Wanderlust: Expat Life & Style in Thailand The Relationships Issue - Page 10

Cover Story

We consider it such a joy and a gift to be raising seven kids .
— Mandy Smith
The couple ’ s decision not to plan sometimes raises eyebrows — and questions . “ We ’ ve been asked all kinds of things ,” Mandy says .
Some have asked them if they are Mormons . Some asked if they ’ ve ever heard of birth control , and other people have asked if they ’ re just plain crazy . “ There are times we bristle at these questions ,” Mandy says , “ But , for the most part , we can laugh . People can ’ t imagine that this would be on purpose or that we consider it such a joy and a gift to be raising seven kids .”
Though a joy it may be , raising a family of this size — or growing up in one — takes teamwork . All hands need to be on deck to ensure the house stays orderly . Setting the table , washing dishes and taking out the trash are examples of the chores the kids do . From the eldest , who are old enough to grab groceries , to the youngest ( excluding the infant , of course ), who can put away their laundry , everyone pitches in .
Of the children , Abi , 14 , tends to help the most . A self-described second mama to the younger kids , Abi says , “ Sometimes it ’ s a lot of work , but I enjoy it .”
For full disclosure , though , the Smiths do take advantage of Southeast Asia ’ s readily-available domestic help . “ I have been so grateful for someone to help with the deep cleaning and laundry ,” says Mandy — particularly given “ the number of socks and underwear this brood can dirty every day !”
The experience the kids gain from helping around the house , the couple says , is both “ service to the kids ’ future college roommates and spouses ” and important practice in basic life skills . “ Responsibility ,” Mandy says , “ has to start young .”
To most kids ( and adults ), household chores are just a drag . Could it be that the Smith ’ s shared responsibility knits them together ? It ’ s possible .
For expat parents who assign most chores to their maids , perhaps it ’ s worth encouraging the kids to help out , even if it ’ s not completely necessary . Doing teaches children not only the value of housework but also the importance of interdependence .
Before you get the idea the Smith home is inhabited only by angels , try asking Abi to describe her family in one word : “ Loud .”
With constant vying for mom ’ s and dad ’ s attention , stories being told over each other and arguments