A mother of ten and grandmother of 23 said she wanted as many children as God wished to send her but that the state can do more to support large families.

“Even though I was a good student I decided that I must become a mother and raise as many children as God sends me,” Maria Stavridou told Alpha.

Speaking in an icon-furnished house ahead of Mother’s Day on May 14, Stavridou explained that many of the children visit regularly for lunch and dinner – “the house feels empty when they don’t come over”.

An extended dining table which can seat the large family dominates the living room. It can be expanded further on weekends and holidays when the entire family of 25 gathers.

“When we go on day trips people think we’re from a school, even if we go for a walk then the whole family will join in,” she said, beaming.

The large family has a house of just five bedrooms, with the ages of her children ranging from 16 to 38.

“It can be tough, but I wanted a large family despite the financial difficulties,” she said.

But the challenges are mounting, she conceded: “We have faced financial difficulties and what we are now asking from society is for greater support towards large families – there are those in danger of losing their homes.”

“Large families should be viewed along the same lines as refugee families, some of my children don’t have homes and still live with us,” Stavridou said.

Did she not ever get tired of being pregnant or having more children?

“I would often get asked that but I would say that I had accepted months in advance of the next pregnancy that there would be another.

“Even though I did have difficulties during some pregnancies, being in bed, but it was my wish to have a large family,” she said.

Stavridou’s experience echoes that of many who grew up in the decades past in Cyprus, when larger families dominated the villages and cities.

Since then, however, there has been a steady decline in the number of children being born into each family.

The Cyprus Mail reported in 2022 that the year’s birth rate was at 1.3, a projected fall of 0.61 per cent.