Many of the members of my community have more than 4 kids. Having grown up as one of two, and seeing 4 kids as huge, a family of 7 kids (or more!) blows my mind. One thing I have noticed is the older siblings have much more wisdom about caring for children than I did when I was 12. I’ve worked with 12-year-old girls in a toddler-aged youth group and I am in awe of how much they know about how to deal with challenging situations, e.g. a child who won’t stop crying or a child who won’t stop running out of the room. I know this now, since I’ve been a preschool teacher for a year and a half, but before that? No way! They know this because they themselves have younger siblings. They’ve had experience with similar situations before, and I’m sure they model their parents as well.
Another thing that is impressive is how these young women help care for not only their younger siblings, but other young children in the community as well. For example, watching a child in the early morning and bringing them to preschool because the child’s parents have to get to work before the preschool opens. When I was in high school, I fought for every ounce of sleep I could get in the morning. I was also very focused on getting good grades—it was the be-all, end-all of my existence. While having too demanding of a job in high school is not something I believe to be beneficial [may lead to burn out, exhaustion, and have a negative impact on mental health, physical health, as well as negatively impacting one’s academic performance, which although not the be-all, end-all that I made it out to be, is very important in setting one up for maximizing where one can go to college, which is (at least most of the time) the foundation for a good career], having a light side-job gives a person a more realistic view of the world. And having a job where one cares for little ones is especially helpful for those young women who intend to have chlidren of their own someday.
As someone who did not babysit much growing up (although I did lead youth groups on the weekend and loved being a camp counselor!), two years in and I am still in shock from what motherhood has brought into my life: the 24/7 care for an infant, then baby, then toddler, etc. And, while nothing can completely prepare you for the reality (amazing and exhausting) that motherhood is, any dose of reality check as a youth may help set the stage—give a bit of a clue as to what to expect and help one acclimate.