Interview with Jane: Mom of 10 kids, Sharing Honest Motherhood
Can you tell us about yourself and your family?
I’m a stay at home mom of 10 kids, ages 19-4. We have 6 girls and 4 boys. I've gone from being an only child to the ringmaster of my own circus. Even though I’m surrounded by kids all day, motherhood can feel lonely. Six years ago, I started a blog and social media channels. I’ve loved connecting with moms all over the globe and learning from them. I enjoy sharing parenting tips and hacks that I’ve learned over the years
As a mom who’s done back-to-school prep a few times, what are your top tips for helping parents navigate the first day of school?
- Start talking about the routine a week or two in advance, so you’re at least speaking the same language with your kids. Maybe even do a dry run of getting up early, picking out outfits and talking about what they want for their lunches.
- Preparation is key. For us, doing as much as we can the night before leads to less morning drama.
- Level-set MY expectations. Some kids may be enthusiastic, while others might be apprehensive. It is important to provide tailored support to each child and acknowledge that perfection isn’t the goal.
- Bonus tip; if you want cute first day of school pictures, consider doing it the day before, so you’re not adding another thing to an already busy morning.
What is your favorite item to stock up on to make the school year easier?
I love the bento boxes that we use for lunches, they make lunch prep easy and reduce our single use plastics. We also stock up on “easy items” like string cheese, fruit snacks, and other snack packs that we know will make lunch easy. We’re not trying to create a buffet every morning, but having some variety in the “sides” makes the chicken nugget staple easier to disguise.
I struggle with this! Thankfully our public schools have a good online parent portal that helps parents stay up to date on important school and classroom messages. Not so thankfully, when a general district wide text message goes out, we get 7 of the exact same message blowing up our phones. Need someone to help solve this! I have a big wall calendar that I use for important dates and deadlines, each kid has their own color marker for the calendar. We track sports practices, doctors’ appointments, project due dates and other special events in one place. I’m the one who writes everything on the calendar, but I still look at them multiple times per day. There’s just so much to coordinate.
Do you have lunch meal prep suggestions and your go-to lunch when the fridge is empty? (or any picky eaters in your house?
- Most school lunch periods are short, I take that into consideration when packing school lunches. I opt for items that can be consumed within the available time and enable independent consumption. I also regularly check lunch boxes to see whether they’re eating what I’m packing. Not eating can be a sign of (a) they didn’t like what I put in their lunch, or (2) something is stressing them out. Both should lead to a conversation,
- Most of my kids don’t eat sandwiches (believe me I wish they did). For my elementary school kids I air fry/bake chicken nuggets then wrap them in tinfoil, add in a fruit and treat.
- I always try to have cheese and crackers on hand for lunches when the fridge is empty. “Make your own Lunchables” is always a big hit. We also go through an astronomical amount of fruit and keeping stocked up on fresh fruit can be both time consuming and expensive. We have plenty of applesauce pouches and fruit cups when the fresh fruit runs out.
Any tips to help parents who feel emotional or overwhelmed during this transition time?
The start of school is a time for big emotions for kids and parents. While it's natural for parents to experience feelings, I try to keep my emotions in check so I don’t inadvertently transfer them to my kids. I prioritize self-care—adequate sleep, regular exercise, and balanced nutrition—to ensure I'm equipped to guide both my children and myself through this transitional phase. Getting into a rhythm takes time and requires consistency. I'm not particularly awesome all the time, but I do my best to make sure our mornings go smoothly. There’s a phrase we all grew up with, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day..,” and I do try to make our mornings the most important time of the day to prepare my kids for success.
What do you love most about your kids starting school again?
Routine, glorious routine! We all do so much better on a schedule. While summer brings fun and a break from rigidity, by August, the yearning for the school routine is real. The kids are excited to see their school friends and get to meet their teachers. It’s not necessarily specific to large families, but filling idle time is often the hardest part of parenting for us, so we love the school year for the routine and consistency. I also appreciate having some one-on-one time with our youngest while the bigs are at school.
How do you get your kids to help with school preparation tasks and at what age do you have them be responsible for their backpacks, lunches, and homework/paperwork?
We start the kids at a young age helping with back to school preparation tasks. Even as preschoolers, we have them cutting strawberries with a butter knife. Every night our elementary school kids lay out their school clothes, make sure their lunch box is empty for the next day and show us any papers that need to be seen, signed or “addressed”. Our night before prep rituals may evolve throughout the school year, but there's not a single night where we don't do most of the next day's school preparation.
What are some of your kids favorite outfits for the first day of school?
With a large family we can’t always afford to buy first day of school outfits for all the kids. I let the kids pick out their outfits from what we have and as long as it’s school appropriate I let it go. I want my kids to feel comfortable and confident on the first day. For the younger ones, the outfit selection takes into consideration playtime during recess and independent bathroom use.
Our 10 year old has already picked out her first day of school outfit, she’s wearing black cargo pants, a pink shirt and a big oversized clip for her hair, very 1999 vibes.
Where can we follow you to get all your tips?
Christine Russell Janis writes about life as a mom of four children, living abroad, and travel on her life & style website ashadeofrose.com. You can also follow on social media @a.shade.of.rose.in.paris.