Balancing a Large Family: How to Manage Your Unit Cohesively

Family of seven walks on the beach

Choosing to have a large family isn't an easy decision for some parents. Some people want a big family simply because they treasure the relationships they have with their siblings. Some families expand due to adoption or second or third marriages. Still, other parents choose to have many children from the get-go. Whatever the reason for its creation, there is no doubt that a large family can be both rewarding and challenging at the same time.

Are Large Families Common in America?

This question is challenging to answer, primarily because the term "large" is relative. Some people might consider a family of five pretty darn big, while others are still busy breeding even after four, five, or six children. While the question of large families and how common they are, is difficult to pinpoint, statistically speaking, family size is on the rise for the first time in over 160 years. With many families adding more kids to the bunch, better balance and management must be achieved to meet the needs of multiple family members.

Large Family Management Tips

One of the greatest challenges that super-sized families face is how to stay organized effectively. Families are busier than ever, and overscheduling children and adults has become the new normal. Calendars get packed with play dates, sporting events, and appointments. Now multiply those daily needs by five, six, seven, or more! Mom has a dentist's appointment, dad has to go golfing with his boss, one child has a piano lesson, another has baseball practice, a third has a play date, and someone has to watch the baby. Add to this mix the reality of cooking meals, taking care of pets, and keeping the house running smoothly. Without a daily plan in place, life can quickly skitter out of control for a large family unit. Fortunately, effective planning can make a large family's schedule run in an orderly fashion.

Keep a Calendar

With so many activities going on at any given time, a central family calendar is a must. Some of your choices for a calendar include:

  • Print a weekly calendar and cover it with contact paper to function like a dry erase board.
  • Hang a large, erasable whiteboard in the kitchen to keep track of daily and weekly activities and plans.
  • Place a chalkboard style calendar in a central location in the home. You can create a chalkboard wall with DIY chalkboard paint.
  • Download an app on your phone or tablet device that populates everyone's happenings in one virtual space.

The type of calendar you choose to use depends on your family's needs. The key is to update it with activities the minute you know about them, and check tomorrow's calendar each night, so you can spot any potential conflicts and resolve them ahead of time. You may go through several calendar ideas before you find the one that works best for you.

Create a Routine, and Stick to It as Much as Possible

Although routines will change with new seasons, sporting schedules, or children's interests and activities, try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Hence, everyone in the family knows what to expect.

  • Have set meal schedules. While they will change from day to day depending on activities, most meals should occur around the same time each day.
  • Establish spaces of time when the kitchen is closed. Four, five, or six kids coming in and out of the kitchen searching for snacks all day long will make a parent go mad... and broke.
  • Prioritize homework. If right after school works best in your home, go for it. If evening homework seems the way to go, by all means, create that routine.
  • Set bedtimes for children according to their age, with younger children going to bed earlier than older children. Bedtime routines begin long before the lights go out. Create an evening routine that involves baths or showers, a television show, quiet playtime, a story, and a snuggle. Develop relaxing routines that help alleviate stress at bedtime.

Life is ever-changing, as are the people in it. You can't control your gang's every move, but you can make routines regarding daily expectations, like mealtime, bedtime, and homework time.

Family many children

Know Your Limits When It Comes to Extra Activities

The more active children you have in a family, the more activities you will see on the calendar. Sports, music, and extracurricular clubs are wonderful additions to your kids' lives, but not if they run you into the ground. When your children decide they want to join a travel baseball team, take piano lessons or learn a new language, just make sure you can balance the demands. Some families might choose to allow each kid to pick one activity, while others are all about packing the fun in.

Know your limits and recognize when it all becomes too much. Parents will put the kids first; of course, it is what they do, but self-care is essential in a large family. If parents don't take care of their own needs and carve out time for joy and their own interests, they can't meet the needs of their large families. Big families require balance in all things, including activities.

Stay on Top of the Laundry

Any parents raising a large brood will tell you that two things are never missing from a big gang: lots of love and loads of laundry. The laundry is never-ending. It isn't going away, ever, so you first need to accept this fact and then create strategies to deal with the mountains of clothing.

  • Don't let it pile up. While a laundry day may work for a family of four, a family of eight will find it a real challenge to get that amount of laundry done in a few hours. Throw in a load or two every day, come hell or high water. This is one chore you never want to put on the back burner. A parent of a big family could literally drown in dirty laundry.
  • Give children some responsibility in regards to their laundry. Different-aged children can help with varying aspects of the laundry completion. Little kids can sort socks (matching is an excellent skill to work on), older children can put their own items away, and kids approaching the teen years can (gasp!) do their own laundry. Yes, they will tell you they cannot possibly achieve this. You know better though, they totally can.
  • Steer clear of buying clothing items with high cleaning demands. Don't stock up on items that can only be washed on a cold cycle and have to be laid flat to dry. Limit the shirts and pants that can only be dry cleaned.

Make Mealtime Magic

Eating out with a large family can get expensive, and dining at home will often save money and time. However, after a busy day of caring for children and working, parents often feel too tired to prepare a meal. Meal prep is a family's best friend. Plan dinners ahead of time and shop for ingredients. Set aside a few hours on Sunday to gather in the kitchen and create dinners for the week. When you do have time to cook, make inexpensive yet delicious meals for large families that are sure to please everyone in your crew.

Large families almost always have at least one missing member come dinnertime. One kid is at soccer. Another is at dance class, and dad has to finish up work emails. If families don't carve out time to eat together, it rarely occurs. Decide which day you can swing a family meal and require all members to be present. Dining as a family has countless benefits.

Manage the Holiday Season Like a Pro

Shopping for one or two kids at Christmastime gets expensive. Shopping for six kids can run up a price tag that would make any parent faint. Parents with a bundle of kids know that the holidays are a time to focus on togetherness and family traditions. They are not all about presents galore. Consider having each child make a Christmas wish list for Santa that includes:

  • A book to read
  • Something to wear
  • A toy to play with during quiet time
  • Something to create
  • An experiential gift (like a zoo pass) that equates to time spent with family

Organize the Chaos

With so many people living under a single roof, clutter can quickly get out of control. Keep your home organized by creating a space for everything. For example, use in and out baskets for papers the kids need to have signed for school tomorrow, place a rack or cubby space near your home's entryway for shoes, and hang hooks on the wall dedicated to backpacks and coats for easy grabbing the next morning. When clutter comes into the home in the form of McDonald's toys, junk mail, old art projects and so on, decide what you must keep and immediately throw away anything else.

Sort through clothing regularly. Pass down what is outgrown or give it away to charity. Keep a large bin in your closet at all times. Place items the children no longer wear or need in the bin throughout the year, and ship it off to Goodwill when it becomes full.

Family with nine children

Advantages of Having a Large Family

Although juggling the time demands of a large family may seem overwhelming, the rewards make up for the lack of personal time that parents have. Here are some wonderful advantages of having a large family.

  • You can dole out chores and have the children help with the workload of running a large household. You birthed the army. Use it!
  • Children will have built-in best friends for life (their siblings). You will never have to take pals on vacation to keep kids entertained.
  • The children aren't likely to be spoiled since resources must be shared.
  • There will be multiple adults to help with aging parents. No nursing home for you.
  • There is a strong and large support system to help through life's ups and downs. Should anything ever happen to you and your partner, your kids will have each other.
  • Children have the opportunity to spend time with multiple age groups. It's amazing what little ones learn when older siblings surround them.

Family Means Everything

Nobody knows what the future holds. While it may be more of a challenge to raise a big family, especially when it comes to college expenses, insurances, additional vehicles, and limited time, a large family can also mean an abundance of blessings, love, and support for everyone. In the end, your large family is absolutely worth it.

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Balancing a Large Family: How to Manage Your Unit Cohesively