Anna Long is a homeschooling mom, graduate student, and online ESL teacher. She and her husband, Kevin, will celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary in June. They have eight children, John (20), Ellie (18), Alex (16), Emmie (14), JamieKate (11), Lottie (8), Finn (6), and Corrie (6), and are expecting a baby girl in July.
WP: You have four biological children, plus four adopted children, with another baby soon to be here. Have you always wanted a big family?
AL: I am an only child, and so are both of my parents! And funny enough, I wasn’t sure growing up if I would ever have children. But, it’s really neat how God works, leads, and can completely change your life into something that you could never imagine for yourself! Nine children later, I couldn’t picture life any other way.
WP: The adoption process is not an easy one. What led you and your husband to welcome these children into your family?
AL: When our youngest biological child (our fourth born) was three, we started looking into adoption. We knew we wanted to grow our family further, and looked into different options. We initially looked into sibling group adoption, but ultimately decided to become foster parents in the county we lived in while living in New York. Although we understood the goal of fostering was reunification with the birth family, we were wholeheartedly open to adoption. We have since adopted through foster care, embryo adoption, and international special needs adoption (in our case, China).
WP: One of your children, as well as the one on the way, are adopted embryos. Talk to me about what that means:
AL: When couples go through the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process to grow their families, they are given the opportunity to donate the embryos that they did not use for other couples to adopt. The embryos are 3 or 5 days past conception, and not related to the adoptive parents. They are adopted in a frozen state, thawed, and transferred to the adoptive mother’s womb, in hopes that the baby will implant, and continue to grow. I was blessed to carry our youngest daughter, Corrie, through this adoption process. And I am currently pregnant with our second “snowflake” baby, a little girl due in July! It has been a miraculous process that has taught us a lot about the value and fragility of human life.
WP: Your other adopted children came with their own unique challenges, two being from another country altogether, two having Down Syndrome, and another having gone through the foster system. How did your family make that transition work?
AL: I would not be truthful if I said that adoption is simple, painless, or without its trials. Transitioning was never easy. We made sure to do our own research and learn how best to acclimate the new children to our family upon arriving home. It’s a difficult thing to show a child that doesn’t know a family what a family IS. And this takes time!
WP: Any advice for couples who want to adopt?
There are so many different ways to adopt, and I implore you to look into them all before making a decision. Definitely do your research and keep an open mind. Make connections in the community with others that have walked those steps before you, and in doing so, you are creating a great support system.
Also, don’t let costs scare you away. There are so many different ways to adopt and the costs differ from situation to situation. There are many things that can be done to offset them, like fundraising or work benefits.
WP: What about for families looking to add to their current families through adoption?
AL: I would tell families the same thing that I would tell couples. Do your research and keep an open mind! And don’t set up false expectations. Adoption, although beautiful, can be very complicated!
WP: With such a large brood, finding the time for one-on-one connection with each of your children must be a job in itself! How do you stay on top of those important mother-child relationships?
AL: You’re right. It can be hard. And I admit that I’m not always the best with it! We spend a lot of time together as a family, but it can be hard to divide up your time like a pie and share the slices evenly. Doing ordinary things like running errands with older children or taking the littles outside to play or for a walk can help with connection. Something that would make them feel special.
WP: I can’t even imagine what your schedule(s) must look like. How do you stay organized?
AL: We keep things rather simple. We don’t overschedule ourselves, and we make sure for down time. We’re at a point in our homeschooling that most of the kids are quite independent with the exception of the kindergartners. Working one on one with them is necessary.
WP: Mom burnout is a thing we all experience from time to time. What does self-care look like for you?
AL: It took me a very long time to realize that mom burnout is a thing. Thankfully, I have some outlets to help with this. In the past 5 years, I have begun distance running. It is something that my husband and I can do together or I can do on my own. Not only is it good physically, but it has such mental benefits too. I also started classes for my masters degree, which adds another facet of busy, but provides another outlet of development. I also wake up early to teach English to children in China. This has been a great focus for me before the bustle of the day. The gamechangers for my husband and I were date nights! It wasn’t until our youngest was born that my husband and I started going on regular date nights. I can’t stress how important those are to reconnect with your spouse!
WP: What’s something your mother taught you that you’ve carried with you into adulthood?
AL: My mom created a cottage business and stayed home to raise me until it was time to go to kindergarten. I always admired that. I’m sure that influenced me in our decision to homeschool our children.
WP: What’s something you hope your children are learning from you, even if it’s not a direct lesson?
AL: As a person of faith, I always hope that I am living in a way that honors God. I hope I am exemplifying that in my everyday life. I have to constantly remind myself that I have little eyes (AND not so little!) watching, and I need to show them HOW to live, not just TELL them.
WP: If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
AL: Some of the hardest parts of parenting are found in those young years. But, it does get easier! I promise!
WP: Any words of wisdom for new moms/parents?
AL: Just soak it in. I feel as though I blinked, and my husband and I were married for 21 years! Enjoy it.