How Do Parents of Large Families Manage? Meet Tal and Talia

Photo courtesy of Elgin County Archives


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The following is a guest posting from Hannah Katsman of A Mother in Israel

I have been enjoying Hannah’s blog since I joined her mailing list a few weeks ago, and I especially enjoyed this article by Hannah about how parenting a larger family is in fact easier than parenting a smaller one. This article describes my own personal experience 100%.

When people learn that I have six children they often say, “Wow, I could never do that.” I respond that I didn’t have them all at once. I wrote the following somewhat idealized picture of life as parents of a large family:

Let’s imagine a couple whose first baby is called Noa. A first baby takes up your whole world. Noa’s parents, Tal and Talia, examine every bowel movement with a microscope, count minutes between feedings, and agonize over which toys are most educational. This is not (only) because they are silly, doting new parents, but because they genuinely have a lot to learn about babies. There’s no shortcut for this learning and decision-making process, which continues, more or less, as Noa goes through every new stage of development.

Then little Noah comes along. Noah’s sleep patterns, temperament and bowel movements are completely different from Noa’s, but Tal and Talia already have knowledge and experience. Noa, however, is an active toddler and needs even more attention than Noah. While Noah’s needs can be met by holding and feeding, Noa needs someone to talk to her, read to her, take her outside, prepare her meals and clean up after her, and watch that she doesn’t climb up the bookcase. And she hugs Noah too hard when she thinks no one is looking. So while Tal and Talia thought taking care of one newborn was a fulltime job, taking care of both children together feels like it require superhuman powers.

But this is only the beginning of the story. Tal and Talia adjust to having two children. Talia recovers from the birth, Noah begins to follow some sort of schedule, and Noa grows in her understanding and self-control. Sure, there are crises of all kinds such as illness, a family wedding, and a house move, but Tal and Talia get to know their kids, they learn shortcuts for household chores, and they gain confidence.

By the time little Roni comes along (a girl), things get harder before they get easier. But experience helps, and stages that a four, five or six-year-old undergoes tend to be less draining that baby/toddler issues. Every birth has its challenges, and very fussy babies can throw a wrench into family life. Still, this stage passes. Over the years Tal and Talia begin to work out their parenting style and things fall into a groove.

When the fourth child Ido is born, Tal and Talia are so experienced that they don’t worry so much about the baby. They instinctively pick him up when he cries and change diapers with one hand. When Noa was born, she interacted only with Tal and Talia. But Ido enjoys watching the older children, who can even keep an eye on him for a short time (unless the spacing is very close–I’m assuming a spacing of two to four years after the second child).

Around that time, Talia, who manages the day-to-day running of the household, decides to become much more efficient. She reads up on housekeeping subjects, consults with friends, and makes the required changes. Tal and Talia reevaluate their priorities in terms of time and money–regarding extracurricular activities, housekeeping, schooling, and food and clothing expenses. They make difficult choices, just like every other family.

At some point the balance in the family shifts when Noa can run errands on foot, help significantly with household chores, and share in the care of the younger children. The younger children are growing too–they dress and feed themselves, and manage their belongings. Even if the children are closely spaced, the older children still get to the point where they don’t require so much physical care.

When Noa becomes a teen Tal and Talia have another baby named Amit. The couple can go out for the evening, taking the baby with them and leaving the four older children at home. They have teen issues, but because they are a close family and have been sensitive to their children’s needs all along, they handle them relatively well.

Having a large family is physically and psychologically demanding. Tal and Talia are not as available for social activities. Their lifestyle is different from that of their friends with one or two children. But they do make time for each other and for the activities that are important to them, taking into account their children’s needs. They prepare for the day when their children will be grown.

In a large family, children do not get constant undivided attention. This doesn’t mean that they are neglected. There are two levels of parental care: availability, the level depending on the age and needs of the child, and one-on-one interaction, which occurs less frequently. In a large family some of the children’s needs for interaction are met by the other siblings. And a large chunk of time involves most of the family spending time together, playing or working.

Raising a large family is challenging, and no one should take it on lightly. But as the years go by I’ve learned of the many benefits for both mothers and children.

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  1. Thanks so much for the kind words and for publishing the post. I wouldn’t say that it’s easier, but I would say that having six kids is not 3 times harder than having 2.

  2. Thank you Jenny for posting and Hannah for the light at the end of the baby-brother-shoving tunnel. I love both of your blogs.

  3. I think it’s a fine line to assume that in having a larger family it is incumbent upon the older children to help in parenting roles. They are children (or teens) not parents and I don’t think it’s fair for parents to have more children than they have time to care for because the older children will help fill in what the parents can’t.

    • Victoria Lockheart

      In a way, you are correct. However, learning responsibility early on is crucial to success later on in life. Often times, not giving your kids-future adults practice in being adult like leaves your children unprepared for marriage of their own because the expectation is “the world revolves around me.”. Hence, the high divorce rates unable to share responsibilities even foe one child. Kids grow up with give me, give me attitude.

  4. US, I agree with you in part… I’ve seen large families where the older children have been brought into parenting roles and it doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t fit, the older children are not right/ready for it. But I’ve also seen large families where the flow of life and everyday has been such a beautiful and peaceful and exciting experience that the older children helping the younger is just a continuation of their love for each other, and how much they enjoy being with each other. Very perceptive parents won’t depend on older children more than the children are receptive to help, so that its not a chore or responsibility, as much as just another facet of a rich family life. And taking on responsibility for helping and nurturing, that the environment that I am describing, will result in self-confident, dependable, and deeply caring teenagers growing into adults. If high schools can mandate ‘volunteer’ time, this doesn’t seem so off.

    PS. Jenny, hi! I don’t know if you remember me, but I was one of your husbands student’s, Shira (Yehudit back then).



  1. Giveaway Update and Links | A Mother in Israel - [...] Chana Jenny Weisberg featured my post on large families at TheJewishMomBlog.Com. [...]

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