When Children and Big Families Become Idols In Our Lives

Sitting around the picnic table at my in-laws’ cabin, my mother in law laughed and said, “Could we get any more people around this table?” I looked at the nine of us sitting there and said, “Well, we tried.” There was a little bit of uncomfortable laughter, because of course, we lost our last baby. Later, this conversation caused me to reflect on the idea of having lots of kids.

How we got to our number of kids is an entirely different post. However, I remember when we decided that our home was not complete after having the “perfect” one girl and one boy…I began to think about large families. I read the “large family” message boards on Baby Center. There was a lot of complaining on those boards about comments people made about numbers of children or how people would stare and count heads as a mama and her many ducklings walked by.

large family

I remember being slightly nervous when we announced baby number four. How would people react? Would we get the stares and weird comments? It turns out, we did. I was accosted by a grandmother in a grocery store who lectured me on being more responsible to the planet as my 6, 4, 2, year olds and newborns sat blinking wide eyed at her. This was the first of a long line of comments we received. I had joined the offended group of mothers of many.

There is another side of this club however. Once you have a “larger than most” family…you begin to meet large families. Homeschoolers often have large families (again, the reason for this could be another entire post). When you are surrounded by people who don’t judge you for having children…another problem sometimes occurs. You are judged because you don’t have enough of them.

I’ve talked to SO MANY women who feel the number of children they have is inadequate. They feel sorrow for having ended their fertility because their family just didn’t fit the mold. Some women feel they have to explain repeatedly that they longed for another child(ren) but their biology or their spouse or some other reason stood in the way. Other women have felt left out of conversations or belittled because they possibly had one less child than the other women in the room. Believe me when I say, I’ve been on both sides of this equation.

When we lost our last baby, I was sorrowful for the loss. I was also sad because I wanted to have another baby so much. As some time went by and I was processing my feelings, my good friend asked me a question, “Are you idolizing the idea of having another child?” The question shocked me. Was this possible? Children are a blessing! I quickly realized however, that many blessings in life can become an idol. I stopped and took stock.

Had I ever thought I was “better than” someone else because of the number of children I have been given? Ouch, that hurt. I was guilty.
Was I trusting that God had a plan or was I trying to force my plan on Him? Uh-oh, guilty again.
The reality is that, while large families can often be insulted by others…there are also many comments made to us that puff us up. I can’t tell you how often I’m lauded and praised simply because of the number of children I’ve given birth to. I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has let a few of these comments go to her head.
Having brought a certain number of children in the world doesn’t make you an amazing mom. Raising them well, caring for them diligently, and giving them every opportunity to know Jesus Christ…that’s much more impressive.

One day my kids were watching the Bate’s family reality show and one of the adult children was asked the question, “How many kids do you want to have?” This young mom of three had had difficulty conceiving and suffered several miscarriages and answered the question like this, “Well, that’s kind of a silly question isn’t it? It’s not really about the number of children I want, but what God wants.” If you really have a heart submitted to God’s plan, than you can be satisfied with fewer children if that is what God provides as well, right?

I remember standing in the kitchen hearing this woman answer with faith about her number of babies, and I realized that I may have had a subtle picture of children not simply as blessings from God, but as trophies to show off. I felt a familiar feeling of conviction. Pride.

I thanked God for rebuking my heart and I completely surrendered my family size into His hands. You see, surrendering to Him doesn’t always mean having 19 kids. It can also mean, you will have five (or whatever number He has blessed you with). Jesus knew in His wisdom that this time of adding babies into our family had come to a close and I thanked Jesus for the beautiful blessings He has given our family.

I am not “more” than a woman who has zero, one, two, three, or four children. I am not “less” than a woman who has six or more children. My “quiver” size has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else’s. The amount of “blessing” that children are, aren’t in the number of them we receive. They are in living out God’s beautiful plan for each of our families. You are not defined by the size of your family. If you are in Christ, you are defined by who God says you are, and that alone.

Dear moms of many…I encourage you to untangle yourself from any subtle lies that you may be believing. Your children are a sweet blessing, but they don’t define you. Be free from numbers, competition and letting your family size go to your head. Enjoy each blessing He gives you but do so with humility as you interact with other moms around you.

Dear mama friends…especially homeschool mama friends who feel the burden of being left out of the “moms of many club,” please be free. Delight in the gifts He’s given you…not the number, but the individuals in your home. Let go of the pressures around you that say you aren’t good enough because of your family size. Embrace the unique, beautiful plan God has laid before you.

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