I only have one sister, so I’ve always been curious about large families. I got my first taste of them when I started babysitting. As I got older, I have become close to several large families over the years. They have taught me so much about life and parenthood as I watch them raise their many children.

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Big families can’t worry about the little things. They clean, but they don’t stress when the house is covered in toys five minutes after the kids get home. They don’t worry if they have to order take out because they were driving kids around and didn’t have time to cook. They’re not concerned if a younger child is a little behind on crawling or walking, because they’ve had enough kids to know that they all develop differently. They just want their kids to be happy and healthy. Even though I don’t have a big family yet, I want to adopt this philosophy. I don’t want to get stressed about little things; I want to focus on the important things.

2. Your kids don’t have to be in every activity

The big families I know figure out what their kids like and stick to it. They don’t try out dance, music, art, swimming, soccer, drama, etc. They ask what the child wants to do and if he likes it, they stick with it. If he doesn’t like it, he drops it and tries out something else. They don’t have the time to drive each child to a number of activities, so their kids get more time to be kids. They also let their kids pick what they want to do, instead of pushing more activities the parents want on them. This is a great lesson. Children don’t need to try out every activity under the sun. They know what they like and they need unstructured time, too.

3. Let people see your real life

Parents with big families sometimes struggle to get a babysitter, because of the cost or need to get more than one. But that doesn’t mean they’re isolated. On the contrary, they invite their friends and family to come over and live real life with them. It doesn’t matter that the house is messy or that they’re just making spaghetti for dinner. We play board games at the dining room table after the kids go to bed. I love entering into the craziness of a big family’s home. It’s so full of life. Before I had kids, I would make sure my house looked beautiful before we had guests over and I would make my best recipes. But I learned from my big families that you’ll be a lot less lonely if you let people see and be a part of the reality of your home and life.

4. Help each other

Big families had to get over asking for help a long time ago. Sometimes one child needs to be at ballet while another has basketball practice. They don’t wrack their brains trying to do it all themselves, they call on help. If they want to take the kids to the fair, but need more eyes on the children, they ask friends to come along. I don’t mean this to sound like big families take advantage. They love to help, too! You know who I ask to babysit my kids when I need childcare from sunup to sundown? My friends with a lot of kids! After all, if you have seven kids already running around, what’s two more? Big families seem to make themselves even bigger by making friends part of their family. I used to feel bad asking for help. After all, I’m the one who chose to have these children. But big families have taught me that it’s a beautiful thing to help each other.

I watch big families so I can learn life and parenting lessons at the beginning of motherhood. I don’t want to wait until I’m six kids in to realize what’s really important in life. Let your kids be kids, be real, and love each other. You will all thrive, no matter what your family size.

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Bess Harper

I am a Christian foster mom and have been fostering for over a year. We have had 8 different children in our home during this time. I am also the proud author of “Parenting in the Unknown: A Weekly Devotional for Foster Parents,” which can be found on Amazon.