When the cover story of Time magazine brags that having it all means not having children, the culture badly needs a reminder that getting married and having kids is actually a good idea. That having children, whether one or five or ten, is not only praiseworthy but worth it. The percentage of childless couples has nearly doubled since 1980, and the percentage of families with three or more kids has dropped by almost half. Today's burning question is no longer why would any couple want to remain childless. It's why would anyone want more than one or two.
Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, by Patti Armstrong and Theresa Thomas, answers that question in a collection of moving, true-life stories, each one more inspirational than the last. The stories in Big Hearted open up a window into the private thoughts and feelings of parents of large families. Not all of them love babies, although some of them do. Some mothers walk away from corporate jobs without a backwards glance, and others lock themselves in the bathroom to cry bitter tears before squaring their shoulders to walk out and give and receive as much love as they are able.
Perhaps the most touching stories are by fathers. Much parenting advice is written by and for mothers. The father's perspective rarely takes center stage. But in Big Hearted, it was the painfully honest struggles of one father to accept his child with Down syndrome that brought tears to my eyes.
Big Hearted debunks the myth that parents of big families are too crazy, too holy, or just too different to be quite normal. As revealed in the pages of this book, these parents face the same self-doubts and temptations as anyone else. But the power of prayer has wrought remarkable changes in their lives. They have weathered crises like alcoholism, unwed pregnancy, serious illness, and severe financial difficulties, and in the end they have found happiness.
As a mother of six, I know that parents of large families don't have more God-given talents or sunnier dispositions than parents struggling to raise one or two children. But we keep trying to forge spiritual growth out of the seeming rubble of everyday life. Our hearts don't start any bigger than anyone else's. They stretch to fit our families.
Not knowing that big families make big hearts, people ask insatiably curious questions. Are you done? Are you still trying for a girl? Or a boy? The conversations usually end with the questioner insisting, "I could never do that." Our immediate reaction is annoyance. But behind people's constant questions, however poorly expressed, is often admiration and a deep desire to understand the increasingly rare phenomenon of a big family.
Big Hearted brings big families back into the realm of the real, the understandable, the achievable, and the desirable. It contains a treasure trove of insight for people wanting to know "why would anyone choose to do that?" And for those just embarking on the big-family parenting adventure, it might answer the question, "What on earth have I done?"
For more information about Big Hearted, read Lisa Hendey's interview of author Patti Armstrong here.
Copyright 2013 Karee Santos
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