I’m blessed to have 10 children between the ages of 6 and 27.

I didn’t start out wanting to have a large family. I came from a family of four, my wife came from a family of eight, and when we talked about how many kids we wanted to have I remember saying I wanted a “big family like mine.” My wife Maria? She was smartly silent. She wanted to be open to far more children, and she knew that, with time, I’d come around.

So what was it like being open to even the first child? I was scared to death. How was I going to be able to provide for another person, an immortal soul? I didn’t even have a job!

But then my father-in-law pulled me aside and said that his father-in-law had told him that every child comes with a loaf of bread under their arm. What does that mean?

“When God gives you a child, he gives you the means to provide for that child.”

I remember thinking that I had just graduated from college, completed a year of volunteer work, had $20,000 worth of loans, and that my father-in-law was a successful physician. How were our situations even remotely similar? But then he reminded me that he was still in medical school acquiring debt when he started his family, and they went on to have 8 children. God provided for them, and He would provide for me.

So, while I was scared to death, with each child there did, in fact, come a loaf of bread. You could basically plot my income going up with each child, though it usually went up after we found out we were pregnant. I would get a promotion, something else would come through, or sometimes it was just family members who would help us out. We were taken care of over and over again.

To be honest, though, it wasn’t until about my fifth child that I started to realize what was going on, and that maybe I could trust the Lord. And then I could almost hear Him saying “have you finally figured that out, Michael? Yes, I will take care of you.”

Another interesting thing about large families: my parents only had four kids – myself and three brothers – but they used to get our names wrong all the time. And there were only four of us! I promised myself that I was never going to do that.

So, people ask me now if I remember the names of all my kids, and the answer is “of course!” Do you have 10 friends? Do you remember all their names? Of course you do!

However, when I’m angry or upset about something and I want to call one of my kids, that’s the moment when the wrong child’s name comes out. It’s almost like my brain is in overdrive and I can’t get out the right name…so I actually do exactly what my parents did.

But the most surprising thing about a big family is how there are almost two halves of the family – the older kids and the younger kids. The older kids were basically our guinea pigs; we were learning to parent and we did a lot of things wrong with them. At times I’ve had discussions with our Lord about why He let me, as a new incompetent parent, even be a parent in the first place. My older kids have had to pay that price. There were things that we freaked out about that we now realize weren’t a big deal, and there were also things that we missed that were important. Thankfully, for the younger part of the family, we parent better. We’re better at picking up on the important things, and letting the less important stuff go.

I was sharing this with my wife’s aunt recently, how with the younger half of the family we’re able to avoid some of our past mistakes, and she looked at me and laughed.

“Great!” She said, “so with the younger children you can do new things wrong!”

And she’s right. We’re going to do new things wrong. Actually, it was pride that I thought I was going to get everything right the second time around. But even though I’m going to get new things wrong, there are also some old things that I’m going to do right – and that’s a real blessing.

It’s an adventure to have a large family. God speaks through my children. I’ve had to be humble and learn from them, learn from my mistakes and then get back up again. I hope for my older children that they can see some of the ways that we’re doing things better now, even though they didn’t get that better treatment, and that they can implement those things in their own families.

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  • Charles Sendegeya August 6, 2020   Reply →

    Hi Michael,
    Yesterday I shared your video about your large family with a friend of mine who also has several children.
    This is what he told me:
    “Thanks Charles, really appreciate this. I’ve just finished watching the video and subscribed on all his channels”.
    The work you do is very important and would like to give you a thumbs-up from Windsor, ON.
    God bless you and your family.

  • Mary August 16, 2020   Reply →

    I appreciate this video and it sounds stupendously wonderful. I wonder what it would be like to have a life partner. I was glad of some of the things you said as it validated my experience to me as a single parent–constantly second-guessing my thoughts and decisions. I did not have the ‘advantage’ of doing differently with the last half of the brood and adjusting for my mistakes. I had only one child. Since there is no ministry in the Catholic Church to single parents, I wish married parents would ‘adopt’ single parents and reach out to them and include them at least once a month so the children of the single parent can experience a valid family life. Single parents are completely stressed out: everything is on their shoulders and they have no one with whom to share the burden, there is no reprieve from the job and they get all the bills and responsibilities without any of the rewards. There is no down time. So if you wonder why the children of single parents turn out so poorly at times, remember that the single mom or dad probably had no real opportunity to get to know their child or children and to just enjoy them for a bit. It’s all work and no play. I am glad for those who find a partner. This is a difficult culture to navigate.

    • Michael O'Rourke October 5, 2020   Reply →

      Agree Mary! It is tough! God did not intend parents to go parenting alone.
      I always appreciate the promise that God will fill in for what we can’t do. In particular, St Joseph for moms, and the Blessed Virgin Mary for dads, are go-to’s for help. Though, your point is right on, we also need other people to support us.
      I will pray that families with both parents will begin to support single parent families!
      We have seen that support at Catholic Familyland, also known as the Apostolate for Family Consecration.
      Their summer Holy Family Fests, events, and spirituality of Family Consecration are FANTASTIC!

  • Megan McDaniel January 11, 2023   Reply →

    Hello Michael, this is a beautiful article. My friend Angela Connelly, wrote a book called The Crowded Table. It is a collection of 52 women’s essays- women who have embraced big families in faith, joy and humor and beautifully live their vocation as mothers.
    We are currently collecting essays for the “Fathers” voice, at the Crowded Table. Would you please consider adding one? Or emailing me with more questions? Even the one above would be perfect. Thank you for your prayerful consideration. Megan

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