Under 1 Roof: 12 Kids, 2 Women, and 1 Very Patient Man

When I was in my early- to mid-teens a maternal aunt and her 7 children moved in with our family of 7 into a 4 bedroom/2 bathroom house. They were from the east coast and none of the kids from each family knew the other.

The five boys were in one bedroom and the seven girls in another. Thank goodness for bunk beds with 3 mattresses! Personal space was rare and precious, and privacy was a wonderful concept with virtually no chance of reality.

Despite major efforts by everyone, I’m sure that noise levels greatly exceeded volume standards for jet engines. That must have been very tough on the nerves of the adults.

Certain aspects of life needed to be fairly tightly regimented. For example, with 15 people and only 2 bathrooms you can imagine how crazy that got! The lines could get as bad as those at a ball game at half-time. And there was often more dancing and squirming while standing in those lines than what might be seen at a high school dance.

The ambiance at meal time was akin to a military mess hall with a platoon of hungry recruits devouring everything in sight. In our house it was be fast or go hungry.

It took multiple shopping carts piled as high as possible just to keep food on the table. I can’t even imagine how much it cost to feed all of us!

And the piles of laundry were mountainous and never-ending. Our clothes washer and dryer worked around the clock.

The older kids helped around the house—-though I’m sure that we didn’t help nearly as much as we thought we did, or as the adults would have liked! I was the oldest of the 12 kids and I was still fairly young.

Schedules needed to be strictly adhered to. One person running late could wreak havoc on everyone, and getting everyone out of the house on time resembled a cross between a fire drill and a scene from the Keystone Cops—-but with a LOT more noise.

While all this might seem to be a recipe for disaster or misery, I don’t remember it that way. We kids had a whole bunch of cousins we hadn’t known before to get to know and to play with.

We all just kept finding ways to make it work.

It must have been tough for my mom and her sister to live under one roof with each other and so many children, but I can’t even imagine how it must have been for my poor (and I mean that both figuratively and literally) Dad.

About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren. I manage a wealth management firm that I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of approximately 60 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and the beauty of kindness and nature.
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5 Responses to Under 1 Roof: 12 Kids, 2 Women, and 1 Very Patient Man

  1. Wow, that is amazing! I had a friend who had 5 brothers and 9 sisters. I used to love sleeping over at her house. (bunkbeds lined the basement) because it felt like going to camp!

  2. I came from a family of 10 but I was the last one so I didn’t grow up with all 10…many were out of the house or married but I imagine our house was like that a lot. There was only my Mom though to try and regulate it as my Dad did not help at all..he was an alcoholic and as far as money went ..when he was still around (before I was born) he would sometimes leave money and other times my mother would have to send a couple of the kids to where he worked (as a barber) to ask for it, and mother also did laundry for other folk as well. But I do remember the family dinners when I was growing up with all of my siblings and their families coming on Sundays and while they were hectic they were full of fun and laughs and love. …Diane

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you for sharing your story, Diane. What your mom did is heroic in my eyes.

      Your last phrase “full of fun and laughs and love” is mostly how I remember it was as a kid at my house with 15 people under one roof. And crazy, but crazy as in a circus, though my Dad probably thought it was carzy as in insane.

      Our family sticks together when times get tough. I now that a lot of other families do too. It saddens me for those who come from families that where that isn’t the case. For them, I hope they build their own emergency support network by have–and being–true friends.


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