For a while I've been playing around with a post detailing what it's like having a large family, beyond having at least double the little bodies to tuck into bed at night. Really, whether you have two children or six children we all have the same daily tortures - tantrums & food battles. Mother guilt & toilet training. Identity crisis & nap time warfare. Rescuing octonaut figurines from the toilet & saving books from turning into shreds. Maintaining a facade of alertness & lucidity in the face of three hours broken sleep. Juggling one on one time between each child, date nights with our other halves & finding conversation that doesn't solely revolve around the little people.
So what is different now compared to when we just had Ben & Rianan? What does (our) life entail with six children?
The obvious one is our food budget. Over the years as we've doubled the size of our family so has our grocery bill. The only thing that's remained constant is the packets of nappies in every over full & precariously stacked trolley I take through the check out. If I knew then what I know now I would have bought shares in Huggies back in 2004. Or used MCN's - aka cloth nappies. I have a dozen excuses why we have used a disposable nappy for every three hourly nappy change over the last 85,440 hours...or nine & a half years. MCN's really only became more user friendly around the time Jack was born, & back then we had figured he would be our last baby (because 'everyone' stops at two or three children we thought there must be a universal reason why & that it would also apply to us. Approaching Jack's first birthday we knew that we definitely wanted another child & realised there was no reason not to add to our minion count.) Back to the topic at hand though. Figuring Jack would be our last there wasn't much point in selling my left kidney to fund an MCN stash for just one child. Then Blake came along. At this point I seriously considered abandoning the nappy aisle at Coles & going the environmentally friendly way. But with four children aged four years & under time was a little scant & our little washing machine was already spinning at a 1000rpm 16 hours a day. So for my sanity & our poor washing machines last legs (that managed to hold on for a further 18 months. We've never had a more faithful washer, 8 years & 5 children later she finally gave up. Bless her 5kg white cotton socks) So lack of time & a surplus of washing dictated we continue our regular walks down aisle eleven.
Clearly my attempts at appearing alert & lucid are falling a little short today, I've gone from talking about food budgets to justifying (to myself more than anyone, even after all these years) why we have used a hoard of disposable nappies instead of doing our bit to neutralize our carbon footprint & go the alternative way.
Back to food. Our quota of bread & milk has reached ten loaves of bread & often eighteen litres of milk a week. Forget the 275gm boxes of cereal, which barely stretches between five bowls on a good morning. I reach for the 800gm suckers - half a dozen of them at a minimum. We've dedicated an entire pantry shelf just to house our weekly breakfast cereal requirements & even then I have to employ my tetris skills to get them all on the same shelf. You will never find a single box of cracker & cheddar dip LeSnacks in our house - you'll find several. Even then they rarely see the school week out. Our weekly fruit quota is equal to the combined weight of our six minions. By now you've probably gathered that we buy double or triple of everything. Extend that line of thinking a little further & we come to cooking. Dinnertime is not unlike a catering event. A 30cm fry pan & two 4lt saucepans are barely adequate when cooking a basic meal in our house. At this stage we can manage, but give it a few more years & I will be sourcing catering sized cooking equipment to try & keep up with the nutritional needs of several growing pre-teen bodies. I don't know what we're going to do yet when they are teenagers, devouring & digesting more food than a herd of elephants.
Bath & shower time is reminiscent to running a gauntlet on a Japanese game show. Dodge the sweaty, putrid socks discarded haphazardly around the bathroom, narrowly avoiding the dirty & stinky undies as they are thrown in the air with gleeful abandon, while launching forward to catch the two year old as they attempt to bomb dive into the bathtub. Only to be foiled by the tube of toothpaste on the floor & end arse up in soggy towels. This is only round one, there's still more bodies to reach a state of cleanliness yet. Then the real fun begins, cleaning up the bathroom & revealing the floor tiles once again beneath all the water logged clothes, soaked towels & soap bubbles.
The amount of washing our crazy tribe creates these days is more than enough to keep me struggling to maintain a hold on the cotton-poly blends that procreate by the hour. Not unlike us - so we've been told. Our washing machine works harder than I do, often churning through four loads on a good day, or ten loads on a bad day. The amount of dishes we go through isn't much better either. I thank my lucky stars for our dishwasher everyday - because it wasn't all that long ago I was still doing them all by hand. The dishwasher job I had in my early teenage years at our local popular restaurant gave me a valuable skill set that I never dreamed I would be needing again once my dish-lackey days were over. Back then I also never imagined I would be a Mother to six.
Between our minions they have enough shoes to rival a Betts & Betts shoe store. A couple of those shoes may be a little lonesome, with their other half swallowed up somewhere. Probably where all our socks & teaspoons have ventured off to. There's often little point of packing away clothes that have been outgrown, instead they simply get shipped from one wardrobe to the next. If I can't find a specific shirt of Blake's in his drawers inevitably it will be found in Will's - sometimes even I can't keep up with what item belongs to who. I think it's only a matter of time before we're entertaining thoughts of a communal wardrobe for the boys. Maybe not, that's a little to extreme larger family style for my liking.
Always a hot topic when it comes to families greater than five, cars. Clearly the average family sedan is too small. Heck, even the people mover we drive at the moment is still too small. My automobile dreams are not filled with Dodge's & Jeep's, but mini buses that don't look like a childcare or community bus. Given that's the next step up for us after the people mover category to have any spare seats available.
Twelve seats, ten child restraint anchor points, tri zone air conditioning & enough boot space to rival any wagon, plus all the bells & whistles included in any luxury vehicle, on top of tinted windows & any paint job that isn't white. Oh, & doesn't come with a Mercedes Benz price tag. Surely I'm not asking for much.
Family movie nights with bodies strewn haphazardly around the lounge room, with piles of pillows, blankets, teddies & little people taking every available space. Weekend family soccer or cricket games with enough people to make teams bigger than two on two. Knock knock jokes at tea time coming from all sides of the dinner table - some making sense & others just adorable as they make no sense at all, but have us all giggling regardless. Every Mothers Day & Fathers Day see's our bedside tables covered in drawings of round bodied, stick legged families, love hearts & smiley faces & homemade card upon homemade card filled with misspelt words, back to front letters & being their favorite Mummy & Daddy in the whole entire universe.
My heart feels like it has grown bigger than a full term pregnant uterus. Each time both my heart & my belly expanded beyond belief with every tiny body we have bought into this world & each time I never imagined I could love any more than I already did, or fall deeper in love with Doug as I watched him hold his new son or daughter. I figured after three children it would all feel the same, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
We may be busy, whether we're busier than others I honestly couldn't say. Regardless, in no way does it compare to the happiness, pride, love & memories our family is filled with. Every now & again Doug & I will say to each other "Can you imagine if we stopped after Ben & Rianan, or after Jack. Not having Blake, Will & Clay in our family."
I can't imagine it, I honestly just can't. Impossible. Unfathomable. Unthinkable. Inconceivable to think they may not have been conceived. Life truly would be so different if they weren't here. Which has me thinking, who else are we missing in our family? What will the future look like if we call our family complete now, or what would it look like with another not yet conceived little soul. Can we imagine our lives without them, even though we don't know 'who' they could be?
Seeing five toothbrushes lined up on the kids bathroom sink this morning made me a little mushy & indescribably grateful for each & every one of our little minions. Imagining seven toothbrushes all lined up made me a little clucky & has Doug genuinely questioning my sanity.
Not that this would surprise anyone. The cluckiness that is, not the sanity.