Matushka Elena Ovcharenko is a mother of eight and the wife of Archpriest Alexander, a priest of the Diocese of Zaporozhye.
“Live and keep your head up, don’t judge anyone, don’t annoy anyone, and respect everyone!”
Time for Yourself
You have to love yourself and try to treat yourself to the little delights you have. I find time to read books, take a walk in the countryside, have fun in a hairdresser’s chair and even do the necessary (and not so much) shopping. You also need some time to bolster feelings between spouses, relax together, just fool around, and daydream. This is very important. My husband rented a hotel room for the 20th anniversary of our marriage. We went to the theater, had a dinner in a restaurant, and then went to the hotel and just fell asleep.
Seven Daughters and One Son
Elena grew up in a small family and never thought she would have many children, but she dreamed of running a kindergarten. And now the Ovcharenko couple have eight heirs (by seniority): Elizabeth, Barbara, Praskovia, Luke, Aglaia, Euphrosyne, Maria, and Matrona. The eldest daughter Lisa is 19 years old, the youngest Matrona is only six months old.
The More Kids, the Easier?
After the birth of my first daughter Elizabeth, I approached my husband and said that I would never give birth again. It was so difficult: I was worn out by the painful childbirth and worrying for the baby. But then, looking at Lisa, I came to the conclusion that it would be easier to have a second child. The children would be able to occupy each other’s attention. This is the main paradox: the more children, the easier it is and the more time you have!
We always have dinner together, discuss some news, and share our impressions. Hugs and kisses during the day are a must. The family is also very much united by a collective home prayer! It may be brief but regular. The main holiday we have is the birthday of our family, i. e. the anniversary of our wedding. Plus three main holidays when children receive gifts: St. Nicholas Day, Christmas (they write letters in advance with wishes that we try to fulfill) and birthdays. On their namesake days, not only do the children receive Holy Communion and give alms, but they also make surprise gifts to each other.
“Will you come to us again?”
… They asked me this question every time I was out of the maternity hospital, which, by the way, had been consecrated by my husband. Frankly speaking, every time we thought it was the last time. However, every new child is always in the center of attention of the whole family; he or she is welcomed and loved. Now we are the biggest family in the diocese, though we have never set ourselves such a goal. God gives us a pregnancy, and we accept it. I am absolutely certain that if God gives you a child, then He also gives you strength, tenderness, and resources.
Where Do You Get The Power?
Naturally, there are moments of weakness. That’s why mothers need to get some sleep. A conversation with a loved one and a walk together helps a lot. Personally, I also need the sea! If I realize that I cannot keep up with the challenges of my daily life, I go to church and take communion. The Sacrament of Communion empowers me. I also read the books of St. Paisius the Hagiorite, a Greek saint.
The Weather in the House
There must be unity, love, and mutual understanding in the family. Of course, we have arguments, too. Children are very worried in those moments. In this case, it is important that they witness not only the conflict itself, but also the reconciliation of their parents. As for children, the rule is “The tattletale gets the first lashing”. This is how we taught them not to complain against each other. If it is necessary to apply particularly strict educational measures, we can deny them cartoons or put them in a corner. Spanking is used only in the most extreme cases and only for serious moral misconduct.
Supporting the Husband
I wouldn’t be such a mother if I didn’t have such a husband. Only a man can instill such a strong sense of security in a woman that she could deliver and raise so many children. The husband’s support is a key moment in marriage. We joke that I am a zero without him, he’s a one without me, and together we’re a 10!
We treat all people like friends from the get-go. “Have 100 friends, not 100 roubles” is a saying that fits us perfectly well. However, nowadays it is difficult to gather a big company at our place, because just making the meal for our own family means cooking for 10 people. Nevertheless, we regularly try to invite guests – it motivates us to clean the house (laughs). The washing machine, the dishwasher and the multicooker are my friends and domestic assistants.
How Do You Get Things Done?
There can be no universal advice here, because every mother has her own goals, tasks, and pace of life. You don’t have to compete against other people. It is impossible to catch up with everything. We have identified two main priorities: we divide all work into urgent and important tasks. We make plans and schedules in the evenings, and then hang them on the fridge. Honestly, I have to admit that we do not always manage to stick to them.
Father’s Example Is Better than Kindergarten
Despite the fact that our children have never attended kindergarten, they are well-socialized. They are active and demonstrate leadership qualities at school. They inherited the confidence of their father who is a public person. They all have different abilities; each of them is successful in his or her own way. They have many hobbies, which we try to support. We hire tutors to help our children with homework. If any of our children particularly craves for our attention, for example, when he or she is going through a difficult period, e. g., preparing for a competition or being sick, we make every effort to help them.
“We’re not perfect parents, and that’s very good. With ideal parents, children would have had a harder time. When they see our mistakes, it’s easier for them to tolerate their own shortcomings.”
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds