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When I first saw the striking maternity photo of Andrea and Kendall Brunson and their soon-to-be family of 8, taken by Sarah Ledford of ShutterHappy Photography, I was, well, deeply impressed. So, I couldn't help but wonder, “How does she do it?”
I mean, I'm struggling right now! Caring for three kiddos and a growing baby is no joke, and um, I'm a little scared for the future. Thus, I was immediately inspired to reach out to Sarah and see if Andrea would be open to talking with me about raising her big, beautiful brood.
It turns out Andrea was (understandably) skeptical at first, given the unpredictable “trolliness” of the Internet. But then, she decided to go for it. “My reason for saying yes is because big families are not the norm anymore,” the brand new mom of eight told our site in an email. “If you have a big family there must be something wrong with you!”
But Andrea says, “We love having a big family. My kids (who range in age from 11 years to 1 week) love having someone always there willing to play. We just asked them at dinner last night if we should be done or have another baby. They all said have another!”
The Brunsons didn’t always know they wanted a large family. “We both come from a biological families of eight kids,” Andrea told us. “We knew we wanted at least three kids. Little did we know I get pregnant very easy! Babies kept coming. Before we knew it we had 5 kids.”
They thought they were done, but it seems God had other plans for them. “Three more little cuties have come along.”
Raising 8 kids takes strategic planning, according to Andrea. “We take things one day at a time,” she explains, adding that she and Kendall are a team. “He helps me with anything I need when he gets home from a long day at work. He even helps during the night. He is awesome!”
Sticking to a schedule is key for this busy fam. “The kids always know when meals are going to be served, when home work and chores needs to be done.” And Andrea doesn’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today. “We get anything that needs to be ready in the morning ready the night before. That makes our mornings go so much smoother when getting ready for school.”
But she also believes in striking a balance. “I try really hard not to over-schedule our day. If there is too much going on everyone gets stressed and grouchy.” Another grump-instigator? Media. “It turns them into little zombies,” she says, and I agree! My kids totally glaze over after a too-long iPad sesh.
Andrea offers advice for keeping your sanity as a mom of many: “Find a hobby that you enjoy. I sew, crochet, refinish furniture, make boutique hair bows, and paper craft. I am now learning to quilt. I find the time after my kids go to bed. I need something to recharge myself.”
Date nights are also essential.
“A happy family starts with a happy, healthy marriage. You need time with your spouse to reconnect. You don't even need to leave the house. Dinner after the kids go to bed or a soak in the tub are some of our favorites.”
In the end, I am convinced this seasoned mama’s advice while simple, is empowering. Because, clearly, there aren't any secrets to raising a big family; it’s all about using common sense and relying on good, old-fashioned values.
Of course, we moms of more than a few love our big broods. But others may have a different opinion. I have become accustomed to big family bias, having heard my fair share of snarky comments while out shopping or dining with my seemingly ever-growing family. My personal fav? “This is a restaurant not a daycare.” Nice, right?
Given my experience, I couldn’t help but wonder if Andrea has been confronted with similar intolerance toward her super-sized progeny. “We do get some large family bias,” she told us, adding, “Not very much though. We mostly get stares at first. Like when we all walk in a restaurant and the old couple next to us cringe, thinking, ‘There goes our quiet evening.’"
But this experienced mama wants people to know not all kids misbehave in public. “They see how well-behaved our kids are. They then comment on how good they are and thank you for teaching them manners.”
Thank you to the Brunsons for sharing their experience with BabyCenter. Photos used with permission of Sarah Ledford / ShutterHappy Photography™. Find her online and on Facebook.
If you have a large family, what is your advice for making it work?
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.