Another argument against large families is that it's more difficult to parent more than two children. "We've always said, once you had three children, you were outnumbered, so it didn't matter how many children you had after that," says Jeschke.

"There is probably not a lot of huge differences where discipline is concerned," Cogburn points out. "However, I think with a smaller family it is easier for Mom and Dad to do a lot of the household chores for the kids. We have taught our children starting at a young age to do chores. In addition, the older children learn to help the younger children, which teaches them about otherness and selflessness—a rarely found quality today."

Ostyn concurs. "Kids in big families routinely pitch in and work together. The experience they get compromising and thinking of others is a great preparation for adulthood, whether in the board room or the living room. Of course, kids in smaller families can learn these values, but it happens more organically in a large family."

Faith and Family Size

These women say their faith has informed their decisions to have large families. "We started out having a slightly larger-than-average family, with two girls and two boys, just because we enjoyed parenting," says Ostyn. "Once we had four kids, we decided we were ‘done.' But about three years later, I began longing for another baby, and at the same time our eyes became opened to the kids in the world who need a family, so we ended up adopting six more children from South Korea and Ethiopia."

"We believe children are a blessing and a reward from God. We believe that investing in our children's hearts and lives will reach much further and make a greater impact on the world rather than investing in the material things of this world," says Cogburn.

"We believe the Lord wanted us to trust Him with the number of children we had," says Jeschke, "just as we trust Him with every other aspect of our lives."

As with any size family, there are joys and difficulties with raising a large family. "One is never lonely in a large family," jokes Jeschke. "Seriously, though, we have multiplied our ministry and our impact for Christ on our world, which makes it [easier to bear] the lack of time and privacy, and the juggling of multiple schedules."

For Oystn, watching her children together is one of her joys. "Sure, there are times when they fight, but much of the time they truly enjoy each other. Sometimes people fear that kids in a big family won't get enough attention. But having a big family is not about depriving kids of relationships—it is about providing them with more people to love and who love them," she says.

"Watching how the dynamics of family is the best growing ground for character, fellowship, and the building and strengthening of authentic relationships. This includes strengthening of our marriage as well," adds Cogburn.

How Many Children?

These three women offer advice for couples deciding what size fits their family.

Ange Cogburn, mother of 11: "God has a perfect plan for every family. The key is to lay our families at His feet. Ask Him to guide and direct you in this area. He may only give you one, He may give you 12. Or God may bless you through adoption or foster parenting. We must not compare ourselves to other families but look only to the Lord who has the blue print of your life already composed."

Melanie Jeschke, mother of 9: "According to the Scriptures, the Lord can open and shut the womb. Seek Him. Ask Him to guide you and show you His will. Trust Him to act according to His plan and purpose for you life."

Mary Ostyn, mother of 10: "I'm not sure if there is one ‘right' number for everyone, but I would encourage folks to be open, to pray together, to search the Scriptures and to actively seek God's will. He may just be calling you to raise a larger family than you first envisioned. I'm a prime example because I swore as a teenager that I'd never have more than four kids, but I am so grateful to have been wrong about that."

June 9, 2010

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired @ Home: The Christian Mother's Guide to Working From Home. She lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her at