Real Life

Weekly people: ’11 kids still isn’t enough!’

Clucky mum Angela Archer has a big brood of 11 kids and a big heart.
Weekly people

The licence plate on her car says “Ma of 11”, showing just how proud Angela Archer is of being a mother to her enormous brood.

“All I ever wanted to do in my life was to get married and have children,” says Angela, from Auckland. “I never wanted a career. I just wanted to be a mum. My children are my heart and soul. They complete me.”

Angela (57) met her teen love Simon (57) at Freyberg High School in Palmerston North. The couple married and had their first child when she was just 19. She continued to fall pregnant until she was 43 – dedicating a total of 24 years to having babies. Angela’s love for her family shines through as she rattles off the names of her nine daughters and two sons – noting each of their birthdays as she goes. There’s Brigid (38), Rebecca (36), Gabrielle (35), Sarah (34), Hannah (31), Leo (28), Frances (25), Miriam (24), Elizabeth (21), Sam (19) and Madeleine (13).

Having 11 gorgeous children means Angela has been pregnant for 99 months of her life.

“It’s funny because my birthday is in January. Five of my children have their birthdays in October and one in early November. Do the math,” she says laughing.

Angela and Simon initially planned to have only four children – but later the devout Catholics made a conscious decision to follow their religion’s teachings on procreation. “We wanted to open our eyes to what the church taught, especially its stance against contraception. We made a lifestyle decision to be open to new life.”

Although Angela suffered severe morning sickness with each pregnancy, she says most of her deliveries were “a piece of cake”. “I think my body was made to have children. I had most of my children naturally and without pain relief.”

The only baby that caused complications was her youngest, Madeleine, who was conceived after two miscarriages and delivered via an emergency Caesarean section. “I was older by then and it was the first time I had to be cared for by a specialist.”

Angela was a stay-at-home mother, while Simon worked in human resources. She says that raising a large family meant living on a very tight budget and making many sacrifices. “We lived in a six-bedroom home, with two bathrooms. We had bunk beds for the children. I made a lot of their clothes and was very good at spotting a bargain and buying in bulk.”

Angela would shop throughout the year for Christmas presents, and each birthday would be celebrated with dinner and a cake. Angela says that many people are intrigued by mothers with a huge brood like hers.

“The questions range from, ‘How do you feed them all?’ to ‘How many toilet rolls do you go through each day?'” Angela laughs. But some comments have not been so nice.

“Someone once told me that it was shameful to have so many children, and that I should get my daughters sterilised.”

Even after having 11 of her own, whenever Angela sees a nursing baby, she admits she’d love to take it home!

Angela has taken the bad comments with the good. She says despite people’s opinions, her children have grown up to be great individuals. There are only two left at home – Sam who is at university and Madeleine, who is now in her first year of high school.

Her children have worked since they were 15, and all of the older ones have attended university. They’ve become lawyers, event and marketing managers, real estate agents – one is even a Catholic nun in France.

“They’ve all grown up to be respectful and successful. I’m proud to be their mother.”

Angela admits she was sad when she could no longer have more children. But she now has six grandchildren and says she’s extremely clucky when she’s around them. “Every time I see a young mother feeding a baby, I just want to hold the child in my arms and take them home,” she confesses.

Now that most of her children have left home, Angela can pursue a new crafty passion, making and selling aprons.

Now that most of her children have flown the nest, Angela can pursue interests outside of motherhood. Two years ago, she made each of her daughters an apron for Christmas, and that sparked a new passion. She’s continued to sew aprons and her colourful creations have proved extremely popular with family, friends and at local craft fairs. She now even has her own brand called Angela’s Aprons.

“I have a sewing room where I create all the aprons. It’s my own little space where I can get some ‘me time’. But once I’m back in the house, I become ‘mum’ again.”

With 11 children, it’s no surprise that Angela’s favourite time of year is Mothers’ Day. Her children mark the special occasion by showering her with gifts.

“I’ve been given beauty treatments, tickets to concerts – one daughter even paid for me to travel to London for her wedding. It’s fantastic,” she says.

In a few years time, the two remaining children still living at home will move out. Angela says she’s looking forward to the next stage of her life and doting on her grandchildren. “We’re like any normal family, there’s just a lot more of us.”

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