"How do you do it?!"
When I'm asked "How many kids do you have?" and I answer that my wife and I have 7 children with number 8 on the way, the next question follows 90% of the time.
"WOW! How do you do it?!"
Depending on my mood, most times I'll say, "One day at a time" or "with God's help" or a number of other true but somewhat cliche responses. Or, sometimes I'll share that I'm one of 11 children and I grew up this way so it comes a little more naturally for me to have a large family. But lately I've been answering with this much simpler and true explanation:
Because to answer the question "How do you do it?", in reality, I really need to understand and define what "doing it" actually means.
Here's my list of things I think a lot of people that ask me "How do you do it?" think that we're getting accomplished when raising our family of 9 day to day:
Typical "How we Do it" List
*Making tons of money
*Getting everyone to their activities punctually
*Keeping the house "mother- in law visit ready clean" at all times
*Dishes are done
*The laundry is done and all the clothes are put away
*Odd jobs around the house are up to date
*Kids are each involved in multiple hobbies/activities
*Our Sanity is intact
Now, some of these items on this list are non-negotiables and are certainly mandatory in terms of “how we do it”. You HAVE to feed your kids and clothe them. You DO need to make some money to provide, and it is true that when you have more kids, you may need to make a little more money.
But can I tell you how many times we've rushed to Mass on Sunday just to find out that my 10- year old once again doesn't have shoes on, or even worse is wearing just one? (This is not a joke, this happened again just this past Sunday) Or, that twice now we've went without a front door handle (including as of this writing) because it was broken and it just didn't make our priority list for a while? (Why should it when we could still get in and out of the house?) Or maybe you would like to check-out the ongoing battle we have with the laundry monster who lives upstairs inside the washing machine and dryer and literally vomits clothes EVERYWHERE. And EVERYWHERE is where they'll stay for weeks, maybe months at a time for us to wade and pick through and find something to put on for the day. (The laundry monster ALWAYS wins in the end)
Are you seeing my point here now when I answer "We don't"?
You see, everyone is presented with unique challenges in life, and it's up to them to decide how they're going to go about handling them. Our unique challenge is raising a large family, and SOMETHING has to give for you us to get by and enjoy our life together.
My goal in how I live my large family life is to make sure that the "something" that has to give is not any of the items that are on my "How we Do It" list which is something like the the following:
My "How we do It" List
*GOD 1st, Family 2nd, Me 3rd, Everything Else after
(We don't always get this right, but its the goal)
*Spend time with each other
*Enjoy life and have FUN. Try new things (don't be boring or get stuck in ruts)
*Be confident in who you are and what you stand for and don't get hung up on what people think of you or what you do
*Trust in God and do the best you can
*Don't sweat the small stuff
*Live a balanced life
Everything that we do is constantly being checked against THIS list. So if things are falling in line with it, then the laundry situation just might have to stay that way for a while, the door handle might stay off, and we might not be Pinterest-worthy the next time we step out. And that's totally fine by me.
I think some of the people who ask us "How do you do it?" wonder this because they're more overwhelmed by life then we are and can't imagine multiplying their situation further with even more kids then they have. But when talking to them, many times their kids are on 3 different sports teams at once or they have a never ending social calendar with no down time, or they work non-stop or there is some other imbalance going on. They are often living family life hijacked by running the rat race that they might not have consciously signed up for. Luckily for us having a large family actually keeps us out of the race (and ensuing exhaustion/burn-out), because to keep things running smoothly we have to set limits and keep it simple. Our kids play team sports but are only allowed one activity at a time for any given season. (No multiple teams or multiple sports at once allowed)We skip sports altogether in the spring so that we can focus on taking RV adventures or other family trips where we can just relax and get away and be a family together. Having so many kids has forced us to constantly evaluate everything to make sure that nothing new that we bring into our lives begins to totally take over and threaten our balance as a family.
So the next time you see someone living out their unique situation in the world, instead of asking them “How do you do it?!” you might have a better conversation by asking them instead
“What’s your it?”
If they look at you like you have two heads, just don't tell them you got it from me ;)