Staying Sane with Lots of Small Children

Recently, a new reader contacted me with the following concern:

I have a 2.5 yr old son and an 8 mo old daughter.  I would like a big family but wonder if I’d be able to handle it.  I enjoyed reading a few of your blogs about having 5 and the comments people make to you and how you filter it and your views about large families.  I know that no woman is given extra patience or whatever is needed to deal with larger families.  But, sometimes I lose my temper so quickly with two that I wonder if I’d still be sane (questionable anyway!:) ) with several more!  I am not a nice person when I’m sleep deprived. I pray for God to change my attitude and I’m trying to walk in that.

Taking the last sentence first, I have to say that I don’t think this reader needs very much help from me at all. Prayer is my first line of defense, too, and it works. Also, don’t forget to read your Bible. We can pray all day, but if we’re not interested in what God has already said in His word, we’re really just kneeling down to talk to ourselves.

I agree that no woman gets an extra measure of patience just because she becomes a mother. Maybe some women are specially suited to motherhood, but I doubt it. I’m pretty cranky when I’m sleep-deprived, too. In fact, I have to apologize for my tone more often than I care to think about. I have spent many nights on my knees in tears because of my own inability to be the kind of mother I should be. My kids are being raised by a fallen human being, who is far from perfect. So are yours. So are everybody’s!

Patience is both a skill and a fruit of the Spirit. If you stay firmly grounded in the Word, and daily practice acting patient, even when you don’t feel very patient, voilà! you will find yourself becoming a patient woman!

I had a conversation with a nurse at the pediatrician’s office a few weeks ago that made me laugh. I guess I must have made her laugh, too, with my five little ducklings trailing behind me all over the place, because she said to me (and she is by no means alone in saying this very thing)

“You must have the patience of Job!”

“Some days, yes. Other days not so much. They’re teaching me patience!”

There is no mother who hasn’t felt that hot rush of blood to the head upon discovery of some sticky substance poured out in her shoe. If there is, I’m not sure I want to know her. She’d have to be completely insane to be that detached, I’m sure.

However natural our anger may be, though, we know in our hearts that it is not righteous anger. That rage comes not from some holy place where a Law has been violated, but from our own Mommy-sized wills being thwarted. The sooner we learn to swallow that anger and realize that our little ones are not trying to displease us, but are simply exploring the world in their chaotic and hapless way, the better. We need to correct our children, of course, and that does involve showing displeasure (rather than, oh, taking pictures of the cutest little transgressor EVAR and posting them on Facebook or something), but the anger should be bitten back, even if it means we walk away from those situations with bloody tongues.

Dear young mother, instead of worrying about how you’re going to do things in the future, just mother the two you have in your home right now. As for the horde of could-be kids that you don’t even know you are going to have yet…well..I’ll be perfectly honest here. I have no idea how I could possibly handle six children, either. That’s ok, because I don’t have six children right now! There’s no need to borrow trouble from tomorrow. Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof, right?

Given the ages of your children, I’d say you’re in the hardest part of motherhood right now. There will be other challenges as they get older, but the early years are often (maybe always) the loneliest, most frustrating time for “just mommies”–even those with fantastic support from family and friends. While your children are merely learning to walk and talk and feed themselves, you, Dear Reader, are learning to be a completely different person, and it’s a transformation that no one else can walk through with you. After living your entire life for the sake of your own needs and desires (for the most part), you are now required to put Self aside 24/7 to care for these very needy little people. It’s a trying time, and you absolutely cannot judge your future prospects by what you see in front of you today.

4 Moms of 35 Kids ebook

Practical help and encouragement. Here are a few resources for the new mom who is wondering how she’s going to survive this time of life without ruining her children:

Get Along Home Naturally, I think you should continue to read this blog. Not that I’m going to be much help (sorry), but I could use the company. I get lonely.

Loving the Little Years Click over and buy that book (not an affiliate link) as soon as you have the budget for it. Rachel Jankovic is a fantastic writer and has a sweet disposition, and I don’t think any new mom should be without her wisdom. Buy me a copy, too. (Nevermind. A precious reader just did. That’ll teach me to drop hints, won’t it? ;-) ) I haven’t gotten to read it yet. I recommend this book on the strength of her blog posts.

4 Moms of 35 Kids Answer Your Parenting Questions (This is an affiliate link.) I’ve been following these four moms’ blogs for a very long time, and they are some of the smartest, most helpful ladies on the web. You can read a full review of this ebook here.

Find their individual blogs here, also, so you don’t miss their reader Q&A’s every week:

Raising Olives

The Common Room

Life in a Shoe

Smockity Frocks

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.–James 1:5

How about you, moms? What resources have you found helpful in the early years of motherhood?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ashley
    Twitter: oliveonandon
    January 28, 2013, 4:12 pm

    Loving the Little Years is SOOO good! Each time I read it (at least 3 times in the last year) I am comforted in knowing I’m not the only one, not crazy, not a horrible mother, and not without the tools necessary to keep on going.
    One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Christian childrearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational challenge.”
    I am also hoping to buy/read Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson.
    I love this post. Thanks for recognizing how lonely it can be even when surrounded by our children. I struggle with feeling isolated, but then fill the “void” with things that aren’t truly adding to my life. Motherhood introduces (or makes one finally aware of) so many places for growth in our lives. I am thankful for that, but it can be a rough journey.

    • Cindy January 28, 2013, 4:35 pm

      Girl, did you just buy me that book?? I was kidding! I’ll accept it happily, though, and thank you very much. You bless me. <3

      • Ashley
        Twitter: oliveonandon
        January 28, 2013, 4:41 pm

        The feeling is mutual <3

  • Diana January 28, 2013, 5:23 pm

    Completely agree with all of the above! And I love the resources you list – they are all awesome. :)

    Diana

  • Alice January 29, 2013, 5:24 am

    I have no idea how I will manage six children either, but um, I do have six children, ages 8 down to 8 months. I know there is a way though, and that gives me hope! I read the resources you’ve posted, and another fantastic one is http://largefamiliesonpurpose.blogspot.com (not sure how to make that a link). I have gleaned a lot of great advice from Erika, who has 9 children.

    We trust God for our family size, and I am currently watching to see if I am pregnant or not, and pretty scared (albeit the thrilled and excited type of scared) that I might be.

    I definitely couldn’t have believed I would have so many children and managed life at all well, even to manage 4 children, back when I only had two, but I could and did. God gives us the grace, and it’s gradually that you increase the number of children you have, so you’re right – just take it one child at a time and try not to think further ahead until you’re there.

  • Sarah January 29, 2013, 11:40 am

    Bwahah! I love you! This is awesome wisdom… And I’m saying that as one who has six kids (including twins)…. I can’t imagine how I’d do 7, but i currently don’t have to sorry about that. Keep rocking momma!

  • Sarah January 29, 2013, 11:42 am

    Bwahah! I love you! This is awesome wisdom… And I’m saying that as one who has six kids (including twins)…. I can’t imagine how I’d do 7, but i currently don’t have to worry about that. Keep rocking momma!

  • Christina January 29, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Great post! Maybe some of your readers want to try to solve a problem I’m having that this mom probably knows all too well about!

    I have a 2 month old and a 23 month old. Great news: 23 month old boy is learning how to talk (slightly late verbal bloomer) and is now very interested in communicating his whole world to me. Sweet. Problem: his new way of communicating is, “Mom, mom, mom MOM… Truck.”, “Mom, mom, MOOOOOM… block.” You might think he keeps repeating “mom” because I’m not looking at him. By the time he says what he wants me to look at I’ve said either “yes” or “what” 2x. The first day this was cute. Second day, still cute. Now it is so not cute and by the end of the day I’m counting down the minutes until I can put him to bed. It doesn’t help this has come at a time when he’s really testing his limits so I am picking my battles. Advice?

    • Cindy January 29, 2013, 3:16 pm

      Grin and bear it? LOL. This shouldn’t last very long. Maybe somebody else has something more creative to add.

    • tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations January 29, 2013, 3:32 pm

      hey Christina, I couldn’t help but laugh when I read your comment. I have 4 kids, the oldest is 10 y.o. and the youngest is 3y.o. And by far, my least favorite part is the “mom, mom, mom…MOM…” part. I hated it!!!

      My oldest would wake up when she was 2 -3 y.o. and just be singing “mom, mom, mom… MOM…” in the middle of the night. I would go over to her room and inquiry “what is the problem?” I would be greeted with more “mom, mom, MOM… mom…” and a smile. It would drive me nuts… until many children later I just figured it out they like to HEAR themselves.

      Also I am learning that I don’t need to reply to every grunt, complain or murmur of my bigger children; those too are just adjustments attitudes, or self-talk, transitioning from one activity to the next. It’s complicated before you understand it, but once you know it then your life is much easier and PEACEFUL.

      Watch this video, it helped me….
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGowLpiG7eo&list=PLJzYOOjLxae1itEg-hfoO8PexNI_PDSul&index=7

      then this one….
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9FVj6nvvNE

      God bless,
      Tereza

      So yeah, acknowledge them by looking at them, picking them up, handing them something, but don’t EXPECT to have a normal conversation like you would with a grown up. They don’t know how to do that yet.

      • Christina January 29, 2013, 4:29 pm

        LOL glad I’m not alone. I think I need to get better at ignoring certain things. All of the kids I’ve taken care of (previous life…) have been before or past this stage. The other day, while trying to tell my husband something, I raised my voice at him and said, “Holy cow Karsten! Give me a second!” And then it was “Cow?! Cow?! COW?!” looking for who had a cow. Grin and bear it… ;)

  • Courtney
    Twitter: danswife2009
    January 29, 2013, 3:46 pm

    Thanks for this post today! I’m the mom of a 14 month old boy and my husband and I are expecting our second baby in June. I’ve been panicking about how I’ll handle two. I know there are things we need to get done to prepare for this baby’s arrival, but until this baby arrives I just need to care for the one we have now. We’d love a large family, but I needed the reminder that if the Lord blesses us with one it will most likely be one baby at a time.

  • Erika Shupe January 30, 2013, 12:28 am

    Thanks Alice for the kind words!

    I would agree wholeheartedly with Cindy in that your day absolutely must start with time in prayer and time in God’s word. If you don’t have God’s perspective on life and family then everything will be sooo much harder.

    I/we are frequently asked “How do you do that” or are told, I could never manage nine children”. One of the great secrets of large families is that for the most part they grow one at a time. (We have one set of twins so yes, they can come more than one on occasion) God gives grace for where you are and what you have. When you are a brand new mom it can seem overwhelming to have one, two or even three small ones in the house but our experience is that it gets easier after that. We currently have 6, seven years and younger and it is not all smiles and giggling. It is however a tremendous blessing. Another thing that helps out is when the older ones get older they can become quite independent in their schooling and responsibilities. Sometimes it can be easy to look at several young children and imagine that having nine will be a simple multiplication of your current work load, its not. As you raise and train your children to be Godly young men/women they provide a tremendous blessing through your relationship with them and seeing them preparing to carry that on into their own lives and families one day. One thing you might consider as well is to rethink your view and opinion of yourself and your responsibilities. When you choose keep a home and raise a family that is your professional occupation. Dont let the world fool you into thinking any less. By doing so you sell yourself and your family short. You are a professional and you are capable of being the very best at it!

    I highly recommend getting yourself organized so that you aren’t wasting time and energy going in circles. This will also help your children be less likely to cause the blood to rush to your face since they are far more likely to be a heart warming blessing when they are led and managed well. We live in a universe replete with organization down to every detail, it is a reflection of the master creator. When you take control of yourself, and then your home everyone will be much happier…. including you! *smile*

    Thanks Cindy for your wonderful blog.

    Erika Shupe

  • Roger U January 30, 2013, 11:57 am

    Saw your comments at Vox Day, and came to check out your blog. I see you’re in NC, so I’m adding you to my links.

    • Cindy January 30, 2013, 12:24 pm

      Thanks! I am a proud NC hillbilly. ;-)

  • Christine February 1, 2013, 8:13 pm

    I was 21 when I had my first and the second came along less than 2 years later. My husband then deployed for 10 months. We had two more children and he deployed again when they were 7, 5, 2, and 10 months. His last deployment we were pregnant with our sixth with the boys at 10, 8, 5, 3, and 1. Can I say that there were a few times during those awesome single parenting periods where I wondered how in the world I wasn’t in a mental institution? Did I mention that we were homeschooling and that for the third deployment, we were living in an RV? Every day I would wake up and offer up whatever I had to God. “Please, Lord. Show me what you want me to do today. You gave me these babies and knew that I would be alone during this time. I know you fully believe and expect me to love them and be gentle with them. For all that is within me, guide the way. Or I might find myself standing in Walmart, not remembering how I got there or how to get home. Thank you, Amen.” And lo, He answered. Baby #7 arrived two months ago and I’m not on medication!!! Oh and the children still like me too. :-D