Kirsten my "waiter" son.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

RAISING A LARGE FAMILY.

Mary Bellet, mother of nine children, composed several songs to express her feelings on having a large family. One of them, entitled ‘What I wanted to say’, spoke of her visit once to the shopping mall with all her little ones. At the check-out counter, a lady asked her condescendingly how she managed all of them and when did she get time for herself. Mary’s answer was “Wait a minute, please! Look closer and you’ll see how beautiful they are. I would not take back a single day. These eager faces are the best of me. No, I would not like to take back a single day!”

In a world of nuclear families, with grandparents in old-age homes, housemaids a scarcity and the government pleading paucity of resources as the reason for its population control drives, a large family is cause for grave concern. Eyebrows automatically rise up when one announces a third pregnancy. A fourth generates such speculation and whispered comments that the poor mother would rather hide herself permanently from the neighbourhood gossip than be exposed to such overt scorn.

Even gynaecologists nowadays routinely advise women, who have delivered a second baby, to use birth control methods in order to limit their families. When I tested positive for my fourth child, the GP who did the test joked with me about the travails of raising a large family and suggested contraception. When I told him that I wouldn’t mind having more babies, he thought that I had gone completely crazy! He was also quite skeptical of the Natural Family Planning (NFP) method which we had adopted to space our children.

Nowadays, married couples generally follow the slogan ‘Hum Do Hamare Do’, which means ‘a boy for you, a girl for me’ as portrayed in that famous advertisement we see often on TV and in the newspapers. Once, I asked a mother of two boys if she planned to try for a girl and got an emphatic ‘No’. Her reasoning was that it was just too much trouble. She needed to work to pay for that expensive education her children deserved plus the ‘better lifestyle’ they wanted the family to upgrade to. Besides, one had to consider the future expenses of getting the kids married and settled well and, for that, savings had to be made right from the beginning. She was grateful that she didn’t have to think about dowry woes and, perhaps, secretly looked forward to the day when future daughter-in-laws would pitch in to fulfil her dreams.

Openness to having more children is such a rarity these days that my husband and I feel isolated by the views of friends, relatives and well-meaning neighbours. Many probably think we are ‘working overtime’ and ‘out of control’. Recently, I felt reassured when, at a pro-life seminar, I saw that we were not alone and that our family was ‘small’ compared with others who had 6, 10, and one American family even had 17 children! Some of these families had adopted children alongside having their own.


To raise a large family, the wife must be a stay-at-home Mom. Ask any child whether (s)he wants that and you will get a resounding ‘Yes’. My children kiss me goodbye when they leave for school and I am at the door to greet them when they get back (that’s if I am not bringing them back from school). Soon, I intend to home school the little ones and then we will be a merry foursome all day long. Those women, who have sacrificed careers to work from home or just stay at home for the children, are doing the society a big favour, let me tell you. Children need a stable environment with proper discipline, something which only a mother can give. Grandparents tend to spoil their grandchildren, servants just don’t care enough and crèches have the dubious reputation of being criminally negligent.

The world may brainwash women into thinking that a career alone can help them fulfil their dreams, but that is not true. A mother’s job in shaping the future of her children is nothing to be scoffed at. It requires lots of education, patience and discipline to gift a child with the right attitude to life. Most married women agree that it is frustrating to be doing two jobs at one time, in the home and at the office, while the ‘man of the house’ does only one. Well, why do two jobs when you can opt for one? No doubt, it will mean a simpler life for your family as you cut down on luxuries and forget about ‘keeping up with the Desouzas or Desais’. You may have to give up that dream of creating ‘desi’ versions of Bill Gates. A life of poverty can be fruitfully fulfilling as you learn to lean on God rather than on your own merit and money. (Believe me, there are always surprises for those who trust in the Provider of good things.)

During the recession, many fathers lost their jobs, could not secure new jobs when they returned back to Goa and, so, their wives had to find work to support the family. Well, as long as the children have one parent in charge, this arrangement should work out just as well. There was a brief spell in our lives when my husband was at home while I went to work and we did OK. I know of one family with three children who also managed to look after a nephew. The wife now runs a nursery school from home, while the husband (who returned from the Gulf during the recession) transports children to school to earn a living.

It does take a paradigm shift in the mind to adjust to the concept of a large family, given the regular dose of media hype that we are fed with about the population crisis and all that. But once the mind is made up, the rest falls in place. The joys of raising a large family are many and, as Mary Bellet poignantly puts it ‘I would not take back a single day’. Oh, sure, there are times when I long to run away, but then there are also times when my joyous heart feels so glad to have a ‘House Full’. And, when my weary head lies back on the pillow at night, counting the sleepy heads of my children instead of sheep, my grateful heart whispers a ‘Thank you’ to a generous Father in heaven for His abundant blessings. (1,082 words)

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