Hi there! Do you remember me? Don’t worry, I won’t blame you if you don’t. I just discovered that my last post was almost a year ago, but life has been busy and I’m certain you’ve had plenty of good writers to keep you satisfied. You know what else? WordPress notified me that about a week ago was the 6 year anniversary of my blog. What was life even like 6 years ago?!? I didn’t have any children then and as it sits today, I have been the mother of three children 5 years and below for almost 10 weeks. Ten weeks… That doesn’t sound like that long, but it already feels like she’s been in our lives this entire time.
No, I’m not going to blather on and on about how adorable my baby girl is (that’s right people, this household has a girl!), how in love I am with her, or how amazing her big brothers are with her, though they are really the best. What I am going to blather on and on about is being a mother of three and what that really looks like. I’ve gotten a range of responses to the growth of our family from, “you’re so brave” to “you seem so good at this.” I have not had any negative feedback, all the comments are meant as encouragement, but the reality of our situation falls somewhere between bravery and mastery.
You see, at this very moment, at 9:30am, I am sitting at the kitchen table in my p.j.’s, drinking my second cup of coffee, unshowered, while my older kids eat nuts and watch a movie. The baby is asleep. If I were my “ideal self” (thank you, PSYCH 101), we’d all be ready for the day and outside looking at bugs, but as it stands, I slept until 8am because everyone stayed asleep for an alarmingly unusual amount of time today and I decided I would take extra sleep over being bathed today. Long story short, don’t come over, I’m gross.
What I described here is really no different than anyone who has a new baby these days. Makes a person really appreciate all those hard-working frontiers women who got up at the butt-crack of dawn to cook breakfast for their husbands who were headed out to wrastle bears and catch salmon with their bare hands. But we all need to cut ourselves some slack, this was before adult coloring books and DVRs, these women went to bed at a decent time. You know, after they washed all the diapers BY HAND. I have what I like to call “modern mother guilt.” How can I pat myself on the back for all of this when the crockpot cooked the dinner, I basically threw everything dirty into a machine that did all the cleaning, and I didn’t have to travel 30 miles on horseback to buy all the supplies at the nearest merchantile? I’m going to level with you, this is an actual thought that has crossed my mind, I’m quick to squash it because it is ludicrous, but it does beg the question, “why does everyone think parenting three kids is so tough when people used to parent enormous families with no electricity?”
Don’t worry, this isn’t false humility. Parenting three kids is tough, even with all the modern conveniences. I could even make the argument that the modern conveniences and trappings of life are exactly what makes it hard, but I’ll leave that for someone else to tackle. I do want to lay to rest the “bravery” idea, though. Sure, it does take courage to step out in faith whenever God calls you to some unknown path, but that is where it stops. We have got to stop looking at parenting as this terrifying task that gets more terrifying as you add children. Honestly, I think it gets less terrifying as you add children because you can finally stop worrying about all those Facebook articles that are telling you how bad you are screwing up your kids… there’s not time for that anymore. I am brave only in the fact that I had no idea how this would all turn out, but I knew that God was calling our family to more. There are no guarantees in childbirth or parenting, but I know that God has a perfect plan and I must be “strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:7)
Which leads me to the impression that I am a natural at this three-child parenting gig. I cannot even begin to express how those comments encourage me and help me continue to be strong and courageous, but I also don’t want there to be false impressions. There have been some days where literally everyone in the house was in tears. Excepting the hubs, but I’m sure he was crying on the inside. The adjustment to three was ROUGH, but I’ve heard from almost all the families I know with three or more that this was their most difficult transition, too. So it’s normal! I’m glad this transition only has to happen once. When you’ve got a highly-sensitive child, a threenager, and an infant, things are going to get dicey. I mean diarrhea in the bathtub, kid stuck in the cat tree, face-down stuck on the bunk bed ladder, dicey.
God has been at work on me, though. I’m learning to re-frame behaviors and attitudes, to let go of irrational fears, and to ease up on my perfectionism. Some days are worse than others, but I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being a mother as much as I do now. My husband might scratch his head at that because he gets to see me at my worst, bless his heart, but it is true. You can find your greatest joy in your greatest struggle. Despite days that end in feelings of desperation, there is growth and a chance to start new each day.
Something about parenting large(r) families that has not changed over time is the need for community. When people see me as calm, cool, and collected it is because I don’t ever have to feel alone. Yes, I have God, but he has also given me an enormous community to help in many different ways. First, I have a husband who is home every night. He does laundry, dishes, changes poopy drawers, holds the baby when she cries, builds Legos with the boys, and tries to do what Mom does even when the boys act as if he can’t possibly put socks on their feet in the same way. I can feel free to have my own meltdowns because I know he’s there to pick up the slack. We also have a VAST network of grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Not all of them are close enough to help immediately, but knowing they are excited to be part of the family is enough to keep one going on hard days. We have also been blessed with a church family and a number of friends that help keep us a-float, too. There is always someone to offer an encouraging word, commiserate, offer advice from their years of parenting, and even swing by the grocery store when all my kids seem to have the plague. I know I can walk into the houses of people I know or into our church and let my guard down. We all work together to care for our kids and it makes it easier and more enjoyable. Many hands make light work…or something to that effect.
It feels really wonderful to hear people say they think I’m an amazing mother, but much of what is seen is because of all of the supportive people in our lives. God planned my life, helped me learn the skills, and gave me the gift of community. Without it, I don’t know where we’d be. So the next time you think, “man, she has it together!” Take a minute to think about what you’ve done to help us…and then buy me a bottle of wine.