You see us pulling up at the soccer field. You gape in amazement as the humungous van spews forth 4 kids in shin guards, a sulking preschooler (she’s too young to play yet), and a maniacal toddler towing his obviously pregnant mother by the hand. The questions sit right on the tip of your tongue, but your momma raised you right. You don’t say anything, but still, you wonder…..
1. Are you in some kind of a weirdo religious cult?
No, we’re not. I mean, we’re Catholic, but… Mass on Sunday Catholic, not any special “super-Catholics.” The only time we go door-to-door is at Halloween, dressed as a random assortment of princesses, heroes, and villains.
We homeschool, but for the academics and the freedom to set our own schedule, not from any deep-seated conviction that the public schools are out to get us. We read Harry Potter, and watch popular movies (as long as they don’t suck.) We use words like “suck.” (What can I say, I went to high school in the 90s!) We’re a little weird, but it’s because we’re gamer nerds, not because we’re in a cult.
2. How on Earth do you afford them all? Are your rich or something?
No, we’re solidly middle class. And if we lived in a coastal city, there’s no way we could have had this many kids. But we live in a low cost-of-living area, and we economize. So kids share bedrooms (3 to a room). We buy passes to the local amusement park instead of going on expensive trips to Disney. We drive a used car, and it’s not a fancy one. We buy what we can afford.
Our weekly menu is in limbo until I see what meat is on sale, we shop at Aldi, and we don’t bother with fancy cheese or organic stuff. My goal is to feed my kids balanced meals for as little money as possible. We eat out 3 or 4 times a year max, instead of Starbucks, I drink coffee made at home, and we happily accept hand-me-down clothes. So, we have a good life, we have more food and clothes and stuff than we need, but we’re careful about what we spend.
3. How do you do it all?
I don’t. I have 7 kids. I homeschool. I work from home. But I never do it all. In a given day, I need to educate the kids, take care of the house, and earn a living. I usually do an adequate job at 2 of the 3. The trick is to alternate what ball gets dropped so that, when I look at the week, I’m doing OK on all counts.
I also don’t do it all alone. My husband and I are a team, and we pick up each other’s slack. My in-laws live a mile away and help out a lot. My neighbors and friends are always present and ready to live a hand. When you have this many kids, trying to go it alone is madness.
4. So…. Which ones were surprises?
None of them. We know where babies come from, we enjoy where babies come from, and we assume that if I have cycles, there’s a chance of a baby. So we plan ahead and try to keep ourselves in a place where we could handle another child 9 months down the road. (Because NO ONE could handle another baby right now. But with nine months to plan? That’s different.)
5. No, really? Which ones were surprises?
Ok, honestly? Every single child has been a surprise. Even though you know you’re having a baby, you don’t know who that baby’s going to be. Why is this daughter a left-handed math-lover who wants to build space robots for NASA? How on Earth did we get a coordinated, musical kid? Who would have guessed that this one would be so good with people and animals?
It doesn’t matter how much you plan for a kid, in the end, every child is unplanned, totally himself, and totally unique. Whether you have one or 12, they’re all surprises in the end.
6. So when are you going to be done?
I don’t know. Our kids are awesome, and it’s great having our own little tribe. But, realistically, I’m 38. When the new baby is born, I’ll be nearly 39. Before I can get pregnant again (Nursing spaces my kids) I’ll be 40 and a half. At which point fertility becomes awfully chancy.
So realistically, we might have one more after this one, but I’m not making any bets. The biological clock is an awful tyrant, and I don’t know when mine will decide that the time for babies has passed. I do know that when we move to the next stage of life, I’ll be a little sad. Because all my kids are awesome, and I’ve loved watching them grow into themselves. If they weren’t so awesome, I probably wouldn’t have had so many of them.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.