What Can You Learn From a Mother of Seven?
Meet Stacey Meservy mother of seven and writer at www.happppymom.com and www.staceysmotheringmoments.com
No that was not a typo. Stacey really has seven kids, all from the same lovely dad who’s she’s been happily married to for 16 years.
If that makes your head spin, you’re not alone. The thought of seven blows our minds!
Stacey’s blog is all about ‘mayhem management’. It’s packed full of insanely helpful strategies for managing all aspects of family life. She also has self-care tips. If a mother of seven can find time to take care of herself, we all can – right?
We knew we had to talk to Stacey and uncover her secrets for running the show with her sanity intact. There must be plenty of parenting skills to learn from a mother of seven that we can apply to our own (smaller) families.
Tell us about yourself and your family Stacey.
I grew up in Wyoming, but have lived in Utah since High School. I am a 37 year old SAHM who writes, runs, chases children, and has somehow learned how to cook.
My kiddos are 14, 12, 11, 9, 6, 4, 2. I have three boys and four girls.
Did you always plan to have a big family? Did your husband?
No. I grew up as the oldest of four, but we were really spread out. There’s 13 years between me and my youngest sibling. I wanted two or three kids, four if I was feeling optimistic. My husband, however, is the second of nine children. I blame the insanity on him!
Do you have a big house? Does anyone have their own room or is that laughable?
We have a good size home and although we could allow four of our children to have their own bedrooms, only three do. We feel like it’s good for them to share. The young ones actually sleep better because if they wake up scared they have a buddy right there!
Do you have to be a naturally patient person to be a mother of seven?
Ha! No! Otherwise, I would have been banished from raising a large brood! Patience takes time and practice to cultivate, plus a lot of starting over and ‘I’m sorry’s’. Just last week I had to apologize to my teen for overreacting to something stupid. And don’t get me started on potty training. That’s insanity inducing right there!
My patience tip for other mothers: Don’t be afraid to take a grown up Time Out. They aren’t just for little kids, you know.
Do you ever get any peace and quiet or the chance to be alone?
I’m a runner and that’s my alone time. I like to joke that I am running away from my family. Sometimes I’m kidding and sometimes I’m not! With a large family it takes a lot more effort to find ‘me time’ or much quiet, but I have a wonderful spouse who supports my efforts and that makes a big difference. He’ll even take the crew for a weekend so I can run a race with friends.
Do you have to thrive on chaos and let go of perfection to have a large family?
I wouldn’t say you have to thrive on chaos, but you really have to let go of perfection. Luckily for me, I’m not a neat freak. I never was. But even so, having the children help with chores around the house means I have to let it go. Their clothes aren’t going to stay neatly folded if I let them pick out their outfits. The bathrooms aren’t going to be cleaned to my specifications. The things I can’t let go of I do myself, but that’s fairly minimal. I simply don’t have time to nitpick.
Do you look at stressed-out, crazy-busy mothers of smaller families and smirk? I mean, are we just busy for busys’ sake and could our lives be a whole lot easier if we did things differently or changed our mind-set?
I may smile because I remember those days. Even though I have seven now, I didn’t always. I was the mom of one or two or three or…well, you get the idea. I do wish I could go back to those younger years with the knowledge I have now. It would have made it a whole lot easier. There is a lot of organization that goes into running a large family smoothly, and implementing those same things with fewer kids would have made life easier. I think you do what you can with what you have and when you know better, you do better.
I’ll bet you’re not preparing extra meals for fussy eaters! Does everyone just get what they get and learn to like it? Do you think moms of smaller families dig their own hole by being too accommodating?
At my house, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit! And if you don’t eat, then you’re hungry. I was never accommodating, even as a young mom to one or two kids. I think it teaches children that the whole world revolves around them and it doesn’t! Kids need to learn to appreciate what they’re given and even though I have my fair share of whiners at the dinner table, they know that they’re welcome to go to bed hungry. I think more moms would do themselves a huge service by being less accommodating. I mean, who wants to be a short-order cook? I know I don’t!
Speaking of meals, how often do you food shop and how do you feed that many kids? Are you constantly thinking about meals?
It’s a big effort! I shop once a week and I plan out all three meals using the Project Me meal planners. It’s the one part of having a big family that I could totally do without! But, just like so many other things, once you have a system in place, it just becomes part of the routine. (And yes, I’m always thinking about food. Have you seen my Pinterest boards!! LOL)
You must run a pretty tight ship. Do your kids have chore charts? How would you deal with a child not pulling their weight? Are there rewards and consequences?
I do run a tight ship. My kids have daily and weekly chores. Consequences are mostly in the form of losing electronics and when it gets really bad we take away extra-curriculars. They understand that sports are a privilege and if they don’t help out around the house, that’s a privilege they can lose. As far as rewards go, I don’t really offer any. Being part of a family means chipping in and helping out no matter how many people are in your household. They do chores because they live here.
What about discipline? Have you ever taken any parenting skills classes – or could you just naturally GIVE classes?
I’ve never taken classes but I have done a lot of reading both online and books from the library. I knew there were things I wanted to do differently with my kids than how I was raised and I’m still learning! Each phase has its own set of challenges and learning to parent those different ages and stages is definitely a process. Just when you think you have something figured out, another kid will come along and require an entirely different approach to discipline. I do really like Dr Laura Markham’s Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids approach to parenting and find it to be in line with what we already have in place, along with a few things I’m working on personally – like the not yelling part. Another book I have used a lot is called Growing Up Brave by Donna B. Pincus, PhD. We deal with anxiety in a few of our children and that book has been particularly helpful to me.
Do your kids fight? How do you deal with it?
Of course! Don’t all kids? And if yours don’t, don’t tell me because I don’t want to know. Mostly, I try to separate personalities that don’t mesh well. The bonus of having seven is there is usually someone else to play with, but even when we had a smaller family I found that a little forced time apart had them itching to get along and have a playmate again!
They say moms of two are more lenient with the second and with three or four the last child gets away with a lot more because the parents are more relaxed or have less time. Is this the case with you? If so, after how many kids did you feel your standards relaxing and start going with the flow?
My youngest definitely gets away with more than my oldest did. I know I’ve relaxed quite a bit, but I think that has more to do with maturity on my part and realizing that a little crayon on the wall isn’t the end of the world. I can’t relax too much though or it will be mass chaos!
We always hear about the importance of spending alone time with each child. Is this simply not feasible with seven?
It is feasible, but not in the ways you might think. I utilize time when I am running errands with only one child or taking one to or from practice. I will sit and read with one child, though some might not consider that one on one because there are often other siblings present. I also make an effort to sit and talk to each child at bedtime and whenever someone wants to really talk, I try to find a quiet place and send others off to play. It is definitely trickier, but doable.
Tell us how you cope with the dreaded homework time. Getting them to do it, overseeing it, assisting.
I oversee to an extent. Thankfully, their grades are all online and I can check up on them at any time. I sit with the younger ones (1st and 3rd grade), and my older ones are kind of on their own. Two of my daughters are dyslexic, so they have a tutor that works with them one on one twice a week and that eases the pressure on me some. I’m terrible at math but my oldest son is amazing and he’s often the one I send other kids to if their dad isn’t home. Homework time can be chaos with so many kids needing help, but they have learned to wait their turn and be patient.
What do you do to try to stay balanced across your different life areas. Do you have any balancing tips?
I love your Project Me Life Wheel Tool! It’s a great way to assess those different areas and find where I’m lacking. I do find that I neglect some areas from time to time and the areas of neglect changes. For me balance just means reassessing and changing when things aren’t working. My tip is to just keep trying. When one area isn’t working, figure out what you need to change and sometimes that means simplifying.
How do you take care of YOU?
I’m a crazy runner! I run these crazy stupid overnight relays and I love them! It keeps me exercising, it gives me a goal to achieve and it gives me time to myself. Even if you aren’t a crazy runner, taking care of yourself is SO important. You have more of yourself to give to your family when you take care of Mom.
Another way I take care of me is to feed myself healthy food. It seems so simple, but it has really been a journey for me. I’ve found that the healthier I am, the more energy I have and the more of myself I can give.
Do you and your husband get much kiddie-free time together? Can you ever get away, just the two of you?
We do better now that we have older kids who can babysit, but it’s still hard! We did get away for our anniversary last year and it was so refreshing. It’s pretty awesome to still like each other after all these years.
Do you have any top tips that moms of small families can put into practice that’ll make their lives flow a bit easier?
Relax – It’s just a little crayon, and the Pope isn’t coming for a visit.
Organize – The more organized you are, the less chaos you will have. Really.
Structure – I know this sounds opposite of relax, but it’s really not. Kids thrive on structure and adults do too. When everyone knows what to expect, it makes for a smoother existence.
Teach – Raise your kiddos to leave home. This means teaching them to do for themselves, which means letting go of perfection. If they don’t learn under your tutelage, they will have to learn under someone else’s.
And of course we HAVE to ask…. Are you having any more kids?
NO! Excuse me, was I shouting? No. Seven is our lucky number.
Check out Stacey’s Mayhem Management Tips here: www.staceysmotheringmoments.com or her new site www.happppymom.com (I don’t know how she has time either…)
So tell us – how many kids do you have? Do you feel inspired by any of Stacey’s wisdom? Do you have any questions for her? Jump in on the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
Have you got the FREE & FABULOUS Project Me Life Wheel® yet? It’ll quickly show you where you’re currently out of balance so you know what needs your focus FIRST.
Enter your first name and email address below:
You will also receive the Project Me newsletter to keep you motivated and inspired in all areas of your life.
I won't bombard you or share your details with anyone - promise.
“Raise your kiddos to leave home.”
Best parenting advice EVER.
Yeah Louise, it can sound a bit harsh to some, but at the end of the day, that’s really what parenting is about: Raising our kids to be able to look after themselves once they fly the coop! I’ll add that we also want them to be good people who will go off into the world and make it a better place 🙂
Thank you! Like Kelly said, it does seem harsh, but we really are here to train them. And of course we want them to be good, productive citizens as well.
Actually raising them to leave sounds like love. We are equipping our four to be able to handle life. My older two kids are now married and they both knew how to cook, budget, and be responsible for handling their own phone bills, car care and insurance, and savings goals BEFORE they left home. Those were great skills to bring into a marriage.
When we teach them to leave, it doesn’t mean they can’t come back, but they’re able to fly on their own with confidence— and that takes intentionality on the part of parents.
I have 2 children 6 & 5 and we are separating them into their own rooms. Am looking to get a good routine in place for chores, homework, keeping their new rooms tidy and family time. My son is currently overreacting to everything and my daughter says he’s spoiled! I award dry pastas for completing any of the above lists and take them away for tantrums and acting spoiled. When they fill up the jar they get a bi reward like a new item of dress up. I’ve been reading Siblings without rivalry and I’m hoping the separation and security that they have a room with which their sibling has to knock to enter will help my son to realise that he must be patient and no he can’t have it his way all the time. What a total minefield parenting is, I’m an only child and I sometimes wish I had a larger number of kids to help me out! haha. Great to read your story, will try some of the links to meal planner etc.. got one for after school routine?
Minefield is right! And just when you think you have something figured out, they will throw you a curveball! Good for you for getting them going on chores etc.! And just remember, it always gets worse before it gets better any time you implement new rules or routine. Don’t give up! After school is a hard one, but I’ve always preferred to have my kids get homework out of the way first. They can have a quick snack, and then we sit down and do homework. At my house, that is easier than convincing them to come in from playing to do homework later!
Great I wish I was more relaxed!!! I have 3 kiddies a girl 7 & two boys 6 & 2. My daughter has cerebral palsy so needs help with everything. I find it soooo hard to relax when there are timings to keep to, like trying to get them out the door to school on time, when they won’t cooperate! Then because I’m rushing around I ALWAYS forget something, even if I have a list! WHY?!
I recently went away for a Jazzercise weekend which was FAB by the way, and came back more relaxed & calm, but then Monday morning school run and I’m running around like a headless chicken screaming & shouting at everyone AAAAAAAGGHHHHH! It doesn’t help that I’m quite relaxed with things so things take longer to do like cooking etc and never seem to have time to get organised! I don’t know where to start!
My suggestion is to start with the area of greatest concern or frustration. It looks like your morning routine may need some adjustments. And don’t feel bad! Getting kids out the door on time is a MAJOR trial and so hard to do. For me, I started with making sure I have things situated the night before. For some, that means making sure clothes, shoes, backpacks etc. are all set up the night before. We pack part of our lunches ahead of time, so that cuts down on what I have to do in the morning. Sometimes, it just takes tweaking one or two things to make for a smoother morning. Also realize it’s not just you! Mornings are hard!
Hi, thanks for the introduction to Stacey. I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time with her mayhem management. I have 5 kids 11,9,7,4 & 20 months & I find a lot of the advice for families with 2.5 kids…um… lets just say inadequate.
My older kids think I’m harsh getting them to help in the house when none of their friends seem to have to do anything & also have a lot more materially. They’re not impressed by me saying ‘you’ll thank me when you leave home…..’
Ha! They never are impressed with that, but I still swear it is true. It is hard to find tips for larger families! I hope you find some of my suggestions helpful. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or need ideas!
I think the point about letting go of perfection is a good one. I know a mother of 6 and she just doesn’t let the little stuff get to her, because there is always going to be little stuff. Part of this is knowing yourself, because it can be hard to fundamentally change who we are. But competence and progress always trumps perfection!
Amen! I don’t think of myself as a naturally laid-back person. My husband actually reminds me quite often to let things go. It takes a lot of practice, but I love how you put it, “competence and progress always trumps perfection”! Well said!
Great interview. There aren’t many large families running around these days, so it’s nice to read about some in the internet world. Stacey is spot on with those four parenting tips at the end.
Thank you so much!
Hey Kelly and Stacey,
I loved this post. Stacey, I literally felt like you were taking the words right out of my mouth. LOL! In particular, “you get what you get, and don’t throw a fit!”. We have 4 kids (7,5,3 &1) and I 100% agree with your principles. The more structured and organized I am, the better. I’m ALWAYS at home when my little ones need a nap. If they don’t get it, they’re over-tired and cranky, which just stresses everybody else out. So, I just plan my days accordingly so that gets ‘in’. Thanks for all your words of wisdom. I love hearing posts like this from other moms. Makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing 🙂
Thank you so much! And you are right, hell hath no fury like an overtired toddler!! LOL Planning is key in running a family of any size for sure!
P.S. Kelly, Ziplist is totally rocking my world! Meal planning was the chore I LEAST looked forward to each week. Now I’m putting in all of my recipes, so that all I have to do is add it to my shopping list when I’m ready to go. No more pulling out all of my cookbooks and sitting down with pencil and paper, which used to take FOREVER! Whoo hoo!
Thanks again 🙂
Thanks for reporting back on ZipList Mariah -isn’t it awesome!?
For anyone who missed it, here’s the link to my blog about it:
ZipList ROCKS for meal planning and food shopping!!!
Really enjoyed this article! Well done ladies I found it inspiring and reassuring. I am a working mum of 3, 17,13 and 10 and I am actually starting to feel quite in control of family life, but I think it’s because I have taught my kids to leave home! Independence is a life skill for everyone! I’ll be checking out the website too Stacey.
Thank you so much! And kudos to you! Being a working mum is a tough gig! Independence really is a life skill!
Grown-ups time out…I love this idea & my kids love it as well…I use it regularly!
I only have two kids but I have picked up on a few helpful ideas…like, don’t sweat the small stuff coz the Pope isn’t coming to visit! Thanks Kelly & Stacey for shearing this great interview.
You’re welome Emma! Glad it’s been helpful. I love those particular take-aways too 🙂
You are so welcome! I’m glad you found something helpful!
This was a very informative interview. I have four kids and am finding out how organized and relaxed you have to be at the same time.
Thanks Michelle! Yes, Stacey has definitely shown us that it takes a real mixture of organization and being more relaxed, huh? The Magic Mix!
It is hard to find that balance for sure! I’m so glad you found it helpful!
I can PERFECTLY relate. I have seven kids, too. They are 25, 22, 21, 19, 16, 14, and 11.
Parenting a child is already a TOUGH job. Much more if one has seven.
I find the advice “raise your kiddos to leave home” so wise as it hits two birds with one stone, so to speak.
How great to hear from another mother of seven Carmel! Thanks so much for commenting. With older kids, you can speak from experience that raising your kids to leave home is the ultimate goal 🙂
Wow Stacy what an amazing mum you are. I have 4 children. 22,19,10 and 5. I struggle everyday. None of them help with chores etc although I have just introduced a rewards chart for my 2 youngest. The oldest 2 yes adults don’t even put rubbish in the bin. I know im to blame as ive always just done everything for them. Im hoping now I have joined Project Me things will begin to change.
Your an inspiration to mums like me who struggle. Thankyou x