Today we are musing with my friend Emily, a 30 something modern mama, about her WOW family. Have a cuppa and muse along with us.
Big families did not used to be odd. Being an only child was odd. I grew up next door to a family of five, and I’m pretty sure there weren’t any only children in most of my classes at school. Joe was the sixth child of seven, and many of the families he knew growing up had as many or more children in their families.
Nowadays, of course, the pendulum has swung the other way. I am an only child, rearing an only child, who was among five only children in his grade school class of 28.
Emily is the daughter of an dear old St. Louis friend. I first met her when she was about four. My best Emily story is about the time I took her to a very fancy resort with me for the weekend. She walked into the lobby, looked around, and said, “Wow this place is almost as cool as Howard Johnson’s.”
Emily grew up and lives just a few miles from me with her family. Her family includes one significant other, five children, a dog, and I think a hamster. I asked Emily to share on Odd what it’s like to be a modern mama of five, and I am delighted to say she agreed . . .
Hi. My name is Emily,
and I have five children.
If I had told you this in real life, more than likely there would have been a pause….
while you digested the number,
and then you would have responded with something ranging between “WOW! That’s great!” and “WOW! Are you nuts?”
But always a WOW!
Do I mind being thought of as a WOW family? Mind it? I love it!
I did not grow up in a large family. I was raised in the textbook nuclear family of the 1970’s — one boy, one girl. Nathan, my partner, is the eldest of three, with two younger sisters. My mother was a single working mother; his stayed at home when he and his sisters were young, and then went to work when they grew up. We grew up in average families. So what happened to us?
Nathan and I never talked about how large a family we wanted; I was finishing my degree, and he was starting his career; we were young, and just getting use to managing the grown-up world. We were both excited when Madelaine arrived and we became a family of three; but between juggling school, jobs and a baby, time flew by, and Madelaine was almost six years old before she had a sibling.
After Madelaine was born, I continued to work; but after our second baby arrived, I decided I wanted to try ‘the stay at home mom’ gig. It didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to return to a work force that included adult conversation and a sticky free work space, so I headed back to work after only 18 months.
When our third child was on the way, we crunched numbers and found it was more economical for me to be a stay-at-home mom than it was for me to return to work and have to pay for daycare. The decision was made: I quit my job and became a full-time mom for our clan. My title became Family Services Manager and Executive CEO.
I’m not sure what was different this time . . . maybe it was not having to bundle three kids up and race out the door in the morning, or coming home too exhausted to want to play Candy Land, or explaining to a boss why I could not take a sick kid to daycare — but within a week, I had adjusted to being a stay-at-home mom and never looked back. Under my full-time leadership, the quality of our home life improved drastically.
What moved us from three children to a handful? Nathan and I discovered that we liked the idea of having a large family, liked the organized chaos we lived in and liked a home that was bursting at the seams with love and laughter. Going from three to five kids didn’t change our lifestyle very much; it just added more wonderful WOW to hearth and home.
Right after I tell people how many children we have, they almost always ask, “How do you do it all?” Well, I don’t. We don’t have a maid, or a nanny, but we do have a crew of kids ranging in ages from 4 to 16 that all help to make our family life run smoothly. I am the family crew leader, and while I shoulder the bulk of the family responsibilities, I have also learned the importance of insisting that all hands be on deck to keep us sailing smoothly along. We have a routine that we try to stick to so that everyone knows what is expected of them. My kids seem to find a household routine comforting, and I find myself spending less time arguing with them and nagging them about what needs to be done. Over time the chores become second nature, and they take pride in their ability to contribute in meaningful ways to our family.
Is our home life perfect? Of course not. But it is home sweet home, where everyone is a part of one big, happy family — and that is what is most important to me.
Nathan and I are not trust fund babies, and publishers clearing house has not knocked on our front door with a sweepstakes check. We afford our family of seven by careful budgeting. I spend $200 a week on groceries. I make a meal plan every week around sale fliers, clip coupons like a fiend and, most importantly, I learned to cook from scratch. No frozen meals, box meals or heavily packaged, processed goods. If we are hungry for muffins, I pull out the cook book and flour. It’s less expensive and healthier to cook from scratch, so that’s what I do.
Here try a little of our bread…..
We have one, used, paid for, 2000 Honda Odyssey, which chauffeurs our kids to a few well-chosen activities. Our older kids participate in scouts and usually one other extracurricular activity of their choice. One of the great things about big families is that there is always someone to play with, and I would rather have my children playing and making up their own games than racing them from activity to activity. We often say “no” to more for the sake of our sanity and our budget.
We say “yes” to hand me downs! Oh boy, do we say yes! And of course we also pass down clothes from one kid to the next. I get a chuckle when my four year old wears a dress my eldest wore 12 years ago. Our family gives new meaning to the words “play clothes.”
What advice do I have for other parents? Deep breathe. Relax. Pick your battles. Say “yes” more often than “no.” Recognize that most mistakes can be fixed. Be kind to yourself and your children. Have fun. Look at the world through your child’s eyes and remember how hard things can sometimes be when you are little — monsters really do live under the bed and not getting the last cookie really can seem like the end of the world — and that a mom’s hug and understanding can usually make the world all better again. Give them time lots of time because time is what matters most and is most fleeting: One day you will have the perfect garden, finish a whole book and get a good night’s sleep; but right now is the time to relish the weeds and imperfect garden rows, marvel again and again about how clever the three little pigs are for outsmarting the big bad wolf and eat ice cream at midnight with a teen because she has decided to wander into the kitchen and visit with you just as you were ready to turn the lights out and the bed down.
Time and hindsight will tell us what we did right or wrong but right now I am having the time of my life with my big WOW Family.
Thank you Emily for sharing about your WOW family! I am most definitely WOWed. If you would like to share about your family or leave Emily a question, please do so in the comment section . . . because Odd Loves Company!