Obviously the Number One Question Asked of Dan and I is, “How Do You Do It All?”
My standard answer used to be I drink a lot, as a joke, but upon careful reflexion, I decided some may take me literally and hence, out of a sheer desire to avoid encouraging drunk parenting, I ceased responding this way. The real answer is that I don’t do it all. I do some. Of course I have to prioritize and for me that means little things like matching socks, even matching shoes sometimes are not important. Parents with any number of children know that matching socks only occur right out of the bag and that 2 socks of any color, style and shape make a pair. Sometimes we wear snow boots in the middle of the summer, sometimes we wear swimsuits 5 days out of the week, and some days we never change out of our bedclothes – it’s officially called a pajama day.
My priorities lie in the bigger things. It is mandatory that we have fun every day and do something extreme, that we at some point in the day finish our schoolwork, that we find time to pray and that my kids eat healthy … these are the four things that I don’t cut out of any day. Everything else, I mean EVERYTHING else can and often does get left by the wayside. My kids and our family are the priorities.
We are not superhuman, we simply have found the key to keeping our lives stress free and totally, completely exciting. I don’t wake up dreading Monday or Wednesday. I never utter the words TGIF because Every day is Friday. I do not live for the weekends. To be honest, this was my greatest fear, that we would become a family who only lived 2 days out of every week. We live every day to it’s fullest. Perhaps this sounds impossible to the majority of families out there, but you have to clear your mind, you have to forget what society has taught you, get out of the mindset you are undoubtedly in and get down and naked. Bear you souls. Ask yourself in a perfect world what would make you happy. And then get it. Just go get it.
The old myth you can’t have your cake and eat it too is utter crap. Of course you can. Why have the cake if you can’t eat it? That’s torture. Turn your life over to God, don’t feel the need to be in complete control. Let the mundane go, focus on the good and the bonding moments. God is amazing and God is good, pray and He will deliver.
Are You Crazy? Are They All Yours? Do You Know What Causes That? Are You Going To Have More?
First, there is really no reason to justify any of these comments. I certainly do not go around asking strangers if they’ve cheated on their husband or how many husbands they have had or anything remotely related to their sex life and reproduction choices. I used to tell people they were all mine, but not all Dan’s so “shhhhh, he doesn’t know”. Bhaa haaa!! To watch their jaws drop was priceless. But, then I stopped. I have enough fun with people when they ask me if I’m pregnant with my first baby … I don’t need to get cruel. Although once or twice, depending on my mood, I will ask if they rarely have sex or if they use birth control … just kidding.
Dan and I started off at a bit of a crossroads regarding family size. I grew up Catholic and have always had a “don’t worry, be happy” mentality. I have never sweated the small stuff. I don’t let things like money wear me down. It’s tangible, it comes and it goes and its as cyclical as the seasons. I never once thought of it as a precursor to having a family. Dan, on the other hand, is/was practical and he felt a lot of pressure to bring home enough bacon for us to have more than two kids. The lack of birth control was never an issue, he was more than willing to accept that this was a non-issue for me. I grew up knowing I would have a large family, luckily I married the most amazing man in the entire world who gradually came to embrace his future as our third child was born, our fourth, our fifth, etc. I am thrilled to have the courage to turn over our fertility to God, we are both fully open to having more children, if God so deems us worthy.
Do You Have A Lot of Help From Family?
In one word, no. Never have and don’t ever believe we will. To their defense we did move across the country, but in our defense we did so after our fifth child was born because we had little to no involvement. We have done every delivery, every hospitalization, every ER visit … everything on our own, so it is absolutely doable! You don’t need a village, you need a spouse who is involved and devoted 100% to the well being of your immediate family. You can teach your children what good grandparents are supposed to be when your children have children. You can teach them about Aunts and Uncles by ensuring that they develop a strong bond with each other, that will endure through good times and bad. You’re family, your spouse and your children are your everything, if you have family involvement, you are very very lucky.
As for support of our decision, again, not even close. We were never recipients of the joy and excitement most experience for any of our announcements by any of our family, ever. I have finally come to realize and accept the verse Mth 7:6 … “Do not cast your pearls among swine.” You have to connect with people that understand your destiny, people that appreciate your uniqueness and people that can call forth your seeds of greatness. Not people that are always pushing you down, telling what you can’t become, never giving you their approval no matter how good you do. For some people the only thing holding them back is their inner circle. The people closest to you are with you but they are not really for you. If you have to persuade them that you are okay and convince them to get behind you then they are not good for you. Don’t spend all your time and energy on people that don’t understand your destiny. Don’t live your life trying to please others that are close to you that don’t believe in you. Some people you have to love from a distance, they can still be your friends and family but they are just not in your inner circle.
I finally grasp this, and since then our inner circle has dwindled to few. It is a peaceful existence, loving those who never approve from afar and keeping those who only exalt you and push you toward greatness close. It doesn’t mean you have to cut the others off, be cruel or disrespectful, just keep them at arms length, don’t let them in to bring you down. Dan and I have gotten to the point where we simply don’t tell our families that we are expecting. They have essentially lost that privilege with comments like, “When does this end.” Instead we have surrounded ourselves with people who encourage us, support us. We are much happier for it.
How Do You Support Such a Large Family? What Do You Do?
We started out with absolutely nothing. I had a job making $10/hr and Dan was in seek and find mode. After Kerry was born we got by on Dan’s income of $14k/yr. That is not a typo — $14,000 per year. My Grandmother had given me $4,000 to put toward a car upon graduation and so with that $9k/yr we had a $180/mo car payment, $700 rent + utilities, food, clothing, diapers … rent alone took Dan’s entire salary, so he went back to college in order to get $$ and we lived off his student loans, Marine Corps Reserve meager pay and credit cards that we acquired in college. Little by little Dan started making more money and we kept moving up. God blessed Dan with intelligence unlike anyone I’ve ever known. He’s an extremely hard worker and can figure anything out on his own … he is truly the jack of all trades. He struggled to figure out exactly what he wanted to do with his life until God threw a salaried position as a computer geek in his lap. He took it, ran with it and we’ve never looked back. God has provided for us every step of the way. We are by no means rolling in money, not even close, but we spend our money on the things that will make us happy and bring us closer to our kids — toys. Kayaks, rafts, riverboards, snowboards, dirtbikes, camping equipment, climbing gear … this is what we spend our money on. Our cars are all 10+ years old, our furniture is not designer, our clothes are bought online on sale. You walk into our home and our kitchen is just a kitchen, we don’t have granite countertops or stainless steel appliances or top of the line cabinets. It is simply a home, nothing spectacular. My children will not remember or even appreciate a Viking Range. We don’t take many vacations, we live in a vacation mecca. We use our money as a means to an end, it buys the things that we need, period. Dan works exceptionally hard so we can play equally as hard. We are very blessed that he works from home and can make his own schedule. It is not uncommon for Dan to be working on a weekend or late into the night in order to play the next day. Money is not the key to a happy life. It is not going to make an unhappy person happy, it can enhance an already happy life, but it cannot make a life full. Money is not to be worshiped or coveted. It comes as fast as it goes. If you are struggling financially, rest assured, it’s not permanent. If you are rolling in the money, be as assured that it’s not permanent. Live life daily, enjoy what you can each and every day and let God worry about and work on tomorrow.
How Do You Give Each Child The Love and Attention They Need?
This is the easiest question to answer. I am always around. I am always with them. I know each of my children inside and out. I can take one look at them and know instantly what they are feeling and what they need. I am so connected, I know what’s going on even when I can’t see them. Every single one of my kids has a drastically different personality than the other. They each have different talents, different interests, and different needs.
The most amazing thing about a large family is our cohesiveness. My youngest daughter, Ellyy is the luckiest infant in the world. She is always being held and loved by someone! Our 2nd youngest, Emmy is the luckiest toddler I know. She gets more attention and her needs are met faster and more efficiently that any other toddler I know. She cries and there are 11 people to jump and comfort. It’s that way for all the kids, young and old. It’s common to see one of the younger kids hugging their older brothers and sisters to make them feel better. They know each other intuitively, as I do. We are in tune to each other emotionally and are exceptionally strong because of it.
My goal as a parent is to raise strong independent adults who will go out into the world and contribute to society, not drain it. In order to accomplish this there is a huge emphasis on doing for yourselves and for others. Putting yourself last is an important lesson to learn, and it’s a lost lesson for sure. It is how you show love, because after all love is a verb … an action word.