Okay, so it’s only taken me, um, well, I’d rather not count how long, to finally get a post together answering some of the (really great!) questions y’all asked about motherhood, but let me just put a big ol’ disclaimer out there: despite being a mother to almost-7, I am NOT a mothering expert. I know what works for our family. I know lots of things that don’t work. And I know what the Bible says. That, plus a lot of prayer and a really wise, supportive husband, is how I get it done each and every day.
I think most of you were already aware of all of these caveats, since your questions are about how we do our thing. But I just wanted to reiterate it, just in case someone who isn’t as familiar with this blog comes along and thinks that I’m trying to lay down some sort of motherhood law for the whole land. Do I think some things are universal? Sure. But every single mama + kid combo is different (whether you have 1 or 13), and I would be a fool to think I have “it all” figured out. (I don’t).
Okay, moving on.
I don’t think there’s any way that I can get through all of your questions in one post, so I’ll be splitting them up into at least two, but I thought I’d tackle a handful in no particular order this morning as I sit at my “grading table” at our home school co-op, having already blazed through a stack of grammar workbooks (I’ll share more about this new part of our routine sometime soon).
All right, here we goooooo…
How do you handle bedtime with that many? I have one, and it’s a nightmare.
Honestly, although I will freely admit that some of my most challenging mothering days were when I “only” had two kids, and they were both very small (they are 18 months and 3 days apart, so my days were filled with a whole lot of bottom wiping and tantrum subduing with very little conversation beyond grunts and baby babble), I don’t remember really having a bedtime battle until Della hit age 2. Before that, she was the easiest kid in the world to get to bed, and the boys were good too. Part of that is due to sleep-training from an early age. Part of that is due to natural temperament. Part of that is due to the fact that we’re pretty consistent with our bedtime rituals, so they knew what to expect.
But, at age 2, Della suddenly decided she was afraid of the dark, and thus began a cycle of bedtime meltdowns and middle-of-the-night wake-ups. They really didn’t end completely (and were dealt with with lots of prayer, midnight counseling sessions, and various rotating methods of calming her down) until we moved the twins into her room (and even then, there were some hiccups), but she did eventually work through a great deal of her fearfulness and can now sleep in the dark and go to bed without complaint.
I give you that long, convoluted history to encourage you that, if you’re still in the stage of only small ones going to bed, you may have some training to do yet, and that’s okay. Just hang in there!
At this point, though, Theo goes to bed around 7:30-8 without (much) complaint in his crib in the dark in the nursery.
And all of the “older” kids know that when we tell them to do their bedtime routines (usually around 8), they are to: potty, put on p.j.s, and brush and floss their teeth. The olders help the youngers, and while it can be a bit of a chaotic process some nights (depending on the twins’ level of orneriness), it gets done. Shaun then reads them a Bible story and prays with them. I bring them their water and give them hugs and kisses. And then we turn out the lights, and they go to bed. If they talk quietly for a little while, that’s fine. If they are loud and rowdy, they get disciplined.
Honestly, I think the absolute most important thing is consistency and routine (almost always, but especially with things like bedtime). Because they know what to expect, they don’t complain *too* much (except, of course, if, heaven forbid, we ever skip our nightly sip of water or any other such atrocity).
I spend all day giving and giving of myself until I feel like there’s nothing left. What do you do to recharge and reclaim at least a little bit of your own identity?
Okay, so first of all, the absolute, complete, and total truth is that my identity is in Christ, and my life is not my own. HOWEVER, I know exactly what this mama means, and my answer is very simple, albeit two-fold:
1) I write this blog. Yes, it takes time and effort, but it also allows me to “talk” to all kinds of women that I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. It helps me to know I am being a blessing (I hope) to others–that I have a ministry outside of my primary one, which is, of course, my family. AND it helps me exorcise a few of my writing “demons.” Because I think my life would be the poorer if I didn’t writing anything.
2) I teach fitness classes. I get so many questions about how I make time for exercise with so many kids and homeschooling, but the fact of the matter is that my gym has childcare, and I get paid to exercise, so it’s a total no-brainer for me. We go every afternoon M-F, and it’s kind of my happy place. As well as another opportunity for ministry (and social engagement for my children). Yes, sometimes, it’s stressful to keep up with prepping for my classes and hauling the kids to the gym, but I always feel better/refreshed/energized afterwards…even when I’m pregnant and dragging my tired body along. I honestly think that a gym membership with childcare is pretty much the golden ticket of paradise (only a slight exaggeration). Even if you don’t like to do hardcore stuff like I do, you can take a stroll around the track with a good book in your ears or a dip in the whirlpool tub.
No matter how much I advocate for selflessness in motherhood, we all need a little something to recharge and bring a little joy (outside of our children) into our lives.
At what point do you feel comfortable leaving your child/baby with others? And maybe too personal but do you use a breast pump? If so, do you have any suggestions or recommendations?
My gym accepts babies at 12 weeks, so that’s when they start going there. Before that, they’re pretty much always with me or, possibly, a trusted relative. That’s about the same time I would leave them with the church childcare or anywhere else I feel comfortable. As far as breast pumps, I have used them a fair bit, but I am SO low-tech. I have only ever had any luck with an Avent hand pump (I’ve never even tried the electric kinds).
I am just wondering how you wrap your mind around motherhood- this is vague- but I mean, with each child I feel like it’s been a huge adjustment for me and it takes me awhile to figure out where I am as an individual when all the dust settles of a new little blessing. I guess identity and goals and such. I am a believer and I know that my identity comes from Christ first of all. Maybe I am not making sense- but basically how do you wrap your mind around another life you are in charge of?
So, this kind of touches on that earlier question about recharging and identity, but–honestly–the best thing I can do to prepare for each new baby is to do the practical/concrete things and then trust that baby to the Lord. And pray for him every day. I don’t have a lot of rituals. I don’t even think too deeply about it. That may sound cavalier. But I have found, consistently, that if I think too much about the reality of another baby, I start to worry. What if they don’t sleep well? What if they have colic? What if the current “baby” doesn’t adjust well or is jealous? NONE of those are things I have any control of whatsoever, and the more I own that and “with all prayer and petition, present my requests to the Lord” and let his “peace that passes all understanding” fill me, the less I stress. Then, I’m prepared with some level of composure to deal with whatever challenges the new baby does present. I’m by no means perfect at this, but I’m getting better.
Okay, folks. Is anybody still awake? Hopefully, that was more helpful that snooze-worthy. I’ll be back with the rest of the “answers” soon (I’ve already written them, but this post is already out-of-control long).
Hope you have a lovely Monday!