When I stated my parenting journey I was fairly fresh out of college, where I trained as a nanny. Surely I knew how to care for a newborn? Although Norland was a great college, they never gave us a singular method of baby raising, instead they encouraged us to work with parents and follow their preferred style. This was all well and good but now I was the parent and I had no idea what style of parent I was!

Without a mum to give me answers I looked to books and other women to advise me. One of the parents I had worked for as a nanny had recommended ‘The Contented Little Baby Book’, a book which is like marmite, you either love it or you hate it. Inside its pages were the answers every sleep deprived parent craved, a guarantee that if you followed her advice, your baby would be contented and sleep through the night at an early age.

As soon as our son was born I implemented the routine. I lived and breathed the schedule and by 16 weeks Christopher was sleeping through the night having hardly cried at all during his first few months. I thought I had all the answers, what a pain I must have been!

When Christopher was just a few months old I joined La Leche League, a mum to mum breastfeeding support group. I was the only mum in the group who had a child who slept alone in a cot and I felt an element of embarrassment to even mention the word routine. Having said that, the leader was one of the most gracious Christian women I have ever met and simply met me where I was at. She encouraged me on my breastfeeding journey and showed me what it was to love people with whom you shared different opinions.

After our second child was born I increased in smugness, as he slept through the night at 9 weeks. Then at 7 months we had a major sleep regression and I ate large chunks of humble pie. For 4 months sleep evaded us both, I tried controlled crying, sleeping in his cot bed with him, you name it I tried it. Then one day I happened upon an article on ‘The Contented Little Baby’ website which suggested overtiredness as a possible cause of night waking. This was a revolutionary idea to me, as a 7 pm bedtime had been religiously kept to in our house. So I bit the bullet and put him to bed 20 minutes early, and that was the miracle I needed, he slept through the night every night following this intervention. I learnt so much from those incredibly hard months, humility, new techniques, letting go of firmly held ideas and I learnt that I can cope with more than I realised.

After this I really saw an evolution in my parenting style. After our 3rd child was born I accepted that afternoon naps at home, in the dark of the nursery, would be impossible to implement. A new approach was needed and I began to find my way.

Over the years of raising our 10 children I have found my style of mothering. I feel led to share what I know because maybe another young mum needs to find another way, a way that is not attachment parenting or routine, but is a combination of both. I cannot promise your baby will sleep through the night at an early age but ours have all learnt to sleep through the night and they are all secure children.

Here’s an average day for a young exclusively breastfed baby in our house: (all timing are approximate). It’s a very basic overview, but it’s a starting off point.

8am-wake the baby, feed, change nappy and pop them in a bouncy chair watching the family until they appear to look tired, but if you miss the sleepy window, don’t worry, we can set things back on track.

Around 9-9.30 pop them in the sling or pushchair and walk them to sleep (I breastfeed a really overtired baby to sleep whilst wearing them in a sling, I use a Connecta sling)

They’ll probably sleep for quite a while at this nap, but regardless I wake them for their next feed.

11am feed, nappy change, play

12 ish, sling or pushchair for a nap

If they wake during their nap, feed or rock them back to sleep.

2pm feed, nappy change, play

3.30pm nap in sling or pushchair

5pm feed, nappy change, play

7-8pm – feed and sleep in the sling whilst putting everyone else to bed, cleaning the kitchen and reading stories whilst standing and bouncing! I do a lot of jigging and rocking in the early evenings.

9 pm- I finally sit down and baby wakes up! Change nappy if needed and then we play until I go to bed.

10-11pm-we both go to bed. I have a cot bed attached to our bed as an extension to our bed and our young babies sleep there until 6-8 months. Once they have fallen asleep I keep the lights dim all night and just roll over for night feeds.

Life with tinies is always demanding, but the way we do it helps the older children not to feel pushed out, as the baby is content most of the day. This way gives me my hands free to cook or teach and it also gives me some predictability as to when I need to stop for feeds and nappy changes.

If anyone wants to implement these ideas and has any questions, please feel free to ask. This is just my way and it may not work for anyone else, please take what is useful to you and leave the rest.

Parenting styles are not binary choices, routine and discipline are not mutually exclusive of security and attachment. As parents we haven’t got it all figured out, but I just wanted to share these ideas, as a starting point for mums, who want an approach to mothering which is routine based, but with compassion and a large dose of reality.

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It’s a constant adventure. Every day feels like a commission from God. Take yesterday for example. Christopher and Jonathan had been away for the weekend with about 50 young adults, enjoying a time of worship and fellowship together; following this they decided to come back to our home, with about about 20 of their friends to enjoy a barbecue together. The spontaneity of this was wonderful and added fun and adventure into our weekend. Seeing so many young people, loving the Lord and hanging out together at our home brought huge joy to my heart.

The day before Madeleine had a trick riding lesson, as a birthday gift. It was wonderful to see the smile on her face as she conquered new skills pushing herself to the edge of her capacity. She’s also learning to drive, with Phil’s help, and is making great progress.

Seeing these older children stepping out into the world is such a joy. It’s clear to see God is with them, giving them opportunities and support at every turn. It’s such an encouragement when I’m parenting the younger children, to know that all the challenges will be worth it, as we can trust that God is going to guide our children every step of the way and their future is safe in his hands.

Every day is a challenge and an opportunity to seek God. Some days there are tears and tantrums, there are so many meals to cook, clothes to wash and lessons to learn, but there’s so much good in all of that.

Every single task is a God-ordained commission and with that attitude it becomes a way to love and serve God. It becomes a way for him to grow us and draw us nearer to him. Each success can be a pat on our own backs or an opportunity to thank God for his gifts and his help with everything.

It’s all perspective. We believe that we are not succeeding because we are great, we are not raising these children well because of our efforts, it because God is with us. We pray constantly for his help. Every task can be preempted with a prayer, even just a brief arrow prayer. Every achievement can be cloaked in thanksgiving.

I am constantly aware that these are very blessed days and harder days may be just around the corner, but I don’t fear for the future, because God is already there. There is nothing ahead that he will not prepare us for, give us grace for and walk alongside us in.

Practically speaking having ten children is a full and wonderful life. Spiritually speaking it’s the way that God is drawing me to him. I can’t do any of this in my strength and so I reach out to the source of all strength and there I meet him and he never sends me away lacking exactly what I need for the tasks ahead.