This month, we celebrate "large" families-those with four or more kids. While smaller families may wonder how big families do it, parents of larger families wonder how small families cope. And though each large family that responded has different strategies for staying organized, all agree on one thing: Their big families are a big blessing.
My husband and I have six children: Shlomit, 12; Devi, 10; Kinneret, 8; Amir, 7; Nechama, 4; and Noam, 20 months.
Our craziest, and paradoxically most organized, day is Sunday. We have four kids who play soccer. We keep a chart listing who plays where, when and who brings snacks and water.
One of the biggest payoffs for me was when I was at one son's soccer game and another mother asked, "Pam, how many kids do you have?"
I hesitantly responded, "I have six kids." She looked at me and asked, "How did you get so blessed?"
That was one of the best moments of my life. Pam, mom of six, Skokie
With four children under 7, I find our "large family" busy, fun and at times, overwhelming.
My biggest strategy is to stay organized. I have a separate folder for each child to keep track of class lists, field trip forms, etc.
If you stay on top of the laundry it isn't bad. I do two loads every day. Of course, the clothes are getting larger-and we aren't on any sports teams yet-I may need to do three a day pretty soon. Alison, mom of four, Grayslake
A look at the laundry situation at the Thoma family home in Hebron, Ill. (family of six, with four kids ages 5 to 14):
Last year I decided doing laundry by color just wasn't motivating for me anymore. I'm a people person. So I decided to change my laundry schedule to be "family oriented." Monday, instead of doing darks, it's boys' laundry day. I do my husband's and sons' clothes. Tuesday is girls' laundry day. Wednesday it's back to the boys and so on. It's been more inspiring to know I'm taking care of their needs by name instead of color. Sylvia, mom of four, Hebron
We have a family of six - seven with our dog, Miles. Grant is 6, Benjamin is 5, and we have 11-month-old twins-Natalie and Julia.
So many times I hear: "You have your hands full" and "How do you do it?"
Simple. I do it all for the love of my family.
It is also such a blessing to have a husband who is as hands on as I am. Diaper per diaper, dish per dish, we are equals. We are very lucky and cherish our "little" family.
To other parents of large families: enjoy. You are truly blessed. Allison, mom of four, Libertyville
We have five kids: Riley, 9; Piper, 7; Major, 5; Glory, 2; and Saylor, 1. Getting everyone up each morning is like a relay race. Breakfast lasts between one and a half and two hours.
I thought about streamlining it, but decided it is worth the individual attention I can provide each morning.
Eating together is a dinner event, less like a relay race and more like a circus. Leslie, mom of five, Wilmette
How do you cope with a big family? Whoever wrote that query must come from a small family. I have four kids: Francesca, 10; Inno, 9; Frankie, 7; and Luciano, 4. There is no coping-it's not so negative as you may think.
I think your outlook has everything to do with it. You will crash and burn if you or your spouse are pessimistic.
I look at any family with one or two kids and wonder how they do it without lots of siblings.
We don't do play dates or camps as much as smaller families because we don't have to. Ask any four-kid mom what she signed her kid up for this summer and nine out of 10 will say her kids are happy to be home. Ceil, mom of four, Elmwood Park
Perhaps the question ought to be: "How do you cope without a large family?" The natural assumption is that if 1 kid=X work, 5 kids=5X work. Fortunately, that's not how it works.
We have five children, and we're pursuing options for adoption, but we do not feel our family is "large." It's just the right size for making sure there's always someone to play with and for sharing games, chores and clothes.
It's not as much extra work as one might think. Cooking for three can be as much of a hassle as cooking for seven. Seven just takes bigger pots.
It does seem once a family has more than a few kids, people ask about reproductive plans. Someday we'll try the response a friend came up with: "We'll stop as soon as we figure out what causes it." But for every intrusive person, there is another who says, "How wonderful."
Is it worth the extra laundry and extra planning? Without a doubt. Elizabeth and Jud, parents of five, Evanston
We have eight kids: Jason, 15; Amanda, 14; George, 13; Matthew, 13; Kimmy, 12; Heavenly, 12; Johnny, 10; and Bobby, 7. Two are biological; six are adopted.
On a recent trip to the library we walked in with our eight and four friends. A librarian said: "I am so sorry, but we didn't know there was a tour today. If you wait a few minutes, though, I can help you."
I said, "No, we are just here with the family and a few friends to look at books." We all laughed.
Our children are all wonderful. We wouldn't trade having a big family for anything in the world. Sheila and Jim, parents of eight, Lake Villa
Greetings from the Mitchell family. We are a tribe of six: mom, Felicia; dad, Kalonji; Elijah, 8; Emmanuel, 6; Ariel, 2; and Isaiah, 3 months. Every day is an adventure-especially with one bathroom in the house.
For the six of us to get out of the house, my husband or I awaken two hours prior to departure. The older boys shower, followed by the adults, and our toddler and baby bring up the rear.
I'm in charge of scheduling, so every month my husband and I coordinate our calendars. This is helpful when planning a rare occurrence-such as a night out minus the children. Felicia, mom of four, Chicago