I Don't Know How She Does It
SONDRA HEADRICK 35
Job Stay-at-home mother of sextuplets Danielle, Ethan, Grant, Jaycie, Melissa and Sean, 2, and Aubrianna, 6
The laundry alone—three loads a day—is almost a part-time job. Then there are the diapers: The Headricks of Rago, Kans., have gone through over 35,000 since the sextuplets were born April 6, 2002. Eldon earns $34,000 a year as a storm-drain cleaner for the city of Wichita. But they also have help: donated diapers from a diaper company and discounts on clothing from a local store. Habitat for Humanity is building them a house. Volunteers often step in to babysit while Sondra shuttles Aubrianna to kindergarten; if they don't, Sondra straps the sextuplets into six car seats in the family's van. The good news: The toddlers have started potty training.
Tricks of the trade: It's good to be organized. I keep charts for the babies; I color-code their bottles, their pacifiers, their sippy cups.
If I had a day to myself: I'd clean house all day.
Worst mommy moment: When all six babies, my husband and Aubrianna had the flu. All eight were vomiting at once.
What I learned from my mom: She always took time to spend with each of us alone. I try to do that. She loved each child for who they were.
Toughest kid question: Aubrianna asked me, "Why do we have to have six babies? I only wanted one sister." [Real answer: fertility drugs.] The best answer I can give her is that's what nature gave us.
Secret weapon: Caffeine!
What keeps me going: Sometimes I think to myself, Can I do this another day? And then I think of some of our friends who haven't even been able to have one child and I realize how fortunate I am.
Many titles, but the most important: Mom
PAMELA THOMAS-GRAHAM 40
Day job President and CEO of CNBC
Hobby Writing mystery novels
Mother to Gordon, 5, and 2-year-old twins Harrison and Lindsey
88% of moms say it's a hard job*
Sure, she owns a sprawling estate in Chappaqua, N.Y., and has a full-time nanny. She has a nurturing husband (lawyer Lawrence Otis Graham, 41), who packs lunches and changes diapers. But Thomas-Graham still sleeps only four hours a night and drinks way too much caffeine. She rises at 4 a.m., writes for a couple of hours, then gets the kids ready for the day until 7:30, when the nanny takes over through supper. Thomas-Graham is generally home by 8 p.m.; then it's bathing, laying out clothes, making lunches, wiping noses—in short, the Full Mommy.
What my mother taught me: That women need a good place in the world, as well as the family.
How I differ from my mother: I'm a much worse cook. But I take pride in my takeout-ordering skills.
What I love about being a mom: The way the kids sparkle when they find something that they really love.
What's toughest about being a mom: There are always things left undone. I used to be a type A, who wanted everything completed at the end of the day. It's been good for me to let go of that and accept a certain amount of spontaneity and clutter.
Tricks of the trade: We do as much as we can the night before: pack lunches, make sure breakfast is pretty much ready—we're big believers in fresh fruit.
Juggling motherhood with media mogul-hood: I try to limit the nights I'm not there, do work after the kids are in bed and keep weekends as family time.
If I had one whole day to myself: I'd fly to Paris, visit at least two museums, have a massage, a couple of very nice meals and come home to tuck the kids in. If only the Concorde were still flying.
A husband at war and a home to run
NICOLE SWANSON 33
Day job Sells cosmetics full-time for Mary Kay
Mother to Graham, 6, and Katie Lee, 2
34% of moms say they want more household help from their husbands*
Fifteen days before her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Swanson, was due to return from Iraq in April, Nicole Swanson was told his tour could be extended by up to six months. If he returns in October, the Swansons will have spent two of the last 2½ years apart. (Andrew, 36, was previously posted in Afghanistan.) Stationed at Fort Polk, La., with her family in another state, Swanson relies on a babysitter for help. It's tough explaining to Katie Lee why Daddy has a missed every one of her birthdays or teaching Graham to catch and hit I a ball by herself. But Swanson has few com-j plaints. "Sometimes you have to be strong," she says, "whether you want to or not."
What I miss sharing: Andrew misses the little things that you never get back—the way toddlers laugh with that whole-body laugh. He missed Graham's first day of school.
How I keep my sanity: I'm up by 5:30 in the morning and that gives me my quiet time to have at least a cup of coffee—my devotional time.
What I wish I had: Patience and the ability to listen to whining.
Most pathetic meal I've put on the table: Microwave popcorn. The kids love it. It's got protein and fiber. And if you've got buttered popcorn, you get a little bit of dairy!
If I had a day to myself: I would sleep and then take a bath alone with nobody knocking on the door. I would probably try to run errands. You try to go grocery shopping with two children and see how much fun that is.
Meanest thing another mom has said: A mom looked at Katie Lee and said, "You're not doing her any favors by letting her have that pacifier." I said, "I haven't seen a bride yet walk down the aisle with a pacifier. I think we've got time to work on it."
I felt terrible when I told my kid: Once when I had to scold Katie Lee, she started crying and said, "I want my daddy!" I said, "Get in line!"
Sisterhood is powerful
RACHAEL SHERIDAN 29
Day job Customer-service rep
Mother to Chloe, 11, and Caleb, 10
ELISABETH SHERIDAN 27
Day job Supervisor for Sprint PCS
Mother to Ezekial, 1
HANNAH SHERIDAN 24
Day job Townhouse-complex manager and business school undergrad
Mother to Khia, 2
15% Increase in the number of stay-at-home moms since 1994. Stay-at home dads were up 38%**
If it indeed takes a village to raise a child, then the Sheridan sisters could write a parenting manual. Single working moms with four kids among them, they rent neighboring townhouses in Lawrence, Kans. The sisters eat dinner together five nights a week and take group vacations. And they all help run the Red Dresser gallery, where they exhibit local artists and sell their own wares—painted furniture, pillows and purses. The rest of the family—parents, grandparents and a fourth sister, Rebekah, 26—help out with babysitting.
Hannah on sisterhood: I see us as the four pillars. If one of us was gone, the house would fall down.
What Elisabeth loves about being a mom: Ezekial has reintroduced life into my life. I get to see things all over again—things I'd forgotten about, like wind blowing on leaves.
Rachael's most embarrassing mom moment: Once we were at a restaurant and Chloe was really little, and she kept yelling, "No, Mommy, please don't flush me down the toilet!"
Rachael's second most embarrassing moment: We were in line at the courthouse [to get a driver's license] and the kids started calling me Jiggly Butt. The whole line was watching.
Hannah's biggest fear: If I ever lost Khia, I don't think I could go on.
Hannah on the downside of all this family togetherness: When we're mad at each other, we have to look out the back door and see each other. Sometimes you wish you could have your own privacy. But someone's showing up at someone's house every day.
What Rachael has proven wrong: I was pregnant when I was 17. People said, "Your life is over. You're a loser."
Elisabeth's best mommy moment: When Ezekial told me he loved me for the first time.
Three generations under one roof
MARITZA MERCEDES VASQUEZ 44
Job Apartment-building manager
Mother to Glennys, 23, Cynthia, 20, and Edwin, 22
Grandmother to Glennys's sons Frank, 6, and Edwin, 5
64% Mothers who say they are satisfied with their sex life*
The mothering never ends for Vasquez. When the first of her two young grandsons was born, she was so young—just 37—that she didn't want to be called Grandmother. Instead the boys have always called her Mama, which, with her youthful looks, strangers often assume she is. In many ways Vasquez, a native of the Dominican Republic, does play mom to the boys, who live with Glennys in a bedroom of the Miami Beach apartment Vasquez and her husband, Tony, 45, get as a perk for their jobs. (Tony handles building maintenance; combined, the couple earn $42,000.) Vasquez puts dinner on the table, helps plan their birthday parties, dispenses Band-aids and sympathy and doles out discipline while the single Glennys is at her job as a medical receptionist.
Maritza on how mothering is different the second time around: When I was younger, I could keep up! Also, the world was safer then. I look at the news now and oh my God. Even mothers are murdering their own children. If I go to the mall, I really hold their hands and make sure they're really close to me.
Glennys on what bothers her about sharing mommy duties: If I put them in time out, Mom'll go into the room and bring them out.
Maritza's response: She says I baby them too much. But I tell her, "I used to baby you when you were a little girl. Let me baby them."
Maritza on her full house: We can all advise each other. We take turns taking them to school and picking them up. We share our lives and love together.
Maritza on accepting her lot: I don't resent them. I do miss my peace and quiet. But if they were to go now, I would miss them. I'd be calling for Glennys to bring the kids over. So I don't push them out.
If money weren't a factor, what would Maritza do differently? Travel the world. I would go to Europe, Mexico.... I would not work. I'd have time to go to the gym, go for a massage, go shopping. That's what rich people do.
Written by Thomas Fields-Meyer and Richard Jerome. Reported by Pam Grout, Sharon Harvey Rosenberg, Mark Lambert, Anne Lang and Michelle York
*SOURCE: CLUBMOM, A NEW MEMBERSHIP ORGANIZATION FOR MOTHERS
**SOURCE: 2000 U.S. CENSUS