28 Oct Frequently Asked Questions
Are all these children yours, from one husband?
Yes, I have been married to the same man all my life and all these ten children come from the two of us.
Were you not aware of things you could be doing?
From the onset, we knew what we were doing and thrilled to get results. We were aware of all the options available and found this one to be the best cement to glue our relationship together.
Each child that was born spoke loudly to the others that they are worth it. Each child reminds my husband and I about how much we love each other. Our children incarnate our love.
Did you plan to have more children?
Although I find this to be a very personal question, it is still one that I was constantly asked by strangers over the years. I started out wanting to have only one child, believe it or not. Time and exposure to great families and amazing insights opened me to the possibility of more. I have grown to see children as a great blessing. They enrich each other and us more than we know. I have been fortunate to have had good pregnancies and deliveries. My husband and I have constantly assessed if we have had any serious reason not to be having more children. Sometimes we did and sometimes we did not. We have never had a number of children we aimed for. We took one at a time (except for the twins) and trusted God would take care of things along the way. We see our happiness coming from people more than things. If someone would have told me years ago I would have ten, I would have told them to drop dead, no way. Time and experience have opened a world to me that was beyond my imagining. For me, it was amazing to see how keen my five teenagers were for me to have another, even when I got to my forties. They argued siblings were the best thing we ever gave them. Their bonds and memories anchor them wherever they are and bring a true richness to their lives that nothing can match.
You must be SO busy!!
I find that to be a funny statement. Of course we are busy, but probably not as busy as you! Long ago we decided that it is a privilege to be part of our family. We feel it is the place where our children learn some of the most important life skills and build the most important relationships. We all make it work and try to have as much time enjoying it. As the children grew, I made sure we all did what we could to make it work. Young and old, small and tall, everyone contributes. We have made a conscious choice to lead a simple life at every stage of our family. We have tried to focus on maximizing family time at meals, in the evenings and on weekends to work together, relax together and enjoy many good times. We have intentionally worked to create a strong family culture and hang out with like-minded families. We have not felt the need to be running around constantly to personally fulfill each child. Our choices have reaped greater peace, more joy and good results.
You must have a BIG house?!
Well right now we do, but we started off renting small apartments, then a semi-detached home and finally bought a small four bedroom home when we were up to seven children. The neat thing was the size of the house was not so critical to our happiness as people would think. For the longest time, all my boys bunked in one room. That’s 6 boys in two sets of bunks with two more mattresses that pulled out from under the beds. It was practically wall to wall boys, even up and down the walls! They loved it and did not want to be split up. What memories they cherish from those days!! As time passed, God provided a larger house, but that was when we reached nine children. My feelings are that kids do not need oodles of space, they need a lot of loving relationships. Sharing rooms provides a sense of security and a lot of bonding opportunities. They laugh, cry, enjoy, fight and learn the art of living together. They certainly come to terms with dealing with all sorts of personalities and temperaments. What a great way to build character!
You must have a ton of patience?
It depends – some days yes, other days when I lack sleep or have too much happening, maybe not. I do have my Godzilla moments. I certainly am a woman who knows how to cry, scream, pull my hair out and breathe through tough moments. At the same time, my tolerance level and approaches have greatly improved. I definitely had a big learning curve at the beginning of family life, where each stage and situation was new and often overwhelming. Definitely the first child always stretched me to new uncharted territory (toilet training, school, jobs, dating, university, marriage etc.) and still does. It actually gets easier with more children. I gain in coping strategies and knowledge of what is normal and realistic for the age and stage. As a result, I do become more
relaxed, confident and happy. What was previously stressful, eventually becomes less so. Life is busy and often you do not see that growth occurring. Yes I am more patient; but I still
have room for improvement. The years ahead of children leaving home, making their own decisions, having grandchildren and growing old will offer more occasions to grow in detachment, patience and understanding. We never stop learning. My life provides tons of valuable moments to discover strengths I never knew, even though I might have been pulling my hair out at the time. Patience is definitely a virtue and we will never have enough of it.
Your husband must make a lot of money?
When we got married we made the decision to do whatever it took for me to be home to raise our kids. For three children, we lived off my husband’s income as a student teaching assistant
while he finished his university studies. We learned to stretch our coins as far as they would take us and became very resourceful. We were not at all concerned to keep up with the Jones’. Rather we made a decision that regardless of our finances, we would lead a simple life so that we would focus more on relationships than on things. My husband once told me that I would be a better social worker at home ensuring our children never needed one. We constantly make choices that don’t overwhelm our budget and yet add joy and fun to our lives. Although we do not go out for family dinners often, nor shop till we drop, everyone looks terrific, has what they need and eats great home-cooked meals. Some might think we have sacrificed a lot. However we have never seen it to be that way. Neither do the kids. We are a happy, tight-knit family who knows how to enjoy life to the fullest without a lot of gizmos and gadgets. As much as possible we stay debt-free. Our goals are clear: security, basic needs, common good and strong family values. We are just as happy with a little less than more. No complaints at this end.
Your grocery bill must have been HUGE?
Well I guess when we had twelve mouths to feed, it was definitely bigger than yours; but it was not at all what you would imagine. At a per person cost, it was quite low. With menu planning and
one stop shopping, all our meals were and still are home cooked from scratch. We cook with food basics and no frills (and that’s where we shop) – very little convenience foods and no pre-cooked anything. No one starves at our place and we often have families over for supper. There’s always enough to eat, great desserts and happy faces.
But how did you find individual time for the kids? Weren’t you short-changing them by having so many?
A single child has two parents to love them. Each of my children has 11 people to love them for life. Yes it was tricky for me to find one-on-one time with each when they all lived at home. I had to constantly make it a priority, schedule it and seize the moments. Days were not perfect. They knew I was always available and willing to drop everything when they really needed me. I could never be at their beck and call. I tried my best. It wasn’t perfect. Nevertheless they were greatly enriched by the other eleven. As a result, the demands on me to entertain and oversee were very little. With so many people to talk to and play with, the wide interchange of relationships sustained our children through all the difficult and easy stages of life. Even now as adults, the contact between them remains an important part of their identity and support system. Nothing compares to family.
You must be organized?
Yes, otherwise I would have been admitted to the psyche ward a long time ago. My first child presented a huge learning curve for me in parenting, homemaking and time management. The second child was much easier, but I really had to find creative ways to sleep and “split myself in half”. The third child taught me how little I had my act together and that life is not about entertaining children by splitting myself further into pieces. Instead I sought help from other moms to clarify my priorities, become more efficient with less effort and realistically accept family situations. My expectations shifted to be more in line with what was actually possible. I started taking steps to bring tools, skills and work habits into harmony. Plugging into the right resources (more experienced moms and amazing resources) catapulted me ahead. Now, rather than always reacting to the situation, I am more proactive. I seek advice from trusted mentors and friends and have greater confidence things can work out. I have also learned I control nothing in life and the more I let go and let God, the better things work out. My spiritual life has grown so much and I tackle things better with God, than I ever did on my own.
You must have had help – housekeeper, nanny, etc.
I get this question a lot. No, I do not. Each child has helped me to improve my skills as a home-maker, to become more efficient and to set better priorities. I found when we had our third child, I felt quite stretched in managing all aspects of a family and home. I realized it was time to stop flipping out over it, and get a good handle on the situation. I took a more business approach. Studying the issues and finding solutions to laundry, schedules, cooking, cleaning, delegating, etc. became a top priority for managing the chaos. Over time, adjustments were made and attitudes developed to heighten productivity and maintain sanity and cheerfulness. Unfortunately in today’s society few women are given the tools, resources and support to make these adjustments. If we don’t avidly look for them and apply them, we can feel we are getting no where. This being said, my house can still get messy, the kids are not always compliant, but we do work together to maintain, peace, order and a great sense of well-being. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about comparing ourselves to other women. It’s all about loving each other, accepting ourselves and having flex to grow through the imperfect. There is so much potential in each of us to be untapped and at the same time healthy limits for balanced living. We need to willing to constantly tweak to find the basic degree of peace we are looking for.