March 4, 2011

Umm Wanayyan on Raising 14 Children

Umm Wanayyan is a happily unemployed, stay-at-home, American mom of 14. She currently lives in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

So, 14 children, mashaAllah! Have you always wanted to have a large family?
I had no idea when I was a very young woman that I would end up with such a huge family. Before I married I had the usual daydream of domestic bliss. You know the one...married to prince charming, a couple of perfect children, a lovely home. Nowhere did that vision include 14 kids and a home in the desert! A friend once told me that my man mentioned that he wanted 12 kids out of me...I laughed so hard!

What are the ages of all your children and how many of them currently live with you?
My children range in age from 27 years down to three years. There are 10 boys aged 27, 25, 22, 17, 16, 14, 13, 11, seven, and five. I also have a 22-year-old stepson who has lived with us since he was three. The girls are aged 24, 20, eight, and three. But once I get my sons married off, inshaAllah, I'll have 14 daughters! =D I am now patiently waiting for grandchildren!

What do you do to instill a love for Islam in your children?
I haven't really found the need to instill a love for Islam in them as they have all been raised as Muslims and do vociferously defend their religion whenever it is attacked. I do play surat Al-Baqara and Al-Imran every morning to keep the shaytan at a distance and to help them memorize it (albeit unconciously). I also have found that starting a religious discussion with one willing person usually leads to the others joining in as well. This way they don't feel like they're being lectured.

With 14 children to care for, how do you balance your role as a mother with your role as a wife?
Naturally, with so many people clamouring around me for one thing or another, especially the little ones, I really don't have the kind of time for my husband that I used to have. Thankfully, he understands this problem and doesn't ask me to do more than I'm capable of. I do believe that the husband should come first though, and unless a child is seriously in need of me, then I happily drop whatever I'm doing onto one of the older kids and answer the occasional audacious wink.

What has been the most challenging part of raising so many children? What has been the most rewarding part?
The single most challenging thing about being a mother to so many is making them all feel that they are special in their own ways. It means I must listen to them intently when they confide in me and I do encourage them in whatever they are trying to accomplish. I feel the most reward just watching them grow and mature. When I remember their childhood antics I am amazed that these are the same persons, just all grown up. Some of them look like other siblings but, subhanAllah, they are each uniquely individual.

A lot of moms get stressed trying to raise just one child, I can imagine raising 14 would be even more stressful. How do you work through and overcome your stressful times?
Stress is a very real part of any parent's life whether you have one child, six, 10, or an "empty nest." Like they say, "it aint the work, it's the worry!" although the work can be daunting at times! I delegate...a lot. =) My boys do dishes and my girls cook a lot for me on weekends. They all do their own washing and ironing. To unwind I quilt, read, and bead a little too. But, when even these restfull distractions fail, I hide! In the closets, under the beds, outside in the chicken coop.

Over the years, what has been the most important lesson you've learned about being a mom?
Probably the most important lesson I've learned about being a mom is that Allah has given me this particular family because He knows that I can handle it all. "And we burden not any soul with more than he can bear". They are a test of my strength and faith and I will be held accountable for how I dealt with that trust. Also, no matter how difficult any one child may be, there is always something wonderful in him as well. In all things, I must put my trust in Allah (swt)."Verily,with hardship comes ease".

Do you have any advice for other moms who want a large family?
To any moms who want a very large family, it's a lot of work. You spread yourself quite thin and you will be tired at the end of each day, but it's well worth it. I can't imagine life without each one of them. The kind of person you want them to be is the kind of person you yourself must be now. You must provide them with the right example. Be a PROactive parent, even if you're married to a REactive spouse. You must still do whatever you can to make the difference in their upbringing. You are their sheppard.

Any final words of wisdom to share?
Keep your wits about you and a fluid sense of humor. When your two-year-old has dunked your second phone in the loo and the Hershey's syrup is decorating your kitchen floor, remember that this life is short and you aren't taking anything with you but your deeds. So chill and enjoy them while you can. They'll be grown before you know it and you'll be reminiscing about the good ol' days.

May Allah bless us all with large families, grant us the good things in this life and the next and forgive us our sins. Ameen.


  1. Asalam alaikum,

    What a blessing to have so many children. :) In the states it was rare to find sisters with as many or more than I...but in Saudi I'm finding it more and more "common," masha'Allah.

    Ameen to your dua!

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom

  2. salam alaykum,
    wow, wow, wow. I've 3 kids and it is so difficult for me and so much work. 14? Going through so many pregnancies? Deliveries? Full of admiration!
    Great interview. All the best to Umm Wanayyan.