By: Patricia Walters-Fischer RN
According to the US Census in 2002, the number of people per family household is just under three. That means an average of one to two children for each household. If three is the average size family,
Kathryne Sansone could only be ranked in the far above average range.
Mother of ten, ages twenty to two, Kathryn is the ultimate multitasking mom. Not only does she balance a household of twelve, but does her own laundry, cooks meals, car pools, plays tennis, writes books, occasionally gets a coffee on the go, and runs her website Shape Up Mom
“I can make eight beds faster than anyone,” she laughs when she talked to HMC. “I’m a pick up as I go mom and do laundry everyday.” To keep a handle on the household, she starts her days at six-thirty in the morning, goes to bed around eleven at night, and insists on, “the kitchen and laundry is up to par before going to bed every night.”
There is a great method to the chaos that invades her life everyday, but Kathryn embraces her life with great vigor and love.
Kathryn says she and her husband, Jim, who started dating as teenagers, never talked of having a big family, “but I was always intrigued by the big family and the sibling support you saw.” During her years before marrying, she worked as a teacher and had a great love for children. “Then we got married and had a baby.”
After the birth of her son, Jimmy, “I wanted to give the first child a sibling.” And she did, one year later, along came Big, then Nikko, Lan, Stefan all arrived within five years.
Kathryn explains, “we never said numbers (of children) or you keep going because you have to have the girl. We were happy to have the family as it was and we were happy as it grew.” The girl, Sophie, did eventually arrive, followed by brother Anthony, sisters Carmen, Mia, then brother Marco. She remarks that sometimes the family grew quicker than they expected. In May, “two kids will be the same age for a few weeks because they were born so closely together.”
So after six c-sections and four vaginal deliveries, you might think Kathryn’s done with having children. “We don’t say we’ve stopped,” answers Kathryn who will be forty-six on June 10th. “It’s my gift to give life as a woman and I will never say we’ve stopped.” To keep herself in good health, she works out four times a week, but does say childbirth “doesn’t get any easier and there was a major difference in by body from age forty to when I had Marco (at 44).”
If you’re feeling discouraged with all that Kathryn does and has accomplished, she encourages you to think differently. “I’ve heard a lot of stories about being a mother and everyone’s got their own story and their own style. Some mothers have choices (for staying home) and others do not.” She adds, “I am a woman and taking care of my children is a blessing and I’m thankful for it everyday.”
Parenting is a difficult task and one that can be tailored to each child, but how does a parent do that when there are ten different personalities running around?
Kathryn says there are standards that everyone is asked to uphold, but there are “lots of different styles of kids. My big thing is to post a pair of reflective sunglasses on our bulletin board and it says ‘here’s looking at you.’ It means we’re paying attention and doing our best to instill good self-confidence in each child so each one of them is confident in themselves.”
She does admit, one of her children is very laid back, he has a “whatever” attitude and when that laid back outlook on life caused the child to be less active and started to put on extra weight, Kathryn leapt into action. “I started a spring warm up, no more TV in the afternoons, no more sitting on the couch after school.” With that, she also put “a contract together and she and her child were going to exercise together for two weeks to see how it went. I didn’t want him to feel self-conscious about it, but I wanted to address it early before this became a problem.” Kathryn also put a positive spin on it, “I told him he was getting healthy, not that he was overweight.”
And any parent is always appreciative of a celebrity nudge. “My son also has asthma and Jackie Joyner-Kersee came to his school and talked about her asthma and she’s an Olympic athlete.” Now, she says her son is taking the initiative to do things on his own, but they still have time together.
She encourages parents to address any red flags as soon as they arise, but to tailor the solution by relating to the child, tailoring it to the child’s personality, and then enacting the plan.
So how does a mom of ten keep a look out for red flags? Easy, sit around a table and talk.
“We have family dinners,” Kathryn explains, but she adds that doesn’t always mean she’s cooking.
“Even if you can’t cook dinner or don’t make time to make dinner, sit around the table and talk everyday. It helps us keep a pulse on our kids.”
What about allowance? “I’d have to hire an accountant to deal with that!” Kathryn laughs. “We’re not good at allowance because we have no money and people (kids) are always robbing us and I have no cash, but what I tell my kids is ‘that food you’re eating right now, is your allowance.’”
To help with keeping the house straight, Kathryn and her husband, Jim, approach it as a group effort. “We’re in a big family, so we’re a team and everyone joins in and does their chores to help.” She also tells HMC that if there is punishment to be had, then chores factor in that in the form of vacuuming and weeding or even a bit of physical activity is in order–a good set of pushups. “My thirteen year old daughter can do more push ups than more adults I know!” remarks Kathryn and adds, “Instead of paying them weekly, I keep a running tab of what they’ve done or deserve and that’s their payment.”
If that isn’t enough on this mommy’s accomplishments, she also wrote a book called Woman First, Mother Always. “I wanted to help women out there, to give other moms advice, help and guidance.” With her many blessings, Kathryn simply wanted to give back to others. “I wanted to step outside the box of being a mom and reach out.”
One of the ways she reaches out for herself to stay grounded and sane is to stay emotionally connected to her friends. “I’ll go on short trips with my friends and my husband knows that’s good for me to get away. I also play tennis to stay active, but also to have adult conversations with friends.”
Despite the movement of her day, “I never sit down, I don’t take naps,” Kathryn makes time enjoy her twenty-one year marriage by taking frequent date nights with her husband, Jim. “Listen, we eat and breathe or children. We live for our children, we workout with our kids to make sure they stay healthy so they don’t get hurt when they are playing their sports, but make sure you make time for each other,” she encourages couples. “It keeps the kids more secure when they see parents who love each other.”
Don’t think that Kathryn’s life is perfect. She’s got her non-fans out there, stating “she’s got it easy because her husband has a good job and they don’t have to worry about money”. Kathryn sighs, “people like excuses, people are jealous. I think that women do this to each other because it’s easier for them.” She adds, “it’s easy to have a lot of money and to raise bratty kids, but we pray as a family, I do my own grocery shopping, make my own bed, and have as many sit down dinners as I can. It’s work, but when I see how well my kids are doing and are well disciplined, then it’s worth it.”
To learn more about Kathryn’s book or her website click here