It was just after hurricane Ivan that Pam Smith discovered she was pregnant with twins. She and husband Russell were delighted because they had been together 23 years and had given up on the idea of ever having children. “Twins run in my family,” explains Pam, “my grandparents had 12 children with three sets of twins.”
Two years later she became pregnant again with another set of twins and this time she admits it was a bit of a shock. “Especially as being here I had no support system such as family and already had two babies, but you just got to get on with it. You can tell how busy we were once we had our second set of twins, because with the first two it was so exciting and we videoed everything, but just did not have the time with the second set.”
The Smith children are Luke and Matthew, aged six, and Gabriel and Olivia, who are three. Having an almost instant large family has its advantages though, as Pam says “I only had to be pregnant twice!”
Being a full-time mother to a young family has it ups and downs. “When I see stars like Angeline Jolie with her kids, I think it’s just not like that, it’s not real life. If you had talked to me yesterday you might have found me crying, as it was just one of those days where they were all crying and whining and it can get on top of you. I’ve not got Mum to call to say ‘take them off my hands for an hour.’ So it can be hard.”
One of the things with a large family is that things never quite happen the way you plan them. You also have to forget the idea of being a perfect mum. They do have a certain amount of routine as a family in terms of getting up, bedtimes and the fact that they always eat together, but otherwise no two days are ever quite the same. As the children get older they all want different food and different clothes and “if one gets something they all get something and if one gets sick they all get sick.”
As a mum, Pam tends to mix with other families who have lots of children, “because my four can be just a bit scary to singleton families. Most of the families I know have four or five children so they all play together because they are used to being in large groups. Everywhere I go my first question is usually ‘do you mind if I bring all four?’”
She says the advantages of a large family close together in ages is that they are like a little pack and that they are best friends. “Because there are four of them they have to learn from very young that they have to share and they have to learn to be patient.”
As a mum she worries that sometimes she does not have enough time to spend with each of the children individually, but she says what is great is that she has a different type of relationship with each of them and does different things with each child.
There is no doubt having a large family is physically draining and she is constantly busy, but her husband is marvellous and when she needs a break he is there to take the kids off her hands.
Another thing about having two sets of twins is that they get attention wherever they go. Pam jokes, “I used to think it was because I was the worst dressed woman on Island. That is definitely another aspect of having a large family you have to put the kids first so you have less time to do things for yourself.”
She really appreciates being a mother here, as it is so much nicer that in Manchester where they come from.
“I think the whole Island is a support system and its fantastic for bringing up children. The kids are always outside playing.” Nowadays Pam and her husband try and get a bit of time to themselves to go out to the cinema or go for a meal.
When they need a break they take off to the Reef Resort. “That’s where I will be on Mother’s Day, in the swimming pool. You can get a rest there as there is something there to occupy the whole family. It’s like a second home to us.”
At the end of the day she says, “We got a puppy at Easter to join the family and we call him Lucky and I think we are very lucky, my children are well fed, happy and we live in a beautiful place. Being a mum is my full-time job; there are no holidays, no sick time, but it’s priceless.”