The surprise. This is often what Nerlande Gaëtan sees in the eyes of her interlocutors when she talks about her family, which includes six children aged from 18 months to 23 years old.

Sitting next to him at Théo Café in Longueuil, Sandryne Pellerin and Carryanne Pépin nod their heads. It’s hard to go unnoticed when you’re walking around with the equivalent of a small sports team around you.

“I could count the negative reactions on my hand,” says Sandryne Pellerin, mother of four boys and a little girl, aged 3 to 14. The 35-year-old market gardener routinely receives compliments from her customers. “For them, it’s just beauty. They find it fun to see our children with us, to see a happy family. »

The host of children of Carryanne Pépin, 31, also earns her her share of compliments. But the mother, pregnant with her seventh baby, is also sometimes the target of judgment. “You’re too young to have that much. When do you stop? ”, are among the more unpleasant remarks that the owner of the Fillettes et Fiston boutique, located in Saint-Lazare, in Montérégie, has to deal with.

“What I hear a lot from parents is that they stopped at two kids because of the cost of living. People ask: How do you do it? […] There is always a way to work things out. If every time we have a child it changed the family financial balance, we wouldn’t do it,” says Carryanne Pépin.

In a large family, all members are called upon to make compromises. An example ? Extracurricular activities. The three mothers decided to limit registrations, not only for financial reasons, but also for scheduling reasons. “And then, it’s good for them to realize that in life, you can’t have everything,” believes Nerlande Gaëtan, 38, mother and mother-in-law six times. “I think being in a big family, they understand that you don’t get everything you want with the snap of your fingers. […] They learn to adapt. I think it makes them become more accommodating as they grow up,” agrees Sandryne Pellerin.

Another learning that the three mothers observe a lot in their children is mutual assistance.

“My older ones are super independent. They do their laundry. They help us a lot with tasks. They will also help the little ones. For example, if we finish eating and the little ones have not picked up their plate, they will go behind them to do so,” illustrates the owner of the ecological farm Nos racines, located in Saint-Hugues, near Saint- Hyacinth.

“I was the big sister, the one who had to manage, replace mom… and I hated that,” reveals Nerlande Gaëtan, who spent her childhood in Haiti. This is why I listen very closely to my older daughters when they want a break. […] My mother took it too much for granted that I was going to take care of my little sisters. »

For Sandryne Pellerin and Carryanne Pépin, support also comes from those around them. Some grandparents are very present, but also parents of their children’s friends. “I don’t know how we managed to live without them,” says Carryanne Pépin, laughing. His neighborhood has a few large families who do not hesitate to exchange the task of driving young people to their activities.

But according to her, one of the most important elements of having several children is being able to let go. “There is no room for rigidity,” believes Carryanne Pépin. Lowering your expectations is essential for certain things [like cleaning]. Your dishes, I promise, they will be waiting for you. »

Compromises, mutual assistance, a good dose of letting go: we listen to the three mothers discuss and we realize that their reality is not so far from that of all parents. Is it very different, being the head of a large family? “I found the step so much higher to go from one child to two. When we had our second, it seems like my brain was learning for the first time how to reconcile two children, two appointments… Doing all the management twice. […] We found a routine and when the third arrived, it’s as if it didn’t change anything. Third, fourth, fifth, it seems like everything was in place,” replies Sandryne Pellerin.

She admits, however, that with five children, quiet moments are rare. As a baby, her youngest needed to be surrounded by noise to fall asleep.

Nerlande Gaëtan agrees. A former candidate for mayor of Saint-Léonard, she is very involved in different organizations, even if she also works full time. She likes it when things move and takes her daughters with her in this perpetual movement.

“My kids are everywhere. They are involved with me all the time,” says the one who admits to having difficulty stopping.

A bit like our discussion between mothers, which ultimately stretched over several hours.

Surprised that the morning had passed so quickly, Sandryne Pellerin pointed out to the others that it was rare to meet women their age with so many children. She enjoyed talking with them. A pleasure shared by Carryanne Pépin and Nerlande Gaëtan.