Article on Our Family

This newspaper article is two years-old, written just before we moved to our new house( New Old house that is- 1886). It gives an outsider’s view of our family and I think that because of that, it is interesting.

Mother of nine reveals secret to her success

By Joanne Laucius, The Ottawa Citizen May 8, 2010 3:06 AM

Pairing socks for her nine children is no easy task, says Melanie Juneau.

Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger, The Ottawa Citizen, The Ottawa Citizen

You would think having nine children would turn you into a frazzled wreck with a figure like the Pillsbury Dough Boy and a brain gone to mush. Not necessarily. Exhibit A: Visit Melanie Juneau’s Pakenham-area farmhouse, where the mother of nine is serene in the eye of the hurricane as the winds revolve around her, the CEO of her chaotic domain.

More children are easier than less, she says. “If you have one or two children, you have to be everything for them,” she says. “Family starts with three. I found one child horrendous, two a strain. But three was easy. With three, community starts.”

The babies didn’t stop with three. Melanie had one baby about every 18 months. No regrets about any of them. “Children help you forget what’s not important,” she says.

They are, from youngest to oldest: Lucy, a 15-year-old Grade 9 student; Anthony, 17 and planning to start an apprenticeship as an electrician; Katie, 19, a Carleton University student; Rachel, 20, an early childhood educator; Emily, 23, a science graduate who works for a computer company; David, 24, an arbourist; Mara, 26, a chef and recent BA graduate; Melissa, 27, a sales manager, and Matthew, 30, a carpentry apprentice who is renovating a house he bought with his fiancée.

Melanie was 22 and a student at the University of Regina when she met her husband, Michael. “It was instant attraction. Everyone thought I was going to be a nun librarian,” she says. “He saved me.” For the record: The Juneaus are Catholic. Melanie converted at 19 before she met Michael.

Coming from a family with only two children, it was a shock to Melanie when she met Michael’s sprawling French-Canadian family of eight boys and two girls. Her Protestant grandfather warned her: “At least, don’t have a lot of children.” The advice went unheeded. Melanie spent 15 years of her life either nursing or pregnant or both. (That thing about not conceiving while you’re nursing? So not true.)

At the end of each pregnancy, Melanie always weighed 120 pounds. When she left the hospital, she was 113 pounds. She was invariably back down to about 100 pounds within a few months. At 54, she is still slender as a reed, a genetic gift from her grandmother, another petite woman who bore nine children.

It is never too soon, Melanie believes, to give a toddler a “job” — picking up the toys his younger sibling drops from the high chair, for example. The secret is to delegate, each according to his or her talents, but never to order around like troops. As Melanie puts it: “I always make a conspirator out of everyone.” The older children helped the younger ones with homework. They chop wood, help fix the car, weed the garden, take care of the animals. They know how to barter. “If they’re still treated like kids or overindulged, they don’t have a purpose,” says their mother.

The Juneaus buy salad dressing and ketchup by the gallon and eight 50-pound bags of potatoes, which they keep in a cold storage room along with the carrots and cabbage they grow in the garden on the six-acre farm. They raise three free-range pigs a year, two to sell and one to eat; raise meat chickens and have 12 laying hens. A 12-pound chicken makes three meals — first as a roast, next as a stir fry and finally as soup.

Grocery bills average about $100 a week. Mara, the one who later became a chef, was the cook in the family. “I had Anthony on my shoulder and Mara made pastry for 12 pies,” says Melanie. “Her pastry was flakier than mine, and she was 11.” One non-essential thing got dropped for every child Melanie had. Drawing portraits went first. Baking her own bread went when David arrived. Houseplants (at least those that stood no chance of survival) were gone with the arrival of Melissa. With Mara, it was folding laundry. To this day, Melanie simply leaves each child’s laundry, unfolded, in a basket in their room.

Naturally, in a large family there’s not a lot of money left over for what kids in many other families take for granted. “If you want in-style runners or brand-name jeans, you need to have a job,” says Melanie. At 15, Lucy, whose grade average is 92 per cent, already has a job so she can save up money to go on a school trip to New York City. Resentment has bubbled up from time to time, but rarely lasts, says Melanie. Some of the Juneau children couldn’t wait to move out and live in the city, but most have returned to live nearby.

Four are still at home. They all want more than two children each. Large families live lives of greater interconnectedness.

If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re not an island unto yourself, says Melanie. The Juneau children who go to college or university adapt well to communal life in a dorm or shared house. For starters, they know how to cook and clean up after themselves.

Melanie has a few tips on raising a large family:

1. Ignore the bad and praise the good.

2. Don’t get upset over messes.

3. If it’s not broken, it probably should be

. 4. Bored children never stay bored for long, so don’t worry about it. They will pick up a book or a pencil. (The Juneaus went for two years without a TV set.)

“The only thing that will kill you with nine kids is pairing socks,” says Melanie. All of the socks in the Juneau household are black. Happy Mother’s Day, Mrs. Juneau. © Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

25 thoughts on “Article on Our Family

  1. Great article. I hope it makes people think about simplifying their lives. With a large family there’s always something interesting to do. I’m the oldest of five, and I can’t remember ever being bored.


  2. I love this. I have 8 from 23 down to 9 months. I am getting better at the messes, but wish I was over it already. I am also 100 lbs., but noticed after baby #8, I am not losing my stomach. It’s been 9 months and I wonder if something is wrong in there. Also, I was wondering if and how your older children kept the faith. Michelle


    1. probably just your muscles are protesting abuse patient. My children pray, four are seeing a spititual director, one is studying religous studies for an M.A. with a concentration on the development of spirituality in early Chrisitain communitites BUT no one attendes mass regularily..they will in time. Marriage and 2 baptisms are connecting them. I would rather have kides with a relationship to God and external observances will follow


      1. I admire your work and your love for family. I am sorry to say, though, that it saddened me somewhat to read that somehow in your mind, Holy Communion and the sacrifice of the Mass seems to have been relegated to the level of what you mention to be “external observances.”

        We know that Holy Communion with God, through the Sacrifice of the Mass and reception of the Blessed Sacrament, has been described as the source and summit of our faith.

        Again, I have great admiration for your work and the love shown through your family. It is the apparent disconnect to true Catholic theology that I have found unsettling, particularly in these times when many Catholic youth and adults are leaving and losing the faith due to lack of proper understanding of basic truths concerning the Eucharist.

        May God bless you all, and the Blessed Virgin Mary draw all near to her Immaculate Heart.

        Ave Maria! And on earth peace to men of good will.


      2. YOU MISUNDERSTAND ME- it was a deep hunger for the Eucharits that drove me into the arms of the Church + the fact that Mary had move into live in my heart

        what I mean is when people become self-righteous, PROUD and legalistic,driven by a need to fufill the law and not by hunger for God. God draws us with Love, especially when we are humble realize our poverty and desperate need for Him

        It is easy to fall into a pharisitical devotion that likes to be seen as faithful- it is in all of us. Young people react to that. I SIMPLY KNOW that they are in HIS HANDS


      3. Melanie, I didn’t realize that you were speaking about proud, pharisaic elements within the Church that are more interested in the appearances of being holy than with their true Communion with Christ.

        That would indeed be a type of “external observance”, and certainly detrimental to the development of true faith. And yes, I agree, it is a temptation to pride that can happen to anyone. I hadn’t noticed where you had written about that anywhere previously, though, so I am thinking that perhaps you are directing the all-caps “PROUD” toward me? Ah yes, guilty as charged, then, as are we all I can only imagine, at one time or another. But I can assure I am certainly no darling of the pharisaic set. 😉 They, too, seem to have a certain distaste for my presence and my Catholic theological input. 🙂

        Nonetheless, it is love for the Eucharist, and a desire to abide in Jesus through the sacrifice of the Mass, that draws and connects us all to God most intimately. And it is His will for us, as baptized and confirmed members of His Church to abide in Him through the Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion.

        As you say, we are drawn by Love, not merely law, and particularly not by legalistic, false and pharisaic “devotion” adhered to for the sake of pride and appearance, or position and the approval of others.

        But, nonetheless, Love and His commandments, Love and His law, are not two separate entities. Jesus has given us wonderful teaching in sacred scripture, and through His teaching authority within the magisterium of the church concerning the inter-twining of His law and His wonderful Love. We are indeed poor and needy, and often enough proud and self-righteous, quite incapable of staying with Him through our own means, and subject to the many temptations to pride and worldly approval we so willingly give ourselves over to at times.

        All the more important, then, to abide with Him in the Blessed Sacrament, abide in His Love in the way that He has commanded for us to do so. There are truly some laws for us that are for our highest good, and absolutely necessary for us, in our weakness and our poverty. Without them we can easily lose sight of His Love, and of course a false love, a counterfeit love, will certainly, most certainly then, move in to take its place. Idols of sorts. Pride, worldly approval, worldly pleasures, securities, etc. etc.

        All the best to you and your family, Melanie. God bless.

        Ave Maria! And on earth peace to men of good will.


      4. One daughter in particluar has deep prayer life, sees a spiritual director and because I did not hound her or panic, she is now, at 22, she is starting to attend small weekday masses-

        My only point was that my first concern is that my children become dedicated, disciples, followers of Jesus, saved by His Mercy and Grace and then rediscover the joy of the Church.

        proud in capitals refers to ME- I am a saved pharisee and yes I have written on this subject. I agree with everything you are saying.


      5. Certainly panic not a good response to any situation. Right reason and properly-formed faith always the best path.

        All the best.

        Ave Maria. And on earth peace to men of good will.


  3. Huh…you and your family life remind me of my paternal grandparents’ family. Including my dad, they had nine children, and they’re all living their lives well-educated and well-prepared! You’re awesome! 🙂 When there’s a will, there’s a way, alright!


  4. I believe they will all return as love draws them in. No matter. Worry and fretting is not the answer. Praying and believing is more profitable. I really enjoyed this article written by the Ottawa Citizen. You are in a place where many would like to be, but decided to live unto themselves. I agree that having more than two is easier. Love your blog. Such an inspiration.


  5. Thanks for sharing your journey. I told my daughter years ago about recreating the community that a larger family creates… she is on her fourth boy who is just two months old. The oldest is seven. She is soon to turn 30 and she hopes to have a minimum of six children. She home schools and loves it.. I home schooled her and her brother from 5th through High School. God bless.


  6. Melanie, I look forward to experiencing more of your writing and connecting and serving. I had very little exposure to the Catholic faith until quite recently when God took me on a wonderful mission trip to Detroit to serve and harvest stories of Christ’s love from several Catholics. The adventure is just unfolding and there are already wonderful stories behind the stories. It’s at I’m serving in the North Georgia Mountains this weekend at a retreat called where there will be around 30 people from Ottawa. Weird.

    Liked by 1 person

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