Some couples say they want a big family. For most that means four kids. For this couple it meant 10 children in 10 years. And they agree, it was the best thing that happened to them.
Cassanda and Jacob Morrise now laughingly remember feeling they had “enough children to last a lifetime," when they reached two, but kept changing their minds and only stopped after baby number 10 was born.
The Morrise's have the art of parenting down to a T, they even blog about it, offering advice to other parents.
“I wouldn't change having such a big family for the world," Jacob said. “By baby number two we thought we'd had enough but turns out we hadn't, and it was the best decision we ever made. At the end of the day, we're just normal parents who happen to have 10 kids. Yes, the fact we have 10 might make us slightly less normal, but we love each and every one of them just the same."
Jacob and Cassanda Morrise with their brood (@whitneyjayde_photography / PA Real Life)
“We do get the odd comments like, 'you've got your hands full,' or, 'you must be some sort of day care centre,'" he said. “And some people say we're irresponsible for having so many kids, but we just brush the comments off."
Their attention is divided by parenting Steven, Christopher, identical twins William and Ryan, non-identical twins Spencer and Max, Thomas, Henry, Lily, and Peter, efficiently, but with plenty of love and affection, has made Cassanda confident she has the experience to give fellow moms and dads solid advice. It's straight out of "Cheaper by the Dozen".
Cassanda with her only daughter, Lily (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“People just assume we've got a bunch of unruly kids who rule the roost, because there's so many of them – but that's just not the case," Cassanda said. “Being part of such a large family is actually good preparation for children, as they have to learn how to compromise and deal with different personalities. It's actually made our children better behaved. The blog offers advice to other parents and also gives us a way to document all the memories we make."
“I try and keep it real, but I also put a positive spin on every day and if one other mom can benefit from reading about how I stay on top of my laundry routine, then it's worthwhile," she added.
They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints faith, which permits contraception, but encourages big families. The couple even claim that having a big family can be easier than just having a couple of children.
“I speak to people who have one or two kids and they're like, 'I have to entertain my kids and play with them all the time.' I'm like, 'well, I don't,'" Cassandra said.
Jacob and Cassanda Morrise with their children (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“We've got so many children that they entertain and play with each other. We're also really lucky because the older kids dote on the younger ones," she said.
They never planned such a big family.
“Cassanda was one of eight siblings and I was one of six," Jacob said. “We both loved being part of big families, but six children was always our limit."
Jacob with his 10 children (Collect/ PA Real Life)
Then, after their first two were born in August 2009 and February 2011 respectively, the couple thought their family was big enough.
“Steven was a fine baby, but Christopher was enough to put anyone off becoming a parent," Jacob laughed. “His cry was louder than any other child I'd ever heard – and he cried a lot. I just thought, 'This is not for me – two is more than enough'."
Once teething was finished, Christopher came into his own and the couple changed their minds.
“When Christopher mellowed out, we were like, 'Oh, this is fun, lets definitely have another one,'" Jacob said.
But they were still taken by surprise when they fell pregnant with identical twins, William and Ryan.
The Morrise children (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“I've got twin uncles and Jacob has cousins who are twins – but we never thought we'd have them," Cassanda said. “I have to admit, I did get to the point where I just thought, 'how in the world will I ever cope with this?' and, 'how can I go on?'. I said to Jacob, 'I just can't go on any more I need more help.' But he turned to me and said, 'Cassanda, I've got nothing left.'"
Some of the Morrise children playing (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“But, admitting how hard it was made us stronger. After that, we both just got on with it. We didn't need to find a magic solution," she continued.
Once they had everything under control, when the couple fell pregnant again, this time with non-identical twins, instead of despairing, Jacob remembers them feeling “really chuffed."
“The shock wasn't nearly as profound as it'd been with the first twins," he said, when asked about the second set of twins. “We knew it would be fine. We had a stroller we could fit all the babies in, so we knew we'd be okay."
Jacob and the children (Collect/ PA Real Life)
After the sixth kid they had more than enough.
“We'd start asking ourselves, 'Are we really done?' After a while it just felt like someone was missing," she added. “Thomas was the best baby there ever was. He made us happier and made the other kids happier. He was such a lovely little baby, plus he slept through the night."
Encouraged by Thomas' good behavior, the couple decided another baby was on the cards, so, Henry, came along in 2016. And in 2018, Cassanda and Jacob welcomed their first baby girl, Lily.
Jacob and the kids (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“We were both ecstatic to be having a girl. As soon as we found out we went straight to the shops to buy a little girl outfit," Jacob said. “I was so happy I couldn't stop laughing and Cassanda was so happy she couldn't stop crying."
And in July last year, the couple finally decided that their family was complete when baby Peter arrived.
Jacob and Cassanda Morrise with their children (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“By then we were 100 per cent sure we didn't want any more kids," Cassanda said. “Before, we'd been unsure and we decided that if God wanted us to have more, then we would – but now it's like, 'please, no, no, no'."
Being part of a family of 12 has certainly honed the couple's diplomatic skills.
Jacob playing Monopoly with the boys (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“When you've got 10 kids, it's impossible to get everything done," Jacob said. “We live by the mantra, 'When you can't do what you've always done, do what matters most.'"
This is the kind of common sense they advise people to follow in their blog.
“I write lots of tips about how to stay on top of chores and how to run a household with so many children," Cassanda said. “When it comes to mealtimes, I like to be organized and I make a monthly meal plan, so everyone knows what they're getting in advance. Our kids aren't fussy, and they don't have any allergies either, so dinner times aren't so bad – we keep it simple and cook lots of soups, or pizza, enchiladas and salads."
The seven oldest children are expected to help with the household chores.
“They have to do one chore every day," Cassanda explained. “They each get given a room they have to tidy. It shouldn't take them longer than 10 minutes, because it's just picking toys up or wiping down the sides – it's not a deep clean."
The boys playing (Collect/ PA Real Life)
But it is not all work and the couple are careful to write about the fun their family has in their blog, too.
“During most summers over the last 10 years, I've either been pregnant or nursing a newborn," Cassanda said.
Cassanda Morrise with her children (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“So, to be safe, we usually do staycations, where we stay at home, but we set aside some time for fun activities," she continued. “We go to museums, to parks or on day trips to different places – but at the end of the day, we all come home to our own beds. Last year, we went camping in Yellowstone National Park and that was great fun."
Jacob and Cassanda Morrise's 10 children (@whitneyjayde_photography / PA Real Life)
And, although they don't want more kids, Jacob still loves babies.
“I do worry sometimes that whenever one of our friends has a baby, I'll get broody and want another one," he admitted. “But, as much as I would say 'never say never,' to more babies, equally I would say, 'probably not'. Plus, it won't be too long before we have plenty of grandchildren running around."
In the meantime, the couple would not change their massive family for the world.
Jacob and Cassanda Morrise wih their children (@whitneyjayde_photography / PA Real Life)
“Having a big family is so much fun and there's so much love flying about," he said. “It's lovely to know our kids will have so many people around them to love them and support them throughout their lives – we wouldn't have it any other way."