Meet the Bates Family - All 20 of Them

PHOTO Gil and Kelly Bates live with their 18 children in a five-bedroom, 4000 square foot home in rural Tennessee.
Share
Copy

Think of the Brady Bunch on steroids, and you might be imagining the 20-person Bates Family.

Gil and Kelly Bates live with their 18 children in a five-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot home in rural Tennessee. At 22, Zach is the oldest child.

"Every year, you know, there was - just add another person - it doesn't feel abnormal to me," Zach said.

The youngest child, Judson, is only four months old.

When asked to name her children, Kelly said, "Oh, Daddy's good at that. His memory's better than mine." Gil Bates easily rattled off all 18 names.

Gil and Kelly Bates, who are evangelical, conservative Christians, didn't really want a big family when they got married 23 years ago. In fact, Gil Bates didn't really like children and Kelly Bates was more concerned with her career than having a big family. But they don't believe in birth control.

Watch the full story on "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET

"We both came to the conclusion that we just wanted to trust God with how many children we had. But we never really thought we'd have 18. We thought maybe one or two, maybe 3," said Gil Bates.

Kelly Bates has been pregnant for most of her adult life.

"It feels more normal for me to be pregnant than not pregnant. I am happy holding a baby. And I'm happy that the children, our lives are so - I talk to so many parents who - their children are lonely. They don't have friends," said Kelly Bates.

In the Bates' case, loneliness is not a problem.

Even with 18 children, Gil and Kelly Bates insist they have time to devote to each child, and for each other.

"Actually now, we probably have more time together than we ever had, even when we just had one or two. Because we'll come home and they'll say, 'Dad, are you taking Mom out?'" said Gil Bates.

The Bates say that the more children they have, the more they can minister to others. They held a Bible study and concert at a nearby nursing home, and used a bus to transport their family to the event.

"So we traveled in a 15-passenger van and a seven-passenger van, we put half in each car. And then we just recently got the bus, so we're looking forward to being all in one car again," said Gil Bates.

Watch the full story or interview on "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 ET

Better Together

The Bates family does almost everything together, from family Bible study to brushing their teeth before bed to family meals around their massive dining room table.

The Bates' laundry room is similar to a dry cleaning business. There are five washing machines and four dryers. Sorting socks for 20 people is a family affair.

"We do laundry at breakfast, lunch and supper," said Kelly Bates. "It only takes ten seconds for this room to become a tornado!"

Doing laundry is not the family's only challenge. Cooking, cleaning the house, doing the dishes, and getting the younger children ready for the day are not easy tasks, and everyone has to pitch in.

Gil Bates runs a tree service and is not wealthy. So how do they afford to feed all their children?

"Honestly, God just directed our steps into tree work. Tree work you can make money with less time and turned out to be a blessing," said Gil Bates.

Eighteen-year-old Lawson is in charge of food shopping. He says he goes to Walmart almost every other day. The bill for one trip is more than $250.

Kelly home schools her children. She teaches classes for the younger ones, and the older children study on the computer.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...