In the UK, a woman who said she never planned to have kids, is now a mother of 11.
Joseph Sutton, 35, and his wife Nicole, 30, live with their eight daughters and three sons in their 3-bedroom home in Aspatria, Cumbria.
The couple envisioned a simple life and the thought of having children never really entered the equation when they met back in 2005.
The couple never planned to have children but after getting pregnant with daughter Rhiannan, 14, the babies just kept on coming.
Although dreams of having fancy cars were switched into a 17-seater minibus, the couple says they wouldn’t have it any other way and loves their huge family so much.
The proud parents of 11 do not depend on any benefits aside from normal child benefits but still manages to look after the family around their jobs, with Joseph working as a coach driver while Nicole works as a part-time shop assistant.
Two years after having Rhiannan, 14, their firstborn, Lacy was born, now 12, followed by Mackenzie, 10, Skylar, 9, Henley, 7, twins Cobi and Parker, 6, Hadley, 4, River, 3, Ocean, 2, Hallie, who was stillborn last year and Navy, 5 months old.
“We never wanted a big family, I didn’t even want children,” Joseph said. “I don’t know what happened, but I am glad I’ve got them all, it’s good fun. It’s a madhouse but I wouldn’t change it.”
Nicole chimed in and said that she was shocked she found out that she was pregnant with Rhiannon.
“I had the contraceptive implant, so I never expected to fall pregnant,” Nicole said. “We did not find out until I was already four months gone. I took a test because I was putting weight on, but I never thought it would be positive.”
“I had no idea how we would manage but any child is a blessing, so we just rolled with it,” she added. “After I had my first baby, I just found I loved being a mom so much and looking after my daughter.”
“I’m not close with my family so the more I had, the more I loved it,” Nicole said.
The couple said that their big family draws a lot of attention when they go out and Nicole even made t-shirts with numbers on them just to make sure everyone is still around.
The family spends $2,117 a year just for the school uniforms but lives with all their children in a three-bedroom house after converting one of the downstairs rooms into a bedroom.
“When we’re out I’m constantly head counting without even thinking. I just see us as a normal family with a few extra running around,” Nicole said. “Parenting is the same for us all whether we have one or 12, we are all just doing our best.”
Joseph added that they always get weird looks on people’s faces whenever they are outside.
“We always get comments. On the school run, Nicole gets asked if they’re all hers,” Joseph said. “People pull faces sometimes when we’re out but we don’t take much stock of it anymore, it doesn’t bother us.”
“When people at work ask how many kids, I’ve got they say I’d be better on the dole than working so we can’t win,” the father of 11 said. “They don’t know how I work and take care of them all, but you’ve got to, you need to work, and I’ve always worked.”
“People should mind their own business, they don’t have to deal with it, they don’t have to look after them and it doesn’t affect their lives,” Joseph said. “It was our choice to have them.”
Nicole, prepares toothbrushes, school uniforms, and dishes for breakfast in the evening, wakes up at six to have an hour for herself before getting the children up at seven, dressing the eldest eight kids, doing the school run, and spending the day with the youngest three.
She spends half an hour making 12 beds, washes three loads of washing a day, and vacuums five times every day. All food shopping is done online having an average of 12 baskets being delivered weekly.
“It’s all about routine, everything is laid out the night before, uniforms, toothbrushes, dishes,” Nicole said. “I gave up on ironing years ago and just use the dryer. I pick the kids up and we eat at five so I set the plates out while dinner is cooking and assign everyone to seats.”
“Six fit at the table in the kitchen, three in high chairs, and the rest sit on the sofa for some peace and quiet, it’s absolute madness,” she explained. “I make huge batches of spaghetti Bolognese and roast dinners so every meal is like Christmas dinner but sometimes I’ll chuck in chicken nuggets and chips. Don’t we all.”
“Picking up toys is constant and Joseph does the bath and bed routine because he leaves before the kids wake up so misses all the action,” she said. “Friday is usually the worst washing day because I have to do the PE kits so that’s an extra two washes and Saturday is bed changing day so there’s even more washing but it’s all fun.”
Joseph bought a 17-seater minibus to bring the whole family around especially on holidays where they take up two apartments.
“We’ve had to turn one of the downstairs rooms into a bedroom. Mealtimes are hectic, Nicole cooks big batches of homemade stuff and the washing up is terrible,” Joseph said. “It’s never-ending and it takes around an hour to get them all ready for school, then we pay around $2,117 for school uniforms because Nicole likes to buy everything new.”
“Our food shop costs around $282 a week and we never run out of food in this house,” he said. “Nicole is superwoman, I don’t know how she does it.”
The couple has been together for 15 years and after having their youngest child, Navy, five months ago, they have decided not to add any more members to the family.
“We aren’t planning on having anymore, I think we’ve got enough and Nicole has made the decision that we don’t need anymore,” Joseph said. “When we had Navy, it didn’t really make a difference having another one apart from space-wise.”
“In a lockdown, people ask how we’re getting on and say they wouldn’t want to be looking after them,” Joseph said. “Some days it’s harder than others when we’re tired but they’re in a routine and they all get on most of the time, like any brothers and sisters.”
Nicole also added that she decided Navy was the last because she didn’t enjoy being pregnant anymore after losing Hallie.
“Lockdown has been brilliant because we haven’t had to have as much routine and we’re not rushing to get out of the door,” Nicole said. “We’re having BBQs or lazy movie days and we’re making memories because we’ll never get this time again.”
“Nobody is ever bored, that’s for certain.”