What’s the ‘best’ parenting style? Ask the mum of seven children
‘Each child is different, so I parent each child differently’
The Hogan Family at their home in Dublin – Jen and Paul Hogan with their seven children: Tobey (2), Chloe (14), Adam (11), Jamie (9), Noah (seven months), Luke (7) and Zach (5). Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
With seven children, Jen Hogan has plenty of opportunity to fine-tune her parenting style. But every child is an individual with different needs, so none is parented the same.
Some will challenge you more, while others will need more reassurance, she says of Chloe (14), Adam (11), Jamie (nine), Luke (seven), Zach (five), Tobey (two) and seven-month-old Noah.
“They don’t react to the same motivation - or the same threats,” she laughs. “Different things push different buttons.
“While I try to be as fair as I can to all of them, they need different things from me so I parent them differently – more through their personality than what number child they are.”
Jen was only 24 when she and her husband Paul were expecting their first baby. “I think youth meant I was quite chilled,” she recalls. “I didn’t really appreciate the level of responsibility, maybe. I never really worried about what could go wrong.”
However, the arrival of Chloe was “a hell of a shock” and those first months of parenthood were totally different to what Jen expected.
“She was one of my more difficult children,” she says of her only daughter, who had colic and cried a lot. It was perhaps more Chloe than Jen who established “attachment-style” parenting in the first year.
“She was very attached to me and didn’t like to go anywhere without me,” says Jen who, in turn, says she had underestimated how hard it would be for her to be apart from her baby.
“It was never deliberate attachment parenting,” she says, but she believes in responding to a baby’s needs. “I hate to hear the kids upset.” As for the co-sleeping, that was a pragmatic way for the three of them to get some sleep.
“When Adam came along he was a much more relaxed baby than Chloe. I parented him quite similarly to Chloe but he was so much easier.”
However, the arrival of Jamie, who was born with a kidney condition that compromised his immunity, leaving him prone to infections, brought a new set of challenges. He spent quite a lot of time in hospital, including a critical spell in intensive care when he was six months old.
“Everything you thought you were going to do had to go out the window – you had to do what was needed.”
It’s only as the family is getting bigger that she can appreciate now how small the three youngest are now.
“Maybe I don’t have quite the same expectations of them that I might have had for Chloe and Adam when they were five.”
Jen’s husband, Paul, works with AIB and Jen describes him as a “very much a hands-on dad”. She is on her seventh maternity leave from a part-time job in the civil service. They had different upbringings, she says, but they share similar values when it comes to parenting.
The children “would see Daddy as the softer touch – all children do because Daddy doesn’t have to be with them all day. But they know if they really want something to happen, they have to get Mam on side.
“I am more the rule maker because I am the one here,” she adds. “I am sure that would change if Paul was the one at home.”
At this stage Jen has a lot of faith in her own judgment as a parent, “whether that’s right or wrong. I feel I have a lot of experience in dealing with different scenarios, and as none of them is the same, seven totally different personalities.”
However, they seem to have one thing in common – their ability to inflict sleep deprivation on their parents. After seven attempts at having a baby who sleeps through the night, Jen jokes that anybody who says theirs does must be lying.
Jen Hogan writes a blog, mamatude7.blogspot.ie, or see Mama-tude on Facebook.