photo courtesy of Christina Bartholomew

There are amazing, devoted, wonderful, deliberate mothers out there, and each week we’ll spotlight one of them here at The Power of Moms. Do you know a mom who deserves a little time in the spotlight? Email rachelle.price (at) powerofmoms.com. We can’t wait to meet her.

Introducing Christina Bartholomew

How many children do you have and what are their ages?

We’ve been blessed with a large family–two boys and six girls, including one set of twins. In February, we’ll welcome our seventh girl (and the sixth one born in the last 7.5 years!).  Our oldest is 12 and our youngest is 18 months.

What have been your favorite parts of motherhood?

My favorite part is watching my children develop loving characteristics. I enjoy the fun times and the exciting times and vacations and such, but most meaningful to me is watching the small actions that show me that my children are living up to their potential–when one of them helps another with homework or loses a game gracefully or when they cheer each other on. Recently, one of my daughters has been sneakily eating the offending vegetables on her brother’s plate so that he can have dessert! Those little moments tell me that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

What have been the hardest parts of motherhood for you?

With eight kids, the two hardest parts are:

1. Dealing with chronic exhaustion brought on by pregnancy or new babies.

2. Making peace with “good enough.” With eight kids, a busy husband, a large house, hobbies and interests to develop, plus church responsibilities and friends and neighbors to love, it seems that there is always more to do than can be done with my finite capabilities and my limited time. Choosing one area of my life to improve always means that another corner gets neglected. Sometimes things fall through the cracks on accident, and often, I have to let things slide on purpose, reminding myself that I am focusing on what’s most important at this time in my life. Sometimes when I make the tough choices to cut out things of lesser worth, it feels like I’m cutting off one of my own limbs and I wonder why it is that I always have to put things aside that I love so dearly. I really don’t want it all, but I do always want more!

What has surprised you about motherhood?

I never expected it to be as gut-wrenchingly difficult as it is! I thought I’d be using my skills and talents to mold all these young minds, and I was sure that since I was going to do it all “right,” I’d never have to deal with biting toddlers, rotten two-year-olds, bed-wetting six-year-olds or back-talking nine-year-olds. Twelve years into mothering, I’ve given up my expectations of perfection and embraced the journey with all it entails.

What have you learned from motherhood? Please share a specific story or incident that really taught you something.

I’ve learned what it is to feel deeply inadequate and be confronted head-on with weaknesses and character flaws I didn’t know I had! I know what it’s like to grow because you’ve been stretched to your limit. But I also know what it is to love unconditionally. I’ve come to understand how the little things are the big things, and I’ve felt joy in the amazing moments I’ve shared with my family. I marvel at what a miracle each child is, and I’ve felt the joy of coming to know so many unique and amazing individuals.

A few months after Harmony, my seventh child, was born, a neighbor smiled at her and said, “Well, if you’ve seen one Bartholomew, you’ve seen them all!” She was trying to be kind, but inwardly, my whole soul was rebelling. No, I thought, you haven’t seen them all. This one is unique and different and special, and so are all the others. This is Harmony. Not the same song, different verse. A whole new being. A symphony of sound and grace and personality and life. A child with her own unique gifts and talents and mission in life.

What coping strategies do you have for getting through hard times and hard days?

I pray a lot and I rely on the answers to those prayers for help in my many responsibilities. And I have a couple of close friends I can turn to on the hardest days to help me put things in perspective. I’ve also learned that I have to be disciplined enough to keep up with the regular housework or my stress levels rise. On really tough days, I like to turn to my journal and scrapbooks and remind myself why I’ve chosen this life.

What would you say are the most important things a mom can do? What would you say are the most important things for a mom NOT to do?

The most important thing a mom can do is love her kids and develop a positive family culture. When kids feel like they belong to something special, they feel secure and happy and they are more likely to develop the character traits they’ll need in a tough world.

Moms should NOT compare themselves to others, feel like a failure when their best efforts fall short, or allow discouragement and doubt to overwhelm them.

What are some unique and interesting aspects of your family or your approach to mothering?

We have more kids than almost everyone we know, so I’ve learned to forge my own way and figure out how this can and should work. My husband and I put our family as our first priority and though it’s exhausting and chaotic at times, there is so much life and happiness in our home. We are very careful not to over-schedule our family while still giving our kids opportunities to develop their many talents. We travel a lot together (three weeks or more in a year) and love to hike, swim and explore the world. It’s lonely at times to be the largest family around (we don’t exactly get invited places much–there are 10 of us, after all), but I love that we’re developing relationships in our family that will last long after each child has left our home. After getting so many “how do you do it?” comments through the years, I started to blog more in earnest about having and raising a large family.  My blog is called Hands Full and Loving It (Mostly).

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