The following is an excerpt from my interview with Lettice Barnum on my podcast, You’ve Got This.
Lettice is a busy stay-at-home mom to five young children, including four wildly energetic boys and one incredibly loved baby girl. She and her husband, Ryan, are co-founders of Achieving Family Goals, where they blog about all things goal-related. They chronicle the experiences and lessons learned from working on their own 100 Life Goals list, while encouraging others to do the same by writing about goals, habits, productivity and reviewing any kind of product that might help people achieve their goals.
I have four kids, Lettice has five, so between us, we have nine kids. Do you ever run into any kind of pushback from strangers, family, about having more than two or three kids?
Lettice: Thankfully, not so much from family because I think that would have been a dagger to the heart, but definitely from strangers. Two of our five are adopted, and so number three is adopted and number five is adopted, and we’ve had them since they were born. I’ve pushed around a newborn while pregnant at the same time. I’ve had people give looks or make little comments and stuff, and it used to really, really bothered me. I love my kids and with each one of them, my husband and I both felt very strongly that it was time down for another one, and I feel like each of them came at the perfect time. I have to learn to roll with the punches. But on the flip side, having heard some negative comments really make the genuinely kind comments mean that much more.
Do you ever have conversations after that with your kids when someone says something negative?
Lettice: My oldest said something along the lines like, “I’m sorry, mama, that there is a lot of us and you may be tired or whatever.” He was really internalizing those comments that he would hear. It broke my heart for him. I did in that moment stop and really have a little conversation with him about why that wasn’t true. It’s a reminder that we got to be careful about what we say around kids because they pick it up and they take that weight on themselves sometimes.
I always made sure that if there was a negative that either I said something if I could get my wits about me and to say something later positively about our family. That this is the family God gave us, and that we are very happy with this family. I am not really exhausted about having all you. I think that one of the things we learned with having multiple children was to prepare them for what they need to know about how they should behave, etc. How do you prepare your children when you go out into the world?Lettice: One thing quickly that came to my mind is that we always ask how they behaved when we were gone, like in class or Sunday school. And people come to realize that I’m genuine. When I want to truly know how my child acted, and thankfully, for the most part, I get good comments: They were great, they answered questions, or whatever, but every now and then, I might have a teacher say, “Well, they were a little bit energetic today.” Later, I ask the child to tell me what happened. The kids are usually are quick to say, “Yeah, I did that,” or they will tell me what happened, and so then I correct them in that moment.
I also remind the kids of how to behave right before we enter a store or classroom. They are kids—their mind is all over the place and they are energetic, and everything like that, and so it’s okay that they need reminders, but also another big thing is to be the example too.
People have forgotten how kids behave, but more people don’t realize what’s appropriate and kid behavior and what crosses the line.
Lettice: One thing that I think that can really help you to stay sane is to just let our kids be kids. I think that it’s so important for us to remember that their kids. We shouldn’t allow them to be disruptive or disrespectful, and they should know there’s a time and place to be silly and crazy. But life is meant to be enjoyed, not to just be lived, and childhood is a really special part of life and it should be a carefree time of life.
We need to encourage our kids to be kids. They don’t need to be little quiet adults. They should have the freedom to be their age. One of the joys I get is watching my kids through the various stages be the silly kids. Before we close the program, talk about your 100 life goals.
Lettice: When my husband and I first got married, we decided to make 100 life goals that we wrote down. It’s amazing that when you write these things down, opportunities arise to accomplish those goals. It’s been a really big part of our relationship goals, and we’ve grown in a lot of different ways because of it. Now with our kids, our oldest two that are five and seven, they talk about things they want to do and see, and it’s really awesome that we can see their little personalities and their talents. We started our website to share with people and inspire them to create these goals to make themselves and their lives.
To hear more great advice and stories from Lettice, listen to “Juggling Multiple Children” on the “You’ve Got This” podcast.