Tag Archives: Large Family

How to Maintain Sanity in the Midst of Motherhood

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How to Maintain Sanity in the Midst of Motherhood

Disclaimer:
I am far from perfect. I mean, I can barely keep myself from pilfering my kid’s chocolate stashes, and even then, a piece or two goes missing on my most stressful days. Anything I write here is first written because I NEEDED to find out how scripture addresses my shortcomings. So here is a glimpse of my dirty laundry.  This isn’t a matter of me peering into your junk closet, so much as it is an airing out of mine.

Photo credit: Leann Sacks

Photo credit: Leann Sacks

So before I even begin listing ways to keep yourself from going batty, I have to say the number one way to maintain sanity in the midst of Motherhood is to get in God’s Word.
I often think if I can just talk to someone over 3 ft. tall, I could have a little sanity rub off on me. Or if I could just get a run in, I could regain some sanity.Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. More often than not I am disappointed. I need something to talk about with another grown up, and frankly, they’re not all that into how many diapers I can change one handed while pouring milk and solving a math problem. Running does me no good if I have nothing to think about. A blank mind drives me even more crazy! First and foremost, sanity begins with wisdom, and wisdom comes by hearing the Word of God. So before you try any of these *tricks* Get a little time to read, listen to, or reflect on God’s Word. It is the one way I often forget, but most need to get some sanity when I’m ready to lose a marble, or 12.

  1. Clean something. Half the time the reason I’m unhinged is because the mess without is contributing to the mess within. Start at your feet, as my Mom says, you will be surprised how quickly a determined attitude, a large trash bag, and a tote of clorox wipes can make it a LOT better!
  2. Take the kids for a walk. A little sunshine never hurt anybody, and this is a free, and easy way to get out of your house, and your head! Plus it is a good relationship builder if your kids are driving you NUTS.
  3. Lower your expectations. Being a perfectionist doesn’t make you more perfect, only more stressed. Check your expectations first with scripture, then with reality. Ex: My children are overly energetic, and I’m tired and headachey. Scriptural expectation: obedience. My expectation: absolute quiet. So where should I fall on this? Perhaps giving them an instruction that allows for quieter activities, and expects obedience. I can’t expect them to sit, hands folded, absolutely still until I’m satisfied. I’ll get a bigger headache just trying to maintain an impossible standard of behavior. I *can* expect them to eat a snack together, read or color, and find a quiet activity if those don’t suit them.
  4. Work first, play later. I know, the last thing you want to do when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and insane, is work. But I think better, feel better, AM better when I’ve got my work done. Sitting down and selfishly goofing off while obsessing about all the work I HAVE to do only stresses me out more. Don’t procrastinate. DO. You’ll cherish your free time much more!
  5. Pamper yourself, just a smidge. This is not a blank check for selfishness, just a reminder that a little bit of niceness goes a long way. When I want to pamper myself, I plug in my fragrance plug. The sweet spicy scents that I like help me to focus, calm down, and move on. Doesn’t hurt either when my house smells awful, like children gone wild.
  6. Ambiance.  Make your home a HOME. Pop something easy, sweet, warm and spicy in the oven, and something warm and savory in the crock pot. My favorites are Beef Stew and Apple Crisp. Both are easy, and take 10 minutes prep, tops. Beyond that, put on some soothing music, and have a cup of tea.
  7. Manage your emotions, Mama! Angry? I used to play music to suit my mood, but I found that angry music only feeds my selfish anger.  “A soft answer turns away wrath.” If you are angry, don’t sin in your anger. Take a moment, why are you angry? Is it because the kids forgot to flush the toilet AGAIN? Count to ten, breathe, quote a Proverb, (Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.) and then call a family meeting to address the issue. There. Done. Manage your emotions. Don’t let them control you, because by giving them free rein, you are allowing yourself to be deceived. “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.” This only leads to more sin, which will, naturally, destroy peace and joy in your home.
  8. BREATHE! “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  Take a minute before you act in anger, frustration, or whatever else. Don’t plod on into a bad situation you know is only going to get worse. Ex: I was tempted to lose it when I found out the girls slathered glue all over the playroom in the five minutes it took me to put Isaiah down for a nap. I looked, confiscated the rest of the glue, and walked away. I took the girls up to the bathroom, calmly cleaned them up, and went back to washing dishes, as I had been prior to nap. Once I was cool, calm, and collected, I peeled the dry glue off of the plastic surfaces, and told the girls the new glue rules. I didn’t tell them the new glue hiding place though. That is my secret to keep! There. Unpleasant frustration sidestepped. Breathe Mama!
  9. Be Busy/Get Bored. Whatever you have too much of, balance it! We’ve found a nice happy medium (until the next crisis comes along.) We have a few ministries we’re involved in that suit our family budget, schedule, and schooling goals. We also leave days where we can chill, explore books, backyard, garden, and just BE. Just say no if you are overstretched. Nobody is going to think you are SuperMom if you do everything. And nobody is going to think you are SuperMom if you don’t do everything. Your responsibility isn’t to impress the world, but to love your husband, love your children, keep your home. (Titus 2) DO that, and nothing more, and nothing less. If it doesn’t fit into that ministry (and really, that is a LOT of leeway!) don’t do it.
    Example: We’ve found meals ministry to be easy, fun, and helpful. The children enjoy making the meal for another family in need. We’ve also found a local ministry that we count as a school day, it involves a morning outside in the sun, harvesting food, enjoying nature, and then a park/play time afterward with the other homeschooling families we’ve met there while ministering.
  10. Last but not least: PRAY. Pray without ceasing. Rejoice Evermore. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

There you have it! May you remain sane through all the spaghetti flinging, broken china, tough spelling lessons, transitionary moments, sibling rivalries, and remember that our strength is in the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.

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The Great American Discontent

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I have been struggling lately. As a Mom of many children, having to make financial sacrifices daily, and living in a standard very different from the American Norm, I’ve been comfortable. I knew there would be no single bedrooms, everyone would share. I knew we would not eat out often, I knew that we would face snippets of cut corners here and there in large family life. It just is the reality, that in the America that has 2.5 children per household, our life would be far out of the norm. Hand Me Downs galore, shared bedrooms, a “restaurant meal” that I didn’t cook meaning pre made pizza from walmart, or a crock pot meal somebody else delivered. I KNEW this would be the case.

But then things looked even ‘worse’ than I’d imagined. God has given me a hard working husband who puts everything on the line at his job. He works so hard that when he comes home, there is nothing left of him. Does this mean he gets a promotion as reward for his labor? No. He isn’t the extroverted type who can “lead” or be “manager material.” As a result of this, I’ve had to let go of my dreams of “one day” things getting easier. The more real this became to me, the more I mourned the loss of a future I’d expected. A future with a larger home to fit all of our incoming children, with a more comfortable means, where the day to day struggle of meeting the bills is no longer a constant anxiety, and where my friends stop saying “One day, things will get better.” because they already HAD gotten better. I even tell myself sometimes, “One day, things will get better.”

But I don’t think they will. So I sat down last night and cried over that. Cried that my husband works so hard with so little reward for his efforts. Cried that other people seem to have it better than we do, and cried because I felt God owes me a blessing.
Then I realized. God owes me NOTHING. Nothing.
I am a sinner. saved by grace. How can I expect anything? How can I expect things to “get better?” Is my problem my husband’s humble job, and our meagre budget that just squeaks by each year? Or is my problem my attitude?
I read Proverbs 5 today and something hit me squarely between the eyes.

Drink water from your own cistern,

flowing water from your own well.

Should your springs be scattered abroad,

streams of water in the streets?

Let them be for yourself alone,

and not for strangers with you.

Let your fountain be blessed,

and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

a lovely deer, a graceful doe.

Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;

be intoxicated always in her love.

Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman

and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,

and he ponders all his paths.

The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,

and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.

He dies for lack of discipline,

and because of his great folly he is led astray.
(Proverbs 5:15-23, ESV)

I always hurried through this chapter, thinking “it doesn’t apply to me. He is obviously talking to a man.”  But I saw something today. A principle, one I have NOT learned. Why am I looking to other places for happiness? For comfort? Why do I think my life would be so much better if my husband only earned a little more money and we could live comfortably like other people. There it is: “like other people.” I need to be drinking from my own well. Not looking around at everyone else’s.  My problem isn’t this lowly situation we’re in, it is my discontent in it. My assumption that things are hard because we don’t have what I want, or what other people have, or think we ought to have.
I looked at it in a different way after reading this chapter. Are we really so poor? No. Not really. Our home is in good repair, we have indoor plumbing, clean water, plenty of food, working electricity, and 2 cars. We are RICH. Monetarily, we are SO blessed! SO SO VERY blessed! No one in this home suffers from a medical condition that cannot be treated, if we only had money. No one in this home is starving, or deprived. Why am I ordering my thinking and my life on the AMERICAN DREAM? The American dream doesn’t matter. The American idea of what we should own, do, pay for, and have, isn’t important. Here I am inwardly despising my husband because he isn’t going after what Everyone else thinks we ought to have. I’m listening to the wrong crowd. So now is my challenge. Time to stop being so discontented, and to enjoy, be thankful and grateful for what we DO have, and to rejoice in it! To be GLAD for where God has placed us. I will replace my “We don’t have…” with “Thank you LORD!”
So much for the Great American Discontent. Time to rejoice evermore.

Confessions of a “SuperMom”

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Since Isaiah has been born, I have struggled more than I thought with adding child no. 4. In fact, I have struggled so much, that I momentarily wondered if there might not be *some* kind of out for our procreational commitment to allow God to determine the size of our family, and the number of our blessings. Not that I didn’t think every child was a blessing, but that it became increasingly harder to smile sincerely and respond kindly when folks at the grocery store smirked and said “Boy, your hands are FULL!” while I walked past with my 4 children, Isaiah (6 weeks) screeching that newborn wail, Emma (4) whining for a drink, Sarah (6) making silly faces at Ava, and Ava (2) having a full on tantrum on the grocery store floor. Somehow, human nature allows these failures to leave a more lasting mark than the 5 successful trips for every 1 failure. During these moments, my policy has always been to leave immediately, but unfortunately, this does not curtail the smirking strangers.

OurNewNormalwithIsaiah

Our new normal

One example of a recent “failure moment” happened just yesterday. While taking Sarah to her tooth extraction at the Oral surgeon, my Mother graciously agreed to take my two middle children (6am not being a friendly time of day to leave the house with 4 kids under 6 AND retain my sanity.) and I went there with Isaiah strapped to my front snugly, and waited impatiently in the waiting room for my oldest to complete her first “surgery” and wake up from anesthesia.
Upon finding out I had four children total, during my nervous blatherings., one of the receptionists shook her head at me, smiling, and said “You must be SuperMom.” Here, I had a potential ego boost that I had to put in perspective. Just a few short months ago, with three impeccably behaved children, I would have responded to this situating with feigned humility while patting myself on the back privately. Funny how your pride becomes all too apparent after you’ve fallen on your rear enough times.
This time, I felt immediately inadequate to answer her, a little ashamed, in fact. Mostly, because, this “SuperMom” didn’t even change her 6 year old out of her Pjs for the surgery, OR her newborn baby out of his (Don’t worry I DID change his diaper! Haha!)  In fact, I barely slapped on some sweatpants, a t-shirt, sneakers, and stuffed my Lilla Rose Flexi Clip and Lipgloss  in my pocket for easy elegance that could be completed in the space of one stoplight.  Isaiah had also, in fact, had a blow out in his diaper while Sarah was being medicated, and I forgot to bring a change of shirt. So I was also covered in baby poo. I felt like anything BUT a SuperMom. I even felt a momentary twinge of sadness that the only thing needed for “Super Mom” status in this case, was the number of children I have.  I wanted to feel justified in being called “Super Mom, ” and as proud of that title as I had felt when I had three children, but considering the past 6 weeks, and how very hard it has been to get back to being just a Mom and a Wife, I had nothing good to reply with. So I lamely mumbled that I didn’t feel like SuperMom, and then gratefully rushed off when the nurse called out “Is Sarah’s Mom in here? She is awake!”

Thinking on that moment later, I felt like it was a missed opportunity. I feel this burden on my shoulders, one that grows with each child God adds to our family. A burden to not only appear to be perfect, but in so doing, to prove the value in large family living. So many people in our lives, strangers, friends, some family, think we are certifiably NUTS not to take Birth Control. In fact, I recently had an exchange with my OB that went like this:
Dr: “So, what are you doing for birth control now.”
Me: “I don’t do birth control.”
Dr: “Yes, I know, you just had a baby, so what will you do now?”
Me: “I don’t believe in birth control.”
Dr. (incredulous.) “So what will you DO for birth control?!”
Me: Nothing.
Dr.: “Well what will you DO?!”
Me: “Be the next Duggars?”

The student observer standing behind me snickered at that moment, giving some much needed levity to the situation. But the point is clear. We must be CRAZY. These kinds of moments have led to putting this burden on me, and admittedly, my children every time we go into public. I feel like we must “represent” for large families. Be a shining example of how great they are. My own daughter challenged that thought just before her surgery when she said to me, “But why must WE convince everyone it is nice to be in a large family?” Ouch. Ok, I really don’t know the answer to that one. And, I had a sudden epiphany that perhaps in trying to be our “best” in public, I’m breeding a sort of nasty hypocrisy. We don’t need to be our “best” and always present only one side of large family life. We don’t need to be ashamed either when we don’t measure up to a “perfect” ideal on our own steam. With one approach, we alienate others by our artificial perfection and obvious pride in our own work. With the other, we publicly negate God’s work in our lives, by an exaggerated sense of humility, or shame.
We need to be real. We struggle. At least, I do. It is HARD work being a large family, and I don’t even think we qualify yet! I think that officially is reached at 5 or 6 kids… technically, anyway. Maybe rather than teaching my kids we need to be a walking commercial, I need to teach my children that we need to be a walking example of God’s grace. Tantrums do happen. And they happen in stores. They aren’t ok, and they aren’t good, and they are VERY annoying to other customers, but maybe the example of handling it Biblically, and gracefully, even under pressure, is far more powerful than being “perfect.”

So here is my “Super Mom” confession. I struggle too, and by God’s grace, THAT is how I am a Mom of a “large” family. I am not super, Christ works despite my failure to BE “Super Mom.”

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20, ESV)