Let me introduce myself, I am a mum with a gang of kids, five boys and three girls, ranging from the oldest, who is 19, to the youngest, who is 7. With a troop of kids, you would think I was qualified to write a post on motherhood, but to be honest, I have a feeling that motherhood is one of those illusive callings that is never static. Motherhood keeps on changing, it keeps you on your toes and I never feel quite qualified to write about it. The thing is, whatever stage of motherhood you are in, your mothering experience and your family dynamic are unique to you.
I have to say that all of our children were planned and thought of and prayed for… their names were decided upon before they were conceived and I can’t imagine a time when I didn’t have a collection of kids running around me. Even before they were born, they had a presence. When we got married we hoped for more than a handful of kids, actually our magic number was se7en… and then as little hood se7en was born we knew that our hearts needed one or two more… And when we lost our ninth baby we knew that our quiver was full. I wouldn’t say no to more kids ever, but at this stage they need to arrive in the postbox, I was never the best at being pregnant and that is a journey I am totally happy to be done with.
The most astonishing thing to me was how the next child always just fitted in and the next one and the next one. When we have our first child, hard as it is… we love them so completely with the fierce love of a mother… that you spend your next pregnancy worried that you will never love another in the same way. Well it is true you will never love another child in the same way… but you will love them completely and with a fierceness that belongs entirely to that child. The amazing thing is that as our little gang grew, so my heart continued to expand. The thing is, your love is not shared amongst your children, your heart expands to love them each enormously, in their own unique way.
Another thing that folk often don’t understand is that we accumulated our children one at a time, over a number of years, we didn’t suddenly have eight children. As each child arrived in the family it meant another welcome plate at the dinner table. I didn’t one day start creating at least thirty meals a day every day… first it was dinner for two, then three, then four… it was a gradual awakening!!! And while creating meals and laundry are each in their own way, full time jobs, they are not the centre of our home at all. I want our kids to have happy memories of the times they spent together.
So life with eight kids… is sometimes louder than you could ever imagine, a lot of fun, and I had to stretch my organisational skills to the max. We do the same things that other families do… make dinner, run errands, get through schoolwork. The truth is, it is the same work for one child as it is for many, but our process has to be a lot more streamlined. What takes ten minutes when you have one or two kids has to take ten minutes with eight kids. There are things that my kids have to learn at a younger age than their peers. For example, they have to totally keep track of their own stuff and I purposely have as little stuff as possible, to help them with this. Other things like library books… they know I won’t ever pay a fine for them, they have to keep their own things organised. So in some things they have to be really independent and in other things they always have each other. They share bedrooms and it wouldn’t occur to them to head for sleep at the end of the day on their own. I mean, without a few bedtime shenanigans life would be meaningless!!! They do spend a lot of time together… they like it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
This post is just a little peek into our life and the daily challenge of raising a gang kids. It is good to take a peek into other mothers’ lives and see how they do things, but the fun can quickly stop when we start to compare ourselves to other families: “How fabulous that they take so many holidays together” can quickly become, “Why don’t we ever take family holidays?” I am sure just as I get asked, “Don’t I know where they come from?” As many moms of one child get asked, “So when is the next one due?” Each question can be just as hurtful. I guess the thing that surprises me the most about having a large family is how critical people are, even in front of my children. Folk think nothing of asking us very personal questions… How do you love so many of them? Can’t you give some of them away? Seriously. And asking my children what they have for breakfast, because surely we can’t afford cereal? I tend to smile and walk by, but in my head I am thinking… “I can survive living with eight kids, because I have such great kids.”
You can find this blog at www.se7en.org.za and they are on Twitter: @se7en_hoods and Pinterest: se7en_hoods
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