Update: I whipped up this simple little printable for you guys just in case you need a visual reminder of this truth (just click the image, then right click, “save image as,” and print—up to an 8X10)
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine with five little boys in a row (I think the oldest is 6) looked me straight in the eyes and said: “Are there ever days when you just feel like you want to give up?”
My answer (while laughing) was a resounding: “YES!” I wasn’t laughing because I found her question funny. I was laughing because I was thinking, “Doesn’t everybody??”
And then she said: “Well, what do you do on those days?”
My answer? “The next thing. When I’m overwhelmed, I shove my extra to-do list out of my mind and do whatever needs to be done that doesn’t seem like too much work. Like laundry or dishes or putting the pillows back on the couch. That usually helps my perspective and gets me going on the next thing after that. If that doesn’t help, I take a nap if I can.”
And then this week, a young mama left this comment on a post:
“Please oh please, tell me your secret! How do you have time for travel and dinner parties and thrifting and decorating and have 5 kids?! I have 3, ages 4, 2 , and 7 months (my Ezra, btw ). I can’t seem to do anything besides cook, clean, and keep my kids alive.”
I thought about it for a bit, and this is what I came up with:
“Hi Leslie! Yay for Ezras!
You know, I was originally just going to be all self-deprecating and say, ‘I don’t have any secrets.’
But really, I have three very practical ones:
1) I have really nice family 30 minutes away. My mom is an angel, and keeps my older kids (sometimes all of them) one day each week for me.
2) I have worked with my kids a lot. I know that sounds like bragging, and I’m sure you work with yours too, but I honestly believe that one of my greatest strengths as a mama is my tenacity. I will keep hammering the same thing until my kids get it, even if it’s torture for me! Which means that, while my kids have lots of things that they still need work on, and I am by no means perfect in my consistency, they ARE pretty dang good at helping out with things like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, getting their own food, cleaning their rooms, etc. And we’re adding new tasks all the time as they get older.
So hang in there and keep fighting the good fight in teaching them how to be self-sufficient. It will pay off BIG time before you know it.
AND AND AND
3) Mine are older than yours. Seriously, the hardest mama-ing time of my life was when I only had two kids and they were both little bitty. Seriously. 5 is actually easier because my boys, while not old, are old enough to be extremely helpful, and, because of all the afore-mentioned training we’ve done, they are genuinely so.
You have three little bitties very close together, and it may just be that during this particularly season in your life, not much gets done other than the keeping alive and the cleaning and cooking (HEY! That’s a TON!).
Try not to be too hard on yourself and ask Jesus for help every second you think of it. You got this, Mama! “
Over the last three years of blogging, I’ve gotten a lot of emails with similarly themed questions, and it’s taken me a while to swallow this concept, but I’m realizing that, even with very small children still, I’m entering a different phase of Mamahood. I’ve made it through 5 rounds of sleep-training and nursing/feeding transitions. I’m a three time veteran of The Terrible Twos and potty-training. I’ve taught two children to read.
At almost 32, I’m hardly a “seasoned pro,” but I’m no longer the clueless 23-year-old I was with Ezra.
Color me surprised, but I might actually have some hope to offer to younger moms who are still deep in the trenches of that fumbly, what-in-the-world-have-I-gotten-myself-into place of motherhood that feels so profoundly terrifying and isolating (never mind that if you were to get a straight answer from a fellow mama of littles, she would know just how you feel, no matter how put together she appears on the outside).
So! For what it’s worth, young mamas, if you’re wondering whether I ever have those throw-in-the-towel kind of days, the answer is most definitely affirmative.
But I have fewer of them than I used to, praise Jesus. And I have the perspective of knowing that those peskily adorable little blessings will eventually sleep through the night. They won’t always prostrate themselves on the stickiest, nastiest aisle in Walmart, screeching until their throats are raw because they didn’t get their favorite cereal. The ability to share and play independently will slowly take the place of grunting and grabbing and SHE-TOOK-MY-TOY tantrums.
It won’t happen on its own, mind you. Oh no. It will take years off your life in perseverance and patience. You will grow so weary of hearing your own voice repeating phrases like: “Put your bowl in the sink. Say ‘thank you.’ CLOSE THE DOOR!!!” You will weep and question God’s judgment in ever making you a mother because surely no other woman in the history of ever has lost her cool 326 times in one hour.
But one day, after all that praying and crying and monotonous repetition, you will come down the stairs to discover your 6-year-old changing a toddler without being asked, the 8-year-old getting snacks ready for everyone just like he was asked, and the 3 1/2-year-old putting her shoes on (the wrong feet, of course) without melting down every time the straps don’t do what she wants.
The heavens will break open, and legions of angels will descend upon you singing the Hallelujah Chorus.
And then you’ll do something crazy like take your older boys with you to the grocery store while all the littles are sleeping, just because it sounds like fun.
And you know what? It will be!
So, don’t despair. Remember that children are proof that that whole, “God won’t give us more than we can handle” business is a load of crock. And that’s okay. Because the realization that we are insufficient drives us toward Him, which is always a good thing.
I ended my response to Leslie with, “You got this, Mama.” But that’s not quite true. Because the reality is:
“God’s got this, Mama!”
And that is infinitely better.