Susieboldt's Blog

Random Comments from a Dreamer

The Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe

Could you imagine being a mother of sixteen children? How about a sibling to fifteen brothers and sisters?

Nope, I couldn’t either.

I read about a woman who had sixteen kids, and I had to do a double take and re-read what I had already read. 16 KIDS!! I don’t even know how to wrap my head around this. That’s enough kids to make your own baseball team, and have extras! That’s enough kids to fill a small bus. That’s enough kids to run your own farm without ever having to pay employees. You get the picture.

I wonder how long it took for this woman to run out of names. I can barely think of one boy name that I like. If I had to think of more than one, I’d probably just start naming them after fathers and grandfathers and then other people’s fathers and grandfathers.

I wonder how big this family’s dinner table was. Was it big enough to fit everyone, or did they have to take shifts? I’m betting on shifts.

How were the sibling’s relationships with each other? I mean, by the time the mom is done having kids you’d have a significant age difference between the oldest and youngest.  Some siblings would probably get really close to others in the same age bracket, and then pick on the younger ones.

I wonder what kind of personalities each kid got, and if they’re all different. And how would the birth order theory work with sixteen kids!?

As you can see, I’m having a very difficult time imagining such a life.

This woman, who I don’t even know, reminds me of the old lady who lived in the shoe. I don’t really know why; perhaps because the old lady who lived in the shoe had a lot of kids. This is really the only parallel.

I can just picture it now: the kids are outside misbehaving, they’ve tied poor Timmy to the swing, and now they’re playing piñata with him using those sponge swords. Timmy’s not having a good time. All of a sudden, the mother rushes out of the shoe-house waving a rolling pin in the air, shouting at her boys to leave Timmy alone. The boys run off, leaving Timmy tied to the swing that he had been enjoying just a few moments before. This is how I picture life as being when you have sixteen kids.

I wonder if the youngest children received anything new at all. They probably wore everyone else’s hand-me-downs, and used everyone else’s broken toys. Those poor children. Imagine playing truck with a truck that’s missing a wheel. It’s always going to tip over, no matter what you load in the back. Or imagine playing with a doll, who’s been drawn on, had one of her eyes ripped out, and her head swivels all the way around because the siblings before her kept taking if off!

I’d like to meet every one of these kids (grown-up’s by now), and do a case study on their lives. Who got picked on? Who was the instigator? Who were the shy ones? Who loves math, and who loves reading? I could ask so many questions!

All I know is that I will not be having sixteen kids. I am not willing to move into a shoe, nor am I willing to carry around a rolling pin, looking like a crazy lady.

Nope, three to four kids will do fine.


Image from:


September 30, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Might be a crazy life, but talk to any one of the siblings and they wouldn’t trade it for the world. Big families are way more close than 4 member families.

    Comment by sue | October 3, 2010 | Reply

  2. Large families were once the norm.

    150 years ago, it was NORMAL to lose 30 to 60% of children born to disease. A family might have 16 children born, and only see 6 or 8 live to adult hood.

    Better sanitation (even more than better medicine) increased childrens chances of survival. Birth control (just 50 years old) gave women options.

    if you know your child has a HUGE chance of living to adult hood, you don’t need to have 5, or 7, or…
    and if you can control your fertility…

    meanwhile, sue, Big families are way more close than 4 member families. is a nice general statement.. but like all general statements, is not really true.
    families of 1 child can be dysfunctional and so can families of 7, or 10 or 16.

    Comment by Helen (of troy) | October 7, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment, Helen! I do know most of the facts you gave, but divorce yourself from those facts and imagine being a mother to sixteen children. I don’t know how many of these children died, or if any; but just put yourself in the shoes of that mother or a sibling! I have a hard time even wrapping my head around it! I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have loved to come from a big family, because I would, but I don’t think I could ever have more than four kids.

      Comment by susieboldt | October 7, 2010 | Reply

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