It’s true – science says so.
It was chaos. It was mental. It was heaven.
Mum was one of six, so our extended family was about 34 cousins at last count.
We had no money but it never really mattered. Home-made parachute tracksuit pants hung next to home-made happy pants that were handed down from our cousins. The pantry was strictly Black and Gold, holidays were had in the backyard and on special occasions we’d split one bottle of Woodies Lemonade and dive into yet another boiled chocolate cake.
It was the best of times and the best of times.
We were never bored. We taught each other how to play games and ride bikes, we snuggled into cubbies during storms, our backyard basketball and cricket games were always evenly split: 2 on 2.
As a child, my big family was joyful and funny and amazing. As an adult, it’s even more so. Having siblings as an adult is like having the best, best friends in the world who will do anything for you and you for them.
But today, when I read about a five-year study that concluded big families are the happiest, it made me really sad.
Because for me, it was so true. But at this stage in my life, having a big family is also a dwindling option.
The study interviewed hundreds of parents from a range of family setups and found that parents with four or more children were the most satisfied with their lot. They enjoyed – rather than felt overwhelmed by – the chaos of a big family. The disadvantages, such as the expense and time pressures, were balanced out by the joy their children gave them.
But worth it? Absolutely.
Except there is just one problem with that study.
Having a large family is just not something many choose anymore. And some people simply can’t have a big family.
Some people would say it’s the time. The average age of first time mothers is getting older (it’s 27, according to the Bureau of Statistics), leaving women with less fertile time.
Others don’t just delay parenthood because of career, but also because of situation. Finding the right partner seems harder than ever.
Then there’s the cost. My God. It’s skyrocketed in the past five years. A report from AMP and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) found middle-income families spend up to $458 a week to raise a child.
But for others, it’s the sacrifice. There is no end to stories about sleepless nights, financial ruin, years spent searching for socks and shoes, filling lunchboxes, ferrying bodies to and from Saturday morning sport and dealing with pimply teenagers with attitude problems.
My big family is the best thing in my life. And to see that there are so many more out there, that it’s statistically proven to provide happiness, is heartwarming and life affirming.
But in the increasing absence of that option – and depending on what works for you and what you’re able to have – any family is good.
And the one thing that the study about big family doesn’t mention is that as long as you have a family that loves you and supports you: numbers don’t matter.
Do you have a big family?
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