10 things you’ve always wanted to ask a woman with a big family . . .
You’ve got how many children?!
Nine. Nope, no twins or multiples; I had them one at a time. Yes, all with the same man.
How old are they?
Our children were born over a span of 16 years. Our eldest is now in their late 20s, and our youngest is almost a teenager.
How old are you?
I’m in my early 50s. I was 22 when I was pregnant with my first baby, 38 when I was pregnant with my last.
All told, I’ve spent over 80 months of my life being pregnant—that’s about seven years.
Do you ever mix up your children’s names?
All the time, but I have ADHD so truth be told that was always going to be a thing. Even if I had one child, I guarantee I’d occasionally be calling that child by someone else’s name.
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Are you some kind of multitasking genius?
That would be a no. A hard no. Very much no. See ADHD comment above. I multitask with all the coordination and laser-like focus of a box of puppies.
Thankfully, organization is my husband’s superpower. He’s the one who keeps everything running smoothly. I keep everything sweet. Our children have learned early on that if you want someone to applaud and adore your dreams, go to Mom. If you want someone to help make them happen, go to Dad.
How can you afford to care for everybody?
Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: there have been hard times when we couldn’t, not on our own.
Life is an adventure, and we’ve had our share of exciting financial surprises and setbacks over the years. As it says in that old Beatles song, we get by with a little help (and hand-me-downs) from our friends. We live pretty frugally, and we’re also fortunate in that our people are our pride and joy, not our possessions.
So it doesn’t matter if we’re eating ribeye or ramen, what we treasure is the moment of life that we get to spend with those awesome young people around our table. We are rich in our relationships.
Are you crazy?
C’mon now, we don’t call people crazy anymore, it stigmatizes mental illness. But, yes, yes I am. Just your average, run-of-the-mill mental health stuff: a touch of trauma, a nip of neurodivergence, a dash of dysfunction.
Seriously though, isn’t every mom dealing with a little bit of something? Arachnophobia? Postnatal depression? Co-dependence? PTSD? Addictive relationship with food? Unresolved grief?
Having a mental health issue to creatively work around at home is not for families on the fringe, it is the modus operandi of mainstream motherhood. In my view, it’s not a bad thing for children to have a mother who is open about the fact that mental health considerations are part of the normal human experience.
Have you heard about contraception?
I’ve not only heard about it, I’ve used it. A lot, actually. My husband and I have found it to be very effective in family planning, which is how we only have the nine children after 30 years of enjoying one another’s company in every way.
Does your religion require you to have lots of children?
No. In my faith, family size is a personal decision—a private matter between a parent, their parenting partner, and God.
Why so many children?
Because our family wasn’t complete until everybody had arrived.
I think it’s important to understand that I don’t mother “a bunch of children” or “a big family.” I have a mother relationship with nine unique and wonderful people, who are precious to me. I received them into my life intentionally, one by one, over a long span of time, and they have each added something amazing and enriching to who I am.
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I love who I have become as I’ve assisted them in becoming who they are. It’s exciting to have a front-row seat to their lives, seeing where their dreams will lead them, and what roads they will be inspired to travel.
I have a vivid memory of a moment in my childhood when I was about six years old. I saw my mother sitting under the big buckeye tree in our backyard, sewing little booties for the baby she was carrying, which would soon be born into our family. I sat down and cuddled in against her side. I saw the care and cleverness with which she constructed the boots, and I heard her telling me about the special things she had sewn for me before I was born.
It was a moment of great contentment in the shade of the great tree, in the warmth of my mother’s comforting presence, in the full force of the profound power of her love.
I thought to myself what a splendid and magnificent work it is, to be a mother.
I had a strong feeling that if I were ever a mother, I would want to give that special, powerful love to many children.
Being the mother of many people is not a road everyone would enjoy, but it’s the one my dreams have inspired me to travel.
I love where it has taken me.