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Having nine kids -- now that's busy...

I MET a couple with nine children at the weekend. A couple who are practically the same age as me! With three girls and six boys ranging in age from three to 19, their home life must be crazy. Their six-year-old twins were playing rugby with my son and, as we chatted on the sidelines, I realised that I don't know the meaning of the word busy.

Their eldest is in college and their youngest child is still at home, but seven of their nine kids are at school, which means they all have to get out the door in the morning on time. That means seven lunchboxes to pack and seven uniforms to have clean, not to mention the queue for the bathroom. Most daunting of all is the fact that there are seven sets of homework to supervise. I can't begin to imagine how organised these people must be.


As if that wasn't impressive enough, I found out that the couple are both involved in parents' activities at their kids' school. The dad is also considering getting involved at the rugby club. These voluntary activities are obviously undertaken in the couple's spare time, which begs the question, what spare time? How can these people have any free time at all?

As a working mum of three small kids I have somehow convinced myself that I don't have enough hours in my life at the moment to volunteer on the parents' committee at my son's school.

I'm full of admiration for those who do get involved, but always tell myself I can do things like this when my three are a little older and the childcare bill has gone down.

After meeting this lovely couple, I have to admit to feeling a little sheepish about my time management. I always felt my job gave me a legitimate opt out of volunteering by day, but now I'm not so sure.

My excuse for non-participation seems a little inadequate when you consider the logistics required by a family three times larger than mine. If they can make time to help out, surely the rest of us can too?

Aside from giving something back to their community, I loved the fact that this mum and dad were at the rugby club together. Three of their kids were training that day, but I'm sure it would have been easier to dispatch one parent while the other stayed at home. A house with 11 inhabitants isn't exactly going to run itself.


Most parents come to rugby practice on their own, so I found it heart-warming that, 20 years on, these guys are still making time for their kids as a unit. I had always imagined that once you have four or more kids you'd pretty much pass each other by running in opposite directions and communicating by text message or Post-it notes stuck to the fridge door.

And it would be perfectly acceptable to behave like this, too. But somehow this inspiring family is making their busy lives work. I hope I meet them again some day to ask how they juggle their lives so expertly. How they make time for each other. How they seem so happy after 20 years of marriage.

Sometimes we meet extraordinary people in ordinary places who inspire us without ever knowing they have. While I certainly don't feel inclined to have any more children, I do wonder if I'm making the best use of my time in this game of life.