Where did this idea come from?

Please read this entire post and respond to the question I ask at the end. I am very curious about something most profound…

Wendy and I were interviewed by Kevin Swanson a couple weeks ago, and we listened to it this morning. The conversation went well and Kevin, a skilled orator and radio host, brought out some interesting things. One was quite punctual. Kevin asked, “What do you think they [the camera crew] learned most about your family?” My answer was:

I think they learned that the stereotypes of a large family weren’t true. They envisioned a rigid family, a family without a lot of joy in it, one that was chaotic and out of control. What they witnessed instead was a family with a lot of love in it.

Consider what popular culture teaches our young children about large families. “There was an old lady who lives in a shoe, who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” Old, poverty stricken, clueless. Surely mothers with many children will resemble the old lady in the shoe. How can she not? She has so many children she doesn’t know what to do!

Like many stereotypes, the reality is quite different. We know many large families and, more commonly, these mothers keep their youth and are admired for their agility and confidence. They aren’t controlled by the chaos. Quite the contrary, they are sometimes observed in public leading their many children like a kindergarten teacher leading a classroom of kids. They’re happy and confident. There is not the presumed unruliness and chaos.

The old lady in the shoe begs a question: where is the father? Parenting as a team covers many shortcomings, as most married couples would agree. Whenever Wendy is at the “end of her rope,” I will perhaps come home from work, take the kids from her care, and give her a break. Earlier this year we together decided that bringing the school-aged kids to my office would be a good idea. I school them for 8 hours every week (two mornings a week). Perhaps the old lady not knowing what to do is because there isn’t a dad around to help out.

Wendy and I spend a good deal of time addressing the stereotypes that people have of large families in our book Love in the House.

There is a common stereotype of a woman who has had many children. Her body is falling apart—skin and stomach muscles sagging, barefoot, overweight, and careworn as she chases several unkempt and unruly children. Hardly the picture of vibrant health and beauty. Perhaps this image is partly responsible for the fear many women harbor about having children. They are afraid of how they may come to look, disappointing to themselves and unattractive to their husbands. In stark contradiction, all three mothers featured on “Kids by the Dozenâ€? were beautiful, thin and radiant. Between the three of them, they gave birth to 43 children.

So, where does this stereotype come from if it doesn’t come from real families that have many children? Before I try to give an answer, I would like to hear from you. Fill out a response in the box below, and answer to this simple question…”Why do people have a negative opinion of families with many children?” I am most curious, and it would be interesting to read each other’s opinions.

About Chris & Wendy Jeub

The Jeub Family live in Monument, Colorado. They encourage couples to love God and love one another, building an atmosphere of love in their homes.

  • Tiffany

    There are alot of answers to this question but I will name a few I think are the biggest reasons. I think people have a sterotype of large families cause they do not no any better. They have not been around a large family,they were raised with the “norm” of 2.5 kids,etc… Another reason is many people are closed minded I think in alot of circumstances . Another may be they do not understand that children are blessings from God. I have read many articles and things like that talking about the Duggar family and such and some of it is just vulgar and awful and I wonder why people are so cruel. I guess it comes from Satin! Anyway, these are some of the reasons I think, look forward to reading others responses.

  • http://mammysmusings.blogspot.com/ Rebecca Cook

    Well, I am very partial to large families. But the sad truth of the matter is that not everyone who has alot of children actually takes care of them in the manner you, the Heppners, the Arndts, the Duggars, etc do.

    Take a look at the Texas DFS adoption photolisting by way of example. There are a number of large sibling groups that are in foster care, all over the US, but most visibly in Texas. (If memory serves, there are roughly seven sibling groups in TX foster care at the moment that have five or more kids in the sibling group. There are even a couple with as many as seven kids. That many kids in a sibling group is almost a guarantee these kids will grow up in foster care.) They are there for various reasons, many because their parents are drug users, alcoholics or career criminals and have been neglectful or abusive in various ways.

    Just the ability to have large numbers of children does not guarantee proper, loving parenting.

    So unfortunately, many of the negative opinions/stereotypes are based on real situations that people encounter.

  • Mrs. H.

    I think most people have never known a large family, so they either have the idea of big families being rigid and unloving, e.g. Captain von Trapp, or being total chaos with no direction from the ignorant Mom and Dad, who obviously don’t know “how that happens.” “Conventional wisdom” (which generally *isn’t*) holds that children in a large family are undoubtedly ignored/neglected, because you couldn’t *possibly* meet all those “needs.”
    We have 6 children and to most people, appear to be a “large family.” To me, and I remember Mrs. Arndt (I think it was) saying the same thing–the children aren’t a “mob”…they are my *children*. I love each of them individually and we have developed systems to keep things running.
    That said, I agree with the above poster–the few large families that troop into the public eye with grubby, ill-mannered children, Mom and Dad screeching at the top of their lungs and looking as if they can’t stand those #$%$%# brats…*Those* families are the ones that seem to often attract attention. THAT is the stereotype we work to dispel.
    Now, don’t take me wrong–even we “superior” large families (that’s a JOKE!!!lol) aren’t perfect. In the past, I have arrived at the store, discovering that the toddler’s shoes which *had* been in the van, had actually been carried inside the house. I’ve arrived at church to find that the children who had been spotless upon *entering* the van, had been visited by maurauding bands of mud goblins that mussed them up on the way. I *do* understand the nitty gritty of these “troop movements.” :-)
    Still, I think we need to make every effort to be good ambassadors of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and to promote the idea that, truly, children *are* blessings.

  • Maria

    Hi Chris and Wendy-
    we love your family. I loved watcing the special and seeing a full loving family. I think people don’t understand a big family. I think that like everything else that is foreign to people they have a tendancy to judge negatively. Your family is wonderful!!! I am sure you have the ups and downs like all families— getting through it with fun and love is the lesson in life!
    Can’t wait for the next special

  • Tara G.

    I think that media has a lot to do with people’s opinions of large families. All of my life, large families have been portrayed as hillbillies from the south (I take a certain amount of offense to that because I live in the south). Media has portrayed large families as dirty, poor, and somewhat unhappy. On the flip side, the media has portrayed small families as happy, wealthy, and having access to all of the desires of the world. I also think that people have been swayed by “big wigs” of the economy telling them that they can’t afford to have more than one or two children. What they should be saying is that you can’t afford to have more than one or two children and still give them everything they WANT. There is a HUGE difference in WANTS and NEEDS, and society focuses entirely too much on wants. My mother comes from a family of four children, and I never remember a time when all of the brothers and sisters and their children got together that was unhappy. I can only imagine how the happiness multiplies with more children! I say “HOORAY” for big families. I hope I have one someday. :)

  • Libby

    I think people are becoming more and more selfish and are often intimidated by large families. I spent an evening with some friends from church a few nights ago and they were talking about the recent shows and some somewhat large families we know. Their big reason as to not have so many children was, “How can they afford to give the kids Christmas presents and what happens when they have so many grandkids that they can’t afford to buy gifts for?” Are you kidding me.. These are women from a church that strongly believes in bringing many of our Heavenly Father’s children to this earth and that they are blessings from the Lord. We only have 2 children so far, but we plan on having as many as the Lord will give us. Thank you for your good example and thought provoking question.

  • Charlotte

    I was recently with a group of ladies from my church. The subject came up in regards to a ladie in our small community that wanted (as I do) to let God dictate how many children she would have. She currently has eleven blessings. One of the comments was “is she mormon?” another…”is she catholic?”. I think that these are typical responses. The only thing I could think was, “I wish I could get that ladie’s name so that maybe we could be friends.” LOL I don’t know how Wendy, or many other mothers for that matter, feel about it, but it seems so hard to find like minded ladies to be friends with. Someone who understands you. Most people act like there must be something really wrong with my husband and I.

  • Christina

    We currently have 5 children and hope to have more. Although we are not even close to the size of the large family you are speaking of, we get crude comments like “Don’t you know how that happens?” or “How do you manage all of them! You deserve time to yourself instead of being tied down to children” I even had a Wal-Mart greeter tell me that the children weren’t mine and that I must have a daycare. She asked my 8 year old if the children were her siblings because she didn’t believe me. When my dd answered yes, the lady shook her head in disbelief. I believe part of this problem is selfishness, but how much of it is regret and/or guilt? Is it displaced anger that comes steaming out of them? Could it be the inner struggle between believing the lies of the world and what the Lord created us to be? I know I am answering your question with more questions, but society has become a complex place of lies and deception. Large functioning Christian families go against everything society stands for. We stand out because the truth(light)can’t be covered up.

  • Valerie

    I am a big fan of large families, and I loved the TLC specials. Being from Arkansas, I am also a big fan of the Duggars. I think that the stereotype about large families is, unfortunately, sometimes based in fact. I am a doctor, as is my husband, and when we were in medical school and residency we had to do a lot of obstetrics/gynecology rotations. The female patients who had lots of kids almost always had different fathers for the children, and always were on government assistance. Granted, residency programs usually take care of a lot of medicaid patients because a lot of private physicians do not accept medicaid, so the patient population that we took care of was somewhat lopsided compared to the general population. There was rarely a father present in the delivery room for these women; usually it was the woman’s mother or her best friend who was present. Some of the women even admitted that the more kids they have, the more public assistance they receive! One of the nurses at the hospital where I work now said that in the trailer park where she lives, a young mother in the trailer next to her has eight children, all with different fathers, and all on public assistance. I realize that this is in no way typical of all large families, which is why I loved the TLC shows. I admire your family so much, as I do the Heppners and the Arndts. And your book is great! Another book about large families that I recommend is “Yes, They’re All Ours” by Rick Boyer. He and his wife Marilyn have fourteen kids. My husband and I only have two, and we are seriously contemplating giving this area of our lives to God. I must (shamefully!) admit that the reason we are wimping out is because neither of our kids slept through the night until they were two years old, and we are afraid that we won’t ever sleep again! But we are 95% certain that we will try to have more. We love our little ones so much!

  • http://none Sharyn Kelly

    Our family reads So Many Bunnies often to our children. This children’s bedtime abc and counting book begins… Old Mother Rabbit lived in a shoe. She had 26 children and knew what to do. She fed them some carrots, some broth, and some bread, then kissed them all gently and put them to bed. Please read this to your family. It is quite refreshing.

  • Michele

    I don’t know if large families are stereotyped as much as it is just families in general. The family unit as a hole is no longer valued in today’s world. Without causing too much of a fuss I would like to suggest that large families and or children in general are no longer valued due to abortion and the women’s “movement”. The women’s movement liberated us from motherly roles, saying we had a choice. But truly if you choose to stay at home, you were ridiculed. Women were told they could be more than JUST a mother. As if being a mother to children was beneath women and something that was to be loathed. Then add in abortion. Where a child is no longer a child but just medical issue to be disposed of for whatever selfish reasons. When I see people outraged about the abuse children suffer I want to ask them…..if your treating them as they don’t matter in the womb, then how do you expect them to be valued once they are OUT of the womb? With the role of mother being a lowly duty and children’s lives not of any value is it any wonder that large families are viewed harshly? It stands to reason that for a family to thrive it takes teamwork. If a society is feeding it’s population with the thought that being a mother is beneath you, that the children can be disposed of if it suits you….then teamwork would never factor in there. Thank goodness for families like yourself and others who are not afraid to put themselves in the spotlight. Through your and others witnessing of the blessing of a large family one can only hope that love for family and children can be restored to our world. :)God Bless, Michele

  • http://www.contentmentacres.com Wendy Asbell

    Congratulations on #14. I am currently in my 9th pregnancy, expecting our 6th birth mid-July.

    I think there are a lot of different reasons people view large families negatively. Mostly, we just don’t take God at His Word that children ARE blessings.

    The examples of large families who give a negative example are the ones that tend to stick in people’s minds too.

    Interestingly, most of the people we meet are very positive about our “large” family. This is especially true with the older generations. They share stories of their large families, tell us how much fun they have and have encouraged us to have more.

    The younger generations tend to make the very negative comments. People fear what they don’t know.

  • Annie

    I feel truly blessed to see that large families actually exist, and are not extinct, like the general population wants to inform us. Although we are only on our 3rd baby (who is currently 5 mos), I have already received the generic “you have your hands full” comment about 15 times. Although both my parents and in-laws were from large families, neither seem to embrace the idea that children ARE a blessing. I am sorry that worldview has been so wharped all around us, but I suppose this is the Lord’s plan to get us closer to him, and to learn to trust in his mighty purpose for those of us who share a common biblical view of parenthood. May He be glorified through all families, whether little or large, and by God’s grace I pray that more non-believers would come to know Christ through the few Christian families who DO portray a “good” example.

  • Nancy

    Thank you for putting my heart and thoughts back into God’s hands. I have to say a BIG AMEN to the above comments. I also would like to share how all I wanted out of life was to be married and have 6 children from the time I was little. My husband was the first man I could even say that too when I was single and he did not run away. He said he wanted 2 children when he got married but he had 4 names picked out; Colleen Patricia, Heather, Sean Patrick, and Megan. He’s Irish, can you tell? :>) I tell him I married him because I loved the names of his children, though there were other reasons too! :>) My neighbor’s daughter is pregnant with her 6 child and these words came out of my mouth after the Grandma stated she is 42 and had a hard time emotionally after the last one was born, (Lord Forgive me!) “Are they not doing something to not have babies because they are Catholic?” She said, “No. I don’t know what they are now.” I’m thinking maybe plain old Christians who listen to God’s call. I won a book from KTLF and will give it to my neighbor to give to her daughter and son in law. I STILL love large families…. and also pray that God’s Guidance and Grace continue to touch all families to grow in His Love and Wisdom! Thank You for sharing your lives with us.

  • Carrie

    My husband and I have pondered this question for years. IMHO, I think we live in a culture that is so dependent on birth control, we are no longer comfortable around children. Next time you’re out and about, look around and count the children. They just aren’t there (not a lot anyway). And because we aren’t used to them being around, people are hypersensitive when a family like ours come bouncing in with 6 small ones. Also, I think people have listened to so much psychobabble nowadays they are afraid to say “no” and discipline their children. People tell us all the time they can’t handle their 1 or 2 children, how do we do it? They think of their own screaming, spoiled child, multiply it by 6, and think we’re nuts.

  • Kristi

    I must agree with the previous poster, Carrie. So many people, upon learning we have 8 kids (soon to be 9) say, “how can you handle them, I can’t handle my own 2!” They are sometimes people we know, and we know that they don’t discipline their children at all, but pretty much let them to whatever they want. Usually after people get to know us they are “surprised” to find out that our kids are well behaved. Why is that such a shock???
    So, I think the people who expect large families to be complete chaos are the ones who can’t control their own. I tell them to go listen to Dr. Ray Gurendi’s radio program. No nonsense parenting that WORKS.
    My second thought was media. The most recent version of “Cheaper by the Dozen” is a good example of this. I’m glad that TLC is showing a more positive example.

  • Sarah

    Often I see the ‘dslike’ for large families is that these children are cared for by their siblings not their parents. What is it we’ve been told? Ah yes, don’t grow up too fast, yet these large families have 6+ changing, feeding, burping, babysitting infants. Who gets up in the middle of the night with the infants? The teenagers? It may very well teach them the ins and outs of parenting but what about the rest of life?

  • Marsha B.

    Sarah, Sarah, Sarah did you not read all of the above? I have 4 children which causes people to gasp and ask: Are they all yours? It’s not bad to have a large family. Most people get pets to teach their children responsibility, what’s wrong with learning about responsibility through humans? Brothers and sisters.
    I can tell you that it is good to have more than mom & dad around to care for you. I am an only child and do you know what that meant and still means for me? In my childhood it meant that I was only taken care of by my parents and I had no one to take care of except a dog. Also, no one to play with when my parents just couldn’t. Also, if my parents went out I was left with a sitter-OK for then but nowadays-too scary. When my parents die then I will have to deal with it by myself. (Yes, I have a husband-but he doesn’t have the same relationship that I have with my parents and he loves them.)Both of my parents were 1 of 2, I hope none of you have or had the sibling my mother had. That is to say it doesn’t really matter how many children there are in the family, what really matters is if they respect each other and take care of each other. Isn’t that why we are on this earth anyway? Well, there is more, but we all should love one another as we wish to be loved-the golden rule. That can be done in large families and small families even those that have no children. Just because you learn to burp and change a diaper on your sibling doesn’t mean that you are the sole caregiver and have the sole responsibility of that child. Life is learning process, I had to wait to change diapers and burp babies until I had my first.

    Well enough rambling, point is there’s really nothing do dislike about large families if they are a joy to be around and I know several that are. Thanks for reading.

  • Rhonda

    I have four children. People were thrilled when I had my first and second. With #3, they were somewhat less than thrilled. With #4, the reaction was pretty much like my aunt’s, who said, “Well, I guess I’m happy if you’re happy,” said in a not-too-enthused voice! Even “grandma” said, “Well, it’s more work for me” when I told her our news. (Even though that was basically only babysitting 1 afternoon a week.) My feeling is that you should just congratulate an expecting mother. It’s not you having to raise their child! Just be happy for them. A new life is always something to celebrate. Blessings, Wendy and Chris! My sincerest prayers for a safe and healthy delivery and little one. I’m rejoicing with you!

  • Heather

    I do believe that people think children are an inconvenience. Raising children the way they should be raised requires a great deal of work. It also requires you to be UN-SELFISH! Truely putting God`s way of things first. God`s laws are written on everyone`s heart, but some refuse to give in to them. When they see others doing so, it convicts them, which ( when not seeking the Lord ) turns to anger in order to convince themselves of their way of life. When we put everything in the hands of the Lord, ( even our reproduction ) we can expect those who know not our Lord to question our decisions. When you put how many children you will have into Gods hands, we know you have already trusted him with everything else. Big families show Faith!

  • Becky J

    Way to go! You know what they say…if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Your persistence paid off. And next year, I’m sure you’ll be even less hesitant. Good job!