Every Sunday I sit in the back of the sanctuary with my husband and wiggly toddler and gaze at the Mullins' pew full of well-behaved children and I think, "how does she do it?". And that's exactly what I wanted to share for this "Mom of the Month" feature - a look inside the life of a Christian mom raising nine children (with no T.V.), homeschooling them, and keeping over two dozen animals. I know you're intrigued, so let's dive right into the interview...
1. Tell us how many kids you have and their ages:
Nine children ages 26, 25, 22, 19, 16, 14, 12, 10 and 8. Seven sons and two daughters.
2. In one sentence how would you describe your mothering style?
A dear friend told me that I practiced “intentional mothering”: I consciously seek to make deliberate and purposeful choices for my home and family life.
3. What is your biggest struggle as a mom?
I volunteer too much! I blame it on being born and raised in Tennessee, the Volunteer State. It is my nature that when someone says, “Who will help?” my response is, “I will help you!” I am always working on something, sometimes stretching me thin, as Bilbo Baggins said, “Like butter scraped over too much bread.” There is very little margin in my life between commitments, and yet I always worry, “Am I contributing enough? Is there something more I should do?"
4. When you’re having a tough day on the mom front, what Bible verse inspires you and gives you peace?
When having a tough day, I try to focus more fervently on the goodness of God. I will sing Psalm 46 (“God is our refuge and our strength” and Psalm 27 (“The Lord is my light and my salvation”) in my mind. But if I must select one verse, I would say Psalm 27:13. “I would have lost heart if I did not believe I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
5. What is the highlight of your day?
At the end of the day we always gather together in the living room. After a time of talking, unwinding, and recapping the day, we have family worship. What we do for family worship has changed in different seasons of our life, but currently one of us prays and we read the Bible. This is such a sweet time, and an important time to reconnect. After worship, the little ones go to bed. The older ones might stay up and read.
6. What keeps you focused and energized?
I could not get up and homeschool my children each day if I did not have the conviction that this is the way God wants me to raise my children. I think about that often. To me, “not homeschooling” is not an option.
7. Since your kids are older now, can you tell us what an average day was like when they were little ones (to provide encouragement to those of us in the newborn/toddler season)?
I honestly miss having newborns and toddlers. They are such amazing little humans!
Typically I would rise before the children and spend that time in having prayer and coffee with my husband, quiet time for myself, taking care of paperwork. I always intentionally woke my children up, usually at 7 a.m. I found waking them in the morning, instead of letting them sleep in, set a template for the day. They would roll out of bed, still in pajamas, and we would have morning worship. The content of that time has changed as my children have grown, but always included prayer and Bible reading. We might also sing songs or hymns, or I might ask questions from the Children’s Catechism. For many years I read from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening and Chequebook of Faith. (Currently, we are working through Daily Readings by JC Ryle.) At that time I would usually be holding and nursing the baby. The children would then get ready, eat breakfast, and do a few morning chores, with the goal of starting school by 8 a.m.
The little ones stayed by my side. It is so natural for little ones to crave being in the presence of Mom. If I were reading aloud, they would sit on my lap or next to me looking at a picture book. If the big kids are writing, the little ones might be coloring. I always kept board books in the schoolroom in a basket along with quiet toys. I deliberately removed all projectile toys and toys with electronic sounds, and I rotated quiet toys. They might have Duplos for a while, then next week they might play with plastic dinosaurs, then wooden blocks, then race cars. Don’t think for a moment that the room was quiet or tidy! The schoolroom cycled through “trashed” then “picked up” several times throughout the day. And it wasn’t a room full of silent scholars either! My older children can testify to the amazing ability they had concentrating in college thanks to years of having siblings crawling under their desks or making explosion noises as the “rebels” launched an assault on a dollhouse full of dinosaurs. I never tried to get the little ones “out of my hair”, and I have never used electronics as babysitters. In fact, my children have been raised without television and are not allowed to play video games. (I can think of no reason to ever play video games. We know they are harmful to our minds, our bodies, our relationships. I don’t believe they are ever a legitimate way to redeem the time.)
My babies typically napped around 10 a.m., and that is the time when I tackled tougher subjects with my children, such as phonics or math. We would break for lunch at noon. For many years my husband was able to come home for lunch, which was always a delight to the children and a help for me in case I needed a little advice from “the principal”. I usually used the lunch hour to prep for dinner. The children would play outside until school resumed at 1. When we completed our school day, my children were free to play or read. The preschoolers and babies would have a nap around 3. For many, many years I would exercise on the treadmill every day for an hour, starting around 4. I had a playpen, and the only time I ever used it was when I was treadmilling. If a little one was awake, I would put him or her in the playpen. I could see the child, the child could see me, and the child knew that he or she would not be parked there forever and ever. After exercise, I would shower and get cleaned up before my husband came home. My little ones usually played at my feet while I made supper, and I always sacrificed a lower drawer in the cabinets for them to play in. Again, it is not so much that I had to entertain or distract them. They just want to be near Mom, and wanted to mimic what I was doing. After supper, the older children cleaned the kitchen; my husband or I bathed little ones. Afterward, my husband would read aloud to all of the children, then we closed the evening with family worship. I put my little ones to bed when they were tired - not rocking them to sleep, nursing them to sleep, or lying down with them- and they fell asleep in their beds without any special effort.