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The community of a big family
A few weeks or so ago, I read an article that expressed the idea that introverts aren’t cut out to be home-schooling mothers. Since I am home-schooling and I am most definitely an introvert, the piece got me thinking. I’ve forgotten where I read it and even what she said, but she had my thoughts started on their own rabbit trail. Mothers who educate their children at home are most definitely surrounded by people all day long. At first glance, it looks like a challenge for an introvert at best.
Then I took the thought one step further: Are introverts called to be mothers of large families, schooling choices aside? Mothers of many are also surrounded by people all day long. Even if all their children are school age (which doesn’t happen for a long while if it’s a big family), mothers are required to interact with all the people in their children’s lives — teachers, coaches, friends and friends’ parents. Lots of social interaction. I am not only a home-schooling mother, I have nine children. Does God only call extroverts to this life of blessed abundance?
I make choices every day that take into account both my family size and our educational choices. Our life at home is very disciplined. Once the liturgical life, the academics, the athletics and the myriad of chores necessary to family life are penciled in, there is not a lot of discretionary time. This introvert tries to live life in a cloister during school hours so that I can maximize my time at home before I begin to ferry my children to their many activities. And if you looked closely and spoke to only one of my children in isolation, you’d find that though it looks like a frenzy of activities, each of my children really only has his or her “one thing” that is pursued to its fullest. Is that a function of my introverted nature or is it a function of my family size?
Someone once told me that large families are either extremely disciplined or not disciplined at all. When you are dealing with such large numbers there can be no in-between. I choose to be extremely disciplined. The alternative scares me. I think that maybe being an introvert is a positive factor in this regard. I’m not enticed by every social or co-op opportunity that comes along, not easily distracted by the wide assortment of shiny activities. I’m very content to live a life of quiet discipline with my family.
I have wondered though, what does this extreme discipline mean in terms of the larger community? I remember a time when my parish was young and my family was young. I kept volunteering to lead this ministry or that and my pastor kept turning me away. His firm conviction was that mothers of five, six, seven or more children needed to be focused at home. In hindsight, I can see his wisdom. He saved me from falling into a trap of misplaced priorities. Now, when I wonder about “community” and the fact that we are created to live and worship in community, I am assured that my community at home is indeed a vibrant one. And when I wonder about hospitality and charity and the call we all have to serve, I am reminded that I cannot be all things to all people and that I am both uniquely called and uniquely suited to love this small crowd at home with everything I have. I am an introvert, called to have a large family and educate them at home — it all works together with the precision that only God could have foreseen.
Foss, whose website is elizabethfoss.com, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.