What is “enough?” Enough food, enough clothing, enough stuff – there are limits for sure. Enough children? Is that possible? God has a plan for every family. While not all people are called to have large families, some are. Each person’s definition of “large” is different as well.
Almost any size family is somehow open to criticism from others: only children will suffer because they don’t have siblings for support and companionship and they will bear the brunt of the caregiving as their parents age. They will be lonely.
Large families are doing a disservice to the children who will be lacking personal attention. They will crave space and resent not having as much stuff as their peers. The marriage will suffer with husband and wife not having time for each other. Either way, the children suffer according to “them.” (them being those people who feel it necessary to voice their opinion to everyone they meet)
I think neither school of thought is correct. I can honestly say 5 of my 6 children were “planned.” Prayed for, wanted, expected. That one surprise came when we were following the Church’s teachings on NFP the least. I thank God every day for the wake-up call He sent in the form of our third child. She is truly a giving, loving soul who teaches everyone around her how to give without exception.
All of my children rejoice over their siblings. They fight over diaper changing (I am NOT expecting this one to last!)! Yes, we have the quarrels over bedrooms being messy because some are more prone to neatness than others. Yes, it is a challenge at times to make sure everyone is getting the attention he or she needs at any given time. Our time management is puzzle like when it comes to arranging rides and practices, etc. Every last bit of it is worth it when I see the love. When my oldest asks me to stop so that he can make sure he gave his sister a hug and a pep talk before she goes to play her game. When I see my 3-year old down on the floor with the baby telling him how to know who she is. “Hi, Nicholas. Do you know me? I’m Rachel, your sister, the tiny one.” Oh how precious these moments are!
As for the only children out there? My husband happens to be one. So is my best friend’s son. They have Mom and Dad’s attention. They can try out many things. My friend makes sure her son knows about sharing and has a variety of friends. Circumstances are what they are – she is no less a mom and they are no less a family because their family is smaller than mine.
Then there are the in-between families. Those families who have two or three or four children. The secular world would say that two is the “perfect” number of children. Perfect only happens in heaven. Only God knows the “perfect” number of children for any given family.
My grandparents had 12 biological children. My grandpa loved to tell the story about how Grandma told him she wanted 12 when they got married, and he didn’t believe her. We asked when he started believing, and he said, “When number 12 was born!” Their marriage was an inspiration to me. My grandma had a stroke right after Memorial Day in 2005. She spent months in the hospital and then nursing home. She was mostly in a vegetative state. My grandpa was there every day to spend the day with her. One day when I was visiting too, he was getting ready to leave (he wasn’t able to drive after dark). He leaned over and kissed her gently and whispered, “Sweet dreams, Babe. You can tell me all about them in the morning. Love you.” She hadn’t spoken in months. I’m sure they had rough spots, and I know they had various trials through the years, but through it all, the love they shared was palpable.
We traveled from thinking we had control over our lives and our family size to accepting that God has a plan for our family, and it was our job to be open to it. Our little boy was born at the beginning of April. He was prayed for and planned. He is our sixth child. Yes, we prayed for a sixth baby. Our oldest’s response when we told him he was going to have a brother after four sisters? “Awesome! I get bunk beds!” (We won’t mention that he will be 14 and over 6 feet tall when his brother is ready for the bottom bunk.) Our children love their baby brother. Are we finished now that we have our “book ends?” Only God knows for sure. No, we did not keep trying until we had a second boy though. How that minimizes our amazing daughters and all that God has planned for their lives. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses and beautiful personalities. Yes, they fight – don’t all siblings? We are all fallen and fail at times. We also try again through the grace of our Lord. We love because He first loved us. There is no limit to His love, and because of that there is no limit to ours. Each person adds their dynamic to our family. Each person adds love to our home and to our hearts. And if we had stopped when the secular society thought we should be “done,” we wouldn’t have even a fraction of that love in our lives right now!
Whether a family is called to be “large” or “small,” we are called to remain open to God’s will for us. He has a specific plan for each and every one of us. By staying open to His plan, we can be part of His unlimited love for us. We can share His love with those around us. Our lives will unfold in the most amazing ways – ways that are not fathomable in our limited, fallen human vision. It is only through God’s grace and love that we are able to see His glory.
Amy is a “cradle” Catholic who is trying to learn more about God and her faith every day. She is a wife and mom, trying to raise her children to know God. She works part-time as a pharmacist and leads a moms’ group and bible study at her church.