Do you wonder if there is some way for you to help the mother of a large family? How can you minister to her?
Raising large families in the twenty–first century comes with its own unique set of complications and blessings. As the mother of what today would be considered a large family, I can attest to this fact. I have four beautiful children, ages 14, 13, 5, and 2. However, not long ago this would have been considered a small family. My grandparents had 41 siblings between them. Now that is what I would call a large family! So, what has changed?
Aside from the need for large families to handle farms and other family business, there are two major change–factors in the number of children making up the average family. The first is cost of living. The current cost of childcare in America is insane. In Wisconsin the average cost of child care per year is $11,579 per child. This cost can be even higher in metro areas. It was $4,000 more per year in the last city where we lived. Childcare costs can be as high as $22,631 in Washington DC (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/06/how-much-child-care-costs-in-every-state-in-america.html). In addition to the potential cost of childcare, our generation has massive student debt. It can take as long to pay off a student loan as it does to pay off a mortgage. This all contributes to a fear of not being able to handle the cost of raising a child in this economy.
Due to the rising cost of raising a family, more families are deciding that mom should stay home rather than work outside the home. In many cases, moms would simply be working in order to pay for childcare. This is where the second major change–factor comes into play. When looking at the fight for gender equality and having to prove our worth in the workplace, society suggests that we should consider the following: If we take a break to stay home to raise our children, will we lose footing in our profession? Will we have to fight that much harder to prove ourselves again? In a nation that is finally beginning to embrace all that women bring to the table, we unfortunately find ourselves having to choose … career or children? However, if you have the choice to stay home with your children, a unique blessing is possible.
In many cases, large families have a stay–at–home parent, typically the mom. Staying at home affords us the opportunity to watch our children grow, to see their firsts, share in smiles and play time, and enjoy just being together. I smile when I remember how I was able to stay home full time when my older children were small. I find myself wishing I could do so with my two younger children. I sometimes feel as though I am missing out on so many milestones in their lives by not doing so.
Do you wonder if there is some way for you to help the mother of a large family? How can you minister to her? If you find yourself feeling sorry for her, don’t. That mother, loving her children with every fiber of her being, doesn’t want to hear how difficult things must be for her. One of the things I personally don’t like hearing is “Wow! You really must have your hands full!” Well, yes, I do. However, because I am fortunate to be able to stay home at least part of the time, I’m thankful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Mothers of large families don’t typically spend their days dwelling on how their hands are full. They spend their days living life, raising their children, and managing their families and, in many cases, working outside the home. It is their life—the life they chose; a life they don’t want to be pitied for having.
How can you minister practically to a mother of large families? Pay attention to what she talks about. Is she in a season of struggle? What are her passions, other than her children? What are her hobbies? Is she able to spend some quality time with her husband? Private time with a spouse is rare when you are a parent, even more so as a parent of a large family. Some practical acts of service could be:
- Offering to occasionally watch her children so she can have a date with her spouse.
- When it is near Christmas, schedule a play and shop event. Organize and/or volunteer a day when parents can drop their children to play so the parents can shop together.
- Invite her out for coffee and arrange for babysitting. This allows for adult conversation with no interruptions.
- Ask her about a favorite hobby. Set a time when you can share this hobby together. Or arrange for a time when the corps women’s ministries group could enjoy a demonstration.
- Engage her in conversation about her passions, hopes and concerns.
- If you notice she is really struggling, ask her if you can do her laundry for a day.
Finally, the most important thing you can do for mothers of large families is to pray for them. Pray with them and pray for them. There is nothing more practical we can do. What could possibly be better than bringing this precious momma into the presence of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter? Pray for her to have strength to handle each day. Pray for her to have wisdom. Pray for her as she strives to bring her children up in the ways of the Lord. Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide you in your ministry to her.
In a nutshell, invite her out, engage in conversation, hear her, give her time with her spouse, pray and finally do whatever else the Holy Spirit leads you to do … just please do not pity her.