Mother’s Day | Five, six, seven times mom

Large families are increasingly rare in Quebec. A parent surrounded by four, five, even six children piques people’s curiosity. On the occasion of Mother’s Day, The Press brought together three women who were multiple mothers who agreed to talk about their intriguing reality. Lively discussion over coffee.


Published at 2:22 a.m.

Updated at 6:30 a.m.

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.

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PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Sandryne Pellerin, 35 years old, mother of five children

“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 congratulations from her customers. “For them, it’s just beauty. They find it fun to see our children with us, to see a happy family. »

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PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Carryanne Pépin, 31, pregnant with her seventh baby

The string 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 many.” When do you stop? », are among the more unpleasant remarks with which the owner of the Fillettes et Fiston boutique, located in Saint-Lazare, in Montérégie, has to deal.

” How do you do ? »

“What I hear a lot from parents is that they stopped with two children 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.

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PHOTO ANDRÉE-ANNE GUY, PROVIDED BY CARRYANNE PÉPIN

Carryanne Pépin surrounded by her children and her husband

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 years old, 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 that makes them become more accommodating as they grow up,” agrees Sandryne Pellerin.

Room for mutual aid…

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

“My oldest 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 Our Roots, located in Saint-Hugues, near Saint-Hugues. Hyacinth.

If mutual support is essential in a large family, the mothers we met take care so that their eldest child does not have the impression of being a substitute parent.

“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. That’s why I listen very closely to my older daughters when they want a break. […] My mother took it too much for granted that I would take care of my little sisters. »

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY NERLANDE GAËTAN

Some of the children of Nerlande Gaëtan’s family

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 on certain things [comme le ménage]. Your dishes, I promise, they will be waiting for you. »

…and to action

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 was as if nothing had changed. Third, fourth, fifth, it seems like everything was in place,” replies Sandryne Pellerin.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY SANDRYNE PELLERIN

Sandryne Pellerin’s family

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.

We love action and we adapt to all situations.

Sandryne Pellerin

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.

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PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Nerlande Gaëtan

“My children are everywhere. They are involved with me all the time,” says the woman 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 of their age with so many children. She enjoyed talking with them. A pleasure shared by Carryanne Pépin and Nerlande Gaëtan.

Read “The Child We Do Not See”

Three questions about their role as mothers

Have you always wanted to have several children?

Me and my husband have been together since high school. In his yearbook, I jokingly wrote: “You better make a big salary to pay for braces for our six children.” It was a joke, but here we have the seventh coming.

Carryanne Pépin

What has motherhood given you?

Being a mother has made me grow immensely. It made me question myself too. What is important to me? What makes me feel good? If we don’t take care of ourselves, it will have an impact on the children. […] It taught me to take care of myself in order to teach them to take care of themselves.

Sandryne Pellerin

What quality should you have when you are the head of a large family?

Patience. Even if you want everything to go quickly, children all have their own pace. We must give them the time they need.

Nerlande Gaëtan

Learn more

  • 21%
    Proportion of families who have three or more children, according to 2022 data. In 2016, it was 27%.

    Source: Institute of Statistics of Quebec

    1.38
    Fertility rate among women in Quebec, in 2023. It is close to the historic low of 1.36 recorded in 1987.

    Source: Institute of Statistics of Quebec

  • 77,950
    Number of babies born in Quebec in 2023, down 3% compared to 2022

    Source: Institute of Statistics of Quebec

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