This I have learned

Mary Jo Bellner Swartberg

Ah… time for a “long winter’s rest” after a hectic December. But post-holiday clean-up is a necessity and weekly chores are on-going.

And so it was while I was throwing in (as my mother used to say) our laundry, one day when I was dead tired and overwhelmed by seeing all of the decorations that have yet to be put away that it dawned on me how difficult it must have been for the mothers of large families raising children in the 1950s and prior. This thought brought to mind my friend, Julie, who was the eldest in a family of 15. Julie’s mother was pregnant 15 times in 20 years.

I wondered what it would be like to have been raised in a large family. So, I considered…

Babies generate seven diapers per day. In the 1950s disposable diapers were not yet invented. So, in doing the math, if there were four children under the age of three there would be 28 diapers to wash every day. In addition, there are clothes for the babies to be washed, as well as the laundry that is generated by the older children.

Grocery shopping! I find that when I go to the grocery store my grocery cart is rarely filled to the brim at checkout. But, with 17 people in the home, it must be necessary to fill several grocery carts. As well, the pantry would have to be kept stocked at all times. My friend indicated that her father had five jobs just to put food on the table. There were some lean times, however. As an example, one time the family ate popcorn for three meals a day, for three weeks!

Food preparation? Large cooking pots would be needed to fix food for the family of 17 and then the dishes had to be done.

What to do about storage for clothing for large families? My friend indicated that each of the children had a large cardboard box in which his or her clothing was stored.

According to the website Mama in the Know (a mother blogger who has four boys), here are some realities of having a large family:

You are never, ever alone.

Adults get lonely without adult interaction.

There is always a need for milk and bread in the house.

Holidays and birthdays can send you to the poor house!

And, there is always someone crying, hungry or thirsty.

OK. So, suddenly my life of doing a measly load of laundry, grocery shopping (with a Starbuck’s skinny decaf latte in hand, no less!), preparing a leisurely dinner for my husband and me and spending a relaxing, quiet time reading an interesting book doesn’t seem so bad. Hmmm.

But this I have learned… Just think of all of the love that filled Julie’s home and the fun that was had there. To be sure, Julie and her siblings have memories to be treasured for decades and memories that are still being made.