Mother of 8 calls parenting, “a totally selfless thing”
By Carrie A. Mizell
With eight children ranging from age 20 to just over a year old, Cindy Gray knows better than to make serious plans.
“Right before Todd and I got married we talked about having six children,” Gray said. “And we have 8!”
The couple’s oldest, Jordan, was born when Cindy was 21. She was a student at Florida State University studying elementary education at the time and clearly remembers having to sit on a pillow to take final exams just days after giving birth. The Grays’ youngest and last child, Zeke, was born via emergency c-section when Cindy was 40-years-old.
“People think that we are Mormons or Catholic, but we’re not,” Gray explained. “We have just left it up to God and adjusted with each child. When I am tired in the mornings, it’s God who gives me the strength to get up and out of bed.”
Married for 21 years this month, Todd and Cindy met in high school and married in college.
“Todd is the perfect complement to me, because nothing is very planned with me,” Cindy explained. “He is much more of a planner. He does more than a lot of husbands, I think. He will change diapers, wash dishes and grocery shop.”
When it comes to raising their family of eight children, two of whom are in college and now live in Gainesville, the Grays work as a team. For instance, Todd and Cindy recently had three children all playing ball at the same time. Todd went to one game. Cindy covered another and one of their older children went to the third ballgame to show support for their sibling.
“It means that I don’t make it to every ball game, but it works for us,” Gray explained. “I know our kids are very close to each other.”
The children have responsibilities and are expected to perform chores in and around the house from babysitting younger siblings, to helping with the grocery shopping. Every Gray has a role in making the home run smoothly.
“I couldn’t do it on my own,” Gray said. “If it wasn’t for Todd, I would have no time for myself. Because of him I am able to get a hot bath.”
With two children 3 and under, the couple cannot make time for a date night every week, but they do find ways to spend time together from exercising together to working outside in their yard. Sometimes Cindy simply goes with Todd when he has to run an errand, which amounts to quality time spent having adult conversation. The Grays know how important it is to spend time on their marriage.
“My advice for young mothers is to make your husband your #1 baby,” Gray said. “Because one day the children will all leave home... I strive to do this. It’s not always possible, but I try.”
When they first got married and had young children, Cindy recalls trying to keep her house immaculate, a practice that she said wore her out and her family out as well.
“I’ve learned to just be organized enough to function and let the rest go,” Gray said. “I focus on just living my life.”
As the mother, Cindy has to worry about keeping two massive refrigerators filled with food to feed her family, which does not include picky eaters.
“Nine times out of ten my kids will eat what we are eating because there is nothing else,” Gray explained. “If they don’t eat it, I leave it on the table and about 9:00 p.m. when they are getting hungry, I remind them their dinner is on the table and usually they go back and eat it.”
Although she’s humble and would never admit it, Cindy has changed more diapers than most pediatric nurses, especially during the years that she had three in diapers at one time. And she can drive a 12-passenger van without batting an eye, though the Grays sold their van in favor of a Suburban several years ago, not knowing they would be adding two more children to their family.
Though she has never stood before students and taught in a classroom, the mother of eight says she figures she uses her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in a round about way.
“It really doesn’t matter if you have one child or eight,” Gray said. “Being a mother is a totally selfless thing.”