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.
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?!”
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)