Think about how much chaos your child causes. Now, multiply that by sixteen (and throw in a couple of grandchildren), and you can begin to imagine a day in the life of Jeni Bonell – Australia’s busiest mum.
Jeni and husband Ray have sixteen children. You read that right: sixteen. There’s Jesse (30), Brooke (28), her husband Jamie and their daughter Aurora (6mths), Claire (26) and her fiancé Daniel, Natalie (24) and her partner Sam, Karl (22), his wife Claire and their son Levi (7 ½ months), Sam (21), Cameron (19), Sabrina (18) and her boyfriend Chris, Tim (16), Brandon (15), Eve (13), Nate (12), Rachel (11), Eric (9), Damian (8) and Katelyn (5).
Excuse us while we catch our breath.
We chatted to Jeni to find out what her daily routine is like, how she spends her (admittedly limited) downtime, and what it felt like to go on their first family holiday.
What time does a typical day start for you, and what does your morning look like?
I’m up early, between 5 and 6am. I use that time before the kids get up for some prayer time and to hang the washing out. I get the kids up and everyone gets breakfast (beds have to be made before they can have breakfast), then everyone gets dressed ready for school or work. I do the school run, which normally takes an hour or more, then head home for a quick cuppa before getting into the day’s work: housework, bills and budgets, groceries, writing, etc.…
If you have 10 minutes to yourself, where do you go and what do you like to do?
I’m pretty busy just running this household, but whenever I get some time for myself , which I’m intentional about making, I like to write, journal, vlog (we have a YouTube channel), garden or just spend some quiet time on the verandah.
For the younger kids, what do you do for childcare?
I’m so lucky to be a SAHM (stay at home mum) so we don’t need childcare, and I’m blessed to be able to look after one of our grandbabies now as well since our daughter has gone back to work. My days are filled with lots of baby cuddles still, which I’m loving.
For the older kids, do they do any extracurricular activities?
We have eight kids playing touch football at the moment so that takes up a lot of time, and the older school-aged kids all have part-time jobs as well – that keeps everyone busy.
What do you do for fun as a family?
We like to have movie nights together or a picnic in the park. We go on small getaways occasionally, but recently we went on our first big holiday up to Port Douglas. We organised it all on Booking.com, which really took all the stress out of planning it. 21 family members went on the holiday which was awesome fun, and we can’t wait to do it again!
What is your favourite thing to do for date night, or to eat out with your kids?
When we eat out with the kids we tend to keep it simple – pizzas, burgers, etc. – but sometimes we treat ourselves to a nice meal in a restaurant. When hubby and I go out on a date, we like to do dinner or the movies or even just pop out for a quick milkshake together. It’s important to remember that you are still a ‘couple’, not just ‘mum and dad’.
Where do you head when you need a girls’ night out?
I am so blessed to have a wonderful group of girlfriends – they are the best friends ever. We like to catch up over cake and a cuppa as often as our family schedules allow.
What’s your must-know fashion or beauty tip for mums?
When it comes to fashion, a good pair of shoes and a pretty scarf can dress up any outfit. My beauty tip: drink plenty of water – it’s good for you, it keeps you healthy and your skin nice and fresh and hydrated. My older girls are always checking in on me and making sure I’m always drinking lots of water!
What’s your favourite place to shop?
My girls and I are all pretty fierce shoppers so anywhere to shop is a good place to shop, haha! But we also like to do some op shopping and second-hand shopping – we love a good bargain.
Must-have parenting tip or tool?
I have learnt that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect parent’. You just need to stay positive and do the best you can. No matter the problems of the day, big or small, tomorrow always brings a fresh start, so always try and find the joy in the moment.