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When is enough, enough?

Last night brought Channel 4’s show ‘Fifteen Kids and Counting’ to my screen. I have to admit that I had to tell myself forcefully to try to watch with an open mind. Coming from a small family I always craved having a large one but there is big and then there is…well, too big.

This episode focused on two families, the first family in Lancashire consisted of, as the as the show was titled 15 children ranging from newborn to 22 years. The other family from Kent are hot on their heels with 9 home-schooled children and twins on the way.

The northern, rugby team sized family travel by mini bus and every mealtime had to be run with military precision. They started their family unexpectedly at 14 and have never really stopped. Both parents spoke of how they were both given up for adoption as babies and this of course must have an influence on their decision to supersize their family. One of their daughters described the mom as being “addicted to babies” and said it was “her own personal drug.” This description seemed spot on especially when you heard the mom discussing whether number 16 would be a boy or a girl while still pregnant with number 15!

Surely there is something missing from your life if you can only see your life as an endless chain of babies? When do you stop and just enjoy what you have? With the national average having dropped from 2.4 children per family to 1.8 children, many would argue the time for them to enjoy their brood passed a long time ago. Never being alone or lonely was something the parents mentioned more than once as a main positive of their family size, it seemed to me as an untrained observer that this was something they may have experience during childhood and are now over-compensating for. There is nothing wrong with being ‘alone’ it builds confidence and allows the mind to wander without distraction. Loneliness however is something I wouldn’t want my children to feel but I think in a loving family that should rarely happen.

For me being pregnant while my daughter was 11 to 19 months often filled me with guilt. Morning sickness and the general lethargy that comes with a pregnancy made me feel I couldn’t be the mom I wanted to be as I found many times having a toddler around (especially in the 1st trimester) very hard. Most of this couples children cannot remember times where their mom wasnt pregnant.

Family 2 welcomed twin girls which was a welcome relief to the oldest and only daughter, sister to 8 boys. This family may be slightly smaller than the first but I get the impression they don’t plan on stopping the baby race any time soon. To be honest it was this family that annoyed me more than the first. All children are home-schooled by the mom who has to cater her lessons to children ranging in age from 4-13. The lessons seemed failry chaotic and the older children seemed bored and not particularly stretched academically. Their reasoning for home schooling was to protect their children from negative influences as strong, practicing Catholics. Their religion is the main reason for their expanding family rejecting the idea of contraception and stating children are a ‘blessings from god’

However after 8 miscarriages and pregnancies with varying levels of risks resulting in the twins being rushed for an emergency c-sec, why carry on when you have healthy children? I never really understood the Catholic anti-contraception issue as surely modern contracteptives are more prevention rather than cure. The stress put on the mom meant she had her own doppler which she used to check on her babies and was understandably very worried. This isn’t the best state to live in when you have 9 children to look after a well as home school. I just wanted to hear the say that this was the last and that they would count their ‘blessings’ and be thankful for what they have but yet again, another mom talking about ‘the feeling when your baby is handed to you,’ as well as that ‘never say never’ which seemed to dominate both womens vocabulary.

Both families worked to provide for their children but I have no idea how. The dad in Lancashire worked 80 hour weeks in the family bakery with mom often lending a hand, even at 9 months pregnant. But with the moms obsession with every baby having a brand new pram (a point which riled me having recently bought another second hand pram for money reasons) and the family holiday to Lanzarote they must bake a lot of bread! After working an 80 hour week how much quality time can dad have to spend with his children, then again how much time does mom get?

Both families seemed very happy and relatively well behaved given the fact that the children heavily out number the parents. As long as the children are happy and cared for the families choices are there own however the idea of ‘addiction’ is unhealthy in any sense. I just hope that the mothers can find some peace within themselves and look at their children as enough.

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