Mom to three girls, Kristina tells us about venturing into the waters of Middle School, managing family chores and how she keeps her marriage a priority.
Name: Kristina Gunn
Occupation: Stay at home mom
Kids/Ages: Madison (13), Mackenlie (11), Taylor (9)
HFM: Tell us about your family.
KG: I married my best friend and we have 3 girls who are close enough in age that they’re each other’s closest friends as well. We’re the typical, standard-issue one income family that has made some material sacrifices in order to gain a full time parent. It isn’t always pretty. We do the best we can.
HFM: What is your favorite thing about your family?
KG: We laugh together. Humor helps us not take ourselves too seriously. We enjoy each other’s company (and if my kids tell you otherwise, please don’t believe them); there’s no group of people I’d rather be around (and if I say otherwise, please don’t believe me).
HFM: You aren’t changing diapers anymore, so is it easier?
KG: It would seem that way. We’ve entered the stage where our kids no longer need to be fed, watered, and diapered by us and have become legitimate help around the house. They can entertain themselves without needing too much guidance. They can play almost any board game. Hopefully their next stage is learning to clean up messes and pick up shoes from the middle of the living room. Fingers crossed.
HFM: What advice would you give to a mom of babies and toddlers about kids in middle school?
KG: Middle School isn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. However, technology is integrated into kids’ lives earlier than we imagined. Our oldest is sans cellphone and to say she is a rare breed in middle school is an understatement. She may be the last kid in the entire world to get a data plan (not counting her younger sisters, of course). Many teachers operate assuming the kids have a cell phone. Start planning for how you will integrate technology in to your family now whether you plan on getting your kids first cell phone at 7 or 17.
HFM: How do you celebrate special days? (birthdays, straight a’s)
KG: The heavy lifting for celebrating has always fallen to the grandparents. Our kids don’t “need” anything nor do they have a huge wish list, so we reserve the privilege of gifting for the grandparents. We throw the birthday parties but the grandparents shower them with gifts. As for academic achievements, we’ve tried not to put too much emphasis on letter grades, straight A’s, or other similar metrics. We don’t even really care what their grades are or how they score on tests. It sounds trite but we want our kids to do their best and that looks very different from one kid to the next. An 80 on a math benchmark may be celebrated as much as a perfect score on the STAAR test.
HFM: Does your husband feel outnumbered? How does he feel about being the only man around?
My husband is the youngest of five and has four older sisters. He would likely feel more out of place not being vastly outnumbered.
HFM: Do the girls do chores? How does this happen exactly?
KG: Yes. Slowly.
But that may be a reflection of our non-existent wages.
All joking aside, they are a good help around the house. We started them off early with tasks on par with their ability and understanding. “Pick up your toys” is a simple chore but it let them know that more is required of them than just existing in the house. Cleaning up their things moves into “Pick up your sisters toys, too” to emphasize that their responsibilities do not terminate on themselves. From there we evolved to more age appropriate chores like setting the table to putting away dishes to cleaning dishes to preparing dinner. I never go back behind the kids and redo what they have done even if it isn’t exactly how I would have done it. That giant dust bunny will eventually meet it’s end. We each load the dishwasher in entirely different ways and yet they always emerge clean (mostly).
HFM: What else would you like to add?
KG: We are not experts but we do have had over a decade of trial and error to know that we have put a priority on our marriage over the kids. It is easy to get to a point where you just coexist but that is not what we are called to. We talk to each other about more than just the kids, routine and school. We take time away whether it is an hour or two for dinner or a weekend 1,000 miles away. It is so much easier now that they can supervise themselves a little. Eventually, or so we are told, our prepared and independent children will head out into the world and we want to have something left over.