10 Tips from the Mom of 10
By Bari Nan Cohen
She has three sets of multiples, but her sanity's intact. Here's how the star of TLC's reality show Table for 12 keeps it together.
Betty Hayes isn't easily fazed. "My husband, Eric, and I aren't the high-strung type," she says. "We don't get flustered easily" — which is a good thing. The couple had two sets of twins within four years and then decided to give fertility treatments one more try (they wanted a sister for their only daughter) and found themselves greeting sextuplets in 2004.
Last winter, the family — including Kevin and Kyle, who turn 13 this month; Kieran and Meghan, 10; and Tara, Rachel, Rebecca, Ryan, Connor, and EJ, who are 4 — starred on a TLC special, Twins, Twins, and Sextuplets. Their daily life proved so fascinating to viewers that TLC created a series for them, Table for 12, where the couple's laid-back attitude and infectious sense of humor are now served up every week.
Even amid the laundry tsunami, sibling squabbles, and the challenges of caring for Rebecca, who has cerebral palsy, Eric and Betty give the impression they almost don't notice their unusual circumstances. "Some nights, we'll be watching TV, and we look at each other, and then we'll both say, 'Wow, I can't believe we have 10 kids!'" Betty says. "It doesn't feel that overwhelming." Here, the lessons they've learned from raising their 10-pack.
1. Don't overschedule
A big believer in "going with the flow," Betty explains, "I keep a calendar on the fridge so we can track everyone's activities. But we don't have a schedule where lunch is at a certain time, and now we have to play with crayons for an hour, and then there's snack time," she says. "If I had that much structure, I'd really be high-stress. And that's not good for a child, to have Mommy screaming all the time."
2. Skip some golden childhood moments
There are plenty of things on this family's not-to-do list for now. "I have a problem with paint. It's just too messy. Right now, the only way my kids are going to finger paint is if someone wants to bring the paint over, show my kids how to do it, and then clean up," says Betty. Similarly, even though there are beaches nearby, she waited until last summer to get the sextuplets' toes in the sand. "It's not that I don't want my kids to explore what's around them," she says. "I just need to think about what's worthwhile at this stage and what's a recipe for disaster."
3. Pick your priorities
The Hayeses know not to aim too high at this moment in their lives: "If, at the end of the day, the kitchen is clean and the kids are happy and fed, then I feel like I've accomplished something," says Betty. Eric focuses on coaching or watching the older kids' sporting events. "It's a big deal for me," he says. "I was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs and went to school. At games, there was no one there to watch me. So if no one is there to watch them play, that kills me."