First, apologizes to all the mothers of eight kids (and more) that I know. You all do a fabulous job, much better than I, and I hope your good reputations are not impugned by what I am about to reveal about my own wayward ways!
A wonderful (non-Catholic) reader, "Anon 11:11", is the latest to ask me about having eight children. Her words are in red italics.
I would love to hear the logistics of having 8 kids.
I will stick to logistics in this post, then, and save the spiritual side of things for another post.
Like I said, I'm pregnant with #2 now, and I can't imagine having any more kids. Taking care of my 3 year old through a miserable pregnancy is just about breaking me.
It's normal for you to feel like your breaking at this point, because (aside from feeling lousy) you are in "The Mommy Tunnel": Your children are little and totally dependent on you for everything. You have no older kids (tweens or teens) to help you, and your little ones can't do much to help themselves. This is a passing phase! A mom can't objectively judge her long-term future childbearing at this stage. When you emerge from the tunnel, your whole life changes. In my own experience, I was surprised to find that having four children was much easier than having three.
I love my kids, and I love being a mom, but I think I'm at my limit.
I relate! I used to think that, too. And yet, clearly, I wasn't at my limit. :)
How do you handle laundry?
Ahhhh, laundry. It took me almost twenty years and eight children to figure out the obvious: All is well with the world when you stay on top of the laundry. Keep it moving. That's all. If you make sure you are moving your laundry every day (and teaching your kids how to fold or put away), then it's really not so bad, and even becomes relaxing.
Before I figured this out, my laundry often looked like this:
|Photo taken about a year ago.|
For perspective, that is a large white laundry basket on top of the washer there, to the left.
Oh, yeah, and there was stuff in the dryer, too:
Trust me, it is much worse than it looks, ha ha! But today things are different. I read a life-changing blog post (ironically written by another blogger named Leila), which said that if you want a peaceful home, stay on top of just two things: laundry and meals. She was so right! I started being more disciplined about daily laundry, making it a priority, and finding a routine. Now that it's a habit, it's not such a big deal anymore.
And, for perspective, look at what amazing things come from having eight kids' piles of laundry to sort through:
That's kid #8! True, I'd have less laundry without him, but I'd accept ten times the laundry just to keep him! And by the way, kid #8 was put in that pile by kid #4:
True confession time. I don't grocery shop, because I don't cook. I am a disaster in the kitchen (I cannot multi-task). I felt such guilt about it years ago that I almost stopped having babies after four children. I didn't think I should bring a fifth child into the world because of my lameness at such a basic part of motherhood.
But then I realized that God had already provided the answer, in the form of a dear husband who actually enjoys cooking. He and I have struck a nice balance to keep thinks running smoothly in the two areas I mentioned earlier: I am on top of the laundry, and he is on top of the meals (grocery shopping and cooking).
Yes, he grocery shops for the family, and there are two reasons why it's he and not I. First, I am paralyzed (or awestruck?) in a grocery store. I can make huge life-changing decisions easily, but if you tell me to buy a can of beans, I will stare endlessly at all the varieties, not knowing how to decide. If I shopped, I would be gone for hours! Second, on the few occasions when I have gone grocery shopping, I have come home with lots of amazing snack food, but not much in the way of meal ingredients (the one who cooks really should be the one who shops, for nutritional as well as financial reasons).
Now don't get me wrong. If I had a husband who didn't cook and buy groceries, I would do it myself. As it is, his amazingness just allows me to put my energies in another area:
I know some folks who've had a good experience with home delivery of groceries, and I myself have begun to order my fruits and veggies from a local farmers market online, with a convenient weekly pick-up at my kids' school. Since I never know what items will be included, and since I hate waste, I have begun googling super-easy recipes for the food I receive, and I'm actually making some healthy, delicious stuff with those fruits and veggies (not full meals, of course). I'm kinda proud of myself at this turn of events!!
One other logistical thing: If at all possible, do not take small children along when you are shopping! Try to shop in the evenings or on the weekends so that the kids can stay home with your spouse. I do everything in my power never to bring small children out to any stores by myself. In fact, I can't remember the last time that happened. I either go sans kids, or I have an older child or my husband with me. You may think I'm a wimp, but it works for us, and it's part of the reason I've been able to have lots of babies and stay (mostly) sane!
I married a man who throws things out with an obsessive flair (that's a story in itself). There is clutter here, as in any large household, but not much. We throw a lot of things out, and we have stopped acquiring things. This tendency to be detached from "things" (including toys) gets stronger as the number of children increases. I would love to throw out or donate most everything I own, but I don't have enough time yet. When the last child goes to school, the massive purgation will begin.
changing bed sheets?
Kids' bedsheets are changed very rarely! If they bathe before they go to bed, their sheets aren't really getting dirty anyway, right? Okay, there is the occasional bedwetting, and that does motivate me to change sheets. Another great discovery: Older kids can change their own sheets! It's a life skill they need, correct? It would be a disservice to them if I didn't let them do it.
Another life skill that my kids have learned at a very young age. One over-achieving son was packing his own lunch in first grade! Also, we keep lunches very simple. And of course since it's food preparation, my husband packs any lunches that can't be packed by the child.
keeping track of what's going on in each one's life?
It's funny, but I have never even thought about this as a problem or concern. I don't have time to micromanage the kids' time or schedules (which is a good thing), but because I have to coordinate everyone's day, I am always aware of where everyone is and what they're doing. As far as homework, I only help the little ones, and only when they need it -- the older kids don't expect or want the help. When it comes to their moral formation and safety, however, I am all over it. I have their passwords to facebook accounts, and they fully understand that their texts and emails are subject to (unannounced) parental oversight. We give them privacy as long as they are trustworthy, but they also know that as long as they are minors and in our home, privacy is not a right. Our children know that their parents love them and will keep them accountable. This approach has worked well.
talking to your husband with a moment of peace?
This is the absolute glory of having teens! We have built-in babysitters! I never thought that the day would come, but when our oldest finally was able to sit for her siblings, my husband and I started going out on dates, even on a whim! Currently, we have four teens! This is not only like having four sitters, but also like having four nannies! Think of it this way: We have eight kids, but it's almost like we have four young children and four nannies to help out with those last four. That seems doable, right?
Before folks start yelling about how "unfair" it is to "burden" the older kids like this, I need to say a couple of things. First, every single older kid is head over heels in love with the little ones. And they all (old and young) ask for a new baby pretty much weekly. The babies are the light of our lives, and they'd do just about anything for another one. (Don't believe me? Ask them.) Second, I have absolutely zero guilt or angst about expecting all family members to do their share of work and to help others when needed. I don't do the coddling thing, because I don't think it's helped the last couple of generations who were raised that way. I want my children to have responsibilities and learn to care for each other, and I will never apologize for it.
who's grown out of what clothes for what season?
Yeah, that whole thing is a pain. One thing helps us here in Arizona: No hard winters. So, the majority of the year it's shorts and t-shirts. When we switch to jeans and sweatshirts, I do a little inventory. It's not always fun, but in a way it's cathartic. Another thing that helps me is that my oldest three kids are done growing, so their clothes are their clothes. The rest of the kids are all boys, so that helps, too, as the clothes just keep getting handed down. For in between sizes, I just stick those clothes in a box with a label (name and season) for the next kid in line.
Also, it took me a while to learn that kids don't really need as many clothes as they have. As I've had more children, the idea of "less is more" is quite freeing. (Though I have a long way to go.)
I always say that if I had to do all the things that our culture says must be done for kids today, I couldn't have so many kids. So, each non-driving child gets one or two activities a year. Maybe one sport, maybe music lessons. For the smaller ones, maybe nothing at all for a year. I used to do Gymboree with every baby/toddler and start kids in T-ball when they were 3. I've let that go, with no ill effects. They are all just fine. In fact, we are all happier, and the kids play with each other out in the backyard, where we installed a sport court and a concrete track for scooters and bikes.
Basically, it's simplify, uncomplicate, don't try to follow the Joneses. Angst and guilt get in the way of good mothering, so I've tried to drop that. It's non-productive.
Another thing to consider: Children grow up and move out. I have one who's already gone, and another one leaving in the fall. By the time baby #8 came, baby #1 was already at college. The years do fly by. When my first sweet girl left, I missed her terribly. It was a blessing to have little ones still at home to cuddle.
Last thought: Anyone with more domestic skills than I have (i.e., everyone) can handle the logistics of raising eight children better than I can. But there is an intangible in all of this, of course. Have you noticed that big families these days are almost always religious families? There's a reason for that.
But like I said, that's a post for another day. :)
Why I never should have had eight children
Is having eight kids "sketchy"?