The Joy and Struggle of Parenting a Big Family

Amanda Idleman

Contributing Writer
Published Apr 18, 2024
The Joy and Struggle of Parenting a Big Family

Over the last several months, as we have adjusted to having two toddlers and three bigger kids, I’ve found there to be many joys and struggles for me as a mom of many.

I never thought I’d be a mom to many. I guess I just never thought too hard about how many kids I wanted, my husband and I have just been on a wild ride, seeing what God brings us when it comes to the makeup of our family. Miraculously we now have five beautiful kids ranging in age from 11 to 2, and our home is loud, full, and always a mess. When we said yes to number five, I really struggled with that number. Five felt excessive, like more than I could ever manage, and officially put us into the “big family” category. A new level of surrendering my own plans and trusting the Lord following his plan for our home has been required as we have become a family of seven. 

Over the last several months, as we have adjusted to having two toddlers and three bigger kids, I’ve found there to be many joys and struggles for me as a mom of many. The needs in our home look so different depending on which kid we are attending to at any given time. Our toddlers need constant supervision and attention; all the while, our big kids need us to be present as they learn more about who they are and decide who they want to be. Needless to say, there are many days that it all can feel like a lot to handle. I mostly just feel like I’m chronically not enough for my people. I’m officially in over my head! 

Joy on the Journey

There are joys on this journey that I never could have anticipated. While my bigs have to give up a lot in order to accommodate the needs of their younger siblings, they also are gaining so much by having the chance to love on their younger brother and sister. 

My oldest is eleven, and he has officially entered the phase of not wanting to just go outside and play. Having younger siblings forced him to stay young a little longer. When the screens are off, and the to-do list is over, he is tasked with taking his younger brother outside to play. They pass the ball, jump on the trampoline, and his younger brother absolutely loves it when they are together. 

My six-year-old daughter loves gathering up the toddlers and having them play pretend with her. They make nests of blankets all through the house, and each take turns pretending to cook meals, care for babies, and more. My older daughter confesses to me one rare day we are home alone how thankful she is to be in a big family where playmates are always available in abundance! 

Laughter is common in our home. Either our toddler is making up silly dances to get chuckles out of us, or our olders are quoting funny lines from the books and shows they love. Someone is always available for a good tickling. The toddlers love being chased around the house until they fall over from laughter. While it’s not often quiet, it’s very often entertaining. 

As we move forward with our bigger kids, we gain a deep appreciation for how quickly the seasons pass. We are able to summon more patience and grace for the “terrible twos” because we know from living it already that this season will be over much too quickly. While we are making mistakes with our oldest, our younger kids get a more refined parent that is able to see more of what matters for their future.

The Struggle Is Real 

While my heart is filled with gratitude to be the mom to each of my kids, I find myself feeling stretched thinner than maybe ever before. I can’t parent my toddlers the same way I did when my older kids were all small. Our schedule is fuller, the older kids' needs are pressing, and the flexibility to just be a playmate to my preschoolers is limited. 

Once upon a time, with three preschoolers, our day was all about them. We woke up, ate, and went out to playgrounds, story times, museums, and more! We returned for lunch and naps and more afternoon play. Sports, lessons, schoolwork, and friend time were not on the calendar. Now we have littles that thrive when our days can be around them but older kids that require being taught, driven, guided, and invested in. 

Mostly our home is split between my husband and me. We are very often dividing up so one of us can accommodate an afternoon nap while the other one is taking big kids to a swim meet, birthday party, or lesson. It’s hard for me as a stay-at-home parent to be enough for everyone in our crew. It’s even harder than we ever imagined it would be as a couple to get more than five minutes a day to talk to each other. So much attention is required of us in this season. 

Mom guilt is running wild over here while I feel like I’m not enough as a homeschooling Mom or as a mom of preschoolers. Our littles aren’t easygoing. They take all the attention and care, and must be watched, or things will get crazy. My older kids are reaching the age that more time is needed for them to study. I have to accept that more help is needed in order to make it all work. I can’t do it all alone. Babysitters and the helping hands of friends and family are necessary to make sure we all are okay over here. It’s no longer a one-man job. 

Trusting God Is Key

The lesson I am learning as I see I am not enough on my own to parent our big family is that I have to trust God even more! I have to trust that his grace is sufficient to cover my failures and sins. That leaving our kids with others so my husband and I can have an uninterrupted conversation is good for us all. That extra hands caring for my toddlers so I can teach or friends driving my big kids to practices so the littles can sleep is a blessing I need to embrace and not feel guilty about. That saying no to one kid because of the needs of another, is an important chance for our kids to experience what it means to offer sacrificial love to others. 

Basically, I have to trust that God is in the details. He loves my kiddos, he placed them in my care for the benefit of them all, and he is able to do more with my little ones than I could ever ask or imagine. Each time your tent gets bigger so does your need for God. Grow your tent as a Christ-follower, and then you will be required to grow your faith. Trusting God on this journey is key.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Liderina 

Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God's Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.