Simcha with three of her girls [Photo credit: Matthew Lomanno / NH Magazine]

Many people can remember a time when larger families of four or more were common.  Both of my parents were one of five, but now the average family has fewer than two children.  What was once a common and even celebrated way of living and growing up has now become almost counter-cultural. Given this, it is beyond the realm of most people’s knowledge to understand what living in a big family is like.  New Hampshire Magazine decided to give an insight into the laughter, chaos and humanity of living and co-operating with many others of differing ages and stages. 

The magazine’s interest was in part due to a recent CDC report finding that New Hampshire has the lowest birth rate in America, with the rest of New England following closely behind. To see what life is like within the Fisher family, journalist Matthew Lomanno spent a long weekend with parents, Damien and Simcha, and their children Lena, Dora, Clara, Moses, Elijah, Sophia, Lucy, Irene, Benny and Cornelia.  He was also careful not to forget Boomer the dog.  Simcha and Damien are both professional published writers, and their 10 children range from 16 years to three months old. Lomanno was interested to find out why anyone would choose a home full of children, with all of the activity, noise, craziness and fun they tend to create around them.

He comments of his experience:

The environment at home is not idyllic in any romantic sense: much like an emergency room, constant movement and activity swirls about, and commotion seemingly reigns. Messes are made. But older children care for the younger. Board games are spontaneously played while homework is finished nearby. One of the boys prepares a meal. Someone reads in the corner. They share computers and devices. At the end of the night, everyone has a regular clean-up task.

This atmosphere has allowed for individual independence within familial dependence: these children are their own persons with unique interests, strengths and challenges, but each is always supported by affectionate parents and siblings. With an abundance of real, tangible interactions and relations across ages, everyone plays and grows and works together, ultimately becoming more human in the process

…[There is] personal development within a familial structure, even if at the expense of career development, financial stability and material expansion. This inversion of contemporary Western values leaves the majority baffled, but the benefits are many.


He also recorded some rather candid insights from the children themselves:

 “My friends don’t have minions. And they don’t have as many strange in-jokes.”
 – Lena, 16

“Sometimes, it takes a while to get into the bathroom.”
— Sophia, 9

“We drive a tank instead of a regular car.“
– Clara, 14

“There’s always someone to help you. If one person won’t, there is a million more you can ask.”  
— Elijah, 11

“At Christmas I get a lot of presents, because there’s a lot of people.”
— Lucy, 7

“If you have a good trick to play, you can play it on lots of people.”  
– Moses, 12

 

This couple has so much joy, and no doubt sacrifice, ahead of them watching each of their children grow and develop into adulthood.  It certainly looks like there is much fun and growth taking place amid the chaos of everyday family life.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...