photograph by Heather Simmons
(Right to left): Writer Telika Howard holds Keziah (10 mos.). Sitting beside her is Xaria (8), Montrell (13), Elijah (2), Adam (9), and Tayina (11). Husband Xavier holds the older twin, Iydiah (10 mos.).
I went in the hospital with abdominal pains several months ago, and came out in a daze. I had just learned from the ultrasound technician I was expecting twins, news that would bring my family up to nine. That’s right, I am the mother of seven children.
Some people view the world as flat when it comes to their desire to expand their family. They fear if they keep moving forward with their heart, they’ll fall off the edge. But that’s not the case for myself, or my friend, Tequala Isom, who also has seven.
According to the 2010 census, only 2 percent of families in Memphis have seven or more people per household. Those on the outside looking in can’t help but wonder: How do you do it? How much does it cost? How do you survive?
“God placed these children in my life to slow me down and make a believer out of me,” says 31-year-old Isom, who has three girls and four boys ages 12 years to 10 months.
As for me, I already knew that when you have many children, planning and organizing is as necessary as food and water, exhaustion as common as losing your cell phone. As for peace and quiet, it’s like finding $20 in an old handbag.
Though my husband and I started out with four children, God had a different plan for us. Six years after our fourth child was born, we were blessed with another son, and fifteen months later, our twin daughters.
I was shocked when I learned about the twins. Not worried that we wouldn’t be able to make do, but shocked by the knowledge that God believed me strong enough to handle it all. Our children — four girls and three boys — range from 13 years to 8 months.
How We Do It
We wake early each morning, so everyone has plenty of time to shower and dress. I’m usually taking care of the babies while reminding my older kids to keep moving. If we didn’t have a clear plan and preparation the night before, the morning would be more chaotic.
After school, I have a chore list my kids adhere to, once they finish with homework and snacks. Education is a priority and my school-age children are honor students. But when any misbehave, there are clear consequences, depending on the rule broken. We end our day reading from a Bible devotional, praying as a family.
Isom asks her children to keep their rooms neat and clean but she keeps up the house. She also makes prayer and homework a priority, “My kids must have homework done before they do anything else.” Her children are also honor students and work at being responsible,
“I sometimes won’t see my baby for the rest of the day because my 10-year-old will have already fed, bathed, dressed, and put him to bed.”
From embracing dollar stores to clipping coupons, the large family quickly learns how to stretch a dollar. “I do hair and that money helps me to make sure my children all have what they need and its by the grace of God that I’m able to keep my bills paid,” says Isom. She also doesn’t spend money taking her kids to expensive places, but they are happy with walking to the park together.
As for me, I try not to raise my children’s expectations and teach them to be content with what they have. If my husband and I are able to treat them with a little extra, they’re very happy but they don’t feel like something is missing if we can’t.
I once was shopping with all my children when a woman stopped and asked, “Are you insane?”
I may not be insane, but many insane things have happened as a result of having so many children. My mind has succumbed to the condition of “momnesia,” causing me to forget the simplest things, like my children’s names or the fact that I’ve looked for my cell phone while talking on it.
“The best thing about my children,” says Isom, “is when I’m having a bad day, they sense it and shower extra affection on me.” My favorite moment is when I shout, “I love my kids!” and they shout back in unison, “I love you too, Mommy!” Even my 2-year-old, who yells louder then the rest.
Tequala Isom, and I have followed the path of our hearts and dared to sail off the edge of what society says is the normal amount of children one should have. As a result, we discovered a world full of extra adventure, blessings, and love.