It's trendy to have more than three children, but what's it really like with a house full of kids?
The Beckhams have four, Brangelina has six, while actress Mia Farrow has a staggering 15. I'm talking, of course, about children. There was a time when the 'perfect' family consisted of two children (one of each gender) and two cool, calm and collected parents.
But times have changed and more and more people are leaning towards bigger families. In our grandparents' day -- for reasons we won't get into -- big families were the norm, but the following generation favoured small, easily managed numbers of offspring. And now, whether it is a trend or a pattern which is here to stay, family sizes are on the rise.
The average Irish family consists of three children but many more have four and more. We spoke to three Dublin mothers to find out what it is like to have more than the average number of children.
Sandra O'Callaghan and her husband Jim (who works as an IT consultant) live in Mount Merrion and have four children -- Eve (7), Daniel (5), Thomas (4) and Beth (almost 1). She loves the hustle and bustle of her family life and, despite sometimes feeling stretched both physically and emotionally, wouldn't change it for the world
"There are many great things about a big family. First, there is never a dull moment and it is always noisy and fun. The children always have someone to play with and having come from a big family myself, I know that although they might fight at home, they always look out for each other. So apart from the normal (and frequent) squabbles, they all get along very well.
"My eldest is almost eight and is a great help generally, particularly with the baby. The two boys are quite young, but still do little jobs when strongly encouraged. And apart from the logistics of getting everyone ready in the morning, the only major difficulty I would see is making sure that each child gets enough time and attention.
"There is always a worry that someone may miss out, or you may miss something when there are four to think of. So making sure that I spread time and activities fairly can be difficult, as even simple things like play dates have to be arranged around school pick-ups and extra-curricular activities.
"Also, as they get older the costs get higher and higher, and there is always the worry about school and college and how we are going to manage all the costs associated.
"Having said all of that, although it may be exhausting at times, having a lot of people around is great fun and I wouldn't change a thing.
"I hope that all four will be close when they grow up and that they will look after each other. I also hope that when they have their own families, they will remain close and that their own children will be close, too. So, in years to come I look forward to many happy family events for them because, as a child, I loved our big family gatherings and I hope for the same for my kids."
Linda Farrell and her husband Tom live in South Dublin with their six children -- Laura, (20), Rachel (18), Ellie (15), Sara (13), Ciaran (10) and Aodhan (6). She says the best thing about having a big family is the companionship and camaraderie between the siblings and although the house is always noisy, it is a nice place to be.
"The best aspect of having a large family was when the children were young and there was always someone for them to play with. It was great going on family days out together or on holidays -- I loved making memories as a family and now we can look back on photos and videos and reminisce together. But even now the 13-year-old will play with the six-year-old on the trampoline. Likewise, there is always someone to talk to, watch TV with, play cards or games with.
"On the other side of the coin, there are difficulties stemming from people always being around. The house is busy all the time and loud.
"So, it can be difficult for the older ones to study when the younger ones are at home.
"Rachel (who is doing her Leaving Cert) does after-school study so she can study in peace without distractions. But that will be more difficult as exams approach and the younger ones will be playing in the garden more and making lots of noise. She will probably spend some time in her grandparents to study then.
"It can also be difficult to talk with and spend time with the older girls without being interrupted by the younger ones.
"That is what I as a mum find most difficult, trying (but not always being able) to give them all the attention that I'd like. As all of the children have gotten older, family holidays have become more awkward to sort out -- what suits a six- year-old doesn't suit a 15- or 18-year-old, but I think that's more to do with the age gap between the eldest and youngest than having a big family.
"The older children (young adults) get on fine most of the time, apart from the odd bit of bickering about who borrowed what clothes and certain children seem to fight more than others, but that's the same in all families.
"The older four will help out sometimes watching the two youngest while I drop or collect from gymnastics or babysit while I go to a school meeting or fundraiser, but other than that, we don't go out much to need them to babysit.
"The older ones also help with homework if I'm busy cooking dinner or if it's a language or subject that I haven't done before.
"Each of them will do the dishwasher, occasionally take the clothes off the line or sweep the floor, but they don't do a huge amount in the house. They have to make their own beds, put away their own clothes and tidy their own rooms.
"I hope they will all stay close and keep in contact with each other as they get older. I also hope they will all support each other in their decisions, but I would hate them to have to look out for each other through a sense of duty only.
"I also hope they will all be able to look back and laugh about mine and Tom's parenting decisions and whether they think we were right or wrong or did a good or bad job of bringing them up."
As seen in The Herald; Herald.ie