I’ve never had less than an “Oh, wow!” or “God bless you!” when responding to being asked how many children I have.
When asked, I try as causally and naturally as possible to say,
I have ten.
I brace myself knowing a strong reaction is coming my way.
Many people are polite and try to contain their shock. But I can see it in the way their eyes bug out and eyebrows reach up to their hair.
If their face doesn’t betray them, their body language will. It’s usually a sinking of the shoulders and leaning forward like they’re exhausted at the mere thought of ten kids. That’s often exactly what people tell me after the shock passes.
Most people are really cool and excited about learning of my large family (most, not all, but that’s another post). If they came from a big family or one of their parents did or they have a friend with a large family, I often hear all about it.
Having been placed in the big family category since we had number 5, I’ve learned how fascinated people are with large families. They love asking me questions. They’re interested in hearing about my motherhood adventures and wisdom they assume I’ve gained from being the mother to 5 girls and 5 boys.
I’m most often asked: “How do you do it all?” Other often repeated questions are: “What size skillets do you use to cook for so many people!” and “Is the laundry ever done?”
Since it’s Mother’s Day, I’m going to answer 5 often asked questions and share with you a few thoughts about motherhood.
- “How do you do it all?”
I’ll tell you my secret to how I “do it all”…I don’t! Nothing in my life is perfectly together (or even close to perfect), nothing is finished, plenty doesn’t get done. I do my best, and that’s all I can do.
My days are full and busy, it’s true. I home-school my kids, work from home as a freelance writer and blogger, and I am in college online part time. Between doing those things in a day I manage the household.
A long time ago a woman told me the most important things in running a house were making sure everyone had clothes and food. She was right.
My windows may not get washed as often as I’d like, the laundry piles (aka the piles of despair) are down to zero about once a year only to pile right back up again, and I’ve got clothes that have needed a button sewing back on since 2005 sitting in a drawer.
Unfinished projects are everywhere and things get taken care of when I’m able. I take care of the most important things as best as I can — schooling, daily chores to keep the house decent and cleaned up, food, clothing, managing bills — and other things are handled when possible or let go. I don’t do it all. I do what I can, just like every other mom I know.
2. “What size skillets do you use to cook for so many people!”
People are fascinated at the thought of me cooking for 12 people in a day. It’s 11 now because my oldest daughter has her own apartment but still, it is a lot of mouths to feed.
I do have a few very large skillets and big soup pots. Occasionally, I shop at a restaurant supply store and can pick up some larger skillets there. Sometimes I use more than one to make a dish. I’ve been cooking for a big family for so long now it really isn’t a big deal to me because I grew into the big meals as my family grew.
3. “Is it like a party at your house everyday?”
This question is often asked of my husband, but I get it too. According to the checker at the grocery store and the pizza guy, I must always be having a party!
Life can feel like a party around my house most days: Lots of laughter, lots of singing, running around, eating, eating, eating!
The opposite is true though too. When we are moody, fighting and squabbling, or sick — goodness gracious! It’s really bad.
So we are an extreme household in many ways. Thankfully though, we do have days of chill and peace, but not as many as I’d like.
A boisterous household comes with the territory of having a large family.
4. “Do the older kids help a lot?”
Yes. Everyone takes turns helping with the two toddlers. The kids all have chores, just like in many other houses, and everyone has to work together to get things done around the house.
If we had a small family, it wouldn’t be any different except there wouldn’t be little ones to help with. Part of living in a family involves pitching in to care for the home, help with cooking and laundry, and caring for little ones.
When my kids are grown they will be prepared to do those things so they are learning valuable life skills while also learning that the world doesn’t revolve around them and they need to contribute positively to the community they are in.
My teens are accomplished at many skills and could run the house themselves if an emergency came up. They have a sense of accomplishment and positive self-esteem from all they know how to do and from helping their family.
5. “How do you teach all of them?”
Since we home-school our kids, a lot of questions I’m asked involve how I do that. People want to know how I teach a subject with so many grades. I could write multiple posts about that (and plan to for my new education pub), but for now let me give a brief answer.
My oldest daughter is in her third year at university and she was our first home-school grad. We have 2 high schoolers, 1 middle schooler, and 4 elementary age kids, with 2 preschoolers. I group the kids for some subjects, teaching to the oldest and letting the younger ones absorb what they can.
The older kids do a lot of independent but guided work. We utilize online programs that track their learning for me. Many of our lessons involve a lot of conversations about topics and then I give some work to do on the subject adjusted to each child’s ability.
This past week I was giving a geography and history lesson to my younger set of kids and one of my high schoolers was close by doing his writing lesson. One of my sons asked about the Trojan War. My oldest son jumped in and gave a 20 minute out-of-the-blue history and geography lesson covering the Trojan War, ancient Greece and Rome, Alexander the Great, the Mongols, and the Vikings. He did it well and was excited to share what he knew.
Learning and educating my kids is a way of life around here and it never stops.
To be a mother has been the greatest adventure of my life. It’s my life journey and it has many steep mountains, dangerous curves, and bumpy paths — sometimes all in one day! The moments of joy are pure bliss though.
The love in my life is beyond measure. Every sacrifice, tear shed, moments of frustration, and pile of laundry pale in comparison to the happiness enjoyed in my family’s life.
I feel privileged and unworthy of being a mother. I know how great the responsibility is and how precious each child I have is.
I feel the weight of it all and it’s far too heavy to bear on my own. I’m thankful I have my husband to help me and God to rely on, for He makes me strong in my weakness.
I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote about mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
The Most Important Person on earth is a mother.
She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral.
She need not.
She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral — a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. . .
The angels have not been blessed with such a grace.
They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven.
Only a human mother can.
Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature;
God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation. ..
What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?
— Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty