The Week in Books 2009, No. 20

What constitutes a “large family” in your view? Judging from the comments and questions we’ve gotten over the past several months, I guess having three kids counts as “large” now. I find that sort of funny since I know a lot of people that have much larger families than we do!

Although I don’t think of a family of five as “large,” having three kids three and under has forced me to evaluate my priorities and goals in a new light. While I used to be able to skate by on some things, having three little ones has forced me to sharpen my focus. Whether or not you’ve hit that point of motherhood, I think any mother could benefit from evaluating her time and home management and how she’s nurturing her children, and for that reason I think any mom could get a lot out of A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family.

The author, Mary Ostyn, takes a refreshingly honest and helpful look at being a mom, knowing your limitations, having a vision for your children, and dealing with inevitable roadblocks. Ostyn has ten children, including biological and adopted children from Korea and Ethiopia, and started out as a working mom before becoming a full-time mom after her fourth child was born, so her perspective is unusually balanced and flexible. (If you’re interested in the adoption aspect of her story, I recently read her post on how they afforded four international adoptions on one income. Amazing.)

I thought Ostyn’s practical advice on things like how to handle sibling conflicts, how to help multiple kids with schoolwork at the same time, and how to deal with attitude problems was fantastic. A lot of times I read a parenting book and I really track with the big idea, but at the end of the book I find myself thinking, “Great, but how do I actually DO THAT???” I appreciate specific examples, even if they aren’t directly applicable to my situation, because it helps me think of how I can make my own applications. One thing I found particularly helpful in this book was Ostyn’s emphasis on developing an individual relationship with each of your children. She explains how she takes time to figure out each child’s love language, to spend one-on-one time with each child, to talk with them at the end of the day before bed, and to come alongside them in their struggles. Even moms of one child would be wise to do those things.

I’d highly recommend this book for moms, no matter how many children you have at the moment!

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