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.
Great post! And great advice! I wrote this one on my blog a couple years ago & have had SO many people search it on google so I know there must be lots of mamas who need to hear it. Something about those early years of mama-hood is soooo crazy hard for all of us! But it gets better!!
Loved this post so much! Really spoke to this mamas heart! I still feel like I have no advice after having 4 kids but still being in the “trenches”. But, The Lord has given me a lot of wisdom and patience. The biggest lesson I’ve learned these past 7 years is “this too shall pass”. My life isn’t over if they don’t nap or throw a giant fit. Soon they will grow & mature and it’s a beautiful thing! I’ve learned a new perspective but it’s still very hard some days. The days are long but the years are short! It’s so true…..Gods got this! Love the printable! Thank you ;))
I read a comment you left on another blog one time that said you had someone come to your home and clean i think it was once a week. Do you no longer have someone come help you?
I did have someone help me when the twins were really little, but she hasn’t been working for us regularly for almost a year. I’ll call her every 3 months or so to get to some deep cleaning things that I haven’t, but we do all the everyday stuff.
The biggest mistake you can make as a young mama is to think you are going to have a life of your own until they are at an age to be self sufficient and to do as they are told. that takes a lot of work and training. devote yourself to the process. you are forming little minds and bodies to be the adults of the future. your time will come and believe me you ll it and then here come the grandbabiess and you can start over but without the weighty responsibility and all the joy. also please recognize that some just naturally have more energy. at 66 I can work circles around my daughter. don’t lose your joy and faith. just do your best
It’s funny, my youngest is 16 now. I have made it through 5(!) children and I have loads of time to travel and date my husband again BUT I miss those crazy days sometimes. I miss the messy house and the full agenda days just a little bit….. but I’m entering into a new season in my life and I feel extremely grateful for every little bit of it. So I will enjoy this time of my life and cross my fingers and toes that I will have the next generation to mess my house up again, throw tantrums in the store isles, and give me sloppy sticky kisses. Best part is that they will go home with their parents and I will get to sleep all. darn. night. Hallelujah!
Awww!!! Thank you!!! You really just made my day by answering me. You are right. God’s got this. I just need to do the next thing for today. Which right now happens to be wiping…. Never mind 😉 I seem to forget often that instead of focusing on the mess and the waves around me, I need to look up … At Jesus!
(And I was just having a conversation with my hubby about how I wish my mom would have trained me in doing things like laundry, etc. so it wouldn’t have taken me so long to figure that all out. And he commented that I should look to bless my children in that way.)
So. Onward , looking upward!!
Thank you again, lovely lady!
Thank you Abbie! I was feeling so overwhelmed this week, and your post helped me put everything in perspective. I ‘only’ have two (ages 6 and 2), but my husband’s abroad a lot (doing fun things like rock climbing, kayaking and other outdoor activities for a living ;-)) and it seems like nothing extra ever gets done around our house. I’m just going to keep doing the next thing, and it will be allright. Thanks for encouraging me! God’s got this, indeed! Oh, and I love love love your house, btw, your use of colours is so inspiring, as we live in a community where white-taupe-sand seems to be the colour code in decorating… 😉
Thank you! I have a 4 week old who is a terrible napper (and then I have the joys of an overtired baby on my hands). I am exhausted, and have visitors coming in a few hours and my house is a mess. But this helped me see the big picture, and look over at my daughter and remember to appreciate her just as she is today, because she will be different tomorrow. If you ever feel inclined, I’d LOVE to read a post on your experience sleep-training your kids.
I just love you Abbie! Thank you for opening your heart to us by being so real. You truly are such an inspiration & encourager in Christ Jesus! I love reading your blog & think you are a great writer. I don’t have children but so love your blog. Funny how God can minister to my weary,struggling heart nonetheless. Your children do seem wonderful! Your sister in Christ, Christy(from Fayetteville, AR)
Thanks! As momma’s we are always so concerned with being supermom and having it all together that we often don’t allow ourselves the grace that God freely offers.
Thank you so much for posting this! It really encouraged my weary mommy heart this morning! So blessed to know that I am not alone in all of this and that God’s got it covered!
I love hearing what God is doing inside of you and with you through the family He has given to you. 🙂
And I’m gonna go out on a limb here and brag on your kids with you – they are REALLY great kids! I love teaching the boys! They are teachable, but not boring. They are polite, but not perfect. They are sweet, but not “too sweet” haha; they are still boys. A joy to be around! 🙂
Oh, thank you SO much for that encouragement, Keri! I love that you see my kids how I do and enjoy them so much. You are the sweetest!
This was an inspiring post. I have four blonde haired, blue eyed boys (who were all born in less than 3 years of each other) – my oldest will be 5 in two days, my ‘middle’ child is 3.5 and has high functioning autism, and our youngests are identical twin boys who just turned 2 last week! I feel like everyday is one of those days when I’d love to give up, but I know these days will pass. They’ll grow up way too quickly and I will miss this.
I still think you are supermom, and I don’t know how you do it!