Parenting is tough whether you have one kid, three or 10, but once you need a seven-seater car for your growing family, you’ve reached a whole new level of chaos. With four kids of my own and a giant people mover to cart them around in, I can safely say I fall into this category – and I’m well acquainted with chaos!
I know I’m not alone. There’s plenty of other parents of big families going through the same challenges every day. Like me, you all question your sanity and count your blessings at the same time.
This list of big-family challenges is for them.
1. The giant car
When you have more than three kids, you need a bigger car, which I am now the proud owner of. It doesn’t fit into my local supermarket carpark and makes me feel claustrophobic any time I try to get it down a small, winding street. Not only is it a bit of an eyesore, but it takes me about 20 minutes to wrestle my kids into the seats and buckle them in, reducing me to a hunchbacked, sweaty mess before I’ve even turned the engine on. This is why we’re always late, by the way.
2. All the noise
I love my kids, really I do, but sometimes their noise makes me crazy. I swear my ears actually feel like they’re bleeding a times. While the sound of children playing and laughing is a beautiful thing, when it’s peppering a conversation that you’re trying to have with your partner, it’s enough to make you pray for a volume button that you could use to turn them down, just a little so you can actually exchange words with another adult.
3. The constant grooming
Keeping on top of all the finger and toe nail grooming in my house still overwhelms me. They just keep on growing, and because they all complain I cut them too short, they run away whenever I get the nail clippers out. Often it’s not till I have a four-year-old on my lap and notice one of his toenails curling over the top of his toe that I reach for the clippers in earnest. Before you judge me, don’t forget how many other maintenance items I’m in charge of: we’re talking hair-washing, combing and checking for nits, as well as overseeing all the toothbrushing, bottom wiping and nose blowing.
4. Remembering all the things
With all the activities, playdates, school events and homework tasks I have to log in my mental calendar, I’m surprised I remember to put my shoes on in the morning. This one’s a funny one, because with all the insane remembering of stuff we parents have to do, it kind of means we forget a load of other important stuff too, like what day it is, or what our oldest child’s name is. Life with lots of children is so manic and fast-paced that it’s too much of a brain-strain to try and remember everything.
5. Trying to go anywhere
Remember when you had the first baby and couldn’t believe how long it took you to get out of the house together? The whole process was exhausting, and often not even worth going out at all, right? Well, getting out of the house with a bunch of kids laughs in the face of that, and I use the term ‘laughs’ very loosely. Trying to get them to school on time each morning usually has me crying at some point. On a positive note, no one ever complains when we rock up late, because they have no idea how I’ve managed to get out of the house at all … which makes two of us.
6. Contagious illnesses
If anything contagious enters the house of the large family, you’re done for. The germs have already spread before you’ve even spotted the symptoms. You can put your hand sanitiser away and forget about attempting to quarantine the sick one because it’s too late. They’re all going to get it, one after the other – and then you. And don’t get me started on head lice. I found the first louse on my five-year-old at the beginning of the summer holidays, and after delousing each of them every week for the entire summer and washing countless sheets, blankets and teddies trying to eradicate the things, we finally saw the back of them in March. That’s a whole season of nit-chasing.
7. Small toys
I don’t begrudge my kids playing with toys and I don’t even mind tidying them up after a day of play. But the thing that unravels me is the small bits and pieces from toy sets that are constantly under my feet/in my pocket/lost and unable to be found. Whether they’re Lego pieces, Shopkins bits or teeny tiny accessories from small dolls, it’s impossible to keep this stuff in order when you have a big family. I’m sure the toy making people are laughing at us when they make tiny Barbie shoes. I mean, seriously.
8. We’re oh so tired. But in a good way. Mostly.
When all the kids are in bed, sometimes my legs ache like I’ve just run a marathon. I’ll sink into the couch with a loud, old-person sigh, thinking that at least I can watch some adult TV and maybe catch up on some reading; what with the gift of ‘me-time’ presented to me on a platter. Which I really enjoy for a full eleven minutes before I fall asleep on said couch.
When I come to and drag myself up the stairs, I check on all of them peacefully snoring in their beds and, maybe it’s my tired eyes, but the sight of them makes me feel all teary. In a never-been-so-exhausted-in-my-life-but-look-how-freaking-lucky-I-am kind of way.