Are Big Families Really The Happiest Families?

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When I first read about the study saying families with over four kids are happier I confess I was dumbstruck.

As a mother of three I can’t conceive that adding to the current levels of chaos could be anything but absolute insanity and torture.

Reportedly, the five-year study looked at different family groupings based on their responses to a questionnaire evaluating resilience, social support, self-esteem and life satisfaction.

The outcome was that parents with four or more kids ranked the highest in relation to life satisfaction, closely followed by same-sex parents.

Still not believing the empirical evidence, I had to talk to people who were living this “dream” to see if it was real.

Not surprisingly, everyone’s experience is slightly different. Things like family make up, age gaps and children’s unique needs are different in each family, which colours their experience.

There are some things the mums I spoke to did have in common though.

Big Families, Big Challenges

They almost all agreed that the biggest challenge with a large family is finding ways to spend one-on-one time with each child and meeting their unique needs.

“What works for one doesn’t work for the other. Kids feel like you might be softer on one but that’s just because that child responds better that way,” explains mum of 4, Katie.

As I suspected, chaos levels also can be trying. “The biggest challenge is trying to give equal time/attention to each child and not loose my patience when I haven’t had enough sleep or I’m emotional and worn out from meeting their demands. I also find it hard to find time for myself,” says Sasha of her 4 children.

Mum of 5, Cate agrees. “The biggest challenge for me personally is the sheer amount of noise that they can create. I often find it overwhelming (especially school holidays).”

Big Families, Big Love

There is a unanimous view on the upsides though, and that’s the relationship the kids have with each other and their parents.

“Never lonely, always love and laughter and they’re my tribe. We have to work as a team!” says Katie.

“There is never a shortage of cuddles, the kids look out for each other and there is always someone to play with/dance it out/annoy, there is also always someone there to help with the baby when I need to shower or pee in private!” laughs Sasha.

When asked if they agreed with the research findings, the mum’s weren’t convinced but still wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I guess because I’ve had them for so long I’ve had to find my happy amongst them. If I had to rewind life twenty years, I’m pretty sure that I would still have all of them, just because I couldn’t imagine a life without them now, but I don’t know if I could say “having 4 kids will make me a happier person,” ponders Cate.

Sasha feels the same. “I wouldn’t say I’m happier, I would have been just as happy (and look younger with more sleep!) if I had stuck to just two like we originally planned. I feel a lot more confident as a parent. I have never felt so drained at times though. I have to remind myself to refill the tank. I also know I’m never going to be lonely with my lot. My kids are my best friends.”

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Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.

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