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OT - How did she do it?

JRI's picture

Mom99 and I were reviewing some genealogy material today.  My great-grandmother had 11, yes eleven, children, one every two years like clockwork starting in 1898.  Nine survived.  I am stunned, how did people do it back in the day?  I was just barely hanging on with my 2 and DH's 3.

My great-gps were just regular people, farmers, low income.  How in the world did they do it?


thinkthrice's picture

Because somewhere along the line, the western world became "child centric" instead of children, from birth being taught they are "cogs in the family wheel. "   Children were expected to pitch in from toddlerhood.  Adult authority was absolute.   Back talk was NOT tolerated and each successive child was taught the family rules.   Obedience was reinforced by the older siblings as well and everyone knew their role in society. 

TBH I think this "old fashioned" system was far superior to what we have today and worked for centuries when life was truly difficult yet generations somehow managed. 

An example in modern times would be the Amish.

Noway2b1's picture

Eh some not so much. I raised mine in-between. A funny example that recently occurred with my own grandchildren was I had set out some delicacies for "adults" only. Special pastries I had paid a fortune for and cookies for the kids. Even with teaching there's always that one kid that thinks they're special. So special kid immediately goes for delicacies and gets told "those are for adults" this kid looks me in the eye and said "it's ok my mom said I could" uhhhh nope kids get cookies if your mom wants to give you hers that's fine but you aren't helping yourself kid ... One of my four boys although taught NOT to order drinks on our rare restaurant visit always would try to "uhmm I'll have an orange juice" no you won't. The other boys would always give him a hard time because he did this from age 2-12 with us never relenting, but occasionally the waitress would take pity on him and bring what he asked for so he was rewarded,  when he got older he would bring his own money to buy his 3-4$ drink. 

Yesterdays's picture

I agree about the drinks. If I take my kids out to eat its a reward /treat for us and going out to dine and it's more expensive now too!! Now that they eat off the adult menu I also give them a dollar amount too... Like find something under X dollars, you are not getting the most expensive item on the menu, lol. I do that with clothes shopping too.. You can buy whatever you want under X dollars. My step kids tried to beg me to buy them tonnes of clothes once when I took them out... I don't think they realized my personality... Um...nope, not going to happen. Especially if you beg me for it.. Then you don't get anything because it's rude. 

ESMOD's picture

I don't really recall being given much of an option eating out at all as a kid.. My mom might ask whether we wanted "the hamburger steak or the chicken sandwich".. or "clam strips or lasagna"... as in she would pick off the child's menu a couple of items or from regular menu if no CM was available.  Not too many choices and the drink was ALWAYS a glass of MILK!  I don't imagine you can even get a glass of milk a lot of places now..haha.  But certainly they would have had zero problem cutting off the special request. 

I do remember once in San Francisco we were at a restaurant.. mom ordered us milk (we said nothing really.. no disappointment).. and the waitress "accidentally" brought us cokes.. which was a high treat for us!

We didn't get much ability to pick our clothes other than to try on for size/fit.  When I got to my early teens.. my mom would go to the clerk at the dept store in the mall and give me a "limit" to purchase on her card/account.. and that was it.  But.. of course, I knew that was all I was getting.. so no wasting it all on one or two fancy items when I needed much more to make it through the year.


Yesterdays's picture

My teens are avid thrift shoppers... You'd be amazed at what items they can find for a few bucks here and there with some good searching skills... They come home and show me their finds.. Some great stuff. 

Yesterdays's picture

I've taught my son well. When we go to the grocery store he'll tell me, don't get that one, you get more grams per dollar with this choice... Bwahaaha. I was proud. 

Noway2b1's picture

Meanwhile skids help themselves to literally anything and everything.

You'd be amazed at the things I've said "uhmmm no I want that blender/toaster/cooler/ladder/knife"

The list goes on and on.  I mean to me is sooooooo weird you don't ask people for their stuff/food/vitamins/essential oils..... Er ...... you don't ASK is what I taught my kids. DHs kids were taught, help yourself, and when in doubt help yourself and maybe ask if you think it'll be an issue. DHs policy.... skid looked at it with approval, can I give it to them? Grrrrr. 

Cover1W's picture

ESMOD this totally reminds me of the first "party/get together" my then SO and I hosted after we moved in together.

I had fancy foods and adult foods/beverages set up for the adults outside on a table where we were going to be hanging out. I also made a tray of goodies for the kids (kid friendly, some of it the same as ours) on a smaller table just inside the doors, but super accessible to them. I told ALL the kids (DH's daughters then 7 & 9, and two others around 7 & 6) this is all for you (good right, because it wasn't a small amount) and help yourselves! 

Not 30 minutes into the get together were the SDs and the other 7 yo literally hunched over sneaking into the middle of the adult space to snatch the EXACT same items off our food area - literally eating most of it. Then the planted themselves in the middle of us and interrupting and being generally annoying. The parents of the other 7 yo did nothing. My then SO did nothing. One of my other friends shot me a glance like 'W...T...F?!" I told the kids to get out of the adults area that they had their OWN food set out for that purpose. Cue complaining and backtalk - I did NOT tolerate that and told them out NOW. Then raided their food to replenish ours.

Kids do NOT rule the house!  Oh, wait, unless your spouse is a disney parent....

Noway2b1's picture

We did a brunch for DHs adult kids and their kids. The opposite happened. His adult kids raided the kids table that had corn dogs and tater tots. Meanwhile the lox and bagels went begging. This was the brunch DH packed up nearly all the leftovers and gave them to YSS (39)  in particular all the good bagels and left me with the plain ones, after I specifically set aside the ones I wanted for later. Gone. Yeah I read him the riot act of "AT LEAST ASK ME WHAT I WANT TO KEEP FIRST!!!" 

thinkthrice's picture

Lox and bagels!!  With capers, lettuce, tomato and NYC whipped cream cheese!

Noway2b1's picture

Can you imagine? Going for corn dogs and tater tots over that? I think it was done in spite because they pride themselves on being foodies. Oh the snotty DIL refused them because she gets bagels flown in FROM NYC and we should have told her she would get us some. Whatever LOL

Yesterdays's picture

I have 12 aunts and uncles from the one side of the family. The family was low income farmers as well. I guess at some point the older ones start being able to watch the younger ones. They had a small house too. I don't know how they did it. Like thinkthrice said I think obedience and authority was key. I know they helped out a lot on the farm. There certainly were no kids sitting around with tablets all day like kids nowadays :p  could you imagine. Sitting around being lazy was not an option... 

ESMOD's picture

I'm guessing by the time the first got to be about 6.. (and the kids after).. they were expected to watch their younger siblings.

The parents also probably raised a majority of their food.. or at least a good portion of it.  Clothing was probably hand made.. and much less of it per kid.. probably a few outfits max.  (handed down too! do kids even know what that is these days?) They also probably made other things like soap.. and cut their own wood for their wood stoves..  

it was a much more subsistence way of life.. day to day life was about making your basic needs be met.. there was less about bulding wealth.. keeping up with the jones's etc.. and everyone was pitching in according to ability.. 

obv... divorce was less common.. working outside the home for women.. again uncommon.  There are plus and minus for those things.. would we be happier in some ways going back to that? maybe in some ways.. but we all are mostly able to live a life that is beyond just "living to survive".. to being able to enjoy things beyond that.. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I agree with the above posts. Kids today are hard to deal with because parents are expected to wait on them, entertain them, clean up after them, and "grin and bear it" when the kids display annoying behavior. The way parents were back then would be considered child abuse today. 

la_dulce_vida's picture

All of the above, and as for the absence of divorce, I would add that while it was frowned upon, statistically speaking, I believe the facts bear out that women too often died in childbirth and those who survived often became widows. We live longer today which is why divorce seems more necessary. LOL


thinkthrice's picture

B/c there were virtually zero divorces and the previous bio parent had assumed room temperature....the new stepparent didn't have to deal with the drama from a living ex spouse.

Rumplestiltskin's picture

Yeah, the whole kids bouncing back and forth between homes thing is relatively new. I suspect time will show that it isn't good for kids. And i say that as a parent of kids who were 50/50 for years. The constant communicating and coparenting, the back and forth, the competition between houses, etc. The effect a very present ex has on new relationships/households and the ensuing drama. It can't be good for kids to be raised in that chaos.

I have 2 cousins, brothers born about 10 years apart. Same 2 bioparents but the parents got married and lived together just before the second was born. The older one was shuffled around and he is pitiful. 3 kids by 3 women, can't keep a job. The younger was raised with the stability of living in one house. He is married with kids, doing well, good job despite no formal post high-school education.

I tried to give my kids as much stability as possible despite the divorce but i can't deny that there has been some damage. When i got divorced 13 years ago, everyone was like "just do 50/50, it's the best for everyone!" If i knew then what i know now, i would still get divorced (there was abuse), but i would have been a lot more mindful of ways to mitigate the damage done by going back and forth between houses (stricter routine for one.) 

Noway2b1's picture

The standard!!! I get it if women have worked all the kids life but I've met a few young women who were stay at home moms who have been forced into 50/50 custody and they are struggling to figure out juggling jobs and childcare and 3-4 days single parenting. 

Yesterdays's picture

I think because of my own upbringing, and I could think back to my dad's upbringing with 13 kids on a small farm.. I had less tolerance for skids entitled behaviors. They would whine about things that were beyond ridiculous. When covid began, people were stocking up on food for their panty in a sort of survival mode. There was one week I went and bought $400 worth of pantry staples.. Rice, canned foods, frozen veggies, bread etc. Then.. My step kids came over and were complaining about the variety of chips we had picked out...and I could only roll my eyes. I know kids don't realize to the same extent.

We had a lot of ongoing food issues with my step daughter. If she didn't like dinner she'd throw a tantrum and run to her room. Imagine my dads family in the 60s and one of the 13 kids demands they will only eat vegan food... Hah... Things were different back then and kids really weren't "catered to". You were lucky for the food you had and roof over your head. You knew your place and it was "kid". You knew if you acted out at home or school you would get in trouble. 

In a way I try to still raise my kids with those original family values.. Spending less, being thrifty, only buying what's needed for the most part, aside from splurges once in a while. My parents used to only use cash for buying things. Once the cash ran out it was out. No maxing out visa cards for kids video games.. 

Noway2b1's picture

I think it's why I don't relate to skids or even DH as a parent/grandparent. He takes a lot of pride in the abundance he provided and apparently is still expected to provide. There are many times I side eye him over it. 

Felicity0224's picture

My grandfather had 11 siblings, 10 of them lived to adulthood. My other grandparents each had 4 siblings, which is still a lot of kids by today's standards lol. Both of my parents have 3 siblings. 

I think a lot of the mental/emotional labor of raising children that we have today simply didn't exist for most people 75-100 years ago. I can't tell you how much time I spend agonizing over my parenting decisions. Am I doing what's best for her? Is she on the right track? Is she happy and fulfilled? Am I setting her up for a successful life? I think my grandparents and their parents probably stopped at 'is my child alive?' I'm half joking, but honestly sometimes I look back at how my parents parented me, and I realize that they didn't put half as much thought into what they were doing as I do when it comes to my kid. Not that they didn't love me, they just didn't think of parenting as an intentional act that has to be carefully considered on a regular basis. And they certainly didn't believe that every child needs an individualized approach. 

All that to say, it would be a hell of a lot easier to raise a ton of kids if you weren't worried about much beyond keeping them alive.

Yesterdays's picture

Agree and I feel like single kids get a lot more time and energy and also money spent on them. I have 3 kids.. So I can't afford the same nice-ties that someone with one child can for example. When we have some food item run out they just eat something different.. For example I'm not running out the door on every demand they might have.. My step daughter used to ask what we were having for dinner each night then try to tweak it to what she liked. This just can't happen when you have multiple children!! One time she wanted sundried pesto on her pasta instead of the basil pesto we already had. She made him run to the store to buy "her" kind that was "better"... Sheer ridiculousness. My grandparents or parents wouldn't have put up with that nonsense at all. But it was actually the opposite.. We had to finish off our plate even if we didn't like it.. Lol. 

Noway2b1's picture

My kids that have children of their own finally get why I was such a food nazi, you can't plan meals with teenagers eating everything in the fridge before mealtime! Shredded cheese and corn chips were about the main help yourself in our house. But also I made 3 meals a day every weekend/day  and sent lunches once in school.  I don't miss those days!!! 

Ispofacto's picture

People went hungry, regularly. In fact, food stamps became a thing in 1939 when the military found that 40% of WW2 recruits couldn't serve because they were suffering from malnutrition. 

Complaining about dinner is a first world problem. People have forgotten to be grateful to be fed, housed, warmed, and educated. All luxuries.