Having children is similar to Premier League football, in that every man and his dog has an opinion whether you want to hear it or not. People you have never even met will happily give their well-meaning, undiluted advice as to where you are going wrong with your offspring. As a parent, it is expected, for the most part that you just take this on board. It seems if you make the decision to become a parent then you sign yourself up for a life of comments you could do without. However, nothing invites comment quite like having a large family.
I am a proud father of four. I made the conscious decision along with my wife Joanne to have a larger family and I can tell you without any doubt or hesitation that it was the right decision. Our home is a happy, crazy, loving, often loud but above all, fun place to be. After growing up spending long periods alone, I am now surrounded by unconditional love and for that I am truly grateful.
It is apparent, we are not the average family, we come mob-handed and that seems to be the cue for people to be able to say exactly what they want. I often see people tallying up the kids with their eyes as we approach before clearing their throat and asking, “Is your TV broken?” Believe me, if I had a pound for every time I’d heard that, I would be very well off (it’s also not that funny, because if my TV was broken, I would read a book or whittle some figures out of olive wood). Another classic is “Have you not worked out what’s causing it yet?” No, now you mention it, it was only when our youngest, Sophie was born that I finally realised that it was actually our incessant fornication that caused our ‘predicament’. Surely the only way to stop this is to stop being so bloody handsome and adopt a less impressive fingering technique. However, the best one I’ve heard so far is “Ooh here he is, Dirty Dick” which despite making me sound like an East End gangster or a member of Captain Pugwash’s pirate crew, was actually quite offensive especially as my personal hygiene has improved greatly in recent years!
The thing is, whilst the average family size has gradually decreased since the ’40s, it has not fallen so dramatically that a family of six should be considered gargantuan. So why do people now consider families with more than the average 2.4 children to be unusual can therefore become comment fodder? It’s true that with inflation, the cost of living is rising and it is therefore more difficult to raise a family. You don’t have to tell us that – I recently sold a kidney to fund new school shoes and I have my own parking space at the sperm bank to help fund hobbies and pastimes (I actually made that up). I’m convinced people often think that due to having such a large brood that we must be on benefits. If only that was the case. We both work, I in fact, run my own business and took the choice to work from home so that I could always be on hand if needed. Joanne had over 12 months maternity leave with each child and returned after each pregnancy to work part time in a job she’s had for nearly 15 years. Money can be tight sometimes but everybody has the right to choose how they wish to spend their income and we chose to have a big family.
It is true we are never likely to have a nice sports car or be able to go on holiday without paying for two rooms. I will probably go deaf before my time as the decibel level chez nous can often reach that of a nuclear missile test, and our sex life can often be interrupted by anything from exhaustion (this usually involves a truce and a handshake half way through, it usually happens when we know there is a re-run of tattoo fixers on E4) to our 12-year-old son having a poo in the en-suite because he can’t perform as well in the bathroom. It is also true that on occasion, we have to give nights out a miss because we don’t have a babysitter or are saving for something special, but hand on heart, there isn’t another place in the universe I would rather be than cuddled up with my five favourite people (until Joanne or Isabelle farts, then it can be f**king horrendous!)
As with any choice you make in life, there are pros and cons. There are times when you have to make compromises and have to put people before yourself but that is what anybody who chooses to have children does, isn’t it? Someone once said to me that they couldn’t possibly have any more children than the one they had because they just didn’t have enough love to share with another. But believe me, my heart is the same size as everyone else’s and I love all my kids equally (well, sometimes the love levels go out of balance when one of them is being a bit of a dickhead). I am lucky to have an amazing wife who is like an army quarter master, keeping everything organised and making sure life continues along the right path which frees me up to teach them important things like how to do a Chinese burn or how breaking wind on a flat wooden bench gives better acoustics. The fact of the matter is this; we are a family of six because we chose to be, we are a team and I will make it my life’s goal that it always stays that way.
So to those who see us approaching and want to know if our TV is broken, if we know how we have created these four small humans, or if, in fact, my dick is dirty, please don’t judge us on our number and the fact that we take up quite a lot of pavement space, judge us on the fact that we are laughing and smiling because we are so happy, judge us on the fact that if you speak to any of our children you will get an intelligent and respectful answer as we have spent hours encouraging them to do well at school (well, maybe not Sophie, there is a good chance she might just call you bum head). But most importantly, take a minute to observe us and then judge us on the obvious feeling of love that surrounds our whole family.