Monday, October 23, 2017

Having a Lot of Kids is Hard, and It's Also Easy

When I had 4 kids and was pregnant with #5, I had one of those mornings. You know the kind.

The kind when the school bus is almost here but one kid is missing a shoe and the other chooses right now to realize they forgot to pack a lunch, so you're crazily rooting around under couches and throwing anything edible you can find in a paper bag while yelling at them about personal responsibility.

On that particular morning, the kids miraculously came up with a shoe and a lunch and sprinted out the door just in time to catch the school bus, but that was small consolation to me.

I felt like I was failing in every sense of the word. I couldn't get it together in the mornings, I was yelling at the kids, and I was pregnant. How in the world was I going to do this with a baby when I felt so inadequate already?

With tears welling up in my eyes, I picked up the phone and dialed my friend Ginger, who has 5 children, and choked out, "How do you do it with 5 kids?"

After a moment of silence she said, "I don't know. I wish I had something to tell you. You just do."

Looking back on it years later, and now that I have 6 children, I realize two things about that day.

One, I was overreacting. It was one bad morning. I'm not a horrible mother and the kids haven't gone on to become serial killers. I blame pregnancy hormones.

Two, even though my friend's answer made me feel worse at the time, it was probably the best thing she could've said.

What sort of answer was I expecting from her, anyway? You do things with 5 kids just like you do with 4 or 3 or 2 or 1. You just love them, and love finds a way.

If only I'd known earlier: having a big family is hard in some ways, but it's actually easier in others.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Like all rewarding things, raising children feels hard sometimes. And in some ways, having a big family is harder than a small family.

It's a challenge finding family outings that are both baby-friendly and teen-friendly. You have to juggle toddler naptimes with your older kids' needs to be carted all over town to every after-school activity ever invented. It's hard to stay up late driving your teenager home from a party and then be awake all night with a baby.

But in some ways, having your family get bigger is also easier.

It's easier because the older kids can hold babies and carry the heavy groceries. They pick up after themselves and offer to cook dinner. Not only can they get dressed by themselves, buckle their own seat belts, and brush their own teeth, sometimes they even help their younger siblings.

One summer day at the arboretum, my friend told me she couldn't believe how well her son (an only child) was staying with the group. "If it was just the two of us, I'd be chasing him all over the place," she said. I started paying attention and saw she was right: when everyone started walking, he looked around and saw that the bus was leaving, so he left, too. I never thought about it before, but things like that happen a lot. The little kids copy the big ones, and for the most part that's a good thing.

Looking back on my frantic phone call to my friend, I realize we have a tendency to assume each child makes things exponentially harder, but it doesn't exactly work like that. Having a big family is hard, but then again, it isn't.

If I could go back in time and have a heart-to-heart with pregnant, freaking-out me, here's what I would have said:

Take a deep breath and relax. You'll be fine.

You'll figure things out.

Love finds a way.

If you’re pregnant or planning on having a big family, you might panic and wonder how parents of large families do it when you already feel so overwhelmed. I know because that used to be me. I have six kids now, and if I could go back in time and give myself some encouragement, here’s what I’d say. #bigfamilies #largefamily #encouragement #parents #unremarkablefiles

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Jenny said...

Very well-written and very true. I tell people that having 6 kids is actually easier than having say 2 or 4. The older ones help out, you "know" more about what the heck you are doing, unimportant stuff doesn't phase you as much or at all, and you see more of the fruits of your labors. Each year it seems to get easier and easier. My world changed when my oldest could babysit. Now it's changed again since she can drive. In less than 2 years she will be off to college and things will change drastically again around our house. It is exciting to see them grow up.

Mom of 8 said...

There was only a span of 3 years where all the children were at home together before college started and leaving happened. 3 short wonderful years. They are all gone now. It is hard but over SO very fast. Please just hug and enjoy!

Peggy said...

When my youngest was born getting five ready for church on Sunday wa2d a challenge since my husband was already at church for other meetings(and church was at 8:00 am). The two oldest got ready and then they helped the next two to get dressed and then got all for of them breakfast ( Ok, they poured the cocoa puffs). I just had to take care of the baby and myself. Somehow we were all in the pew by 8:25. I never would have made out without Josh and Katie being so helpful and responsible be. In big family you learn responsibility young

The Lady Okie said...

I’ve thought about this a lot! We’d like to have more kids, but sometimes I’m like 2 is hard enough! then I remember that by the time we have another, R will be older and more able to help and tbe baby won’t BEa baby. Unless you’re thrust into parenthood with, say, sextuplets or something, I do think there are things that are definitely easier about having more kids than one might think!

Katy said...

You do just do it, whether it's your first fussy baby or a pack of kids. Love does find a way. :)

AnneMarie said...

I totally agree with this post! Last night, I was actually venting to my husband about how I get SO SAD when so many women I meet at random public places declare to me that they're definitely "done" by the age of 25 or 30, now that they have 1-3 kids. Because yes, maybe life seems overwhelming with 2 toddlers, but it does ease up a bit when you have more kids and the first two get older!

me said...

So true! Every stage is easy and hard. Life was much easier too organize when all the kids were small and had similar interest. Now, with activities and sports and college applications, it can be very hard. Yet, having older kids who brush their own teeth, do their own laundry, and drive and pick up groceries, it's awesome! (Can I say how much I love teenagers? really they're great! All families should have a couple!)
And on those hard days, you just do it and get through it. Maybe not elegantly, but things get done.

Jenny Evans said...

So well said.

Jenny Evans said...

It's a constant series of new developments, most of them good! I am not sad at all about each of them growing up, because it's so cool to watch. (I am, however, sad about ME not having babies and toddlers underfoot someday when everyone is grown. Thank goodness for grandkids.)

Jenny Evans said...

And I don't think that's a bad thing!

Jenny Evans said...

It does make me a little sad to think about when we no longer all live under the same roof anymore. I love our little tribe and seeing them all interact with each other every day! I will definitely enjoy every minute of it.

Jenny Evans said...

Yes, I think most people are thinking about having 6 toddlers running around when I say "I have 6 kids" but it's not like I'm buckling them all into their car seats every time we have to go somewhere!

Jenny Evans said...

I think you should never make permanent decisions under a temporary stressor. Like, if you ask a woman during labor if she wants to do this 4-5 more times (or even 1 more time), she'll say NOOOOOOO! But that's probably not the right moment to be making that decision. Unlike labor, the stress of baby and toddlerhood lasts a few years rather than a few hours, but it's still temporary.

Jenny Evans said...

It really was easier to organize back then. We just formed little assembly lines: brush everyone's teeth, put everyone's shoes on. All the toys were toys they all played with. None of that applies anymore.

But you're absolutely right, I love teenagers even more than I thought I would. It's so cool to see them becoming awesome little people right before your eyes! My 13-year-old and I have a book club together every few months and I love being able to introduce her to all my favorites, not just "kid" books that I only enjoy for the child's sake.

Brenda said...

Jenny, that's great to hear you still take time to read. I would love to know how and when? I have three, ages 6, 5, and 2, and I can't keep up with my life as it is. It takes me many months to get through one book.