One Big Happy Family

updated 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

About five years ago, according to the most reliable research, yuppies discovered childbirth, and ever since that day stories about the joys and trauma of raising 1.8 children have become a media and cocktail party staple. Amidst all the hoopla, little attention has been paid to another, vanishing breed of American family—the large family with eight, nine or 10 kids.

Or, in the case of the Mikowskis of New Hyde Park, N.Y., with 15 kids, all by the same parents, Mary and Arthur, both 43, and all living at home. Arthur works as a policeman and an auto mechanic; Mary runs the house. Both were only children who had never held or diapered a baby before they married in 1962. "I just accepted them as they came," says Mary with characteristic aplomb. "If I go to a soccer game for two kids or for five, it's all the same." She is aware that the size of her brood gives some people pause. "I'll have six of them with me in the supermarket and someone will ask if they're all mine," she says. "I'll say, 'Yes, they are,' and laugh because they don't know about the nine others at home."

Herewith, a photographic look at life with 15 kids.

Ablutions and a hunt for missing shoes

Mornings at the Mikowskis begin at 6:30 when Mary gets up to finish making the school lunches she started the night before. Then with the skill—and the lungs—of a drill sergeant, she hustles her troops from bed to bathroom to breakfast to school. By the time they return, the house has been cleaned, the groceries bought (the family consumes a bar of soap and two gallons of milk a day and 20 pounds of potatoes per week) and the baby strolled. Snacktime and homework are followed by dinner. Latecomers must fend for themselves. "Thank goodness for microwaves," says Arthur.

The smallest sibling will be coached by 14 experts

With Julian's birth last Sept. 14, the Mikowski family is complete. He was born by cesarean section, after which Mary decided to have her tubes tied. "I don't want any more," she says wistfully, "but when you know you can't, it's a different feeling." Nevertheless, she has no regrets. "I'm not into material things," she says. "They don't last. Memories I'll have forever."

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