A minibus for the school run, seven kilos of potatoes for supper, mountains of laundry… Why DO this couple with FOURTEEN children want more babies
It's difficult enough for families with two or three children to keep them in check. But for Sue and Noel Radford and their brood of 14, a family outing is a feat of logistical planning complex enough to fill most parents' hearts with dread.
The Radfords run a successful local bakery in Morecambe, Lancashire, which has enabled the family to earn enough money – without the need to claim benefits – to buy a nine-bedroom house to accommodate their clan.
Father Noel Radford sets out to work at 4am, heading back home in time to help with the school run – which demands the use of a minibus.
Family suppers are like running a canteen. Seven kilos of potatoes are peeled, army style, and cooked in industrial-sized pots with 30 carrots, three whole cabbages and 16 pork chops.
Handful: The Radfords have 14 children – and one on the way – making their annual summer holiday a logistical nightmare
It's a wonder the family gets through the
average day without losing one of their lively troop – let alone when they break from their routine.
But in a move that most families would consider less a break and more a form of prolonged torture, the Radfords manage to take an annual holiday abroad.
And as seen in the Channel 4 documentary the family is starring in, 15 Kids and Counting, which aired last night, they not only plan the getaway – a sunny bucket-and-spade jaunt to Lanzarote – with military precision – they manage to have a good time along the way.
Preparations involve the laundering, ironing and packing of 120 T-shirts and 60 pairs of shorts.
And as the Radfords attempt to corral their brood through check-in, the staff assume the rowdy bunch is part of a school trip.
Days on holiday are mostly spent ensuring none of the Radford clan has wandered off, and a constant roll call is carried out.
During every waking moment, Sue and Noel Radford are absorbed by their children. But to this couple, that is what life is all about.
Well-behaved: The Radfords manage to keep their brood in check while on holiday
Sue Radford, 36, has spent half of her adult life pregnant and over the last seventeen years has had a baby nearly every year.
All fourteen children aged 22 down to just one still live at home. But despite the hard work and energy caring for such a brood demands, the Radfords say they 'love everything about babies' and want yet more.
'I suppose in a way you could say we are addicted to having children. We just love everything about it,' admits Mrs Radford.
Only a year separates the oldest Radford girls 17-year-old Sophie and Chloe, 16. They are used to their mum being constantly pregnant.
Betraying a wisdom beyond her years, her daughter Sophie, 17, says: 'I can't remember her not being pregnant.
'It's like her own personal drug, having babies, honestly it is.'
But while many will no doubt disapprove of Sue and Noel Radford's desire to constantly procreate, there's much to be said for the depth of love the couple share.
Emotional baggage Sue and Noel Radford, pictured with their 14 children outside their home in Morecambe, Lancashire, say their need to surround themselves with children could stem from their early childhood: both were adopted
Their beginning will seem shocking to some, but perhaps goes some way to explaining why Sue and Noel are so determined to surround themselves with children.
Sue and Noel were teenage sweethearts, and started their family early when Sue became pregnant at 14 with their eldest child, Chris, now 22.
Although only teenagers, they were determined to keep the baby as both knew the pain unwanted pregnancies could cause: Noel and Sue were both given up for adoption at birth.
'I can never really say for sure whether it is because we are adopted that has got something to do with us having so many children,' Sue says.
'It must have been a very lonely time for my birth mum.
'But part of living in such a big family you've always got somebody… I don't think they will ever be lonely.'
Full house: A photograph from May last year shows the Radfords with their brood – and the then newborn baby Tillie May, who is now almost a year old
Sue finished school and married Noel when she was 18, planning to have 'perhaps another one or two' children.
Once Sophie and Chloe had arrived, however, the couple discovered they were enjoying parenthood so much that they just kept going.
It was after the arrival of Jack, 14, and while Mrs Radford was pregnant with Daniel, 12, that the couple found their current house – a nine-bedroom Victorian former old people's home that was in need of work.
'Somebody did joke, “You've got all those bedrooms, you'll have to fill them up”,' said Mrs Radford.
And sure enough it wasn't long before with each new room they decorated, there were children to share it.
In quick succession they had Luke, 10, Millie, nine, Katie, eight, James, seven, Ellie, six and Aimee, five. Then, after a brief gap, came Josh, three, Max, two months, and Tilly May, now nearly one.
To support his family, Mr Radford works hard running the bakery, which is just a short drive from home. Mrs Radford is currently on maternity leave, but fully intends to return to work at the bakery as she has after each pregnancy.
With so many people under one roof, she has to run a tight ship. But she is helped by her children.
'If there is a job I can't do I just have to say to one of them, “Can you empty the dishwasher” and they do it.'
Pocket money is a helpful incentive – it ranges from 2.50 to 10 a week and varies depending on chores completed.
'We do have a routine and we try to stick to it,' said Mrs Radford.
'I don't think I would cope otherwise.'
The only outside help the couple rely on is a nanny who looks after the youngest children when Mrs Radford works from 9am to 2pm at the bakery.
'We have always wanted to support ourselves,' she said. 'I like being kept busy, I wouldn't like not to work – neither of us would even though it can be quite difficult juggling work and home.'
And even before beby number 15 arrives, Sue knows she would like to have more.
'I definitely would like to have maybe another one but who knows whether that one will turn into another two or three,' she says.
Sophie says: 'I cannot physically imagine her stopping having babies. She could carry on as long as she can. That's a lot of babies.'
For Sue though, 'a lot' is never enough. And when she goes into labour with baby number 15, she says it will be like the first time all over again.
'You can't get a better feeling than meeting a new little person. Love it. It's probably why we have done it so many times.'
The next episode of 15 Kids and Counting is on Channel 4 on 24 January at 9pm.