my children into wanting lots children. I have never told my kids that it is "best" to have lots of kids or even "better" to have lots of kids. I have never told them it is a "sin" not to have a big family. I have never tried to make them feel guilty for not automatically wanting lots of children. If they do have a desire to have a large family once married, I want it to be a genuine one, not one that I coerced them into.

What I have done is shown them all the joys of being part of a large family. I enjoy having many children, and you just naturally want to share what you enjoy. I do not force them to think the way I do, but I do share my own enthusiasm for the things I believe in and have been blessed with. I have also shown them how much I love all of them and don't regret having many children. I think they are entitled to know that at least some mothers love having large families. The world is full of mothers who don't, and if they want that point of view they can easily get it everywhere, from almost every woman they talk to.

Whereas many mothers complain about how hard it is to have more than one or two children, I have never done this because I truly have never felt that way. Yes, my children all know that I highly prize each one of them, and they know that I would welcome as many more as God would choose to give me. I am also honest enough to tell them that I have never been too crazy about being pregnant. However, I sure am crazy about those sweet little babies when they finally arrive.

I have also taught them that God's word is true, and that according to God, children are a "blessing", not the curse that some parents make them out to be. If they don't seem to be a blessing, perhaps it is because of the way they are being raised, not because they were born that way.

I have also told my sons and daughters that sometimes God does not always give many children, or sometimes any children, even if the parents want them. They should be willing to accept whatever God gives them, many children or no children.

If my children do not want to have lots of children, then I would not want them to have lots of children. There is no redeeming value in simply birthing a large number of kids. Yet I do believe that they should want God's blessings, and that's what He says children are. God valued his own son more than anything else. We are also His "children" and He valued us enough to die for us, so I'd say that's an awful lot too. God wants us to value our own children as much as He does His. If we don't value our children more than our career, more than our independence, more than any particular lifestyle, more than virtually every other thing besides our husbands and God, then I don't think we ought to be forced to have children. (Of course no one is really "forcing" anyone to have lots of children, are they?) I don't think that's the way God intended it. I do believe that God does ideally want us to want to have lots of children. I believe he puts a natural desire in the heart of a good woman to have children, and the desire to have lots of children is often there too (if it has not been "brainwashed" out of her).

Number of children and "parenting styles"

I believe that the number of children you have often plays a part in your choice of "parenting style". When I had only one child I managed to get by for some time without spanking him. His natural personality was pretty cooperative, and I had plenty of time to devote to thinking up ways to gently persuade him to obey, or to gently manipulate him into obeying. I could give him my undivided attention all day long, so I didn't have to "trust" him to obey in dangerous situations either, I could just shelter him from danger without teaching him anything. I was also never dealing with 2 or 3 other demanding children whilst dealing with his demands at the same time. I'm sure there were many other aspects of one-childness that made it easier to avoid spanking. Please note, that my firstborn son wasn't all that well behaved in his heart, but I had managed for the most part to keep him acting tolerably well on the outside in most situations.

However, a little disobedience, and a few bad attitudes, and a certain amount of wildness, some slight mouthiness, an occasional deception or lie, multiplied by 3 or 4 or 5 children, can quickly get to be pretty unbearable. Often, mothers of many come to realize that they must find a better way to parent. I did, and it's been so much better ever since.

Personally, I believe we are designed to have large families. If we weren't, we would not ovulate for years and years, and our husbands would not desire us for years and years. God would not have urged us to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth". Therefore, it seems to me that it is far more natural to adopt a parenting method that works with one or many children, as opposed to a parenting method that only works with one or two children.

Children immediately after marriage:

Question: My children are getting older and marriage won't be too far down the road for them. I often hear other parents of young adults tell their children that they should "wait a year or two" after they marry before having children so they can "adjust" to each other. What do you think of this?

Answer: I know that many people tend to think that way; we did too when we first got married, but now I think otherwise. I don't think putting off having children helped us any. In fact, it caused some bitterness that I am still tempted to revisit now and then. It also didn't help keep us together. When we first got married we both agreed that although we would live on my husband's wages alone, I would work "until we had children" which we agreed would be after the first year. The "having children" part kept getting put off until one year turned into three years, and I continued hating my job and wanting something else. Every time I was angry the thought would briefly cross my mind: "What am I married for? I am working full time, and I don't have any children, and I'm not happy, and I might as well leave." Of course I didn't leave, because I believed divorce was wrong, but it was a thing that was much more tempting to think about before I had children. On the other hand, after having my first child I was suddenly far more motivated to work out any problems that came up. I wasn't going to do anything to mess up life for my beloved and helpless child.

Then of course there was the tremendous joy of having a child. I was never that crazy about children before I had my own, but when I did have my own they were wonderful. I felt this is the way it was meant to be. Anyway, now I teach my own children that having their own children is part of what God intended marriage to be, and if they are not ready to have children, then they should not be getting married yet. Of course, God does not bless everyone with children, but I believe we should be ready and willing to accept them if He does. (And remember that they are a "blessing" from God. Should we not want a blessing?)

So when are you going to stop?

Question: I'm expecting my fifth child and I'm so worried about what people will think when they find out. I know the remarks and criticism will start. What do I say to these people? How do I convince them that I really don't mind having lots of children?

Answer: I really don't waste any time worrying about what others will think about this matter. Of course I'm not getting any flack from our parents, and nobody else matters to me on this subject. To me, I view it as their choice if they don't want any more children, and my choice if I do.

Not only do I "not mind" having lots of children, but I want lots of children! That attitude really helps when it comes to being confronted by people who pity me for having so many ("the best defense is a good offense"). When people say, "When are you going to stop?" I laugh and say, "NEVER, I hope." When they say, "How many more are you going to have?" , I grin and say, "As many as God gives me!" If they say, "Is this your last one?", I look aghast and exclaim, "I HOPE NOT!" That usually ends it right there. Most people just say, "Well you're a better woman than I am, two are enough for me!" or something like that.

I try not to get in long, serious conversations with any of these people on the subject, especially if their basic motivation is a belief that I am overpopulating the earth. The farthest I'll go is to say to them, "I think my children are all wonderful, and I hope I have another 10."

Now my own mother loves children and has never discouraged me from having many. But, supposing she thought differently. If I got pregnant again (with number eleven), I'd cheerfully tell my mother without hesitation. If she started scolding me, I think I'd say this, "Mom, I appreciate your opinion and concern, but I love having lots of kids, and I am thrilled that I am pregnant, and I hope I am blessed with more after this one." Then I'd drop the discussion. If she pushed me, I'd just keep repeating the same thing and do my best to stay out of an argument.

Parents who worry:

Question: I'm pregnant again and I dread telling my parents. I'm sure they will be very upset and critical. It's not that they dislike the idea of large families, it is just that they worry the whole time I am pregnant. I want to handle this the best way possible because I really do want to spare them the pain and worry if I can. Any suggestions?

Answer: My mother is a super worrier (she will admit this herself). She has never complained about me having lots of children because she had six herself and loves babies. But, she too worries all the while I'm pregnant, and all the rest of the time too, about everything possible and impossible, so I guess I've finally come to the conclusion that I'm never going to stop her from worrying. I avoid telling her things that I don't have to tell her that might worry her unnecessarily, but when I can't do that, I've found that sometimes the best way to encourage her is to be brief, logical, honest, and direct.
What would happen if (when your parents react negatively to your announcement), you just sincerely say, "Mom and Dad, I appreciate your concern, but I love children and I love having children, and I am thrilled that God has given me this child, and I hope he gives me many more." (Then just keep repeating that if they continue to hassle you.) How can they argue with that, anyway?

Used with permission www.atriptothewoodshed.com