“A Large Family of Small Children,” Ensign, Mar. 1986, 26
We recently took our children out to dinner. As we sat down at our table, I overheard people next to us talking about children:
“Oh, yes, mine are grown now, and I can tell you, two is plenty.”
“One is all I can handle.”
“That’s the truth. It’s just too much.”
As those people left, another woman glanced our way and asked me incredulously, “How many do you have?”
There was a time when the question would have bothered me. Even as recently as two years ago, when our oldest was baptized the same weekend that our fifth child was blessed, I sometimes felt defensive when questioned about the size of our family. Since each of my grandmothers had eleven children, I had never considered five or six to be anything remarkable. But we have discovered that, by today’s standards, we do indeed have, as one stranger informed us, “a large family of small children.”
After our second child was born, my friends said such things as, “Well, you’ve really got your hands full now,” and “How are you going to manage?”
When I brought the third one home from the hospital, curious neighbors asked me, “Are you going to have any more?”
And early one summer evening, as I played with my four children in the yard, two joggers inquired goodnaturedly if I were running a daycamp.
When we were expecting our fifth baby, we heard, “Did you—uh—want another one?” and “Is this good news or bad news?” at least half a dozen times.
But the question that irritated me most was: “Do you work?”—as if raising a family didn’t count. After one such occasion, I began to reflect—not on the question, but on my reaction to it.
Why do these comments upset me? I wondered. Why do I feel apologetic because my “work” is at home? Why do I feel embarrassed because people look at us strangely when we use two carts at the grocery store—one for the groceries and one for the preschoolers? Why do I feel defensive when the nurses ask me, “Did you plan this one?”
After several weeks of struggling and asking myself these questions, I realized that I already knew the answers. I did not need to feel apologetic, embarrassed, or defensive. I was engaged in the most important work I would ever do—the training of spirits sent to us from Heavenly Father to nurture and teach and love. Yes, we do have a large family of small children, but the lessons we have all learned from each other are in no way small.
I realized that I had been listening too much to the world—caring more for the opinion of others than for the sacred trust placed in me by my Father in Heaven. If I could be secure in my own identity, I would worry less about what other people thought and would be able to concentrate more on fulfilling my great responsibility.
After prayer and soul-searching, I decided that I was not going to feel out of place because we were the only family at the picnic with more than one or two children. I was not going to get tired of explaining to the neighbor who had no children where all that laundry on the clothesline came from. And I was not going to feel guilty or regretful because my children didn’t get the expensive clothes and bicycles and toys for Christmas that many of their friends received.
And so, when I had just the baby with me and the other patients at the doctor’s office wanted to know, “Is this your first?” I enjoyed telling them, “She’s the fifth,” and watching their amazement.
When the librarian asked me, “Are all five of these yours?” I responded, “Are there only five? It sounds as if there are more.”
When the woman in the restaurant asked if I had hired help, I answered, “Only my husband!”
And when the stewardess on the plane, noticing our burgeoning family, said, “But dear, didn’t you know? People don’t do that anymore,” I just smiled and counted all those little blessings.
Once in a while—not often—someone inquires, “Why do you want to make such a sacrifice?” Occasionally I say that I guess we just like children. But other times, thinking of this life and of the eternity afterwards, I answer, “Maybe it’s not so much a sacrifice as an investment.” Thinking of it that way helps me keep things in perspective.
Our family still attracts attention. People still ask questions. But the questions don’t bother me any more, because now I have my answers. That large family of small children? Yes, they are indeed ours—all of them!