My Life As a Mom to 8 Kids

People hear that I have eight kids and they think I’m a parenting expert. I’m not.

“Having eight kids is expensive. My husband makes a decent living as a financial planner, but we’re by no means rich. I’m a clearance shopper and a coupon clipper. Other than our summer trip to the shore, we don’t take vacations. When my kids want to go to the movies with their friends, or go on an expensive field trip, they have to babysit and earn money.”

 

I was 30 when I got pregnant with my first baby. Then, I had seven more in ten years.

When my husband, John, and I first got married, we knew we were going to have kids. We never had a conversation about how many, but he’s one of five and I’m one of four, so we never said we weren’t going to have a lot of kids. We just started having them.

It didn’t happen right away; it took me eight months to get pregnant and I started to panic. I just always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. My mom stayed home with us for a while, and then eventually went back to work. I’ve met plenty of women along the way who say, “Oh my god, I have to work,” and I totally understand all the reasons why. But for me, motherhood is a career and a calling. I love saying I’m a stay-at-home mom.

Now I’m 50, and my oldest, Griffin, is 20. He’s at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He’s a homebody. He tells people, “My mom never let me go out,” but he never asked to go out. I think I was his excuse. You’d think as the oldest and the first boy he’d want to get away from it all, but he loves coming home. He and Casey, the youngest, are probably the closest. When we took him to college that first day, he cried the most, followed by Casey, and then me.

The other boys: Jack is 18, and he’s at Georgetown University. He’s quieter than Griffin, and smaller. He’s very smart, but also very hard on himself. Michael’s 11. Poor Michael; the others are all pretty naturally athletic, but he has to work a little harder at it. He’s got a great smile, and he’s so personable. He wears these sports goggles all the time, and everybody knows him. “Oh, that’s Mikey, he’s the kid with the sports goggles.”

The girls: Jaimie is 17 and a senior in high school. She’s confident, but a little insecure and aloof — she’s got two older brothers who aren’t always easy on her. Bridget is 15 and loud. She’s the first one to try something, and she’ll do it until she gets it right. This year for Christmas she asked for a ukulele. She got it, and she practices for hours, even though she’s not very good. Katie’s 14 and a freshman. She’s the most chill of all. They all think Katie’s my favorite. Nothing rattles her, nothing gets under her skin. Kerry, 12, is always trying to be the funny one. She’s the idea-maker; she gets everyone onboard. She wrote letters — one to Santa, and one to me and my husband — about the benefits of having a dog. (We’re not getting a dog, Kerry.) And Casey is the baby. She’s 9, and gets everyone’s hand-me-downs. Christmas and birthdays are hard, because what do you get the kid? We don’t need Barbies or American Girl dolls or a bike. She asked for triplets for Christmas. She doesn’t want to be the baby anymore.

People hear that I have eight kids and they think I’m a parenting expert. I’m not. I’m an expert on my kids; I don’t know the first thing about yours. What I do know is that there’s no right or wrong way to parent. I did some things I know other parents think are weird, but they worked for me. I breastfed all my kids for a year and a half to two years. I breastfed the last one for three years. It was tough to go anywhere, even to the grocery store, because I was afraid the kids would starve. I would breastfeed and then run to the store as quickly as I could on Sunday mornings.

I never wanted to be away from them. I’d pop them in a carrier and tote them around with me while I did laundry. I’d put three in the triple stroller and one in the carrier on my chest and walk around Target with the others following me. We spend a few weeks at the shore every summer, and people would say I looked like a mother duck: walking to the beach carrying the big umbrella, with eight kids in a line behind me carrying their snack and their beach toy. Now that they’re getting to be older, my husband and I have still never gone away overnight. The only time I’ve been away from my kids was when I was in the hospital, giving birth to another one. Even when they were little, we never had babysitters and I never asked my parents for help.

I don’t mean to come off judgmental — having babysitters or grandparents watch your kids is totally normal. I just always felt like these are my kids, it was our choice to have them, and we’re just going to do what needs to be done. It was crazy, and chaotic, and there was so much laundry, and of course there were times I’d call my husband and say, “When are you coming home? How much longer?” But it never crossed my mind not to do it, and I never thought about what it would be like to do something else.

* * *

Having eight kids is expensive. My husband makes a decent living as a financial planner, but we’re by no means rich. I’m a clearance shopper and a coupon clipper. Other than our summer trip to the shore, we don’t take vacations. When my kids want to go to the movies with their friends, or go on an expensive field trip, they have to babysit and earn money. We’ve always told our kids you get a little bit of what you want and most of what you need.

Read More