When people find out how many children we have, stares of confusion and lots of questions usually ensue. As foster parents, the number of children living under our roof changes regularly. Today that number is 13. Although the days are typically very challenging and I basically fall asleep walking to the bed most nights, I would not trade this chaotic family for all the gold in California. We love raising a houseful of children, and the joy surely outweighs the struggles.
We don’t easily get offended by the questions or even the comments we get. Some topics are not up for discussion, such as why our foster kids are in care or what happened to our adopted children’s birth parents. Those are private details that we will let them share if and when they want to. Other than that, we are pretty open. I get it, it is NOT “normal” to have a dozen children. I’m not bothered by someone wanting to know how we plan to pay for college or the comments about not knowing how we do it. Those comments actually give us a chance to brag on our big kids who play super helpful roles on our team. Yes, we always knew we wanted a big family but I’m pretty sure we never expected a dozen or so. No, we don’t get a lot of sleep. No, we don’t get a lot of time to ourselves. Yes, we drive a big van. Because of foster care and adoption, most of our little kids don’t look like us so we no longer get the question about whether we know what causes this or not. (Hahaha)
With that said, I thought it would be fun to break this down and talk specifically about some of the topics people seem most curious about. This topic of Raising a Large Family will continue through a few posts as I attempt to answer several of the most common questions we receive.
Here comes the biggest shocker of all: I’ve never had a chore chart! I know some of you fabulously organized mamas are stressing for me right now, but here’s the bottom line: every single person out of diapers has to do daily chores in our family, but for us, a pre-planned daily chore chart just does not work. Our schedules and dynamics can change on a dime; therefore, nothing is concrete around our house. Chores are usually dished out based on the school, work, and extra-curricular schedules of each individual child; meaning, if you had school, football practice, and a ton of homework, you are likely not going to be asked to unload the dishwasher before dinner. Typically, I tell each child in the afternoon what he (she) is responsible for before he goes to bed, and that looks different most days.
Each day, most kids have to clean their room and bathroom before bed, or first thing in the morning depending on how late of a night we had. (Let me clarify that “clean” means picked up and tidy, not mopped and vacuumed.) As for keeping the house picked up and clean, we all pitch in. Every evening I assign each available child a few rooms or areas to be responsible for cleaning. It doesn’t matter if that child made the mess, it’s a team effort. I do most of the cooking with some help from my girls, but I rarely clean the kitchen. My big girls and Dad always clean the kitchen and load the dishwasher. I don’t like clutter or mess, so the goal is to go to bed every night with a clean house. This just makes for a happier mom in the morning. Plus, it’s easier to do a little cleaning every day than to get overwhelmed by a huge mess and not know where to start.
Let’s talk laundry because that is one of the biggest chores in our home. We have two washing machines and driers and they run pretty much every single day. We gifted ourselves with an extra set when we had five children, and it may have been one of the most helpful purchases we’ve ever made. I usually load both machines first thing in the morning and wash two to four loads during the day. I fold laundry and place it in individual stacks on the counter in the laundry room for each child. A couple of times a week we work together to put up all the clean laundry. Most kids put up their own, and the older kids help put away the little ones’ clothing. No one has laundry baskets in their rooms except the big girls because they do their own laundry. Everyone else knows to bring their dirty clothes and towels to the laundry room every day. Do they always remember this? No, but I remind them all the time that if it doesn’t show up in the laundry room, it will not get washed.
Trash! This may seem silly to “normal size” families, but we have lots of trash. This chore always falls on the boys. They take out about four bags a day! Big boys are responsible for rolling the cans to the road for pick-up, and little boys return them to the house each week on trash pick up day.
I get a lot of questions about how I prepare meals that everyone will eat. This seems to be a struggle for families of all sizes. I try to plan out weekly meals and then do my shopping. The key word in that statement is try. I love to have all my kids around the table for dinner at night. However, with kids playing sports and big kids going in different directions, this sometimes mean we only eat a real meal at the table as a family a few nights a week.
I have a handful of meals that everyone likes or is at least willing to eat. These include:
- spaghetti and salad
- roast with vegetables
- bacon, eggs, and pancakes
- taco bar
- seasoned chicken and veggies baked together on a sheet pan
I choose one of these on nights when most of us can eat together. Other nights when people are coming and going, we go for easier meals like pizza, chicken and macaroni, waffles, sandwiches, or grilled cheese.
When my older kids were little, my pediatrician would tell them I was not a short-order cook. He wanted me to enforce the rule that they could either eat what I cooked or wait for breakfast the next morning. I may have thought that to be good advice as a young mom, but as a much older and more fun mom, I never adhere to that craziness. I’m still not a short-order cook because I don’t have time, but if a kid doesn’t like what I cooked, they can pour themselves a bowl of cereal. They will not die. They will not be a terrible adult. They will not be a spoiled brat if they eat cereal for dinner. It’s really fine, Mamas. Relax. Give yourself some slack. Happy kids are much more pleasant than hungry or irritable kids who are forced to eat something they simply don’t like. My encouragement to moms in regards to meal times: as your kids get older, focus more on the gathering at meal times than the food. Sitting down together at a table and engaging in good conversation with your kids is so much more important than the food on their plates.
In an upcoming post I will talk about how we carve out time to spend with and listen to our children individually and how we balance them serving our family and getting to simply be kids. I have some firsthand information that I can’t wait to share about how these kids feel about being part of a large family. Stay tuned!