Moms Make it Work: Cindy | Stay at Home Mom to Eleven Kids


Today on the Moms Make it Work series we have Cindy writing about being a mother to eleven children (new record for this series!), staying at home with them, homeschooling, and all that a life with a large family entails. Cindy reached out to me, offering to write their story, and I knew I was intrigued to hear from this mom who has experienced so much with so many children. My favorite part of her post? "Mommies?  This is a tough job.  In the trenches, day in and day out…Don’t.  Allow.  Guilt.  YOU are exactly what your child/ren need.  Whether you are a SAHM or a working mommy, don’t allow guilt to steal any time or energy. " YES. No guilt. Only support. Enjoy the entire post!

momsmakeitwork

Hi! I’m Cindy from Ontario, Canada.  I found My Life in Transition back in 2010 during my 9th pregnancy.  I am very ill during my pregnancies, and in the evenings after the littles were in bed I would relax and read through pregnancy blogs.  Julia was pregnant with Truman and I loved her posts!  I’ve followed her ever since…



What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?



I’m a Canadian but grew up in both Canada and the USA, due to my Dad’s job.  I love both countries!  (Does that make me a CanMerican??!?)  I am married to my forever knight, John, and we have 11 children on this side of heaven, ranging from 22 years old (and his wife Kassidy!) to 8 months.  I am a Labor and Delivery nurse by training; a SAHM by choice.  We’re a homeschooling family and try to honor God in all that we do…(and therefore are VERY grateful for His grace!!)




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our newest addition, not in pic above



What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?


Although I had some reservations with becoming a SAHM initially, I wouldn’t trade it for the world now.  I love being able to watch my kids grow, learn and mature day in and day out.  I love being the one to tuck them in for nap, read stories, and kiss boo-boos.  I am grateful to be the one that they can come to and ask profound questions.  I feel as though I know my kids on a much deeper level since we made this shift to having me home as well as home educating our children.  They are also more in tune with each other.   One of my favorite things is watching the older ones with the little ones.  Babies and toddlers keep their hearts tender.  Seeing our Grade 9 daughter  go from being SO STRESSED and very upset over upcoming exams melt into a puddle of lovies when her three year old brother notices her angst, shares his blankie with her and tells her “It’s OK…Don’t be sad.  I wove you!”  -  moments we will treasure forever.


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That being said, there are challenges as well.  As a matter of fact, the flip side of the coin bears mentioning.  We spend A LOT of time together.  A LOT.  Being a large family that doesn’t happen to have a 5,000 square foot house means there is precious little alone time to be had. By anyone.  Ever.  At least not without  a 4 hour zoning meeting.  Add homeschool to the mix, and you have days where only the stolen moments in your closet working through a king size O Henry bar get you through.  (or  and a Hot-Chili Lindt) 





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Related to me, obviously



 
Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?


Um…NO.  If someone had told me 23 years ago that I would have 11 kids I would have laughed hysterically.  We had PLANS!  5 and 10 year goals!  I wanted 4 kids, John wanted 4 to 6.  I always joked and said that would be complicated…because I was having four.  I was surprised to realize that after the birth of my fourth child, I was grieving.  Every little thing he did, my heart lurched at the thought that I would never see this stage again…John was feeling the same way.  For the sake of keeping this down to a post instead of a three part series, over the next 2 years (and a surprise baby – YES!  It can happen!) we mulled over the idea of letting God decide our family size.  Going from, “Did you actually say that out loud??”  and “This is crazy, you’re only 32 and we already have 5 kids!  We’ll end up having, like, 10 kids or something!!” to the realization that:

If we claim to believe the Bible, and children are only ever referred to as a blessing or reward, why are we refusing??!?

That God opens and closes the womb…and we’d witnessed friends go through the agony and heartbreak of infertility…were we willing to be the ones to choose to close the womb artificially??

And finally, the clincher…with EVERY conception, a soul is created.  An eternal soul that has a DIVINE purpose.  We don’t create life, we are merely the vessels God uses to bring forth LIFE.  Wow…

We realized that we weren’t wise enough, intelligent enough, divine enough at all to decide if a person should EXIST



So, here we are, 11 kids so far.  Have we always found this decision easy?  No.  There are seasons that are very trying: job loss, difficult pregnancies, a son born with cleft lip and palate and bilateral clubfoot, two preemies, one born at 30 weeks and spent 3 months in the hospital.  But truthfully?  As crazy as all this sounds?  None of these trials even come close to the incredible blessing that each child is in our lives.  Also?  God provides in all ways!  We are actually better off financially now then we were before we made this decision!  I can truthfully claim the truth of Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”
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Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?


Ideal:  i·de·al/īˈdē(ə)l

adjective

satisfying one's conception of what is perfect; most suitable.



That would entail a 5,000 square foot house with 12 bedrooms, a vehicle with one of those soundproof tinted windows that glides up soundlessly between driver/passenger seat and the rest of the wailing wagon van.  Oh, and a walk in closet with a large safe to hold a year’s supply of O Henry bars.  And Lindt…but I digress…



Yes, it IS ideal for us.  We are right where the Lord has led us, therefore, we are exactly where we need to be.  We are extraordinarily blessed, and at times we are extraordinarily stressed.  The truth is there will never be a ‘satisfying of one’s conception of what is perfect’.  Not on this side of heaven.  No matter what goals we achieve or status we reach, there is always the next level to attain.  We must learn to look for the joys of today, or accept that today is all we have.  Even during the tough times, we have lessons to learn there, lessons that will strengthen us or prepare us for the blessings or trials to come.


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Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?


As my little one is 8 months old and I’m the primary Homeschooling Parent, this is the plan for the long haul for now!


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Tips on how you make your situation work for you:


Scheduling.   I am a planner (organizational freak) at heart, so this comes easy for me.  What used to be a personality trait is now a necessity.  Much of life is scheduled in one way or another at this point, which is what keeps it all on track…most days.

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How do you handle mommy guilt?


I’ve learned that guilt is destructive, defeating.  I won’t allow it.  As soon as I realize I’m feeling the burden of guilt I stop and examine it.  God never burdens us with guilt.  God will bring conviction of heart, but never the burden of guilt.  We are human.  We will fail.  We all need grace because we will always fall short.  There are many days where I lay in bed at night, thinking over my day.  Was I harsh with her?  OMGosh!  I told him I’d help him study tonight and I got distracted…again…and on it goes.  I can easily fall into a place where I could weep at all I’ve missed, or messed up.  Guilt leaves me in that round-about  “I’m such a bad mommy” / “I can’t handle this” cycle of lies.  Instead, if I take the time to accept the nudge of conviction, it leads to grace, which leads to a chance to redeem.  So, was I harsh?  If so, why?  Was I just venting because outside commitments/stressors were putting pressure on me?  Then I was unfair to my daughter and I need to ask her for forgiveness.  I then need to examine if I have taken too much on, or if I need a plan of action to deal with long-term stressors, etc.  Why did I forget to help him with his studies?  Because My Life in Transition posted today and she’s having contractions???  Oops…ya, dropped the ball.  Need to apologize and carve out time for him tomorrow morning…and schedule my blog reading time!  Because people are coming over tomorrow and I need to have fresh baked cookies?  Oops…pride??  Store bought would’ve been fine too…(except then there is no batter to eat, but that is beside the point. Totally.)  Because one of his little brothers got sick?  Then, no need for sadness, this is a perfect lesson of deference for our older son.  

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There are times when a situation brings us to a place where we have no choice but to walk the path before us.  Our 10th baby was born premature and he spent 3 months in a hospital an hour away from our home.  Every day I drove back and forth, sometimes twice a day.  I was trying to be there for this little baby that needed me so much, but I had my other children at home that needed me just as much.  My mom flew into town to help us, which was a real blessing…yet, I was often wracked with guilt that I couldn’t seem to shake.  In this case, as my dear husband pointed out, my sadness and aching desire to have my family together was just part of the journey.  It wasn’t my fault, and there wasn’t anything I could do to change any of it.  He suggested that I try to turn my thoughts to all the blessings I could identify in the situation, and dwell on these things.  

1 Thessalonians 5:18: In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  So, through tears, I began a list of blessings:  We were blessed to live near enough to a top hospital for premature babies.  The doctor assigned to our son’s care was Chief of NICU, and he was a gentle, kind, approachable man.  We had a reliable vehicle.  My mom was home with my kids when we couldn’t be.  My little son was slowly getting stronger.  

Mommies?  This is a tough job.  In the trenches, day in and day out…Don’t.  Allow.  Guilt.  YOU are exactly what your child/ren need.  Whether you are a SAHM or a working mommy, don’t allow guilt to steal any time or energy.  Pray for revelation and clarity, examine and adjust…







Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?


This is a TOUGH question, because it is often a heart wrenching decision to make.  I’m always so careful in the way I answer these types of questions because there can be harsh judgement on both sides of the issue, which would lead me to point back to my answer to the previous question. 



The only advice I would have for a couple struggling in making this decision is to pray together.   Then try to take pen in hand and identify the struggle and emotions behind the issue.  What are your beliefs on the raising of your children?  What values do you hold dear and how will you impart them?  What are you goals for this child/ren?  Scrutinize both options – how do they support or help to implement your vision and goals? Is there anything that will be detrimental to them?  Ask God to show you His vision for your family.  Ask Him to bring His perspective into your plans.  You may be surprised at the solutions that come up!



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Achoo!  Bless you! Too cute!

 
How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??


We strive to make dinner a family meal.  It doesn’t always work out when John is on evening shifts, or the kids are out at work or activities, but whoever is home joins the table. 

Meal planning is, well… scheduled!  My favorite system is the Big Cook system, (Siemens, Thomas, Smith - amazon).  This is once-a-month type planning, but their meals beat the “everything tastes the same” crock pot phenomena.  The system is easily adaptable to our favourite meals too.  Although I’ve alluded to my stress-induced sugar habit, I really am a whole food girl at heart.  This eating style does require time and planning, as I try to avoid convenience foods.  The Big Cook system makes this so much easier.  I LOVE the ease of having 30-40 days of meals planned and frozen, just waiting for me!  So, a huge shopping trip once a month for the Big Cook (which is budgeted for during the said month) and weekly fruit/milk/staple runs.  Usually this is my job, but John does weekly runs as well.

I plan standard breakfasts and lunches on a 7 day rotation, (Mondays always oatmeal, Tuesdays always eggs, etc…) so that is easy and everyone knows the drill.  I do plan out a monthly menu for dinner by simply printing (double sided) a blank 30 day calendar. I then slot in which Big Cook dinner and sides for each day of the month, and on the flip side I write in my perishables and side dish ingredients I will need for the meal in the coordinating slot.  That way I have an easy go-to grocery list at my fingertips at all times.  
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How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?


I’m a bit of a clean-freak.  When my house is cluttered, my brain is too.  I seriously feel like I can’t put two coherent thoughts together in the midst of a mess!  (Cue O Henry)  Because we have so many people at home all day, cleaning and tidying take place all through the day.  The kids each have their own chores and the younger ones have chore packs to keep track of tasks.  (Managers of Their Chores by the Teri Maxwell is great because even my 4 year old can have his own chore pack reminding him to wash his face, brush his teeth and hair, and put his jammies away without needing reminded, and he is so proud with his accomplishment!  If the house gets to a point where it needs a quick tidy, I call a “Tag Team”, which is 5-10 minutes of everyone picking up and sorting of toys/school books/shoes, etc.   Power cleaning happens every Saturday.  Purging twice a year – spring and fall cleaning.  Cleaning schedule?  Of course!!  :0)


*What advice could you give to young moms with little kids? What can you tell us now that you have the perspective of time, and kids that have grown beyond the toddler/preschool years?


Cliché, but stark truth: Time is fleeting…



Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”



…be purposeful with your time. 

Often in the daily grind of the young years we lose sight of the monumental significance of the task before us.  Raising our children is, by far, the most important job we will ever have.  Each generation will shape the morals, values and cultures of our communities, states (provinces), and country.   Ponder that for a moment… ‘The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world’ indeed.

It is so easy to get distracted and caught in a daily rat race of our own design.  We soon discover it leads to a chaotic life…and time slips away.  Identify personal, marital and family needs and goals and prioritize them.  Write them down.  The list is a great accountability partner.  If a commitment opportunity arises, check your list.  If it would cause an important goal to be compromised, then don’t commit.
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…be purposeful with your words…and always speak life. 

Edify, edify, edify!  I cringe inside when I hear a parent chastise a child and they say, “Don’t be a bad boy!”  THEY are not bad.  Their decision or action was wrong.  Don’t attack the child’s character, deal instead with the offense.  There is a big difference to the heart of a child between hearing “You were a bad boy!” and, “Your choices were not fitting for an honorable little boy like you.”  I love the quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow :  “A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child.”



My husband came across this truth in his readings, I wish I knew who to credit it to because it is profound: Speak to them as if they were already like you want them to be, not as they are in the moment.  My husband speaks to our sons about the chivalry of knights from a very early age.  (History buffs: Yes, we know that not all knights in all eras behaved in a chivalrous/honorable manner.  We have taken the Knight Code of Honor and adjusted certain points to suit the character traits we would like to see developed in our sons.)  We refer to our sons as ‘Knights of The King’, the King, in this case, is Christ.  Our daughters are “Princesses of the King”.  Not frou-frou princesses with flowing gowns and matching gel nails, but Princesses with an understanding of spiritual warfare and well prepared for battle with armor of their own.  The same character traits are at play. 


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Try to chastise your kids and bless them at the same time.  “You lied to me!  I am so disappointed in you!”  drapes shame over a child.  “Lying is not a fitting choice for a Princess of the King.  I want you to go to your room and think about what brought you to make that choice.”


Give them time to reflect on poor decisions.  If you immediately mete out consequences, they dwell on the consequence.  At times it can take a few hours for one of our older kids to work through emotions such as anger or bitterness over the situation and get to the heart of the issue.  THAT is where conviction and change take place.  Then, deal with the heart issue and apply consequences (if necessary) that will reinforce the need for truth.  (Younger kids need help to go through this process.  Let them go to their room to calm down, etc.  then walk them through what led to their poor choice.)

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…be purposeful with your prayers…

As Stormie Omartian says in her book The Power of a Praying Parent, being a perfect parent isn’t possible.  Being a praying parent is what matters.  COVER your child/ren in prayer.  Pray for the present AND their future.  Pray that they will be wise and always seek God’s heart, not His hand.  Pray for their career, their spouses, for courage and perseverance.  Prayer is so very powerful.  We have seen so many answers to prayer unfold in our lives and in the lives of our children. 

When your children are little, for the most part, their problems are little and quite easily handled.  When your children become young adults, you realize with dismay that their problems can be BIG problems…and you can’t “fix” them with hugs, kisses and time in their room.  It is heartbreaking to see our children go through difficult times – we just want good things for them!  But the truth is if we want our children to be overcomers, then they need trials to overcome.   There are times where prayer is the only tool in your arsenal.





Another timeless classic: 



Enjoy this time!  Celebrate it! 

I can speak from the perspective of a Mom whose eldest is now 22 years old.  He is a MAN.  He is a paramedic and a firefighter by training.  He is MARRIED.  
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It seems like only yesterday that this young man skipped at my side holding my hand, openly chatting about his thoughts.  I’ve often asked myself if I savored those moments enough.  If I had realized that the last time he held my hand before he realized that he was too cool/too big to do that, would I have made more of an effort to freeze that moment of time in my mind?  It passed and I never realized it…

Mommies…it seems like an eternity before you will see the other side of the little years.  It’s a mirage…it’s just around the corner.  Take the extra minute to get down to eye level.  Set your smartphone down when they are talking to you.  Smile often.  Hug them, listen to them, take many pictures.  Keep their hearts.  Be in the moment…

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(The nicest family shot we actually got from our son’s wedding…yup.  The best one.  Just keepin’ it real here.  Note Mr. PhotoBomber up front.  He has a different face on every. single. shot.  Anyone else remember a classic Calvin and Hobbes strip?  He is NOTORIOUS for this! It cracks me up!)


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Braden (left) 19.  Zach 22.  Knights of the King




Last, but not least, don’t allow Date Night to be negotiable!  Our children need to witness a strong, committed marriage at work.  A loving, connected, unified couple gives the gift of security to our children.  As my Mother-in-Law always says, “There will come a season where the children will be gone living their own lives, and you are left where you started.  As a couple.  Make sure you still know each other!” 



We are all on a journey…  Do I achieve these parenting goals every day, during every season?  No.  I aspire to be this Mommy every day.  When I make it happen, I am so grateful at the end of the night.  I throw away my wrappers and triple brush my teeth, and kiss my sleeping angels.  When I don’t, I try to remember Lamentations 3:22-23:  The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.  


Grace for the day, Mommies.  If God gives it to us every morning, then extend the same gentleness to yourselves!



May you all be richly blessed on this journey of parenthood!

{Thanks, Cindy! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}

4 comments:

  1. I love these posts from true veteran moms. Such wonderful advice, especially that we are who are children need us to be (no guilt) and helping our children work through their emotions. Thanks for the valuable thoughts!

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  2. Wow, Cindy! I am impressed! Your family is so beautiful and I loved how you wrote that the time we have is a mirage. I know I'm going to blink and my littles will be big and off to college!

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  3. Some great advice! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Love this post. The last paragraph of "ideal situation" is my favorite I think. Such wise advice on mothering. Thanks for sharing.

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