I've always contended that it's not easy to have and raise eight children, and that is absolutely true, but I want to confess right now that it is easier for me than for many of you out there.
Why? Because I have a city-wide community of friends and acquaintances who have oodles of children, too.
I'm talking dozens of women that I know -- dozens upon dozens -- who have broods. I see them everywhere, I go to events with them, I party with them, our husbands are friends and business colleagues, and we are all in the same boat, child-wise. Ladies with four, five, six... all the way up to eleven kids. One of my closest friends is about to give birth to her ninth child. Our children are friends, too. This reality is not freakish at all in my "bubble" -- it's normal, and it's celebrated. I've never known a time in the past 20 years when multiple friends were not pregnant (we jokingly refer to the "next crop" of babies to come), and I know more women having children into their forties than I can count.
It's Catholic Mecca here in Phoenix. It is a beautiful, wonderful thing.
But I know it's not like that everywhere, and I know that some of you feel isolated and lonely and even ostracized because of your big families. Some dioceses are wastelands as far as following or even understanding the teachings of the Church on marriage and sexuality, and I often hear the frustration from those of you who don't live in a Catholic Mecca, and who are frazzled, weary, and discouraged. It breaks my heart, and I am sorry.
I don't mean to imply that we mothers-of-many here in Phoenix do not get frazzled, weary, and discouraged (because oh boy, we do!), but I want to acknowledge that we have a consolation here that many of you do not have: We have each other -- a built-in support group of friends who are on call at all times. There is no shortage of women with whom to hang out, complain, cry, compare notes, and laugh about the chaos of it all. We see each other's messy houses, our children's shoeless feet and dirty faces, and we don't feel alone with our big-family problems. We feel supported, loved, cared for, understood, even on the days when we are clinging to the very end of our mommy ropes and our sanity. Even those of our friends who do not have large families stand ready to aid and support those who do.
America is an incredible, amazing land. It's the greatest nation on earth. But it's also become a land of comfort and materialism, which is facilitated by contraception and sterilization. In the past, before the sexual revolution and Margaret Sanger's Birth Control League (now Planned Parenthood), mothers everywhere could celebrate new life and commiserate about the difficulties of raising so many little ones along with most everyone else on the block. It wasn't odd or freakish back then. The community of support was natural and the struggles were normal. Clearly, it's not like that today.
I wish every harried Catholic mom could experience the joy of a truly Catholic community, where talking about the trials of a big family is safe among friends; where the women understand that, although it's insanity in our houses and we are often stretched past imagining, we simultaneously love our vocation; and where we have many others picking us up when we get down and reminding us of the beauty and goodness of the life that surrounds us. I cannot remember a time here when a new pregnancy was not celebrated, even when the mother was initially scared out of her mind to see the two pink lines on that dollar store pregnancy test. The support and love for each other and for life is much more overwhelming than any struggles we encounter. This is as it should be!
It is never easy to raise a big family under any circumstances, but with the encouragement of an entire community, it can be oh, so sweet. On our worst days, I know that my friends and I would not have it otherwise.
Which brings me back to my heartache for those of you who do not have a supportive community. I hear you, I weep for you, and I am so sorry. You are truly heroic. You are the light and the witness in a world that needs it, but it's a heavy burden without a circle of friends who know what your life is like. If I had to go it alone, I shudder to think how I'd do.
This post is simply to acknowledge you, and to assure you that God sees what you are doing, and He loves and supports you, even when it feels like no one else does. You have my gratitude and my love, and I admire you more than you will ever know.
And if all else fails, move to Phoenix.
Related posts: How to Raise Eight Children Without Even Trying
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Why I Never Should Have Had Eight Children
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