The last time I checked, stats for families were 2.5 kids per family. So we are like five times that. Especially if you count the dog, cat, chickens, bunny rabbits.
I remember long ago when I had my first kid. She was an angel. I remember thinking that I didn’t understand what all the “This is SO hard” hoopla was. “Um, this is so easy…I could do this again…and again….and again”. Then came #2. He had colic, a milk sensitivity and didn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. He didn’t follow “Babywise” no matter what I did….like… AT ALL. Oh, and my husband was deployed when he was 4 weeks old, so theres that. I had been the PERFECT parent (in case you were wondering) with #1. #2 made me feel like I knew nothing, about anything. A total failure. Even after we worked through all those issues and we made it past his first birthday, I had a yardsale and told everyone “WE ARE SO DONE”. I sold what I could of their old clothes, bedding and toys. Everything. I WAS SO DONE.
After a couple years, I decided I wanted to go down that crazy, messy road again. So along came #3 and then #4, fourteen months later. People thought we were nuts. It was actually hysterical how people’s reactions to my pregnancy announcements grew less and less enthusiastic. We had obviously crossed over into the “pyscho” category. And if we thought people who knew us thought we were crazy…well you should see the looks I (we) get when we go out together and have all four kids with us. I get a lot of comments, even to this day. My kids can be behaving perfectly, but I will still get strangers commenting on our number of kids. I used to get really offended, mostly because I don’t want my kids to feel like a bother, or an inconvenience to me, but Ive come up with a few responses that usually make people who, clearly are trying to be mean or share an unwanted opinion:
“OH no, these two aren’t mine, they are my sister wives”
“We decided we would stop when they got ugly, but by golly, they just keep getting cuter”
“Yea, I was really sheltered as a kid and so was my husband. We finally figured out what keeps causing this…”
“Yea, they are all mine. My husband and I have no self control” *wink*
On a serious note though, four kids is ALOT. 4 kids that are 6 and under is ALOT. I totally get why people react the way they do. We are a lot to handle. I hear very often from people that have 1/2 the number of kids we have that they understand. No, no you don’t. Im sorry if that hurts your feelings, but you don’t get it. It simple math. If you have two kids, multiply everything that happens in your day by 2. So if you are up 2 times at night with two kids….you are now up 4 times a night. If you make 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday and then clean up from lunch, multiply that by 2. If your two children get the flu. …just add two more beds to change, puke to clean up, The laundry. Oh the laundry. Being late EVERYWHERE. ALL THE TIME. If you thought that cleaning your house with 2 sets of hands is hard…I giggle. I just giggle.
Cause the thing is, moms of 2…..you can UNITE. You get each other. You understand the struggle of having two children who need your attention. You have ALL THE PLAYDATES. You have ALL THE LITTLE GYM CLASSES AND LIBRARY STORYTIME. When you get to four, there is so much chaos, you can’t even talk to your friend who you are having a “playdate” with, because you are too busy telling Tommy to stop picking his nose, Sally to sit in time out, giving a baby a bottle and making sure #3 isn’t hopping in someones car who “has free puppies”. Packing for a picnic?! It will only take you 40 minutes to make sandwiches, snacks, drinks, bandaid, hand sanitizer, waters and anything you MAY POSSIBLY NEED during said outing, for four kids and thats without interruptions. It is so much work to go anywhere, that I would really rather just stay home where I can send my kids to run around outside on our 5 acres. Thats much less stressful than trying to figure out how to take child #2 to the bathroom when we have just sat down to have lunch at chick-fila. Taking one extra child with to the bathroom? No big deal. Four?!: “Don’t touch that!” “Don’t sit down” “Ewwww, that is not a trashcan!” “No, don’t look in it!!!” “No, don’t touch that with your hands”, “Keep your hands out of your mouth!”, “Ummm, are you going to go potty, or did we come in here for fun?!”, “No, don’t pick that up!”, “Why did you bring your food in here?!” “DONT TOUCH ANYTHING!”, “Are you done?”, “Can we be done please?”
Do you get it? Cause see, I think theres a lot of mom-shaming out there and I get it if this came across condescending to anyone that has less than four kids. I, of anyone (who did life with two kids 14 months and under, alone for 7 months) get that its not all rainbows and giggles for Moms of less than 4. In fact, I think I was at top working order as a Mom of two. I think when you have two moms you are probably a better Mom than I am to my four. Honestly, Moms that aren’t out numbered are probably more likely to be PRESENT and AVAILABLE and can spread their love in a way that makes them feel like they are doing ok. Moms with more kids than hands, well, I am pretty sure we feel like we didn’t hug and love and read enough and do ANYTHING well enough! Mom’s of two, you have it together! You are my savior at the park when I forget my wipes. I wish I was you. Honestly, I do. I didn’t have four kids in order to be the “mother martyr,” but Momma of two…sweet Mama, you will be met with more understanding when you stop with trying to relate (cause really can’t right now) and admit that you have NO IDEA HOW WE DO IT. In all honesty, WE DONT KNOW HOW WE DO IT. But by the grace of God. Listen to our advice, our regrets, our mistakes. Cause Lord knows, I have plenty. Its not from being better than you or being more qualified than you, its that having more kids come with more experiences, more personalities, exposure to different medical issues and challenges. We’ve also googled IT ALL, looked on pinterest and asked all our girlfriends. We understand that being a new momma with no experience with handling a toddler and a baby at the same time is overwhelming, but we have also been there and done that. Whether you want to hear that or not. Its just the truth.
To the family and friends of families with more kids than hands: Be kind. Don’t judge. Be gracious. If we look overwhelmed, we probably are, even if we are smiling. If we seem tense at a party, its because we are waiting for someone to stick their finger in the cake or knock over the pasta salad…or pull down their pants in public because they didn’t know where the potty is. If we commit to doing something and realize that WE JUST CANT, be understanding. Or if we just keep saying “No, I can’t…sorry!” Its not that we don’t want to. Its that doing that thing will cost us more sanity and family harmony than is worth it. If our house is a mess, its because we took some time to sit down today. If we function differently than you in our style of parenting, its because we just cannot possibly do IT ALL for EVERYONE. If leaving a child(ren) strapped in the car while bringing in the groceries from the van stresses you out, I’m sorry, don’t come to my house after I have just STRUGGLED through a shopping experience with four children. If me leaving my child in their seat at dinner, while I get the other started on a bath, stresses you because “they might choke”, teach me to be in two places at once at dinner/bedtime and we can fix that. Because here in this house, there are four kids that need to eat and four kids that need baths each night and I just cannot be with every child at every minute. If you think I am a bad parent because I forgot one of my kids that is normally sleeping, is actually awake and crawling around in the house while I take the trash to the end of the driveway or check the chicken coop for eggs, or water the dying, wilting plants on the porch…I’m not a bad mom. I’m an overwhelmed mom. And Im not afraid to admit it. I just don’t need you to point it out. Any of it. We also don’t need you to step in. Unless we ask. And If we ask, don’t shame us for it. Its already a hit to our pride that we can’t do it all. Even if we wanted to. Also, we are always late. Even if we give you a half hour window “just to be safe”.
Living so close to my Mom and Dad has been quite an experience for them. When we lived away, I think they thought I had it all together. My house was always clean (because I worked like a slave to get it that way and I only had two kids at the time), the kids were well behaved (because they were on their best behavior) and we appeared to just have it all figured out. Living right across the driveway from them, they have seen our house a wreck more times than they would like to. They see me, nearly never dressed in “real clothes”. And they have seen our kids misbehave enough that I am embarrassed. A couple weeks ago, I asked my Dad to watch the kids for an hour and half before bed. Admittedly I wasn’t as prepared to leave as I should have been, but in my mind all he had to do was get them dressed for bed and make sure they ate. Lets just say when my husband and I got home, he looked exhausted, like he had just run a 5k or gone to war. He even had backup, when my Mom came up to bring him his dinner and stayed to help him out. Its not that the kids were or are bad. They stayed in bed, they ate their food, they got dressed and did what they were supposed to. They are actually really well behaved kids for the most part, outside of normal kid stuff. Its just that they are just kids and there is a lot of them. And it is just CHAOS for everyone, including Me and my husband who deal with it on a regular basis. Except we are dealing with it after being up all night with one who has a fever or an earache, or skipped their afternoon nap. We are exhausted and spent. And this is all with kids that are pretty well behaved and all on a schedule.
To those that have won the race (I say this, because I will NOT BE JOINING YOU!) with more than 4 kids. God. Bless. You. You are my hero. Also, how the heck were you able to get dressed today? Or on the internet to read this, where you laughed at me for saying 4 was hard…and compared it to your 6…or 7…or 8? 😉
To the mamas that are in the trenches with me… I hear it gets easier. But then I think about having four teenagers and my left arm starts to tingle soooooo…. #maytheforcebewithyou #wecandothis