If I would have had a stick figure family on my rear window during all those years I drove a twelve passenger van, it would have looked like this: one very tired and hard working dad, one very tired but happy mom, a responsible looking son, one eager to please daughter, one slightly bossy daughter, three boys—probably wresting, and two little girls following everyone else around. Considerably bigger than the average 2.59 children per family, but smaller than the Dugger clan, our family of four sons and four daughters is not your typical American family.
“Eight kids? How do you ever do it?”
“My two kids drive me crazy!” These are comments I heard over and over during my child raising years. I would like to have answered that I was an extremely patient, well organized super mom, but that would have been a lie. I well remember days of exhaustion, confusion and chaos. But when those days became the norm it was because I was forgetting a very important aspect of raising children. CHILDREN PROVIDE EXCELLENT AND CHEAP HOUSEHOLD STAFF!
When people rave about my eight children they forget that I had them one at a time. We nervously practiced our parenting skills on our first child, smothering him with all our attention. We were busier, but more relaxed when baby number two arrived. With a baby a piece, life was manageable. Babies three and four meant the little people outnumbered the big people, defiantly the hardest time in our parenting history. Then, slowly, the tide began to change. By the time five and six were born, children one through four were (believe it or not) actually growing up and becoming quite helpful. When babies seven and eight arrived my husband and I could actually go on a date without hiring a baby sitter. Better yet, we could even leave a list of chores to be completed before we came home.
Of course, responsible, helpful children just don’t happen. My husband greatly encouraged me in this area. When I felt overwhelmed, overworked and underappreciated he told me, “Get the kids on your side. They can either work for you or against you. You have a great work force here, utilize it!” This advice was a tremendous help to me and can be implemented regardless of the family size.
A few pointers from a mom who has been there:
1. Establish regular schedules and daily chores for children. Work charts can help with this, but unless you like lots of paper work, keep charts simple.
2. Take time for job training. Teach them how you want the task completed and don’t forget to train the younger children. When older kids do a job very well, it is easy to let the younger ones slide.
3. Reward and encourage your staff, but beware of paying them for every little thing they do. Some jobs they just need to do because they are part of the family. Mom’s reserve the right to say, “Do it because I’m the mom and I told you to do it.”
4. Beware of over specializing. Don’t let them whine, “But that’s not my job!”
5. Turn a deaf ear to complaining and grumbling about child labor laws. Remind them that work really is good for their character and they probably won’t die from it.
Through the years, the kids and I enjoyed working together. Kids do grow up and leave home, and although I miss my staff, hopefully they have learned some good work ethics to take into their adult worlds. One thing I do not miss is driving those ugly twelve passenger vans!
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