How do you do it all?
Ha. “All” is the key word here. As you probably have figured out if you've read my blog much, I don’t. As I've said before, I am a one ring circus kind of gal. I'm not a high energy person, and I love nothing better than a 20 minute nap in the afternoon (which I don't get very often - RATS!).
So, we have purposely arranged our lives so that we are home as much as is feasible with the number of people under our roof. We ruthlessly limit our outside commitments – that means both parents and children. With the exception of swimming lessons, I think most outside preschool activities are nonsense, so we do none, and older kids get one sport or activity per season. This does not mean we are not busy - but it could be much worse!
Dennis helps a lot. For nine years, he did the grocery shopping on Sunday afternoons so I wouldn’t have to take babies and preschoolers. He gets up in the morning and makes all the kids’ lunches so I can help them with other things. He does the dishes after dinner most nights.
The kids are responsible for their own homework and commitments. I don’t shoulder that burden. They help with dishes and some chores as they have time after school, but my house is nowhere near Better Homes and Gardens 90% of the time. I apparently didn’t do a good job training them to keep their rooms neat on a daily basis, but once a week they get cleaned and are presentable.
Oh, and on occasion, Dennis lets me get the house professionally cleaned. Because he loves me and he knows I find him completely irresistible when he does nice things for me.
Wow, with five kids you must be such a great mom.
Um, no. Having more kids does not make you a better mom. Having more children just makes you a busier mom. You are who you are, and thank God, His grace covers a multitude of parenting errors. However, as I said here about homemaking, mothering is both a skill and an art. You can improve your skills with time, willingness to learn, and practice. And the more kids you have, the more you get to practice!
So then you can learn to listen to a four-year-old’s extended version of her dream last night while you help your middle schooler with algebra while you dry your six-year-old’s hair.
Now that’s art.
I bet all your kids play with each other.
Yes, there are times when all my kids play well together. There is nothing that warms my heart more than to see two or three of my kids set up desks and chairs to play “school” together. But there is a ten-year range from oldest to youngest, and every last one of them thinks he or she is the boss. We rarely get through a meal (trip in the car, chore) without some form of conflict erupting.
Let’s just sit here and think about the exponential nature of conflict in big families:
- If you have two children, there two possibilities for conflict (two times one)
- Three children – six possibilities for conflict (three times two)
- Four children – twelve opportunities for conflict (four times three)
- Five children – TWENTY opportunities for conflict (five times four)
- Six children – THIRTY opportunities for conflict (six times five)
And that's only if ONE child is arguing with ONE other child. I'm sure there are way more complicated mathematical formulas that reflect true sibling interactions such as, "Two against one! We win!" Anyway, as you can see, the curve shapes up nicely into a mushroom cloud, but tapers off after five children, which must be why we always seem to have a few extras around here.
Then there’s this little thing called “groupthink” that happens when a few kids get together. It goes something like this: Let’s take a bad idea (say, painting our bodies instead of our papers). It would be fun if I were doing this alone, but, hey, if we ALL do it, maybe we can get the veins to pop out on Mom’s neck!
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
How do you afford it?
Neither Dennis nor I grew up having much, so having a lot of “stuff” has not been a huge issue for us. We live in a modest house, have furniture that is a mixture of garage sale, thrift store, and new. We drive older cars that are paid for, and we are, with the exception of our home (and after several years of whittling it down) debt free. Our kids are used to shopping sales, ordering off the dollar menu (if we even go out), and used to us asking them the question, “Is this a need or a want?” We have resurrected the terms "make do" and "do without."
I think one of the best things we did was invest in education. Dennis and I both went to school after being married (Dennis graduated from college when he was 30), and he went to graduate school when we had FOUR kids. This has opened doors for him to find good jobs that are flexible, but even then, when you divide everything up per capita, we are by no means rich!
When kids are little, major expenses are baby furniture and accessories. These can be reused countless times. We used the same crib for all five kids, and the same bedding for all four girls. We didn’t need to get a bigger car until the fifth one was born. And as long as you’re cooking, you might as well throw in another cupful of rice or pasta, and that certainly does not double your grocery bill.
That said, some things are just plain expensive, and cost the same per person no matter what. People just don’t seem to like to give us group discounts for things like braces, air fare, college educations and (eek!) weddings. We are pretty much used to being poor.
Just something to keep in mind.
Having so many kids must mean God has blessed you more than those who have fewer children.
Now this is just my opinion here, but the way I read it, the Bible teaches that children are a blessing. Period. I believe that includes whether you teach someone else’s kids, borrow some from a neighbor, adopt one, or have ten of your own biological children.
Some of the Bible's most blessed mothers only had one or two children (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Elizabeth, for example). Who would argue that they would have been "more" blessed with more children? No, God gave a full, rich blessing with just the children He gave them. He knows what He is doing.
No matter how many or how few children you have, you are blessed.