For mother of four Emily Maynard Johnson, parenthood has been a bit chaotic as of late — but she wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Posing for this week’s issue with husband Tyler Johnson, her 12-year-old daughter Ricki and the spouses’ sons Gatlin Avery, 6 weeks, Gibson Kyle, 15 months, and Jennings Tyler, 2, the former Bachelorette tells PEOPLE that a large brood was on her mind from the get-go.
“I’ve always wanted a lot of kids,” says Maynard Johnson, 31. “I made it clear on our first day, Listen, my clock’s ticking, and I’m ready to get on this!”
Parenthood hasn’t been a cake walk, though. While she reveals that she’s “excited for them to grow up together,” having her boys close in age means there’s a lot of rough and tumble play in the Johnson home.
“Occasionally I do think they’re going to kill each other,” admits Maynard Johnson. “The baby has taken a couple of play hammers to the head!”
Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Babies newsletter.
Luckily for the busy mama, she has found a way to relax a bit even among the chaos of a full house that includes three boys under 3. “I do hit my max,” admits the author of I Said Yes. “Sometimes I’ll go sit in my car and drink my coffee. I don’t want to see what kind of mess the kids are making inside!”
And though Maynard Johnson doesn’t have a nanny, she does lean on family — including Ricki, whose help her mother values so greatly but makes sure not to enlist too much.
“I just have to remind myself that she is not my nanny, she is still only 12,” says Maynard Johnson. “I don’t want her to look back on her childhood and be like, ‘I just had to babysit my brothers all the time.’ “
“But secretly, she really loves it,” adds the former reality star. “She is so protective over them, and so for her, it was a different story. But for Gibson and Jennings, I still really have to remind myself [Jennings is] only 2 — he is still very much a baby — and not expect too much from them.”
FROM PEN: Former Bachelorette Emily Maynard Johnson Says She Wants 2 More Kids to Up Her Total to 5
Maynard Johnson explains that she has figured out how to let life “be a little chaotic” now, 13 years after her boyfriend (and Ricki’s father) — racecar driver Ricky Hendrick — died in a plane crash just before she learned she was pregnant.
“I was so young when I had Ricki,” she says. “I loved being a mom to her, but I was in such a fog for a lot of it, from everything that had happened.”
And now? “I know how quickly it goes, and I want to remember everything,” shares Maynard Johnson, adding of her “wonderful” life, “I wouldn’t change any of this for the world.”
For more details about Emily Maynard Johnson’s beautiful family of six, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
- With JEN JUNEAU