Our Five Ring Circus: Big Family Life - What It's REALLY Like

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Big Family Life - What It's REALLY Like


Down syndrome blogs

I grew up in a big family. It wasn't a traditional big family - my mom had 4 kids, my dad had 3 kids, then they got married and had me. Technically, I have half siblings, but I prefer to drop the half, and just call them my siblings. I grew up in a family with 8 children, but because I was so much younger, I also got to experience life as an "only" child when I was a teenager. It definitely gave me a unique perspective!

I always wanted to have 4 kids, but didn't expect that to happen, so I am definitely surprised that we have more. I know we are considered a big family, but truthfully, it doesn't feel that way. When you grow up with 7 older siblings, a family with 5 kids doesn't seem THAT big. Where we live, however, our family is unusual. 2 or 3 kids is the norm here, and it's hard to find young families nearby with more than 3 children.

We get a lot of questions and comments about our family, in real life and online, so I figured I would give the inside scoop! If you are a long time reader, you were able to watch us go from a family with just two kids and no plans to have anymore to a family with five kids, including one who has Down syndrome. Yes, they are all ours, yes, they are spaced out in age, yes, we know how it happens, and yes, we LOVE our big family. So if you're wondering what big family life is really like, here goes...

Our family consists of my husband, Grant, and I, and our five kids. Dylan is 16, Alexandria (Lexie) is 14, Liliana (Lily) is 9, Liam, who is rocking an extra chromosome, is 7, and Coen is 2. We lovingly refer to them as Phase One (our originals), Phase Two (the two we eventually decided to add to our family), and Plot Twist!

Big family life can be tough at times, but it's absolutely rewarding. With every child, life becomes more expensive, and there's more to juggle and worry about, but just like anything in life, the good outweighs the challenges by far! We consider our kids a gift, and we take our job seriously. Family is everything to us!

Every family is different, including big families. What works for one family may not work for another. But, fundamentally, there are quite a few similarities among families with 4 or more kids. Here's a glimpse at life with a big family!

Large Families


*Let's start with housing! The average home has 3 or 4 bedrooms. There are 7 people living in our home, and we have 4 bedrooms. Room-sharing is a given for all but one family member! Just for the record, we live in the house that my husband's grandparents built for their family of 5. They eventually built a bigger home, but when we were expecting our first child, their first home went on the market, and we bought it. It seemed SO big at the time, but it is bursting at the seams now!

*7 people = LOTS of stuff. We are always in the process of decluttering and simplifying!

*Our home doesn't feel crowded when it's just our family sitting in one room, but when you add guests, it can become overwhelming. We love entertaining, and having friends and family over, though!


*One of the most frequent questions we get is how much do we spend on food each week and how much food do we go through. There's no simple answer here, but on average, we spend about $200 per week at the grocery store. To some, that may not seem like much, but I have gotten really good at saving money on groceries over the years! Mom of Many Tip: Aldi is your best friend, and buy the most frequently used items in bulk at warehouse clubs. We do shop weekly, and we bring home a LOT from the store!

*As for food, we do make a lot for meals, but our kids aren't huge eaters. If I make eggs for the whole family for breakfast, we go through about 14 eggs. When we make grilled cheese, we easily go through an entire loaf of bread. 1-2 burgers, hot dogs, or meat per family member. We regularly go through 2-3 boxes of cereal, 2-3 gallons of milk, 2 half-gallons of almond milk, 2 bottles of juice, 2 gallons of iced tea, and 2 loaves of bread each week. 

*We eat dinner at home most nights of the week. I make a meal plan each week, and ask each family member to contribute a meal suggestion so everyone gets at least one thing they love! Eating dinner together as a family continues to be a priority for us!

*We end up with dinner leftovers 50% of the time, so Sunday is our leftover/fend for yourself day. It's a great way to clean out the fridge! 

*Speaking of the fridge, we have a big fridge in our kitchen, and a second fridge in our garage for extra food/drink storage. 

*We get takeout about once a month, and we only go out to eat on special occasions. That's usually about once a month, as well. 


*Our kids get new clothing staggered throughout the year, but let's talk basics. We have to buy underwear x 5, socks x 5, shoes x 5...it adds up!

*We're a big fan of hand me downs. I save all clothing in good condition to pass on to younger siblings. We have a huge attic, and it's filled with clothing bins, organized by size and gender. Every season, we go "shopping" in our attic before we hit the stores! We love hand me downs from our closest friends, and when we're done with an item, we pass it on to someone we love.


*Oh, laundry. It's never-ending, and it's INTENSE. I typically do laundry twice a week: 2 loads on Wednesday, fold and put away on Thursday, then anywhere from 5-8 loads on Friday. We keep a hamper in each bedroom, and our older kids are responsible for gathering their dirty laundry into the hamper and bringing it to me, then putting away their clean laundry. In addition, there is always a big load or two of sheets each week. 


*Obviously, our biggest expenses are utilities, groceries, and clothing, but there are always extras that pop up during the school year. (Yearbooks, class fees, book fairs, etc.)

*Our largest extra expenses are:

  • Birthdays (Typically $200/person, which includes going out to eat for dinner.)
  • Christmas ($200-$250 per person)
  • Vacation ($3K-3.5K per year)


*In addition to a normal cleaning routine, there is ALWAYS a mess to clean up. Think about how much you clean your house, then add in some extra kids. If you come to visit, you're probably going to find dust on my blinds or dirt on my baseboards, but I do make sure our main living areas are clean and as clutter-free as possible. I always do a quick cleanup of the kitchen, living room, and bathroom before heading to bed.

*Multitasking is a must. If my kids are playing outside, I straighten up the sun porch. While the little boys bathe, I clean the bathroom sink, mirrors, and toilet. I clean the kitchen while I cook. I fold laundry while they play. That way, I'm with them, but still getting stuff done so I can actually be present during the important moments!

*We have all hardwood floors. With a shedding mastiff and all the crumbs, we finally invested in a robotic vacuum. BEST. PURCHASE. EVER. I run it every day, and now all I have to do is mop! Sometimes you just need a little help!


*With so many people living in one house, we have to learn to work together to make things run smoothly! This means all of our kids have chores and responsibilities. It's all about teamwork! 

Here's an example of the chores our older kids do for a small allowance:

  • Dylan - Mowing/yardwork and taking out the garbage
  • Lexie - Wash dishes
  • Lily - Dry and put away dishes
Responsibilities are unpaid jobs. These are things that are simply expected to be done:
  1. Clean their rooms. 
  2. Clean up after themselves.
  3. Take care of pets.
  4. Clean up dirty dishes when they are done.
  5. Put away folded laundry, and put dirty clothing in their hampers.
  6. Help carry in and put away groceries if they are home.
  7. Help when a family member is in need.
Even Liam and Coen are expected to help! They can easily throw away garbage, put their dishes in the sink, and help clean up their toys!

*Sometimes we need a bit more help from the older kids, but they are rewarded for extra work, either monetarily or by getting something they want. Our three older kids are NOT our younger kids' parents, nor should they be, but sometimes we need them to babysit or take a younger sibling for a bit. They are compensated for helping us out!


*Due to the age differences, we have four kids who are in different buildings within our district. Our two teenagers start school an hour earlier than our two elementary students. Lily and Liam will be in different buildings again, and because Lily will ride the bus and Liam has to be driven, they will also be on two different schedules. Our mornings happen in 3 phases: The teenagers wake up at 6 and go to school, then Lily wakes up after they leave and goes to school, then I wake up Liam and take him to school. 

*We also have 4 different school schedules to juggle, 4 x school activities/event, 4 picture days, 4 year books to buy, 4 x the amount of school supplies, a TON of teacher gifts to buy at Christmas/end of year, and so on!


*We have a VERY full calendar, so we have an important rule in our home: Only 1 sport or activity and 1 school club/activity per child at a time. Think about an average practice and game schedule, then multiply it by 5. That's tough enough without adding extra sports and activities to it! (EXAMPLE: Lily's cheer schedule alone is enough...four 2-hour practices each week, and a game on Saturday. During cheer season, she takes a break from her weekly tumbling class.)


*Traditional outings can be very expensive for a family of 7. Think about a night at the movies - if my entire family goes to a movie, we're looking at a $100+ night. The same goes for amusement parks. Those things end up being special occasions. We still have plenty of fun, but we have to get creative! There are plenty of free or cheap entertainment options:

  • Movie/Concerts in the park
  • A night at the drive in, and bringing your own snacks/drinks is MUCH cheaper than going to the movie theater
  • Hiking is always free, and there are so many local spots to explore
  • Picnics at an airport, so you can watch planes land and take off, is free
  • Head to a nearby beach, even if it's at a lake
  • Be a "tourist" in a nearby city
  • Go for a walk in a shallow creek
  • Strawberry picking/apple picking is an inexpensive option 
  • Head to a free spray park for the afternoon
  • Have a mini pool party 
  • If all else fails, a family hotel stay at a nearby hotel with a swimming pool is a fun option!


*Like most families, we have 2 cars. My husband has a 5-seater SUV, but our "familymobile" is an 8-seater SUV. (My husband comes from a Chevy family - his uncle was the brand manager for the Camaro, and up until recently, his family owned a dealership. We drive a Traverse, and love it!) A lot of families our size drive passenger vans, but that just isn't necessary for us. Our SUV fits our family + 1 + an English Mastiff + a shorkie + all of our on the go necessities!

*We take road trips, not flights. Flying as a family of 7 would cost a FORTUNE. Thankfully, we all love road trips to our vacation destinations, and our kids are excellent travelers! (We're actually tossing around the idea of an East Coast to West Coast road trip.)

*If we stay at a hotel, we need to stay in a suite, not a room. We pass the max occupancy on most rooms!


*We take lots of gear everywhere we go. Stroller, diaper bag, backpack carrier, hoodies, water bottles, play pen, dog supplies...our arms are never empty!

*Getting out of the house on time is an ordeal. It's like herding feral cats, and somebody always makes us late. Rushing is our norm!

*We spend a LOT of time in the car. There are lots of errands to run, lots of appointments, practices and games, school events, and our 3 older kids have busy social lives. 


*My husband has worked from home since the pandemic, but does go into the office once a week. We had to give him a mini office in the basement for privacy. During the school year, it's not too touch, but Summer can be challenging. Our house is LOUD. We give the kids a later bedtime during Summer Break, so they sleep in, and that gives him a few hours to get some work done before they wake up. Right now, I take the kids to visit my parents twice a week, then he goes to the office another day, and that gives him 3 somewhat quiet days to work.

*I bring in a small income as a blogger/influencer. In order to get my work done, I stay up to the wee hours of the morning, and work while they sleep. I'm tired, but that's simply where we are in our parenting journey right now. I could give it up, but A) I enjoy it, and B) The extra income is nice. (The taxes I have to pay are not so nice.) I have had to take breaks at time, and obviously my income drops on those breaks, but my family comes first. 


*Silence. It rarely happens. Somebody is always awake, and the only time you will find it is in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning. On the rare occasion when you find yourself alone in the car for a few minutes, you turn off the radio, and just enjoy the silence!

*When Coen was born, we literally had a child in every stage of development. It is a very strange thing! Even now, we have a toddler, a young school aged child, a tween, and two teenagers. They are all in very different stages of childhood!

*We do have a disabled child, so that does add a bit to our parental responsibilities. 

*Divide and Conquer is our game plan! Although there are many times when I am home alone with all of them, or take all of them out by myself, Grant and I usually split up the kids to meet all their needs. (Example: For cheer practice, which is 4 days a week right now, I take Coen along with me, while Liam hangs out with Grant.)

*We have scheduled one on one time with each child. Obviously, during the school year, Coen gets most of the alone time with us, so we don't really factor him into our schedule yet. On Saturday mornings, Grant takes one of the older kids out with him, and rotates through them, so they each get an even amount of time. They usually go for a walk or a hike, get a drink and a snack, go for a drive, and stop at a store, where they get to pick out a small gift. Every week in the Summer, when I go on my weekly shopping trip, I take one child with me. We usually get a drink/snack, go shopping where they get to pick up a few favorite grocery items, then shop for any items they might need.

Having a big family can be stressful at times, but honestly, we love it! We are a tight-knit family, and we have 5 kids who absolutely adore each other.  Our kids are responsible, mature, kind, loving, and accepting of everyone, and I think that comes from having a big family and a sibling who has Down syndrome. The majority of time, our older kids help without complaint, and pitch in without even being asked, and our younger kids look up to their older siblings. Our family might be considered bigger than most, but I am so proud of the 5 awesome kids we are sending out into the world!

Big Family Blog

I aim to make big family life a more regular part of my blog! If there is anything you want to hear about in more detail, please let me know!

Big Family Life - What it's REALLY like

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