Life with Littles

I’ve often been asked how I got through each day back when we had lots of little ones and no older children to help out.  I have written about those bygone years before, but it’s been a long time and there’s no harm in revisiting old subjects is there?

The easy answer is that I got through the days one at a time. Anyone can run a house with 6 little ones for a day, right?  Just one day?  All it takes is 3 meals (2 if you cheat or run so late that breakfast turns into brunch), a load of laundry (better make it whites!), a few baths (or send them out to play in the hose; who will know the difference?), and straighten the house after they’re in bed.  Somewhere along the line, squeeze in a few minutes each of Bible reading and reading lessons.  It’s not ideal and it won’t work that way forever, but you can do this.  Some days you can do a little more, and some days your 4yo will tell you she was out of undies 2 days ago.

Don’t fret about the fact that you have to do it all again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

God doesn’t give us the grace, or the energy, or the patience we need for the whole upcoming year all in one dose. He measures it out for us day by day, like the manna He gave the Israelites in the wilderness.  Planning ahead is good in general, but when the Israelites tried against God’s command to gather enough manna for the following day they found it rotted.  Don’t worry about tomorrow.  Do your best today.  God’s way keeps you coming back to Him.  If you start feeling like you can do this all on your own, things are about to go downhill.

I said that was the easy answer, but it’s not the only answer.

Things went better if I worked hard and made good use of my time. I had more energy back then and got by on less sleep than I do now.  We sometimes made cookies instead of doing laundry, but more often it was the other way around.  I once made a full round of fancy Easter dresses, working late into the night.  Never again, but some of those dresses are still in circulation.  Those days were often a blur, and I have mercifully forgotten much of the hurry and bustle and exhaustion.  I have also forgotten many of the good times, but that’s ok.  I have living and visible reminders all around me, and they remember.

Things went better if I reminded myself that this was only a season in life. Sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but remember those busy days won’t last as long as they feel.  In a year or two, you won’t have the same crew of Littles you have now plus a new baby.  Your whole crew will be a year or two older.  They will all move up a step, and the baby will have a new name and face.  In effect, you’ll have a new oldest child, not a new baby.  This realization was an epiphany for me when I felt like I was at the end of my rope with 4, 4yo and under.

Things went better if Perry and I stayed on the same page, and on good terms. We had times when our relationship wasn’t the best, and I’ll readily confess that these times were hard not just as a wife but as a mother.  There is a trickle-down effect, and parents need to realize that their relationship with each other and with God deeply affects their children.  I was and am a Christian first, then a wife, then a mother.  I am His, then his, then theirs.  I do the children no favors when I allow my priorities to become skewed.

Things went better if I was consistent in the children’s training. It’s so much easier to mother a child who obeys commands the first time than one who tests every boundary, every time.  I know every child is different, but a challenging child is not an excuse for ineffective parenting.  It only means we must – must – work harder at parenting effectively.  Invest time early, and your days will go much more smoothly.  That’s the blessing of consistent rules and discipline: if the boundaries are clear and firm, your children will learn that it’s fruitless to test them.  There is no need for 2’s to be terrible.

Things went better if I got sleep. This is more easily said than done, but sometimes we fool ourselves.  I tell myself that I need to wind down after the kids are in bed, but before I know it, it’s 1 AM.  It’s so easy to vegetate in front of the TV after a long day of chasing toddlers and putting out fires, but even now I know that my day will go better if I don’t allow myself that free time in the evening.  Go to bed!  Yes, you might need to wind down, but 40 minutes of winding down in bed is better than 3 hours of winding down in front of the TV or the computer.

Things went better when I thought of “me time” as a gift, not a right. If I didn’t feel entitled to “me time,” it was a sweet gift when it came.  Grocery shopping alone in the evening, volunteering to mow a lawn for a summertime customer while Perry stayed home with the kids, a late-night in-house movie with my sweetheart: these were welcome times, but if they were few and far between that was ok.  In the high-power career of Motherhood, you are a highly valuable asset to the corporation.  The hours are long and replacements are rare, expensive and poorly trained.  You knew that when you signed up for the job, right?

Things went better if my attitude was good. And now we’ve come full circle.  It was easy to stress about tomorrow, and worry that because we didn’t do reading lessons or Bible today our children were doomed to grow up ignorant heathens.  But all that was really required was to repent if I was squandering time or making poor choices about priorities, then try to do better in the morning.

Comments

  1. “Yes, you might need to wind down, but 40 minutes of winding down in bed is better than 3 hours of winding down in front of the TV or the computer.”

    I feel like your hand just reached throuch the computer screen and shook me. I needed to hear that. Thank you.

  2. I have 3 little boys. Twenty-one mth old twins & a 4 week old baby. I was doing pretty well w the twins but now that I’m not getting any sleep, it’s kind of a struggle. I’m so blessed though-My husband and I struggled w infertility and weren’t able to have children for the first 7yrs of our marriage. I’ll give up sleep for the joys of being a mommy any day :)

  3. Melissa M. says:

    Great post! I tend to worry about these type of things, even though I’m not even married yet (Lord willing some day)!

  4. Thanks for these posts! It’s so good to hear it again, even though I’ve heard it before. I especially liked the manna reference. My fourth is due any day and my first is 5 1/2. My three-year-old and I made cookies today and she was actually helpful when she rolled them all in sugar all by herself while I scooped them out! Little things like that bring great joy! And those are the sort of things I try to remember.

  5. This is a great post, thank you!

  6. Allison says:

    Thank you so much for this encouraging post!

  7. Thank you, Kim!

  8. We currently have a 12 week old, 16 month old and our oldest will be 3 in October. Some days I’m able to relax in the chaos and savor the moments, knowing that it will never be the same kind of crazy hereafter, but some days I find myself rewashing the same laundry that never got moved from the wash (even though I rewashed it the day before, too…) and crying in the bathroom (while everyone else cries outside the bathroom door.)

    So, thank you for this post! I was really encouraged by the second point likening grace, energy and patience to manna! It’s so easy to get discouraged when you don’t think of it that way!

  9. Thanks for the encouragement, but mostly for your example that it IS possible! We also have 4 under 4 yo currently and for me it seems to all hinge on sleep… except I am still up with our 6 mo old several times a night due to some of his health issues :( And of course if he is able to do a longer stretch on a particular night one of the older 3 without fail has a rough night. It has been 8 mo since I have slept longer than 2.5 hrs in one stretch. So YES your encouragement is greatly appreciated! Living by His strength!

  10. “It was easy to stress about tomorrow, and worry that because we didn’t do reading lessons or Bible today our children were doomed to grow up ignorant heathens.”

    …Especially when you don’t know what you’re doing to begin with!! 16 years later, I can heartily agree with the rest of the sentiment.

    Those early years all but undid me. But I suppose that’s what they are there for: to remind me God is God and I am not…

  11. Oooh, always need this reminder. Especially as I prepare to have 7 littles under the age of 9 by this winter! I can do this!

  12. Amy Matthews says:

    Thanks for this post. I have gone searching for encouragment and methods to get through or just to see how other mothers did what I am doing now. I never tire of reading them and the encouragment is always needed.

    I currently have children 6,5,3,1, and I am 40 weeks preggo with our newest bundle of joy.

    The days get hard and I have to constantly step back and look at my blessings and realize that’s just what they are. They aren’t my children, they are God’s and I am to be the best steward with these little ones as I can be, loving and teaching them in a way that God would smile at. It keeps me in check.

    I go to the grocery store and people talk, smile, snarl or stare. They comment on my apparent patience and I chuckle. Just because I have so many small children doesn’t mean I am the most patience or saintly women in the world it just means I have to pray more and try harder! I pray for God to give me that patience everyday and with out Him I would be a wreck and in the days when I neglect my time with Him I AM a wreck!

    My 5 & 6 year olds are already a HUGE help and the 3 year old is learning, I just take one step of the day at a time & remind myself not to get ahead. Sometimes I long for the days when my littles are bigger and can help even more or do more for themselves but I am often reminded not to rush them through these little days, as they do go by so quickly and I will never get them back!

  13. Heather says:

    This totally relates to me. I have three kids between 1 and 5. They keep me going all day long.

  14. Thank you! I’m starting over, with a baby and a 9 and 7yo. Tonight he took a long time to wind down, and one starts thinking that one cannot continue this! Plus he’s still spitting up a lot at 9 mo. . . One day at a time. And I try to remember how fast the baby days go by.

  15. I’m here! I stopped by, and I’m so glad I did. As a mom of a 28m old and a 4m old, I’m still new to the game. As someone who never thought I wanted children, I’m blessed beyond words and so thankful that God changed my heart on the matter:) My heart tells me I want a few more and that I want to adopt another with special needs like my oldest, but my mind tells me (or maybe it’s the evil one) that I have my hands full with just 2! I’ve really be struggling with that this week especially. Thank you for your advice and encouragement, it was so needed!

  16. Oh, this is so refreshing! My life is all “littles”, but they’re growing so fast, and I know that it really is a short season. I really appreciate your wise advice.

    And now, I really must go to bed! ;)

  17. “our children were doomed to grow up ignorant heathens.” All of this post was encouraging, but this quote stood out to me…you forgot to add, “with rotten teeth,” as sometimes it seems that basic personal hygeine is forgotten in the midst of craziness! Thanks for this post. It reminds me that others struggle through these things too.

  18. Good Morning Kim!

    Its been awhile since I’ve commented but I read you all the time for encouragement. What a beautiful post! Absolutely loved it!! I’ll be re-reading it again today and in the future.

    We have 7, aged (almost) 13 down to 1. I’m struggling with a feeling of “been here’ done this” because my children are broken up into 2 grooups… the olders are 13, 11, 9 and the youngers are 6,5,3, & 1. Its like I’m going through all these challenges of parenting several little ones all over again. Sure, the big ones help, but they also bring challenges of their own! haha

    But, I love your suggestions…..even seasoned moms need the reminders! Bless you sister, Whitney

  19. I do believe I’ll take your challenge and leave a comment so you’ll know I was here! I followed my friend Janie on over to your blog and have found it to be delightful. I would spend more time looking at it tonight, but with an action packed day tomorrow with our 10 kids, I do believe I’ll take your advice: and go to bed!

    • Welcome, Meredith, and thanks for the taking the time to introduce yourself. I’m glad you enjoyed our blog and hope you have a wonderful day with your children!
      Come back soon. :)

  20. This article should be required reading in every high school sex ed class! I know a lot of mothers love this sort of lifestyle, but for those who don’t (or aren’t ready for it just yet) this is great motivation to use some protection!

    On a different note, I find it helpful to think of priorities as belonging to God first, and then myself second. I then choose God first, my marriage second, and then kids third. When it’s my own choice, owned by me, it means more and helps prevent resentment from building up in our relationship. It’s a lot easier to put up with dirty socks on the floor when I remember the reasons I chose to get married in the first place. Besides, the idea of belonging to your kids is kind of identity-squelching for you and not great for them, either.

  21. Oh how I love this post!! I am a mother of 10, but my oldest was 7 when the 4th baby came. I then had 7 babies in a little less than 9 years. When people ask how I managed, I always say, “Well, God added just one new little one at a time. SO we had time to figure out how to fit that one in before the next one came along. Now if I had started out with ten, I would have gone crazy for sure!!”
    This post will be so encouraging for those Moms just going through these difficult years. And let’s face it, no matter how good a job you’re doing, it will still be difficult at times.
    Great job, Kim!!

  22. Elizabeth M. says:

    Thank you for this post! A good reminder to prioritize and remember what is important. And that what I am doing is SO important.

  23. ” In the high-power career of Motherhood, you are a highly valuable asset to the corporation. The hours are long and replacements are rare, expensive and poorly trained. You knew that when you signed up for the job, right?”…. Very well put! As God’s highest calling for women, mothering affords the toughest work, longest hours, but the greatest rewards. Keeping our eyes on the One Who walks with us through those days, and not on the difficulties of the circumstances but on the privileges of it makes all the difference.
    Thank you for these words of wisdom.

  24. LOVE this post!!! I get that question a lot…..and my answer is PRAYER LOTS OF IT!!! Helps me refocus on HIM instead of the chaos that sometimes tries to consume my thoughts.

    I am a Christian home schooling mother of 8 ages 1-11 (all adopted- some through foster care, Ethiopia, and domestic adoption).

    Love your blog :)

  25. Thank you for this reminder. It was just what I needed to hear!

  26. Kim, I cannot thank you enough for this post. I have a feeling it’s one I will be coming back to in the months to come. We have four precious little girls 6 and under right now, and things feel relatively calm and peaceful. But by the end of the year, Lord willing, we will have added a 5-year-old boy through adoption and a new baby through (surprise!) God’s perfect timing and planning :) I will have *six* 7 and under. Just saying it makes me feel a tiny bit overwhelmed, but I know God’s grace is totally sufficient.

    So much of this post is stuff I have already heard the Holy Spirit whispering to me (me-time, not vegging ni front of the computer into the wee hours, one day at a time), but it’s great to have it all written down in undeniable black and white :)

    Your blog is such a blessing to me – Thank you!

  27. Kim

    This is a great post. So true, so true.

    In Him

    Meredith

  28. Spot on! I often remind mommies of littles that it does get better in such a short amount of time. Around baby 4-6 is when moms of littles begin to question their conviction to allow the Lord to determine their family size. I remind them, you only have to do ONE DAY AT A TIME! For several years running, we had 4 littles, 5 and under. Now my oldest daughter is 6 and our baby boy is 22 months. I miss those crazy days sometimes. BUT I do enjoy having older children!

  29. Thank you for this post, Kim. A wonderful reminder to stay on track and not grow weary. :-)
    As a mother of 9 myself, ages ranging from 1 to 17, I can say that every point you’ve made here is right on the mark.
    The hardest mommy years are the ones when you have lots of littles and no bigs yet. It just gets better and better from there. ;-)

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