Catholic Women’s Almanac: Thoughts on Large Families for our ‘Tolerant’ Modern Society


I am thankful for..a wood stove, the scent of smoke and the warmth of a fire for the cool., damp october mornings in Ontario, Canada

I am creatingmore and more crocheting for baby gifts, weddings and house-warming gifts for my adult children



I am joyful that my daughters are artistic and creative as they decorate for weddings and babies, making something out of nothing, reusing, recycling, making the world a bit more beautiful


I am celebrating the birth of a third grandchild, with two more on the way. In the last two and a half years, we have had four weddings, three births, with two more expecting and one more wedding


I am delightfully surprised that two kids buying homes (and another looking) in the country so they can raise their children the way they were raised.

I have been writing: My latest article was posted today, defending large families

Thoughts on Large Families

for our ‘Tolerant’ Modern Society

Large families are an anomaly in desperate need of an advocate in modern society.

A prompt on a health website asked, ”Are you an advocate for any cause?”

I sputtered to myself, ”I am not an advocate for anything or anybody!”

Immediately after that statement, a new idea popped into my mind, ”Hey, wait a minute. I stand up for large families in modern society!”


In my experience as a mother of nine children, I have met more condemnation than acceptance and more questions that understanding. Perhaps it is because I do not look like the mother of a large family. I am tiny, look younger than my age, and all my life people have labelled me as cute. People’s first reaction to me is shock. Confusion follows because I am happy.

A joyful, cute, tiny mother of nine simply baffles people. I shatter all their preconceived notions. The typical image of a multipara woman would be a large, matronly, robust, grim, battle-axe of a mother, efficiently marshaling her young charges with little time to coddle or love the poor deprived dears.

Parents with two children cannot fathom how a mother of a large family manages to cope with all the work necessary to keep up a home as well as have enough time to love each child.

However, more children are easier than less. In a large family, a seven-year-old will repeatedly read the same book to a toddler who loves one particular book. A ten-year-old feels important when he can help his six-year-old brother who struggles with reading. A young teenager delights in rocking a tiny, dependant infant to sleep.

For me, family started with three because then community started. A community works and plays together and for little children work is as fun as play. I included everyone in ordinary household chores and made chores fun. A trained Montessorian once declared that I ran my home like a Montessori school. What a wonderful confirmation that was for me.

My kids were not deprived because I usually could not sit and play with them in the traditional sense. Instead they received an expensive, educational experience simply because I integrated them into the running of our home.

It was never too soon to give one of my toddlers a job such as picking up the toys his younger sibling drops from the high chair.The secret was to delegate, each according to his or her talents, but never to order them around like they were in the army. They chopped wood, helped fix the car, weeded the garden, and took care of the animals. If teenagers are still treated like kids or overindulged, they don’t have a purpose and become really angry. When parents appreciate their kids’ contributions, their confidence blossoms and matures.

Employers love my kids because they know how to work and do not take anything for granted. Many have said, ”I will give anybody with the last name Juneau a job.”

Large families strengthen the basic foundations of our society. They live lives of greater interconnectedness. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re not an island unto yourself. You learn how to share and barter both skills and things with others. My children who go to college or university adapt well to communal life in a dorm or a shared house. Just imagine, they already know how to share a bathroom with a lot of other people. They know how to get along with opposite personalities, how to give and take. For starters, they know how to cook and clean up after themselves.

Healthy, large families benefit society. So open your mind and heart the next time you see or hear of one. The condemnation is really hard to handle and totally unjust in a society that loves to call itself open-minded and tolerant.

I am pondering…a powerful icon I stumbled across called Mary and the Innocents (aborted infants)



14 thoughts on “Catholic Women’s Almanac: Thoughts on Large Families for our ‘Tolerant’ Modern Society

  1. I belong to a church with many large families. And I learned to appreciate the love between the children and their support for each other. For three years, my daughter and I were part of a large family where I taught math and science. The plan was that Renee was going to teach the little ones, including mine. While I was going to teach the older ones in a different room. What happened: I taught for three years with a baby and then a toddlers chewing on my pencils and happily listening to the classes. She would ask to go to Renee for breastfeeding and then come right back.


  2. Thank you, Melanie, for this post. I’m a young father of two and have been delighted and amazed to watch my son’s and daughter’s relationship grow. Soon after we brought our daughter home from the hospital, I prayed one evening that God would help our son adjust to having this new baby in the family and love her. Suddenly, I felt very strongly that my son already loves his sister and that his love for her has existed for a long time. I don’t know how else to describe it other then I knew that deep down within his soul – inside his tiny little toddler body – he had a real and previously existent love for his sister. How beautiful that feeling was.
    In that moment, I learned that part of my job as their father is to help uncover and nurture that love between them – something that, it sounds like, you have figured out how to do remarkably well. Thank you for sharing some of your insights on how to raise children, especially when there are many of them! Rearing and loving children is truly the work of heaven and I’ve learned from you today. God bless.


  3. Beautiful. And true. Love the C.S. Lewis quote. Your Honorific post reminds me of Wordsworth:

    Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God, who is our home:
    Heaven lies about us in our infancy!…

    Thanks again for sharing. Look forward to more of your posts!


  4. I read somewhere that true freedom of choice is a short-lived phenomenon. Without getting into moral questions, once upon a time birth control was not very effective and not something “nice” people used; therefore large families were common, whether people really wanted them or not. ‘Then we moved to an era where effective birth control was available and socially acceptable, but when large families were still ok too. Couples were relatively free to plan the size family they wanted. Then things began to swing the other way and birth control, while not required by law, has become pretty much required by convention. After the third child (or maybe even the second, particularly if the kids showed up in quick succession) the “do you know what causes that” jokes start and the doctor makes sure you know all the reasons you shouldn’t have another (and how to prevent that from happening)


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