Ellen Gould (crop)

Ellen Gould

Being a mother of eight in 2020 is something that sets me apart from my peers. I am asked advice as someone who has, “been there and done that” on almost every parenting issue. We can safely say that 2020 has afforded the world with issues that no one has “been there, done that.”

I knew that this Mother’s Day would be different for me. Yes, I am a mom and that is the vocation that I always dreamed of, but I was a daughter first. 2020 marks the first Mother’s Day that I am the oldest mother in my family. My mother died Sept. 11, 2019. 

Linda Martin Winstead was the best mother a child could hope for. She gave each of her five children love and support and always just what we needed. She was not overindulgent except with her love and I always felt completely secure in her presence. Nothing could hurt me when I was with my parents. What more could a child really ask for? What better role model could I have to emulate?

As we navigate these unchartered waters, I find myself looking to memories of my mother for guidance. I brought out my sewing machine and crafted some homemade masks. I divided the jobs (cutting, ironing, sewing) among the four children that are quarantined at home with us (the four oldest are out of school and living on their own). 

I kept getting the kids to switch jobs into one that might ignite a spark in them where they would enjoy sewing or just create something from supplies that we had here at home. No such luck. 

Switch gears, try something else. We have divided the cooking duties and each child takes a dinner where he/she plans, prepares the shopping list and cooks dinner with help from mom or dad. We were surprised that each of the kids has enjoyed doing this. They are suggesting menus and being more pro-active when it is their turn. 

One of the kids is filling her time with crafting projects, all of which were skills taught to me by my mother. Another child is finding joy working jigsaw puzzles. The quarantine time has given us this opportunity to rediscover lost arts and show us that endless time searching social media can satisfy us only so long. There is real living to be done, concrete physical projects to accomplish. 

Cleaning out the garage yesterday for my husband and me was a job cleaning out the toys and roller skates and sporting equipment, but it was more importantly a real, physical activity with a concrete visible reward at the end. Yes, I heard my Depression Era mother’s voice say in my head, “we might need that some day.” 

After eight kids playing a sport every season, you can’t keep everything. The trash pile did grow and now we can not only park both cars in the garage but we can enter and exit them from both sides of each. 

What are the items that we are going to get rid of from our lives? What were we spending time on before COVID-19 that we are going to cling to when we are given the choice again? What will we not? Having the kids actively help with meal preparations is absolutely going to continue in our house. Scheduling free time in the week is something we will strive for as well. 

I used to dread summer and the endless free time and lack of schedule. Quarantine time has taught me something about letting life happen and not trying to over-schedule our lives. 

Do I wish COVID-19 had happened when all eight of our kids still lived at home? I think not. We would have had lots more laughter and lots of hands to pitch in, but there would have been people everywhere. Much more squabbling going on. 

When the kids were younger and I would meet someone new, the questions were always, “Are they all yours?” Followed by, “Do you homeschool?” I would always say, “That is not where my gifts lie.” COVID-19 has proven that I was right all along. 

Ellen Gould and her husband, Dave are the owners of Main Street Media of Tennessee, publisher of 12 community newspapers, websites, social media pages and magazines. Their eight children — Patrick, Andrew, Nick, Sam, Sarah, Oliver, Annie and Maggie — range in age from 13 to 27.

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