I had my oldest child when I was 22. I always thought I’d have 6 kids. Three girls and three boys. Growing up, that was my perfect family. Then, after giving birth the first time, I changed it to 4 kids. I didn’t want to do that six times.
My first marriage wasn’t good. I didn’t want to have any more children during that time. Then, after my divorce, I met my husband. We did want to have kids, and by the time we decided to, we were in our early thirties. We tried for several years before getting help from a reproductive specialist. Our babies didn’t come easy. We had to do all sorts of things and spend a lot of money. But that’s a story for another day. After they were born, my body couldn’t handle another pregnancy, so we adopted our daughter.
I feel that we are at the perfect number of kids. My oldest is 19 right now, and the others are 4, 2 and 1. They are the little lights of my life and I love each of them more than anything. More than you think is possible. Sometimes it feels like I might explode because my love for them is so intense.
But that doesn’t mean that being their mother is easy. And it doesn’t mean that our life is one of fluff, rainbows and sunshine all of the time. I finally have everything I wanted, but it’s not exactly how I pictured it to be. And that’s OK. I think it’s time that we talk about how hard it is sometimes being a mom. Especially in today’s world, where we see the Instagram and Facebook photos and posts and see everyone else looking picture perfect.
Being a mom is hard. There are days that I have only had 4 hours of sleep, and that time was not all at once. Having 3 kids under 5, with the older two being boys, means that my house is generally a disaster. It’s three against one, so as I am cleaning up one mess they’ve made, they are making THREE MORE. It’s literally impossible to keep up with. The rooms we spend time in average a 12-hour clean time. Meaning that once I finally do get them clean, it will be 12 hours before they are trashed again. And it’s ridiculous stuff too. Not just toys and clothes. But marker on the wall. Juice all over the floor, the carpet, the baby, the pets. My 2-year-old son Bennett is in the throes of his terrible twos, and he ROCKS at it. He’s a little tornado of possibility and improbability. He figured out how to push the nipple of his sister’s bottle in, so that the milk sprays 2 feet out. He sprays EVERYTHING. It’s an unbelievable mess. And it’s EVERYWHERE. Yesterday he got the sugar bowl down and dumped sugar all over my kitchen. He ruins makeup, spills EVERYTHING he gets his hands on, and he is lightening fast. They all are. My friend stayed here to watch them for me for a couple of hours so I could go to a doctor appointment and when I came back she said, “How do you do this? They are so fast. I’m so sorry but they (fill in all the messes they made) and I swear they did it in two minutes.” Yep. Story of my life.
This is, of course, on top of the usual stuff like laundry, dishes, cooking, scrubbing, sweeping and dusting. The dusting doesn’t happen too often, not gonna lie. And it’s usually while I’m doing something like the laundry that they get into everything and make the super huge messes. I’m going to be completely honest here. Some days I feel like I’m drowning.
But then I remind myself that this is only temporary. I’m not a superhero with superhuman powers. I can only do so much. The most important things are that my children are happy and healthy and loved. And they are all of these things. They are vibrant, curious, intelligent little beings. They are exploring and learning and playing. And while I don’t often like the result of that, I understand that it’s necessary for their development. And that’s OK.
Because all too soon, I know that these days will be over. They will go to school. They will go to college. They will leave me. Right now their little worlds revolve around me. They want to show me everything. They want my approval and my attention. They want me to join in their fun. And all too soon, they won’t. That’s the benefit of having done this before. I learned the lesson before it was too late. By having my kids so far apart, I know the course of action they will take. I know that while the days are long, the years will fly by. I know what them at 19 looks like. I know my days are numbered.
So keep all of that in mind when you are having a drowning day. These things are easy to say but hard to live. It’s normal to feel like you aren’t doing a good job when you live in a mess. But you ARE doing a good job. Children are made to explore. To make messes. To play and live and jump. And spill. And break things. And draw. On everything.
Know that these days are numbered and time is short. Too soon, we will look back at this time, looking through pictures and wispy memories. We will say things like, “You used to love…. That was your favorite…. You always…..” And they won’t remember most of it. They will be all grown up and focused on becoming the incredible people we are raising them to be. And in those moments, we will long for these days.