Larger Families

Managing family life with the average 2-4 children can be hectic for most women - dividing your time adequately between seeing to their well-being, running a household, and looking after a husband is a full time occupation. Double that average number of children and life could become overwhelming at the best of times. Mothers with larger families often feel as though there are just not enough hours in a day to complete the necessary chores, feed the brood, and spend quality time with each child.

However, while parenting in larger families may appear incredibly demanding and stressful, it is also a life full of love, joy and deeper meaning. Larger families can also be hugely beneficial to the emotional, intellectual and moral development of children. The key to harnessing the positives and making a success of life in a larger family is staying in control and finding a suitable balance for everyone involved. Stress levels, unnecessary conflict and overwork can all be minimised by creating simple but fundamental structure and routine for your family. Below are our top strategies on how to stay on top while coping with larger families.


1. Create a rota system and allocate daily chores

Often, children have the desire and ability to contribute far more to the smooth running of a household than they are given credit for. The key to nurturing this instinct is to make your children feel as though they are needed and that they each play a vital role within the family. Create a rota system, and allocate each child age appropriate daily chores. Where possible, make chores educational. Create incentives for sticking to the rota and use plentiful praise when they do. Not only will this significantly reduce the amount of work you and your spouse are required to do to more manageable levels, but it will also teach your children vital life and team working skills, independence and maturity.

2. Communicate

Having a clear timetable and visual display, such as a calendar or white board in a prominent place with the schedules and commitments of each member of the family is also very helpful. This allows everyone to remain fully aware of what is required of them and everyone else as well as the requirements of external commitments. In larger families, there will obviously be many more competing demands and it is important that everyone feels as though they are being equally considered and respected. Holding regularly family meetings can be incredibly helpful to nurturing a cohesive and respectful environment, particularly as your children get older.

3. Work with your spouse as a team

It goes without saying that your greatest ally in coping with the stresses and strains of a large family is your spouse. This is particularly true when endeavouring to imposing things like routine, discipline and structure on your family. Even though it is likely that your spouse will work full time outside of the home, the moral support and encouragement their mere presence can provide in dealing with some of the more difficult issues cannot be understated, so lean on each other. Realise that you are a team with equal input and responsibility, and always endeavour to show a united and co-operative front. If needs be, thrash out a shared parenting strategy in private, but try never to contradict or undermine each other in front of your children. It is also very important that your spouse actively contributes to the smooth function of the household by doing his fair share of the chores.

4. Encourage siblings to help one another

Within limits, older siblings are often happy to help with the younger children. Allowing them to assist in teaching and nurturing their younger siblings allows them to become role models developing their sense of responsibility and maturity, as well as their self-esteem and general behaviour. The younger siblings should then be encouraged to help the older ones with e.g. their chores or accompanying them on errands. This will helps to build love and closeness between them while reducing the demands on your time. Remember that the focus must be on achieving positive balance for both you and your children. Therefore, be wary of lumbering the older ones with duties and responsibility beyond what is reasonable as it could result in anger and resentment.

5. Create clear routines and stick to them!

Clear routines significantly reduce stress and increase the amount of available time as they take the thinking out of what needs to be done and when. Once a clear and well-established morning, afternoon and evening routine have been put in place, your children will be aware of exactly what is expected of them at any particular time without the need for constant instruction, guidance and supervision. This will again create valuable time for you.

6. It’s all in the preparation...

Often certain tasks can be completed when the children are asleep or at school in a fraction of the time it would take to do them otherwise. Strategic preparations, such as organising school clothes and preparing lunches, during these periods are critical to saving time.  Creating menu plans can also help significantly as they allow you to ensure you have the necessary ingredients and prepare time efficient, wholesome and healthy meals. Your children can also help with these preparations as part of their chores by doing things like, checking the cupboards for meal ingredients and preparing vegetables etc.

7. Allow for natural consequences

It may sometimes seem unkind, but it is necessary that children learn that there are natural consequences to their actions. With a limited amount of time to spare, you will not be able to monitor everything that is going on, and sometimes things may not go to plan or as they should. In such situations, you should allow things to run their natural course. This will not only teach your children responsibility, but will also reduce the pressure and stress you feel to ensure that everything must always be exactly right.

8. Create physical structure and order

The larger your family is the more personal possessions you house will have. This can easily translate into oodles of mess clogging every corner and increasing your stress levels. By creating and allocating space where each individual can store personal belongings, you can significantly reduce clutter and allow for a more relaxing and serene living environment. It also allows creates an infrastructure that your family are familiar with and allows them to develop responsibility for a particular space. This does not have to be an expensive endeavour and can be as simple as allocating each child a personal box, drawer or hook.

9. Seek outside help when you need it

As your children will all be at different ages and stages of development, it may be difficult for you and your spouse to adequately attend to all their individual emotional and academic needs. Having to constantly adjust your parenting approach to suit their various personalities and differences could leave you both at a loss. Seeking outside help from within a reliable support system will enable you to spend individual time with your children. You could also utilise this support system to help in specific arenas such as with homework that neither you, nor your spouse are confident overseeing. This is crucial as it will give you peace of mind that your children are receiving all the attention they need and will give you the courage to push forward.

10. Spend downtime together as a family

It is important that you spend time simply talking to your children and showing an interest in what’s going on with them in a general sense. Relaxing and playing together is also very important. With large families it is easy to make your own fun and you should try and allocate a time to just enjoy each other’s company. This can be achieved through simple and inexpensive activities like a games night, or karaoke night. Going on trips or short journeys together to enjoy activities like adventure grounds, camping or strawberry picking can also have a very positive impact on your dynamic as a group. It will also encourage trust, camaraderie and co-operation which will translate into benefits to your everyday lives.

11. Make time for yourself

Last but not least, you should make time for you and your spouse to simply relax and do some of the things you enjoy together, and to keep the romance alive in your relationship. Often couples with large families and hectic, stressful schedules can end up neglecting one another. Try to allocate time, on at least a weekly basis, to do things like go out for a romantic meal, see a movie, or just have a laugh. Here, a reliable babysitter is invaluable and once you’ve got that crucial structure and routine in place, finding the time for this should be a breeze!

You should also both try to find time to spend alone or with your respective friends to avoid feeling as though you might lose your sense of self in the rush. You could do things like set your clock half an hour early and go for a morning stroll in nature or have a relaxing cup of coffee. You might also enjoy a half hour soak in the tub once all the children have gone to sleep.


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