ddcrasher here. Due in July with my 6th baby in 8 years (this one was a surprise; a really big one considering all that IVF I did before I even conceived the first one; long story).
Is it hard? well, it's certainly a full time job and more. Sometimes it is hard but in those moments I try to remind myself that one day they'll all be grown up and gone and my house will actually be clean but quiet and lonely.
I have learn to let go of having a neat and clean house. Five minutes after it's clean, it's messy again. But that part will get easier as the kids get older.
What's good about having a large family? Seeing how much the kids love each other. They fight like cats and dogs but they do love each other. They certainly learn from each other - all kinds of things, from simple things like taking turns, to academic stuff. Life is such that they need to be as independent as they can be - they're pretty good at taking care of themselves, considering their ages (just lock up the cookies LOL). There are lots of times that they'll have to figure things out for themselves when I'm busy with another one - particularly when I'm nursing. Just this morning I was lamenting the fact that my soon-to-be three year old loves to do things for himself - in the kitchen (e.g. he tried to make himself a sandwich yesterday; he likes to use a kitchen stool to get the gallon milk jug off the top shelf of the frig) (eek!) - which makes life even messier. And occasionally dangerous (no touching the knives!). And that kitchen stuff will be all the more scary/messy if I'm upstairs nursing my newborn. But he'll be in preschool five mornings per week (montessori) starting in August, thank goodness
I think they learn to understand practical things, like being quiet for sleeping babies (not that they always remember). And the older ones do look after the younger ones, or at least alert me when something's going on. 8 yr old and 3 yr old can be in the bathtub together while I'm getting the baby to bed, etc.
Mostly though they play together well in spite of the fighting and arguing and they enjoy being with each other. When one is away the others are always asking when he'll be back. I do about *zero* entertaining of anyone. It's all I can do to read with them. They play with the baby so I can get things done. I rarely get around to arranging playdates (unfortunately I'm really bad about reciprocating - mostly because I forget), but they're pretty happy and busy playing with each other. (when I was growing up, there were no "playdates" arranged by phone - we just ran around the neighborhood with the other neighborhood kids).
I'm old (41) so they'll have each other after I'm gone.
The closer you have them together, the more work it is in the young years. But they grow, faster than you expect. Now if only I could fastforward time about one year (my youngest will be about 13 mo apart)... or two or four or twenty lol...
I always thought I'd go on to have another career when the kids were older (was a lawyer before) but now I can put off thinking about that for quite some time, if ever (still there is a significant challenge in keeping the brain engaged; thank goodness for the internet).
other sacrifices: eating out (we focus on a few family restaurants - think red robin style - and go out about once every two weeks). It's always a little shocking to step into a restaurant with only a couple large tables. So, we rarely eat anywhere that we haven't researched beforehand. travelling is a huge sacrifice (my family is all over the country and some are in Europe but we aren't visiting them - I'm not going on an airplane with this many young kids; last time we all travelled together was for my dad's funeral when #4 was a baby, #2 and #3 were 3 y.o., one had a huge tantrum on the floor twice in the security line, etc.). eating in general - I eat after the kids are in bed most nights or else I end up with an upset stomach.
we may end up sacrificing private school for high school which would have been do-able for us but for having six kids (fortunately the public high school is very good but it's super huge and not what I'd consider the right environment for their various personalities).
The three oldest ones had special needs but that's slowly going away/getting fixed - #3 still needs speech. All that was quite a hassle when it was going on - getting to therapy appts, etc.
Going anywhere with this many kids can be tricky - took my five to the ped so #3 could get his blood drawn for his regular platelet check (he has low platelets) yesterday and we made a scene as usual. Fortunately the ped's office is ok with that. It's hard to do things like dr appts - when someone has an appt with a specialist at children's or something, I often have DH stay home to watch the others. And I never, except in case of emergency, bring any of them to the OB or peri's office.
Finding a babysitter for this many kids is hard. My one teenager here is going off to college in the fall - so sad. She'll help me out this summer. I'm guessing down the road we'll have to get two babysitters together for a night out ($$). DD is 8, so only a few more years until she can do it - not sure exactly what age - or at least we'd only need one sitter plus dd helping.
But we're happy - very. Certainly there's never a dull moment.