Grace knows birth order dynamics. Children are treated differently based upon their respective birth orders.
Some Endure Hell While Others Endure Bliss
Introductory Metaphor -A boy enters a dark forest. It is so dark, there isn't even a glimmer of light shining through. He starts to leave; however, there are thundering footsteps coming ever closer. Unaware, the boy is kidnapped and carried into an even darker forest. He is then sold into what seems to be neverending servitude from which there is no reprieve at all.
For the purpose of the hub, the working definition of large families is 6 or more siblings per household.
Large family life can be quite difficult and onerous for parents and children involved. Parents are often unable to financially provide for a large number of children. They also cannot simply give all their children the prerequisite, individualized care, love, and/or attention the latter need. In large families, it is impossible for all of the children to have their individual needs met whether financially or emotionally.
In large families, there is differential treatment of children by their parents based upon their individual birth order. There is no such thing as equal and/or fair parity within the large family system. There are children who must become adults very early in life. Others simply coast along, having quite a prolonged childhood and adolescence, often into adulthood. A few just disappear into the family canvas. Parents of large families have certain and unwritten expectations and/or roles regarding their children based upon the latter's ordinal birth order position.
Oldest children in large families have it the hardest. Oldest children regardless of family size are in a difficult and quite arduous situation. They are held to a much tougher and stricter standard than other ordinal birth order positions. However, in large families, this situation is quadrupled. In large families, they are on their own very early in life. They are oftentimes not nurtured nor played adequate attention to after they reach a certain age. It is the parents' contention that oldest children do not need such as much as the younger children in the family do.
Oldest children in large families tend to be discarded in favor of their younger siblings. They are considered to be just there according to their parents. Parents of large families feel that it is totally unnecessary to nurture and show any type of affection to their oldest children. In the parents' eyes, their oldest children do not need such attention and/or affection as they are no longer babies or young children.
Many parents of large families consider such displays of affection towards their oldest children to be "babying" and/or "mollycoddling" them. Oldest children in large families are expected to MAN or WOMAN up as soon as possible. In other words, they had better grow and toughen up, grin, endure, and face the responsibilities that life has to offer.
Average parents of large families see their oldest children as adults, not children. They expect their oldest children to be adults very quickly. In large families, oldest children oftentimes receive the least affection by their parents. They are strongly exhorted that they are no longer children and to assume adult responsibilities. It is quite common for oldest children in large families to assume adult duties and/or obligations in early childhood.
Oldest children in large families can be classified typically as parentified children. The phenomena of the parentified child occurs among oldest children in large families. While their counterparts in medium and small sized families have normative childhoods, their childhoods are spent raising younger siblings. This is due to the fact that parents of large families have more children than they can effective raise by themselves. It is quite customary for the former to assign childrearing responsibilities to their oldest child.
Oldest children in large families do not have individual lives. The concept of me or free time is absent in their lives. They are constantly at the beck and call of either their parents and/or younger siblings. The needs of parents and/or younger siblings are first and foremost while their own needs are last or next to last. They have to endure continuous interruptions and/or intrusions from parents and/or siblings, always requesting something of one kind or another. They are expected to BE THERE and/or ON 24/7/365. They frequently overextend themselves for their families. They are told that is part of their duties as part of the family dynamic. Their status is put upon, overused, underappreciated, and/or just plain unappreciated.
Whatever oldest children in large families achieve and/or accomplish is either minimized, trivialized, or just ignored. Parents of large families view them as adults who should not have to be praised or congratulated for a job well done. Such parents contend that their oldest children should be beyond the level where they need constant positive reinforcement. They figure that their oldest children should possess sufficient self-motivation and/or sense of purpose to achieve, not depending upon them to be emotional coaches.
This means that oldest children in large families must often or not be their own support system since their parents are unavailable. They learn early in life that although they are always there for their parents and/or younger siblings, this is seldom, if ever,reciprocated by the parents. Naturally, their parents are tending to the younger children in the family as they need more parental love, attention, and support. An oldest child once conveyed to me, " I was ALWAYS there for my parents and siblings but my parents were HARDLY there for me."
Oldest children in large families oftentimes have year round part-time jobs to either give them the extras or most likely to supplement their family's income. Some even discontinue their education altogether, working full time to help support their families. Many oldest children in large families do not complete their education because it is imperative that they work. Tertiary and/or other higher forms of education are beyond the reach of many average oldest children in large families.
Oldest children in large families have to give up their personal aspirations and goals in order to assist their parents and/or finish raising younger siblings. It is not unusual for them to remain home while their younger siblings are busy embarking on their individual lives. Many oldest children of large families do not live their own lives as their lives are dedicated to their parents and/or siblings. They are seen as the be there and/or go to people if there is a problem.
Oldest children in large families are taken for granted. They are not considered to be individuals or children in themselves. They are a useful commodity to their parents and/or younger siblings. They are only valued if and/or when they fulfill a stated purpose. When they no longer serve and/or fulfill such a purpose, they are simply discarded and not acknowledged.
Many oldest children in large families leave home at the first opportunity. They see leaving home as a chance to obtain the freedom and individual that they did not have at home. At home, they were mired and incessantly inundated with adult responsibilities and/or obligations in one form or another. So escape from home is their first taste of freedom and the ability to live a semblance of a carefree life.
In Part 2/3 of this hub, how and why middle children in large families are treated quite unfairly, even ignored will be addressed at length.
© 2013 Grace Marguerite Williams
Gracie on September 13, 2013:
Thank you for understanding. I really appreciate it. Have a wonderful day! :)
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on September 13, 2013:
My name is Grace also. I appreciate your response. Each family, whether small, medium, and/or large is different. Thank you for your response, it is greatly appreciated. You have eloquently stated your point. I have nothing to add.
Gracie on September 13, 2013:
Please hear me out and read my entire comment! I would truly appreciate any feedback.
I am a fourteen year old girl, the second oldest of ten children. I have read your full article, and some others related to this, and they really interested me. I however, do not agree with what you said. My dad and mom both went through college and are very intelligent, and we do not scrape by out of trash cans as you seem to imply. My father has a decent job and we have never been in a bad financial situation.
I do not consider myself as “being on my own.” Dad and Mom always have time for me and my siblings, and they don't expect me to be an adult at my age. We are all paid equal attention.
Yes, we do have chores, but we aren't slaves. To me, the more kids there are, the easier it is with so many hands to clean the house, and do other “duties.”
I do not raise my siblings. I laughed when you said that oldest children do not have individual lives, and do not have “me or free times.” Though Dad and Mom treat us all fairly, we are seen as individuals, and they do not expect me to be there 24/7/365. They do praise me for jobs well done. I do not have to work to support the family. I am not taken for granted in my house. I do not have to “give up my personal aspirations and goals in order to assist my parents and/or finish raising younger siblings.” I have free time, maybe more than I need!
I am ready for my younger siblings if they need help, or if there is a problem, and it is a joy to help them out. I love to be looked up to! My dad and mom are always free to have them come to them. But the kids come to me sometimes, not because they're “neglected”, but sometimes they need some sib-to-sib talk.
I have tons of friends and I believe that most oldest girls in big families do have enough time for themselves and for social life.
Having a large family is not always the easiest thing in the world, but it teaches us how to be more patient. Do you not think that patience is a good virtue?
I know how to cook and change diapers, but I am not forced to be the parent.
I am not failing in school. Normally I get A's or B's. My mom always takes the time to help me with my homework. I can see how much affection and attention she shows to me even when I am no longer a baby or a young child. What I achieve is not ignored. And I am not “only valued if and/or when I fulfill a stated purpose.” To think that they would just “simply discard and not acknowledge” me would be so senseless. Your outlook on human life must be very low.
This brings me to a question: How do you know for sure that this is the way “most” families are?
I personally know twenty-two families that have more than six children, and each one is the complete opposite of what you have described in your articles. None of them have any indication of the slightest idea of what you have said. Each is a good family with a good dad providing them with everything they need, and more.
How can you judge large families when you had no siblings to experience one? You did not grow up in a large family and I'm starting to wonder if you know anything about the “average” large family. If you have heard bad stories about large families, it is because only the bad stories get brought up these days.
I hope that you would reconsider all the things you have said about big families. Please stop making posts which state that “most” big families are slave-driving, unhappy, uneducated, unloved, unappreciated, undernourished, and poverty-stricken. They are almost always lies, except for very very rare cases. I should know! Please stop completely over-exaggerating and smashing down our reputations. We oldest girls do not wish to be seen as overworked, unhappy slaves, because we are not, and we do not like being called such by those who have never experienced even one sibling.
I believe that your life was wonderful as a child and I am thankful you had good parents that loved you. I hold in high respect honorable people like you who have accomplished so much in life. I know many wonderful small families! But many, many big families also have good parents too, so can I encourage you to at least stop for now writing about us like this until you find something worth writing?
I believe big families can be just as happy as smaller or medium families. Of course, the atmosphere is different, but that doesn't mean it is as horrendous as you say. I hope you will take this kindly and not think I am rude for posting this. I apologize for anything that might upset you, but quite frankly, ma'am, this is coming from a young girl who is experiencing a large family and who personally knows twenty-two families which completely contradict your claims. Thank you for taking the time to read this.