Learning to Parent a Lot of Kids and Not Lose My Mind in the Process

Learning to Parent a Lot of Kids and Not Lose My Mind in the Process | Houston Moms BlogAccording to the Pew Research Center, half of Americans say that they believe two is the ideal number of kids for a family.  While the perfect number of kids is certainly an individual choice made by each family, we are seeing a rise in this country of families consisting of zero to two children as compared to decades past.

If truth be told, just a few years ago I was one of those mothers that thought two was my magic number.  I had a girl and a boy :: chubby-cheeked, blue-eyed, adorable little mixes of their dad and myself.  I felt content and settled with two.  Two felt financially practical.  I could manage daily life with two. 

As my dad has always said though, “Life happens when you are planning your life”.  In 2015 we were overwhelmed by a call on our life to adopt.  We brought our toddler daughter home from China later that year.  We had a brief layover as parents of three, but quickly began the adoption process again.  Sixteen months after adopting our daughter, we traveled to bring our 2 year old son home. It was a beautiful whirlwind, one that left me as mom to four kids under ten years old.

It’s been one year since this former mom of two entered “big family” territory.   The past year has been full of some beautiful moments in motherhood :: watching the beauty of sibling relationships develop, the joy of seeing my kids grow into amazing little people, and endless amount of laughter at the never-ending shenanigans.

However, the past year has also been difficult in ways I never anticipated.  I have been forced to reevaluate many of my ideals about what it looks like for me to be a successful mother.  I have often felt overwhelmed, like I have lost all control, and like my life has so many balls in the air that I am dropping more balls than I am successfully juggling.  As I have dug deep in my relationship with God and in therapy, I have learned some lessons along the way about making it as the mom of many.

Learning to Parent a Lot of Kids and Not Lose My Mind in the Process

Let Go of My Inner Monica Geller

I really like my house to be clean.  Clutter makes me twitchy.  I feel like I am really rocking at life when my car is not trashed.  When I was mothering two kids, these were all areas that I was able to maintain some semblance of control.  These days I have found that these more superficial elements that used to make me feel more at peace are often sadly an afterthought {please do not even get me started on how laundry for six people has taken over my life}.  One of the first areas I have had to make peace with is that my outward surroundings are not a reflection of how well I am doing at life.  Some days, I have a clean house and I am caught up on laundry.  Most other days, my floors are well acquainted with crumbs and my dining table has held clean laundry for weeks on end.  But rather than gauge my success as a wife, mother, and functioning human being on those things, I am learning to hold more lightly the perfection of my outward surroundings as I fix my eyes on the things that are most important to me.

Embrace My Village

We all know the saying “It takes a village”.  As a mom of two, I promoted the significance and benefits of utilizing one’s village as she navigates motherhood.  Community is a beautiful thing!  Asking for or saying yes to help can be hard though.  I think as moms we generally feel like we should be able to handle everything on our own.

As a mother of lots of kids the idea of a village has taken on a whole new meaning. To invest time in one child means there are three others that I am not available for. I have had to learn to swallow my pride and lean on my village. Truth be told, sometimes I still struggle here. There is a beauty that has happened as I have walked this out though :: the deepened relationships that have formed as a result of the fact that I just cannot do this motherhood thing without help.

The Girl Scout mom who helped shuttle my oldest to meetings when we had schedule conflicts, who has now become a sweet friend of mine.  Our pastoral assistant at church, who was once the most helpful person I knew and is now one of my favorite friends and coffee drinking buddies.  My own mama, whose love and presence benefits my kids and I in ways beyond what I can describe.  Not only do these people {and many others} play a significant role in keeping us going, they make our lives better in the process.

Find a Way to Develop Each Individual Relationship

A few months ago, my therapist challenged me to think about my relationships as circuits.  I’ll be honest, I had to go home and Google “what’s a circuit” before I could really dive into this {I’m not what you would call “science-y”}.  I walked away from this conversation and my resulting internet search with this basic understanding :: the simplest circuits are often the most effective.  The direct connection between two points provides the most power.

As moms, I think we often take on the role of overseers of the relationships in our households.  I am very aware of my relationship with my husband and my relationship with each child.  I also maintain a consistent awareness of my husband’s relationship with each child and the condition of each child’s relationship with each other sibling, as well as the overall functioning of our family unit.  For a mom with four kids, this translates to feeling the weight of FIFTEEN individual relationships.  As we have added more kids, this has often felt like an overwhelming, complicated web that I am trying to navigate.  My therapist’s advice was golden for me :: treat each relationship as its own important circuit.  Focus on one relationship at a time, knowing that as each relationship is strengthened our family as a whole will be stronger.

Self-Care is Not Selfish, It’s Strategic

I have been a mom for close to ten years.  In addition, I work as a licensed counselor and pastor.  The idea of self-care is something I have not only applied to myself in the past, but teach my clients about on a regular basis.  As moms, we know that taking care of ourselves is important.  You know what else we know well? Mom guilt. No matter how much I know that I need to take care of myself in order to be the best possible mother I can be, that guilt still rears its ugly head when I consider spending time or money apart from my family in ways that seem selfish in the immediate moment.

These days, I’m talked out, touched out, and questioned out by the end of the day. Or sometimes by lunch! I found that I would go periods of time without giving much thought to self-care, then I would end up cleaning up the mess that was me. I have learned that being intentional with self-care is not only NOT being selfish, it’s one of the strategic ways that I can approach being a healthy mother to my kids and wife to my husband.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

I learned in the past year to look at my resources, my time, my energy, my thoughts, my prayers, as fitting on a plate.  I have room for lots of things on my plate, but I do not have room for everything.  As I hold up one thing that I would really like to fit, I have to ask myself what I am willing to sacrifice to add this to my plate.  If I want laundry to be caught up all the time, am I willing to sacrifice time with my husband?  If I want to be at every practice and meeting, am I willing to sacrifice rocking my baby boy at night?  Learning to prioritize in this way has helped let go of some of the weight of things that can not matter as much, and keep my focus on the things that do.

No matter how many kids we have, the art of balancing in motherhood is HARD.  I count it a great joy to not only be mom to my tribe, but also to have the gift of transformation as I learn and grow right along with them!

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