Is Eight Enough?


Published in the Casper Journal September 29, 2010

I have eight children.  When we all go to the grocery store, perfect strangers will often stop and ask, “Are those all your children?” (Why do they think I would bring extras along?)
“Wow!  You must be a very busy mom.” (Thanks for stating the obvious.)
And then the inevitable…
“Are you planning on having any more?”  (Is that any of their business?) 
Soon the jokes start.
“You know what they say… ‘Eight is enough.’”
Generally, the comments and attention we receive are pleasant and often humorous.  And I must admit that as the mother of eight, I do love drive-through conveniences, family rates, and two-for-one shoe sales.   In the olden days, big families were more common.  But modern day theories and practices have seemed to reduce the normal family size. 
Even so, having a big family was always part of the plan for my husband and me.  No, we’re not naïve.  No, our children aren’t mistakes.  No, we’re not crazy, (at least, not most of the time.)  Our children are loved and wanted.
            There seem to be three general attitudes in response to big families.  The most common is an attitude of awe. 
“Wow.  You’re really brave!”  Or, “Wow, you have a beautiful family,” are always wonderful comments to hear.  I think that the general public still loves children.
Another attitude which I have encountered is that having a lot of children is somehow irresponsible.  Yet, our large family compels us to be frugal and wise, and we probably don’t use much more energy or resources than a family with fewer children would.  My children share bedrooms, we live without many conveniences which some children would call, “necessities,” and we often use hand-me-down clothes and toys.  And, while my busy mom-life may not allow me time to run for city council or bake cupcakes for every function that comes along; my contribution to society is eight good citizens whom I feel confident will add wonderful things to humanity.
The final response we often encounter is simply, “You’re crazy!”  And sometimes, we think we are!  Yet with all of the craziness, we certainly enjoy a lot of humorous moments.  Once, we received a “group discount” at a restaurant.  Another time, at a different restaurant, we were unfortunately charged an extra gratuity, since we were a group of over eight people.
Then there’s the time I showed up at the library, with six children, having just discovered that I was expecting twins. 
Feeling a bit self-conscious, I whispered to the librarian, “Where are your books on pregnancy?”  
With a helpful smile she responded rather loudly, “What exactly about pregnancy were you looking for?” 
I stuttered.  “Um…twins.”  Looking at the little brood of children already around me, her jaw dropped and she fumbled with the computer keys.
“Are you serious?” she asked in disbelief.  What could I do but smile?
Having a large family is definitely not always easy.  After long days when there are still dishes to wash and baths to give, it’s hard to see the bigger picture.  But most of the time, it’s rewarding.  Our children always have someone to play with, mealtimes are filled with entertaining chatter, and holidays are indescribable. 
Another bonus to having a lot of children is that we don’t have very many “lasts.”   When my son recently graduated from Cub Scouts, I consoled myself with thoughts that I still had two more sons to make pinewood derby cars with.  When my daughter out-grew her toddler bed, I felt sad that time was passing, but knew my next little girl would still have her turn to use the cute bed.  I don’t think I could face some “lasts” yet; and it’s nice to know that I’ll experience the first day of kindergarten again and again and again.
So, to the friendly grandma at the grocery store, “Yes, these are all my children.”  “Yes, I’m a very busy Mom.”  And most importantly, “Yes, I meant for my life to be this way.”
Is eight enough?  Only time will tell.  But for now, I’ll thoroughly enjoy the eight I have.     

Nettie Francis is the editor of The Wyoming Woman Magazine.

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