Meet Stephanie Blackiston. Stephanie is from Northeast Tennessee but currently lives near Chattanooga with her husband of 16 years, Tim, and their eight children, whom she homeschools. She loves being a wife and a mother. Stephanie also has a passion and a mission of studying and using the Bible to encourage young women and mothers on their journey with the Lord and through motherhood. She makes the most of everyday by hanging on to Jesus and His amazing grace.
Come along as Stephanie and I discuss how she handles being a wife and a mother of eight.
Question 1: What is life like to have eight children, from a teenager to a one-month-old?
It is truly overwhelming trying to meet everyone’s needs!
Our older boys are becoming men before our eyes. They are entering into a stage we know nothing about but we want to walk through it with them. We love watching them grow and watching the fruit of God’s Word producing life in them. I have spent years teaching them God’s Word and it is not returning void. The older boys love to come and talk to me at night. It is funny how talkative they become at bedtime! My eyes burn from the fatigue that comes with a newborn but I want to hear their hearts and know what is going on in their lives.
The younger ones require so much of my time and attention that spending time with the older ones is so special. I love my time with the baby at night when I just get to stare at her in a quiet home. We are still figuring out how in the world this is all going to work but God is faithful and He will continue to show us how to take care of so many and do it well.
Question 2: How are family dinners prepared? Do the children have a day to make them? Do they help prepare the meals?
My husband Tim loves to cook as does my 10-year-old son. The older ones help with the dishes. They don’t love it but they do it! I do my best to have healthy meals which aren’t always received with excitement. I shop for foods high in protein to try and combat the hunger pains of growing kids. We eat a lot of turkey, bacon, rotisserie chicken, eggs, cheese, etc. My family would prefer a food pyramid that consisted of different cereals.
Eating meals as a family glues us together so we fight hard to protect dinners. It is not always possible when you have multiple kids playing different sports. The dinner table is such a beautiful opportunity to connect with each other and to step out of the chaos for an hour. Because we are all unique and different, food and prayer brings us together. I want our family to be a team…ten souls knitted together by the Lord and love. Food plays a big part in that (especially for teenage boys!).
Question 3: How do you homeschool and do their extracurricular activities with so many to teach?
Every day when we wake up, we all read the same chapter in the Bible and write down five verses in a journal. (I have always told my kids that it is more important to feed our “inner man” before our “outer man” each day!) Then we start the school day. My older kids do school via DVD or online. Abeka DVD’s have been a wonderful resource that have allowed us to keep educating them at home.
I spend the morning chasing toddlers and teaching my younger ones. It is exhausting work for sure but it is so worth the effort. There will never be enough time in each day but God just told me to be diligent and to trust Him with the outcome. I have found there is no fool-proof ‘formula’ other than prayer and trusting God to lead you.
At 2:00 when the little ones are napping, we do ‘Bible Time with Momma.’ I have been doing this for 10 years. The older kids and I pray and spend time in the Word during this time. Then by 3:00-3:30, it’s time to get ready for a packed afternoon/evening of baseball, worship team practice, indoor soccer, ballet, basketball and whatever else they are involved in.
Life is getting much trickier (logistically) getting them all where they need to be! Sometimes we have a sitter at home with the little ones so they don’t have to be at the ball field all night. Sports have been huge in the kids’ development. They have learned how to make friends, work hard, listen to coaches, and deal with winning and losing. Organized teams and Church have been instrumental in the kids’ growth.
I joke Tim is the head of logistics at our house. He is in charge of their schedules and I am their UBER driver. Sometimes we stand in front of the calendar for 20 minutes just staring at it like a Rubix’s cube…wondering how in the world we are going to arrange all the moving parts. We have to keep our priorities straight and that takes work and His help.
Question 4: With so many children, laundry must pile up pretty quickly. Just how many loads of laundry do you have to do a day? And do you have commercial sized/style appliances to help you out?
Do you believe that I still have the same washer and dryer that I had when I was single?! They were the only things I owned! I joke with Tim that he married me for my washer and dryer! I bought them almost 20 years ago from the scratch and dent section at Sears and they are still working great! I love my old washer and dryer so I plan on keeping them for as long as possible.
Yes, laundry is constant. I got to the place where I simply could not do it all and prayed for God to send help! God sent the most amazing lady to come and help me with my house and laundry one day a week. It frees me up to spend time teaching the kids the Word or playing with them.
The Proverbs 31 woman is a great example to us moms because she is a hard worker and she has MAIDSERVANTS! She knew she couldn’t do it all and it IS important that us moms know that too!
We are constantly doing dishes or laundry even with help. It is a BIG job but thankfully the older kids have started doing their own laundry.
My laundry room has been a place where God has met me in powerful ways when I am overwhelmed. I have been in there face-down-on-the-tile begging God to help me care for all these children. I love to encourage moms that if they want to meet with Jesus, to try and find Him in the tile floor of their laundry room! He will meet you there too! I also love to pray over each child as I fold their clothes. It is a great opportunity to pray specifically and multi-task while you work.
Question 5: I find it hard to get time to myself or for a date night. Do you ever get time to yourself or have a date night? If so, what do you like to do?
Time to myself is very rare. I love to go on walks and listen to worship music. One of my favorite things is going to Church, listening to a sermon, talking to sweet friends while all of my kids are in their classes.
Our lives are so full that it is very difficult to have a regular date night. Our favorite thing to do is sit and talk after the kids are in bed. We love to go on walks in our neighborhood during Tim’s lunch break. I purposefully decorated our bedroom so that it feels like a romantic getaway. As much as I would love to go on trip to Barbados, or a weekly date with my man, it just is not realistic in this season. Sitting on the bleachers, holding Tim’s hand while watching one of our kids play ball is one of my favorite date nights. You just have to be intentional and creative in keeping your marriage alive and vibrant.
Praying together at night is one of the best things we could ever do for our marriage. Hearing my husband pray is incredibly attractive! We try to cut out electronics at night and spend time together. It is amazing how much time we can waste without realizing it! We can redeem the time by turning devices off. Keeping your relationship with God and your relationship with your husband FIRST will make you a better mom.
Question 6: What is your biggest challenge of having a large family?
A big challenge is the reality that I just possibly can not meet all of their needs. I want to be there for all of my children all of the time but I can’t because I am not omnipresent. I hope that when we can not be in eight places at once, they will feel the presence of God. I am so thankful He never misses anything with them! He is with them on the pitcher’s mound or on stage in a ballet recital. I hope He is recording it all so I can watch it in heaven!
Another big challenge is the enormous work load. Tim and I do not sit down…ever. We are pouring ourselves out like a drink offering to the Lord as we take care of these precious children. He is giving 110% and so am I. But no matter how hard we work, there is always still more to do.
Question 7: What are some the most frequently asked questions you get asked? Have you had any mean comments or questions about having so many children?
‘What kind of car do you drive?’ is the most common question and I completely understand their curiosity! I don’t understand how it works either! Most people say, ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ I either say, ‘I don’t either! It’s all the Lord!,’ or I say, ‘I have an unusually helpful husband — that’s the secret.’
I have only had one very mean comment. But that is okay! I am not doing this for the approval of people. I do not fault them for not seeing the beauty found in a large family. I would not have been able to at one point in my life.
When I was in high school, I remember mocking our neighbors who raised their kids differently than anything I had ever seen. Now, that same mom is one of my biggest role models! It’s all about perspective. I do not want to judge others whose lives are different than mine. God has such unique callings on all of our lives. He does not call everyone to have a huge family. He has not called me to do all the cool things others have been called to do. We just need to cheer one another on in their own different giftings!
Having a large family always opens the door for us to share our faith. We stand out like a sore thumb! When we walk into a restaurant (which is rare because it’s so expensive), every person stares at us. I want to use this opportunity to share Christ with a curious world.
Question 8: Do you spend time with each child independent from the others? How often? Is it something that they like to do?
That is definitely our intention! We try to make all their birthdays special. We want to know each child individually. We want to know their hearts!
They love going out to eat with their dad or grocery shopping with me. We don’t have a lot of extra time so we have to make the most of our daily time together. My older boys sit in the front seat now so I get to talk to them while we drive. All the kids love to talk at night too so bedtime can be a great opportunity for that.
It is very important to invest in each child individually. They do need it and enjoy it. I have noticed that they are always ready to get back home to their siblings after some time though. We are not nearly as fun!
Question 9: What was your pregnancy like? Was it the same or different to the past seven?
This pregnancy was so special because we knew that she was a gift from God to us. All of our eight children are but she was just a gift of grace to us that we did not expect. She was an answer to prayers we had long given up on. The grass seemed greener and the birds louder since I found out I was pregnant with her. It is always hard being pregnant. The first trimester was scary because I had a lot of spotting and was so scared I would miscarry. I am so thankful God kept her safe.
Being pregnant at 41 is a lot harder than being pregnant at 26. Recovery after this pregnancy has been more difficult because of some complications during delivery. My body is definitely older and more tired but by His grace, God got me through eight pregnancies! It truly is miraculous how God designed our bodies to be able to be a vessel for another life! Ecclesiastes is right when it says ‘just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.’
Question 10: How has life changed adding another girl to the mix of boys and one girl?
She is such a special gift to us all. Her big sister says every day feels like a dream now that she has a sister. All of her brothers love holding her and looking at her tiny fingers and toes. We have not found our stride with eight yet but I know we will in time.
Question 11: What is the most important thing you feel is important to teach your children?
This is the easiest question yet! The WORD OF GOD! It is what nourishes their minds, hearts, and souls. It will never return void. It will be their ‘Teacher’ long after I am gone. It will guide them and be a lamp unto their feet. It will fully equip them for everything God has created them to do. It brings life and joy. There are so many benefits of teaching your children the Bible but the most important is that they will come to know Jesus. The power of God’s Word can and will transform their lives, and yours too!
Question 12: Has your parenting style changed from the first one to the eighth one?
Absolutely! Tim and I say the older ones got all of our strength and the younger ones will get our wisdom. We have learned so much in the last 14 years about what is important and what is not. One thing that will never change is our dependence on God in each season!
Question 13: Do you and your husband do tag team parenting?
Yes. Tim is an amazing dad. He keeps the train on the tracks. He leads and I follow but we share the same calling and vision: raising children to know God and walk with Him. We are both giving all we’ve got every day. And at the end of every day, we fall short. It is easy to fall into despair when your shortcomings are shockingly obvious. I definitely struggle with that reality daily!
We are definitely tag team parenting with each other but more importantly with the Lord!
Question 14: What is your family’s favorite activity to do together?
Probably traveling. We love going to the beach or to an amusement park. We go to a family camp in the summer that is tons of fun.
Question 15: Are you living the life you’d thought you would be living twenty years ago?
Twenty years ago, I was a college girl who had no idea what God was about to do in her life. I was living a typical college lifestyle when it all began feeling very empty. One night alone in my room, I opened my Bible wanting to know if there was a God and if I could know Him. I began reading about a Savior and realized my need for His forgiveness and asked God to forgive me and gave Him my life. I started following Him twenty years ago, one day at a time and being a mother of eight is where He has led me! Being a wife to Tim and being a mother to these children began with grace and only continues with His grace! He has called me so far out of my comfort zone and given me more than I could have ever asked for! He has called me out of the boat and I am walking on water every day. Life is easier in the boat but I would have missed out on the miraculous! He began a good work and promises to finish it. He doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. None of us moms have “what it takes”. I don’t even know what that means! But when you realize we have all fallen short, it opens the door for dependence on the Lord. That is where we will find the ability to be the moms God intends for us to be.