” How have you changed as an activist or advocate?”
My first response was to sputter,
“ I am not an advocate for anything!”
Then I experienced an epiphany of sorts,
“Hey, wait a minute. I stand up for large families in an often hostile society!”
In my experience as a mother of nine children, I have encountered more condemnation than acceptance, more questions that understanding. Perhaps it is because I do not look like the mother of a large family. I am tiny, look younger than my age and all my life people, including twerpy teenagers, have labelled me as cute. So people’s first reaction to me is shock. Confusion follows because I am happy. Now a joyful, cute, tiny mother of nine simply baffles people. I shatter all their preconceived notions. The typical image of a multi-para woman would be a large, matronly, robust, grim battle-axe of a mother, efficiently marshaling her young charges with little time to coddle or love the poor deprived dears.
Parents with two children cannot fathom how a mother of a large family manages to cope with all the work to keep up a functional home as well as have enough time to love each child. However, more children are easier than less. If you have one or two children, you have to be everything for them. In a large family, a seven-year old will read the same book over and over again to a toddler who loves one particular book. A ten-year old feels important when he can help his six-year old brother who struggles with reading. A young teenager delights in rocking a tiny, dependent infant to sleep.
For me, family started with three. I found one child horrendous, two a strain but three was easy. With three, community started. A community works and plays together and for little children work is as fun as play. I included everyone in ordinary household chores and made chores fun. A trained Montessorian told me that I ran my home like a Montessori school. What a wonderful revelation that was for me. My kids were not being deprived because I often could not sit and play with them in the traditional sense. Instead they received an expense educational experience simply because I integrated them into the running of our home.
It was never too soon to give a toddler a play job such as picking up the toys his younger sibling drops from the high chair, again and again.The secret was to delegate, each according to his or her talents, but never to order around like troops. I always make a conspirator out of everyone. They chop wood, help fix the car, weed the garden, take care of the animals. If they’re still treated like kids or overindulged, they don’t have a purpose and become really angry as teenagers. When parents let children know that their contributions are really appreciated,their self-esteem blossoms and matures
Employers love my kids because they know how to work and do not take anything for granted. Many have said,
“I will give anybody with the last name Juneau a job.”
Large families strengthen the basic foundations of our society. They live lives of greater interconnectedness. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re not an island unto yourself. You learn how to share, barter skills and products with others. My children who go to college or university adapt well to communal life in a dorm or shared house. Just imagine, they already know how to share a bathroom with a lot of other people. They know how to get along with opposite personalities, how to give and take. For starters, they know how to cook and clean up after themselves.
Healthy, large families benefit society. So open your mind and heart the next time you see or hear of one. The condemnation is really hard to handle and totally unjust in a society that loves to call itself open-minded and tolerant.