Six children for the weekend

By Maria Bailey

People ask me all the time if I'm done having children. When you go through as much as I did to have children (infertility treatments, a failed adoption and finally two successful adoptions), you don't want to rule out any type of miracle. I've been lucky to experience four miracles in my life and if for some reason God should decide to surprise me again, well, I guess it was meant to be. Besides, my mother raised seven children and my mother-in-law managed with six and they didn't even have Gameboy or videos to occupy the kids.

It was great growing up in a big family and the chaos created by a large brood is something with which I've always been comfortable. So when my girlfriend, Jennifer, asked me to keep her two daughters for the weekend, I accepted immediately. What are two more when you already have four? How hard could it be to have six children under 7 years of age? Well, I'm here to say, I've learned a new level of respect for my mother. I never realized how hard she worked raising my brothers and sisters. She made it look so easy. As I managed our expanded household this past weekend, I was reminded of all the big family rules she followed. What I always thought were her crazy ways of doing things, I learned this weekend were her ways of managing the chaos. So for those of you who might be raising a big family or considering adding a few new mouths to feed, I'll share with you my mom's secrets to managing a large clan. Even if you have only a few youngsters, I'm sure you'll find some tip to make your job as a mom, a little easier.

1. If you are making a sandwich for one child, always make an extra one. Remember the old saying, "The grass is always greener?" It applies to possessing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Even if you ask three times, someone will suddenly be hungry at the same time as you are placing the peanut butter jar back in the cabinet.

2. Never heat the oven for just one meal. As long as the oven is hot, why not stick a chicken in to roast or a tray of Brownies in to bake. You'll be happy you have the food on hand later, and you'll save yourself the time it will take later to reheat the oven.

3. Never walk from one side of the house to the other with empty hands. This rule also applies to coming in from the car. There's no need to make an extra trip upstairs to put away toys or clothes now but when the pile is more than three items high, the next person going up is required to take the pile with them. I can't tell you how many times, I was called back to the car to carry in half-opened juice boxes, yesterday's spelling test and my brother's latest insect jar. What came into the car with us, left with us. That was the rule.

4. When the family gets too big for the dining room table, eat in shifts. In our house, the girls always ate first while boys bathed and then we switched activities. I now realize the time it took for the shift change was exactly the same time it took for the water heater to replenish itself for the next round of baths.

5. Keep a cooked container of rice in the refrigerator. Together with a can of cream of mushroom soup, a pot of cooked rice can make a fast, yet tasty casserole. The best part is that rice will keep for days after it is cooked. You'll thank me for that one later. The rule also applies to browned hamburger meat, spaghetti noodles and macaroni.

6. Have small children undress in front of the washer machine and deposit dirty clothes directly into the washer. What can I say? There's not a lot of room for modesty in a big family. Just ask my young houseguests who accidentally walked in on our communal shower routine.

7. Assign tasks to every family member regardless of age. Even the youngest sibling is capable of chipping in, in some manner. It might be sorting laundered clothes by colors or mixing cake mix.

8. Always double your recipes and freeze half. I live by this one. There's nothing like pulling a home-cooked meal out of the freezer after a long day with the kids or at the office.

9. Keep a second refrigerator available for purchasing in bulk or prepackaging easy meals for older children to reheat.

10. Love each child in their own individual way. Although part of a bigger group, it's important to see each child as their own person and treat them that way.

I survived the weekend as a mother of six. I won't say it was easy, but it was definitely enlightening.

Share your thoughts on our message board or email Maria.

Also see:
• Week Thirty-Five --Fulfilling my dreams
• Week Thirty-Four --Parenting approaches
• Week Thirty-Three -- Combining a business trip with spring break
• Week Thirty-Two -- Making Spring Break plans
• Week Thirty-One -- Importance of a Support System
• Week Thirty -- Life is good
• Week Twenty-nine -- My nine year anniversary
• Week Twenty-Eight --Does birth order matter?
• Week Twenty-Seven -- Things we take for granted
• Week Twenty-Six -- My youngest turned two
• Week Twenty-Five -- Losing someone you love
• Week Twenty-Four -- Where's the romance in Valentine's Day?
• Week Twenty-Three -- The call I've been waiting for
• Week Twenty-Two -- Where did the weekend go?
• Week Twenty-One -- Business trip challenges
• Week Twenty -- Girl Scout cookie time
• Week Nineteen -- Thoughts on motherhood
More diary entries

Maria Bailey is the CEO and founder of and a mother of four children under the age of seven.