Eight Isn't Enough

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with only one child? Stretched beyond your limits with two? Frazzled out completely with three? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have, say, five children? Six? Seven, eight, nine?

Reactions and attitudes about the Hargises' increasing family size have been varied, and believe it or not, strangers are the ones who comment on it the most. "[They say] things like, 'Better you than me.' At first I didn't mind it, I kind of took it and laughed, but then I got to thinking about it," says Katy. "These were strangers saying this to me. What do you say? What are we supposed to do? We were handed these twins. When people are making those kinds of remarks, I don't think they're looking at the fact that I've only had three pregnancies, but I have five kids," she says.

Joe agrees that Katy has heard a lot more remarks than he has: "I've only had one incident with one woman who went on and on about 'Who has five kids these days,' and that makes you feel kind of bad." But his colleagues have been very supportive, his boss in particular. He's told Joe to take as much time off as he needs around the babies' birth. "It really helps ease my mind, too. So, when I start to lose it I can call up Joe and say, 'Come home for an hour,'" Katy says with relief.

Katy hasn't forgotten the days when she was working outside the home. She misses the money, but even more, she says she misses "the 'women factor'--the camaraderie. That's why I work, eight hours a week. It gets me out of the house; it gets me seeing different faces. It's not the money, really, it's just the communication with other people." She believes she'd be working part-time at American Express if they were still living in Minneapolis. There, they had a wonderful day-care provider, "So I'd still be working . . . maybe four days a week."

But she does appreciate being around when the kids come home from school. "It was an incredible hassle bundling up the boys--at eight weeks old--to drop them off at day care. So, now, it's really nice. Joe takes care of the morning, gets the boys up, dressed, fed, and out the door. I take care of the 'pick-up' part; I will do the afternoon thing."

There are times she wonders if the boys appreciate that she's at home. "I'm 'just home.' Every once in awhile it kind of hits me. They loved day care; it was like a home. Now I'm just a replacement for Bonnie [the day care provider]." Jenny and the babies will have a whole different perspective on their mother. "They'll never--knock on wood--really know me going to work. And the boys, until they were six, were in day care." Katy has a group of friends she can go to the park with "and complain about it [staying at home]. You can say, 'My kids are just too much for me, they're driving me crazy,' and you know you're not the only one going through that. [It's] a nice support network. I think there are a lot more stay-at-home mothers here [in Northfield, than in the city]. It helps!" The kids come back into the room and Katy introduces me to " . . . one of our single friends. He gets his family fix when he comes over. You want to see what it's like, 'Okay, here you go.' He has seen family dinners in action."

"He gets to leave though," Joe laughs.

The friend comments on how nice the house looks. "It's never this clean." His playful comment makes everyone laugh, even the kids. "I'm just kidding."

"When it's all said and done," says Joe, "no matter how much you have, no matter how much you make, family is what matters. Your relationships with your kids."

Sam and Anne Hargis were born on August 24, 1998.

THE MRAZES

Financial affairs were a nonissue for Gail Mraz when it came to affording a large household. Clinic Coordinator at the Dorothy Day Center and a traditional midwife/registered nurse, Gail is also a mother of nine: Melissa; Gina; Greta; Jill; Paul; Jessica; Nick; Jake; and Dolly, ranging from forty to twenty-two years old.

She has been pregnant eleven times, but miscarried twice. Between ages twenty-two and thirty, Gail had six children, and then between ages thirty-four and thirty-nine she had three more.

Growing up, Gail says that she and her two brothers were very good friends. Also, "my father was very loving; we just grew up in that atmosphere. I learned how to live life from my grandmother, and I saw how things work and how happy we were. I decided that was how I was going to do it, too. After my first one was born, I just thought 'I love taking care of children,' having them around me." She decided early on that if she was going have children she was going to do it the best way she could because "I didn't want to have any regrets. No matter how everybody turned out, I wanted to feel that I had done the best I could with them."

She looked a little perplexed when I told her a lot of people don't have many children because of the lack of cash. "That just never entered my mind," she says. "I thought that we'd find a way to provide for them."

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