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Braunwyn Windham-Burke's family of nine just got a little bigger — for the time being.
The Real Housewives of Orange County's eldest child of seven, Bella, came home from college as the state of California began to shut down amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The 19-year-old decided to bring her boyfriend along with her after Braunwyn made it clear this was the only way she was going to see him until further notice.
"He basically came over 27 days ago when this was happening, and I said, 'Look, you have two choices. You can either go and not come back, or you have to move in.' So, he moved in 27 days ago," Braunwyn told The Daily Dish over the phone earlier this week. "He’s been great ‘cause he’s a karate instructor. So, he does karate classes for the kids."
Though it might be a little awkward for some parents to have their child and their significant other under one roof, things have been going just fine for Bella and her boyfriend, according to Braunwyn.
"I mean, Bella’s 19. She already moved out of the house. She has her own apartment, so, you know, for her to come home, she could’ve stayed. I wanted her home though. They’re being very respectful. All my kids are good kids," Braunwyn shared, adding that Bella's boyfriend is sleeping in the movie theater in their new home. "We don’t have a guest room, so it’s the only room we had to put him in. He’s in the movie theater, she’s in the room with her sister. They’re good kids. I didn’t really give them a lot of rules, but they’re both very respectful that we have a lot of kids here."
In addition to Bella's boyfriend's karate lessons, the bunch has been taking advantage of the movie theater and stage in their new 8,000-square foot home, putting on drag shows and plays, doing dance-offs, and singing showtunes and karaoke. They have also been doing a lot of arts and crafts and baking to pass the time.
Braunwyn said that one of the good things to come out of all of this is that she and her husband, Sean, have been able to spend so much more quality time with all of their seven children, which, in addition to Bella, includes youngest child Hazel, toddler Koa, twins Caden and Curren, and teens Jacob and Rowan.
"I mean, I hate to say that I like it because it’s such a devastating time for so many people, and I feel horrible for the circumstances, but in a very selfish way, I love having all of my family together without anything to do. There’s no pressure, there’s no events, you know?" she said. "We all lead very intense, crazy, scheduled lives, and it’s been really nice for us to just have this time together. I always say that we’re human doings instead of human beings, and it’s really nice to be a family right now."
Braunywn was happy to report that all of this togetherness has been conflict-free for the Windham-Burkes. "There’s a lot of room and everyone sort of is very respectful of personal space, even the little kids. We all call it bubble space. When someone says, 'I need bubble space,' we respect that. We’re very big into talking about what you need, too. So, if someone’s like, 'Look, I’m anxious, I’m stressed,' we respect that," Braunwyn said. "I’m lucky that we travel a lot as a family, so we’ve gotten used to sort of being with each other and no one else, especially the older kids. We traveled a lot with them. My kids are really best friends. I’m really lucky, and my kids get along. It’s weird."
But then again, Braunwyn is a pro at keeping things in order for her big family. "My kids are all very mellow. When I tell them to do something, they just say, OK. They all chip in. Everyone has chores. It’s working well," she explained. "Now, I’ve put in the effort to run a tight ship from the beginning and, it's definitely paying off right now."
Part of maintaining the chaos for the family seems to have included not panicking amid the coronavirus outbreak. "We took it very seriously from the beginning," Braunwyn said, adding that she and her family went into self-quarantine about three or four days before the state of California put stay-at-home measures into place. "We started preparing, I would say, a few weeks beforehand because I come from a medical family. My family are doctors, and they were telling me to be prepared for two weeks of being at home. So, I made sure that we were stocked. We have a large family, so I wanted to make sure that the kids were gonna be OK."
Unfortunately, Braunwyn and Sean's intimacy has suffered, with the OC Housewife confirming they haven't had much alone time as of late, just walks together here and there. Sean has also continued to go into the office where he works by himself since sending all of his employees home about a month ago.
When Braunwyn isn't taking care of her family, she's been hard at work helping others with a charitable initiative she started with friends Dr. Jennifer Armstrong and community leader and travel writer Kim-Marie Evans called #WivesHelpingLives. After being inspired by a Bravo fan to assist with coronavirus relief efforts, Braunwyn decided to reach out to her friends, neighbors, fellow Bravolebs, fan sites, journalists, and more to organize help to get masks and face shields to healthcare workers.
One of those fellow Bravo stars Braunwyn has motivated to join her mission is Family Karma's Brian Benni, who Braunwyn said sold T-shirts to raise money for Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. "It just became this thing of, like, if you need help, I will give help," Braunwyn said. "Everyone can help in some way. Do what you can where you are with what you have. Sometimes, that’s just grocery shopping for an older person. I have personally been dropping off supplies [for] local people that I help through Instagram. Diapers, wipes, toilet paper. Little things make a difference, too."
Braunwyn told The Daily Dish that as of April 8, they had been able to raise $6,000 through donations and proceeds from doing Cameo videos. Since our interview, Braunwyn announced on Instagram that she and Sean would match any monetary donations they received before 10 p.m. PT on April 9 as they prepared to place an order for face shields.
Helping others has always been a way for Braunwyn to cope during stressful times like this. "I have dealt with anxiety my entire life, so this isn’t new for me. Like, this whole anxiety that everyone is dealing with, I’ve been preparing for this my whole life. This is kind of my normal," she said. "This is how I’ve always been. So, my way of dealing with anxiety is what can I do? What can I do that can help? Because if I just sit quietly with my thoughts, that’s a dangerous road to take. That’s just not who I am. So, for me, being able to wake up and do something for others has always been something that’s good for me."
Fortunately, Braunwyn said she hasn't been feeling any "more anxious than normal." "Between my large family and my underlying anxiety, I’m like, no, I got this. I know how to flourish in this environment," she shared. "I kind of joke about it ‘cause that’s my personality, but I really do think that, if you’re stressed or if you feel helpless, doing service is the best thing you can do. I know personally, whenever I’m going through something really hard, being in service to others is the best medicine for me."
Juggling so much at once as well as being prepared for anything to happen just comes with the territory of being the matriarch of a family of nine, after all. "I think having such a large family, I am very good at, one, multitasking and getting a lot of things done at once, but two, I’m always ready for when things don’t go right. So, you know, I’m used to disasters occurring all the time and figuring out how to make the best of it," Braunwyn said. "That is kind of my superpower because you have as many kids as we do and you travel as much as we do, there’s always something happening, and a lot of it’s not great. I’ve been preparing for this my whole life."
For the latest, most accurate information on coronavirus, go to the World Health Organization (WHO) website.
Photo: Braunwyn Windham-Burke/Instagram
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