'Supersize' Families: The Joy of Having 8-Plus Kids
When Melina Cummings, 37, of Montgomery County, Md., had her first child, she was overwhelmed. Three children later, she decided she was done having babies and gave all the baby stuff away. Today, she's the proud mother of eight -- three boys and five girls -- ages 5 months, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11 and 13.
And when she and her husband take the family out (in their 12-passenger van) they get a lot of attention.
"Sometimes people can't even comment. They just stare," she says. "Others just count, with their finger, out loud, as we pass by."
How does she -- and other moms of eight or more children -- get it all done? It all comes down to organization. And Costco, iCal, date nights at home and laundry-folding parties.
A Team Approach
Elizabeth Foss, 44, who lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C., homeschools most of her nine children, ages 1, 3, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 21, and works from home as a writer and blogger. Her husband travels for work, but staying connected is key to making it all work, she says.
"We text each other all day long and check in frequently by phone," she tells ParentDish. "The strength of this family depends very much upon the strength of our relationship and we both know it and work very hard to respect that."
Michele Rusden, 43, of Philadelphia, a full-time Avon representative and mother of eight, ages 7 to 21, agrees.
"Managing to keep my business thriving and their social lives in order can be a challenge," she says. "But we are able to keep things positive, due to our team efforts, and both my husband and I have a thriving business life, and the children have full lives, too.
Cummings says every year is a learning year.
"You meet the challenges and learn," she says. "It's not a talent, it's a blessing."
"The Calendar is Key"
"iCal is the only way I know where I am and where I'm supposed to be," Foss says.
And Rusden agrees that a calendar is a must-have.
"I have a big calendar where I write everything down -- appointments, dates, reminders, everything," she tells ParentDish.
Most of the moms we talked to simply don't use baby-sitters. (Do you know a teenager who could handle eight-plus children at once? And just imagine the hourly rate.). So couples make time for a lot of at-home dates, watching movies and eating together.
A Full -- and Clean Enough -- House
When you have so many children, keeping an immaculate house is nearly impossible.
"Keeping the house clean is like shoveling snow in a blizzard," Foss says.
And Gabriella San Severino, 49, of Myerstown, Penn., a mother of nine children ages 6 to 26, says, "I'll never get caught up. And I'm OK with that now."
Topping the list of consuming chores? Laundry.
"Laundry is utterly ridiculous," says Foss, who does four loads a day. Cummings does two a day, and if either woman gets behind, and the piles grow out of control, both call in the troops for some group folding. Cummings puts on a movie and everyone watches and folds, while Foss' sons only get to watch basketball on TV if they fold while doing so.
Foss does most of her food shopping at warehouse stores ("Other people are buying in bulk; I'm doing the weekly grocery run.") Her family goes through 15 dozen eggs a month, while the Cummings family tears through five gallons of milk and five dozen eggs a week and the Rusdens buy five to six loaves of bread a week.
Then all that food has to be cooked. Cummings enjoys cooking, and starts thinking about lunch and dinner as soon as breakfast is over. Foss says she cooks for her family every night, even when she's tempted to just dump cereal in paper bowls and be done with it.
Most of these moms tell ParentDish they always wanted to have lots of kids.
"When we were engaged, we thought it would be fun to have a big family," Foss says. "We also always thought a big family was four kids. But it very much surprises and delights us to be where we are today. The greatest gift we've given our kids is their siblings, and they know it."
Both Cummings and Rusden say as the children get older, they have even more fun with them.
"It used to bother us that we didn't go out," Cummings says. "But now when we go out with the older kids, we have a blast."
Looking back to those first overwhelming days of motherhood, when she would call her husband and ask when he was going to be home from work, Cummings says, "I laugh a little at myself, as I now find that with a few children in the house it seems quiet. I'm blessed to have had the chance to be a mother and share in the joy over the little things only a mother would notice -- eight times over."
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.