Eleven and counting ….. supermom Joy CartyPOSTED: 05/10/12 3:51 PM
St. Maarten / By Torana Granston - With eleven children and another one expected at the end of the month, thirty eight year old Joy Carty considers herself a supermom, “the commander-in-chief” as she aptly put it. It is a full time job raising children, Carty said, and from her modest French Quarter home, she executes her daily tasks with clockwork efficiency. “My children were practically born into a structured environment where we have a timetable for everything. They are like soldiers but we have so much fun.”
When Carty’s name was first suggested as a candidate for our Mother’s Day profile, we wondered what she would be like. Would she be worn, tired, opportunistic or poverty stricken? However we were pleasantly surprised to find the 6 foot tall woman, fresh faced, full of life and fit. “If it wasn’t a blessing I wouldn’t have so many children. Sometimes it’s a bit disappointing because you see their behavior changing so rapidly but they are still your children. If you leave them up to the society they would be just lost.”
In these times, it’s difficult to imagine women making even five children. Some opt for planned parenting with three appearing to be the cut off point for many couples but not Carty. After the 12th child, she says “that’s it, I got my team already. My husband and I always said 12 would be the cutoff point. We did not find the gender for this baby because we want it to be a surprise but I was hoping that it would be a girl so that I can square it, six boys and six girls,” Carty says with infectious laughter.
On a daily basis Carty juggles the responsibilities of homemaker, wife to her husband who still suffers from a stroke he had six years ago, mother, local preacher for the Methodist church and school bus driver for Dutch and French students. As if that is not overwhelming enough, Carty still finds time to babysit other children at her home in the afternoon.
“Having eleven kids I know about rearing children. Some children are very disrespectful to their parents when you ask them to assist you. They would say thinks like mommy I hate you or throw a temper tantrum. But if they don’t help you, how are you going to pull through with so many things to be done. Really, being a mom and having a husband sick is hard. When he got the stroke, everybody started to say he will die. I became worried thinking if he died and left me with all these kids how would I make it? To rear children these days it’s real hard. But I can say thank God, if I didn’t have God I wouldn’t have anything.”
Carty is now the sole breadwinner, although her husband receives a disability allowance. She does not depend on the French social security system though, choosing to have her children born on the Dutch side of the island. The children were all born on the Dutch side of the island with the exception of the last two who are twins. “For medical reasons the twins are French but I am more comfortable with the Dutch educational system so the others were born Dutch. The French system because has too many vacations. If you don’t learn at least by age sixteen they put you out of school, but at least on the Dutch side you have a chance to progress even at a late age.”
From a previous marriage Carty made her first child, Lindell Phillips at age 16. He now lives in Holland, having studied successfully to become a chef. Then came Janna; her sixteen year old daughter who is studying accountancy in Holland. After a few years of marriage, the mother of two divorced and met Marcellin Carty. May 1, 2012 was celebrated as their eight wedding anniversary. From this union she spawned D’Angelo (13), Marc Anthony (12) Thomas (10), Jonathon (9), Samantha (8), Kanesha (6), Melanie (3) and twins Giles and Gisele (1)
“With my first husband, two kids were always going to be the limit. However, when I remarried, I said I would like to have a lot of kids because my grandmother has eighteen each, so I have 36 aunts and uncles in all. My mom had 10 children and now she has a foster home. I actually have two foster children as well but I said I still wanted to have my own children. I’m kind of happy to have my children because they are my fun. When they leave to attend some activity or I have some quiet time for myself, I start to miss them immediately. I feel so lost without the noise.”
Describing her childhood, Carty says that she grew up in St.Peters with Gerard Van Veen and his wife as her foster parents in a Catholic home. She attended the Martin Luther King School and only met her parents at age 16 while attending Milton Peters College. Although everyone thought that she would become a politician because of her boldness, Carty said that she always wanted a simple life. She then left for Holland to study accountancy but upon returning to the island she realized that she did not want to pursue this field for much longer. “When Hurricane Lewis hit in 1995, I retired and became a school bus driver because I wanted to become a stay at home mom. This helps me to spend more time with my children.”
Now with a brood of eleven and counting, Carty is unsure of what the future holds but plans to stick to her routine for as long as possible. “I wake up at four every morning to do my spiritual devotion. At five I wake the whole house up and it becomes a nightmare. Everybody is getting dressed, they say mommy where is my shoes, I can’t find my bag, I can’t find my homework or project.” This environment of controlled chaos only ends when Carty has dropped the children at the Hillside Christian schools for 7 am, picking up other students along the way. She then returns home to escort her husband to his daily therapy sessions, returns home to prepare lunch before heading out on the road again at 12:00 pm to begin picking up students. This goes until 2:00 pm on the Dutch side and then she returns to the French side to pick up children between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm. She returns home to prepare dinner before ushering the entire household to bed at 7:00 pm sharp nightly.
“The only time I get for myself is on Sundays after church. Apart from being a local preacher, I also teach Sunday school and function as choir director. When I am not doing that I visit sick or shut in members. That’s my Sabbath and I don’t do anything.”
Carty has been given the honor to preach to her congregation this Sunday; Mother’s Day. She plans to talk about how parents work along with their children to bring out the best behavior and hidden potential in them. “I would say that now is a hard time to rear children, because working with school children and my own children I realize that times are changing. I remember when my eldest son was growing up he was so quiet and calm but now you have to be so particular about how you speak to the children on the school bus. At any given moment a fight can break out just like that. If you’re going to have multiple children, it is best to be at home. If you leave the children by their grandparents or baby sitter, then you won’t really get to see them. When you come home from work, you’ll be so tired you will go to your bed. At least, when you are a stay at home mom you can help them with their homework and spend time with them.”
When we visited Carty’s home, we observed a very close knit family, where the children communicate well with each other. The atmosphere was one of love even amidst the boisterous shrieks at one of the toddlers especially when they saw something funny. It was clear that each of the children had already developed their own distinct personalities from leader to helper, to tomboy, warrior, model and mechanic. Carty said that it brings her great joy to be in the company of children and smooth pregnancies have also sweetened her. “By multiple pregnancies the process gets easier. When I get to the hospital I am so tired, I do not feel pain or perhaps my body does not react to it. You just want to get it over with. The doctors and nurses have become very familiar with me by now.”
Carty also beams with pride when she speaks of being stopped constantly on the road to respond to questions such as: are all of those children really yours? She is quick to admit though she sometimes gets mixed up calling their names. “So to solve the problem I call their names one after the other in the order that they were born for meals or to wake up. But I have no problem filling out forms that require family data, even to birthdates.”
And just in case you’re wondering we asked Carty about that infamous Home Alone scene. The whole household erupts into laughter. “Once we went out and forget one of them home because we had an extra child over and miscounted. When I realized that my daughter was left behind I began to panic. We found her at home fast asleep and we have never made that mistake again.”
Having such a large family means that Carty will have to economize and improvise to meet everyone’s needs. “I go to Prime, buy wholesale and cook every day. I do not encourage fast food we could never afford it anyway for a family as large as mine. We budget too and discuss the periods for buying everything. This morning I went to the shop to buy 11 shoes and the clerk got so tired of going and coming, he could not even remember all of the sizes. He became confused.”
It’s not all a walk in the proverbial park for Carty though; she does face challenges but ensures that they do not encroach on quality family time. “Every weekend, we go to a home where there is enough land space for the children to play. We take vacations as a family and also enjoy hiking and bike riding.” Bike riding appears to be a family favorite with persons often mistaking the family of thirteen to be part of a bike race since each one has their own bike in the streets and in parks. Attendance at church and concerts are also done regularly, but the Carty family is usually the first to arrive, while there are seats still available for them to sit together.
So if you should happen to see a big yellow bus with a family of thirteen going on fourteen, be sure to salute the driver Joy Carty, Today’s supermom.