Seeing her around the blogosphere, I always marveled at how pretty, feminine, and put-together Alli Worthington seemed from a distance, so I am beyond thrilled she let me pick her brain for our Rookie Moms Boys Club. Alli is extremely busy being a builder of companies, blogger, consultant, and general curator of awesome. She is the founder and publisher of Blissfully Domestic women’s magazine and the force behind the BlissDom conferences. Oh yeah, and did I mention she has FIVE SONS?!
How old are your boys?
My husband and I have 5 boys who range in ages from 4 to 14, and we live outside of Nashville, TN. All the boys are about two and a half years apart, and all of their names begin with J. Yes, all J’s; we are of of ‘those’ families.
I tell new friends who visit just to call the boys all ‘J’ at first. Otherwise I see the look of panic when they hear everyone’s names and wonder how they will remember all the names later.
What has most surprised you about being a boy mom?
I don’t have siblings, so living with six males is a constant education. I both enjoy and am horrified by watching the boys interact with each other in ways I never would have imagined. They hug, wrestle, fight, and then hug again. When they start fighting I yell, “Hey guys, are you happy fighting or angry fighting?” Nine times out of ten, they are happy fighting.
On nights at home with sports on TV, all five boys cuddle up with my husband in our bed. I, of course, try to avoid this at all costs. I stay in the living room because it’s quiet!
Of course I hear everything that happens in the next room. It is hilarious how predictable they all are. This is what happens:
- At first, they snuggle up and watch the game with Daddy.
- After 15 minutes I hear them all laughing and talking.
- Then they wrestle and someone gets knocked off the bed.
- Then I hear one boy fuss at another.
- Then someone gets mad and punches another brother.
- Then my husband asks them to shush, get along and watch the game.
- They never do.
- Before you know it, I hear my husband yell, “Everyone out if you can’t behave!”
- They leave and come back over and over again- each time promising to chill out.
- Eventually they do chill out and all snuggle up sweetly.
- Until they start yelling to celebrate a touchdown on TV.
- Then the boys get excited and get rowdy.
- Can you guess what happens next? Yep, it happens all over again.
I will never understand their boy worlds, but I don’t have to…and I love peeking in.
What is the most fun thing about being a boy mom right now?
The best moments right now probably involve the bonds between the brothers of varying ages. Recently our youngest (4) decided he was afraid to sleep at night and would walk down the hallway to his oldest brother’s (14) room, curl up like a puppy on top of the covers and fall asleep.
Parenting is a long game. Moms especially don’t get many pats on the back. Noticing these little moments of sweetness can be a huge encouragement that I’m doing a good job as a mother. No one is perfect, no mother can do it all, but seeing my boys care for each other tells me I’m doing just fine.
What is the hardest thing about being a boy mom right now?
Forcing myself to make them take personal responsibility for their actions, choices and decisions. It’s much easier to rescue and make excuses for children at all costs. Moms want to make hard times go away for older kids just like they did when that child was a baby.
It’s also hard not to give them things they haven’t earned. Sure, I could buy them a new game or a new football, etc.. but I know that it is only what is earned that is truly appreciated. It’s a disservice to my kids to spoil them because the want never subsides. There will always be an upgrade or a better toy thanks to commercials.
To value an item, and themselves in the long term, things (and the money to buy those things) must be earned.
Do you have a tip to share for moms of younger children?
Break the motherhood cycle of catering to your kids. It will make you miserable. By enabling their dependance and giving kids too much, we can accidentally allow our kids to become entitled. That becomes self-centeredness, and that can make kids grow into little emotionally-unstable dictators. C’mon, before you balk at how upfront I am, tell me you don’t know a kid like that? We all do. Those kids probably have parents who think they are very loving, but are actually enabling their children.
I also think moms would suffer less depression if we expected kids in the US to lift a finger.
If your kid can use your iPad, your kid is bright enough to do chores.
I constantly battle with this myself. Some days I want to let the chores slide and just do everything myself so I don’t have to suffer through all the whining. Trust me, it’s worth the hassle of forcing your kids to be responsible and do their work.
For example, all children have a tendency to take their parents for granted and fall into a pattern of expecting their mothers to cater to them.
That type of unnecessary constant sacrifice serving the the whims of kids who can do things for themselves is what wears many mothers down. I actively teach the boys about boundaries by what I do not do for them and what I expect them to do.
They pack their own lunches and empty the dishwasher starting at age 8. And I expect them to be responsible for themselves and work for the benefit of the whole family more and more as they get older. The boys do all the kitchen work, have to cook dinner once a week, put away laundry, vacuum and do yard work.
Instead of me doing it all and becoming overwhelmed and quietly resentful, I teach the boys to honor their family and their mom by pulling their own weight. In return, they have much happier parents.
Now, this sounds lofty, but it’s not in daily life. They still whine about chores and have farting contests with each other while they work. As long as no guests are over, I ignore the obnoxiousness.
I want to hear more about this. I’m wondering how much work my 7, 5, and 1 year olds are ready for.
Sadly, not much for the under 6 crowd. My littles are slackers. Depending on personality, the 7year old can pack his own lunch, vacuum living room and empty dishwasher. I never had any luck getting any of my boys under 5 to clean up after themselves. All the advice of having preschoolers tidy their toys was lost on us.
When my oldest was in Kindergarten he had to unload dishes and vacuum before school. I’m slacking with all his little brothers. Ha.
What do you do to stay girlie in a house of boys?
I think my company grew out of my need to be around other women! The conference I co-founded, the BlissDom Social Media Conference, has 1000 attendees all of whom just so happen to be women.
I built an entire media company that focuses on connecting smart women, big ideas and great resources. BlissDom is a business conference with parties with an excessive amount of glitter. Well, at least on me…
Related dude-friendly links:
Today I’m sharing fun stocking stuffers because Whitney told me to.
- Punch balloons — the very best small things to get out big energy when housebound in the winter so you don’t punch out your brothers (as recommended to me by Alli last year; for some reason 50 balls is just a bit more than 12 so buy 50.)
- Adhesive mustaches — I did not need to buy 50 of these but they’re so darn funny and now I’ll never run out. They’re in my stocking too. What?
- Iron-on ties — spiff up your child’s t-shirt or onesie while supporting this adorable etsy store.
- Any kind of small vehicle — matchbox cars, hot wheels, baby versions… I don’t care, we all get ‘em.
- Lego minfigures — I like to buy the surprise packages that include one random mystery dude, even for myself. Sawyer will get a DUPLO dude that is already in our house. Shhh.
And remember, moms:
[All photos from Alli Worthington used with her permission; family pic taken by Jana Warnke]