I don’t mean to brag, but people tend to react in shock when they find out the details of my life. I’m a mom to six kids, and I work from home as a freelance writer and editor. One of my kids has Down syndrome, and another is adopted. I spend my days running around, dropping them off at multiple different schools, figuring out therapies and dance classes and doctor’s appointments, all while juggling work and also trying to make sure I have time for my husband.
Big families are not common anymore and seeing how many kids I have usually elicits horror, pity, or disdain. Others treat me like I’m some kind of supermom, which is flattering, embarrassing, and condescending all at once. I am not supermom. In fact, most days I’m just struggling to survive. There is so much screaming — all the time. By the end of the night, I’m fried, wanting nothing more than to sit in bed, staring mindlessly at the TV, not thinking or talking or touching anyone. But, beyond all reason or explanation, I’ve managed to thrive amidst the chaos… most of the time. Here’s how:
Step One: Use TV As a Babysitter
I’m not kidding. It’s not popular, and I can just feel the helicopter moms readying their
pitchforks keyboards, hateful comments about how I’m a terrible, lazy mom already submitted. But I literally do not have time to sit there playing dolls or making crafts or whatever it is that “good” moms are supposed to do. Plus, doing that inevitably creates more problems, as the paint or markers get stolen by one kid, who uses them to draw all over the walls, while another one screams because they want me to color with them instead, and then there’s another two who are fighting in the corner… it’s just pointless and stressful. So yep, the TV is on pretty much all the time. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re always watching it necessarily; they like to go in their rooms and play, turning their mattresses into slides and forts, or they read. But if they watch a couple of Disney movies every day, I could not care less.
Step Two: Foster Independence
For the most part, I’m a hands-off mom. Our house is pretty child-proofed, and so typically, as long as no one is screaming or completely silent (because silence is more terrifying than crying!), I don’t worry too much. I also tend to kick them outside when they get too restless. We have a playground in the backyard, and when it’s hot out, I turn on our sprinkler system and they run around in the water and have fun for an hour or two, giving me the freedom to sit by the window and watch while I work. But in all seriousness, I do believe strongly that it’s important for my kids to be able to entertain themselves. I don’t want to have kids who need activities provided for them or to be unable to figure out what to do if they get bored, problem-solve, or handle disagreements. If two of them are arguing, I don’t want them to have me intermediate; I want them to be able to resolve it by themselves. Having kids that need Mom to step in and handle everything for them doesn’t strike me as a parenting win, personally. So I keep hands-off, both for my own sanity and for their own independence. I step in when needed, but it’s not all that often, thank God.
Step Three: Remember the Fun Stuff
Weekdays are the most hectic, of course. So on the weekends, that’s when I try to set my work aside if I can (I technically don’t get days “off”), and we have family time. We’re big fans of MOSH, the Jacksonville Zoo, Sweet Pete’s, San Marco… we have memberships everywhere, and we take advantage of them as much as we can. Downtown and San Marco are some of our favorites because we can start at MOSH, take the skyway across the river, explore a bit, grab a bite to eat, and then head home. We’ve also recently started tentatively experimenting with movies, taking all eight of us together to see a movie, which so far has been successful for the most part. But the point is that it can’t always be me working while my feral kids fend for themselves. I want them to have good, fun memories with us, too.
It’s not easy, this life, but we manage. Sometimes it’s only by the skin of my teeth, but I survive each day, and I’m not a supermom because I have a lot of kids. I’m a very ordinary mom, with very ordinary kids, who I love very much, and I do the best I can. I work hard, all the time, to try to provide for my family, and I try to raise them to be polite, well-mannered, grateful, kind people. I don’t think anyone necessarily needs to take parenting lessons from me, but I do think we live in a society now where it’s harder than ever to be a mom. Everyone is anxious to judge everything we do, and if I could tell moms one thing, it would be this: Back off. Give yourself a break. Your kids will be fine. They don’t need us to hover over them every second of every day, and you know what? If you have to use the TV as a babysitter, that’s okay.