10 Tips from the Mom of 10
4. Respect the juniors
"People tell me all the time they can't believe how well-behaved the kids are," says Betty, who relies on staying calm and offering clear consequences. For instance, she reminds the little kids that they have to keep a hand on the cart at Costco or the cart stops and they won't get to the end of the aisle where the free samples are. (Yes, that's right: She takes the sextuplets shopping with her sometimes.)
5. Defuse the drama
Though the Hayes kids are usually easy to wrangle, there are times when the going gets tough. "I think every parent has that moment where they think, 'I've simply had enough,'" says Betty. "That's when I tend to take a step back and just laugh at whatever's going on." Then she distracts the crew from their squabbling or whining. On a recent evening when all the kids were going haywire at dinnertime, Betty's defensive-parenting move was to break into song. "I got them engaged in 'Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes' and 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.' That calmed them down, and they were able to eat."
6. Get creative with a dollar
The Hayeses do the usual shop-the-sales, buy-in-bulk measures to cut costs for their family of 12, but they also find smaller, creative ways to save. For instance, "we don't buy kids' meals at fast-food restaurants for $3.79 each," says Betty. "We buy off the dollar-value menu — everyone gets a burger, and then we get three big orders of fries, which we share."
7. Accept what you can't change
Betty candidly addresses the challenges of caring for Rebecca, who cannot feed herself or speak, isn't toilet trained, and doesn't sleep through the night. "Rebecca is the hardest part of this whole thing," admits Betty. "She can't communicate, so it's a lot of trial and error," says Eric. "We wonder all the time if she's feeling OK, or if she has, say, an itch she can't scratch." Betty and Eric take comfort in what they can provide: "We love her, we kiss her, we tickle her, and we play with her," says Betty.
8. Encourage strong sibling ties
Betty and Eric have been careful to keep all the kids on equal footing. "We didn't want the older ones changing diapers," says Eric. "And we didn't want the little kids thinking that there were six big people telling them what to do. It's better for them to go over to the big kids and say, 'Hey, you want to play?'"
9. Create family rituals
Consistency equals security for kids, so find something that works for your crew as a weekly activity. For the Hayes clan, it's church every Sunday that gives the family its center. "I am a believer, and it helps me," explains Betty. "Hopefully the kids find comfort in it, too."