“Wow! You’ve got your hands full!”
I smile and nod as I manuever my way through the waiting room, lugging the infant carrier, trying not to knock the people I pass in the head or shoulder. I watch as the older three attack the play area, praying that there’s no fights or trips to the potty in the near future.
“How do you do it?”
Laughing away the question I make my way through Target. Ezra is in the shopping cart seat, Cora is in the cart itself and Eli pushes Silas in the stroller next to me. I try to get our necessities before Silas starts crying or Cora stands up in the cart, prompting a comment from someone about the danger of standing up in a cart (as if I wasn’t aware — they’re quick when your back is turned).
Daily I get curious remarks about life with four small children. People look at us in awe (and fear) when we enter a store, office or restaurant. We never got that response with three children…it’s like having the one more tipped us over the edge into looneyville and people don’t know how to relate to us anymore.
I know I have a lot of children. I wanted a lot of children (and for those of you who knew me in 2007 when my opinion was slightly different, I beg you would stay silent). These are the children God had for us.
I think that I try to make it look easier than it is. There are many motives behind this:
- People already think I’m crazy, so it would be nice to trick them into thinking I’m handling this with ease.
- If I let people know what’s really going on there’s the fear that they would run screaming or call the authorities (not really).
- I’m prideful.
Yup, #3 is the kicker. I want to appear capable and in control. But, in the spirit of being transparent (something us Christians really like — in others), I thought I’d let you in on what my days as a SAHM of four children really look like.
Right now Silas is waking up at midnight, 2 AM and 5 AM. Frequently I wake up to nurse him and then fall asleep in our chair in the living room, which means that I wake up in time to put him back in bed, crawl in my own bed and sleep horizontally for 45 minutes before he’s awake again. This does not result in a restful night’s sleep.
By the time I wake up in the morning all three older children are awake. Eli, at 6-years-old, is able to get cereal for himself and, if he’s in a generous mood, he might get some for his siblings. Picture half a box of Cheerios strewn about the kitchen table and floor.
My secret mommy weapon right now is Phineas and Ferb. I’ll confess, my kids watch a lot of TV. During this nursing, newborn stage it’s hard for them not to. I’m trapped in a chair in the living room and if they’re watching TV I know they’re not causing trouble. We tried coloring, games, books and playing in their rooms — all of which ended in fighting, making messes and hurting each other. TV is safe and quiet. I like safe and quiet.
Lunchtime. We pretty much have three choices: PB&J, chicken nuggets or leftovers. These are my options too. Because if I try to make something else for myself the kids will immediately drop whatever food I’ve just prepared for them and loudly explain to me that they really wanted my food but didn’t know we had it. So I eat a lot of PB&Js.
After lunch is nap time, every parents favorite time of day. I explain to them that they’re not to get out of bed or talk or sing or play with Barbies or make a tent with the sheets or get up to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes or any of the other crazy things they come up with not to sleep. But they’re creative and I can’t always cover everything.
Have you noticed at this point that I have yet to take a shower or get ready for the day? Because that usually happens around 2:30 or 3 pm. As I write this I haven’t put in my contacts, I haven’t taken a shower and my blinds are still closed. What do the blinds have to do with anything? Well, I live at a church that has a daycare downstairs. I don’t want the daycare teachers to see that everyday my children and myself remain in our pajamas until 1 pm…because what’s the point in dressing them if we’re just going to be in the house? That would mean more laundry and my laundry machines are downstairs in the garage and they cost me money.
After I’ve showered and gotten properly dressed, I open the blinds and tackle the previous night’s dishes in the sink and PB&J confetti on the kitchen floor that Ezra makes instead of eating. The afternoon is spent in restoring the house to some sort of order. If the kids’ rooms have started to spill out into the hallway I’ll tell them to clean their rooms.
Another moment of honesty: Sometimes I just need a break. These breaks include hiding in the bathroom, hiding in my bedroom or sending them to their rooms to clean (because I know it will take them awhile).
I try to have dinner started before Josh gets home…this happens about 45% of the time. Silas has decided that 5:30 is when he’s hungriest, so I’m usually nursing when Josh walks in the door. What a wonderful husband I have, he comes home and helps me with dinner and the kids as soon as he gets here!
After dinner Josh has been taking the older three downstairs to play while I clean up the kitchen and/or nurse the baby again. Then it is back upstairs for everyone as we brush teeth, put on PJs and say prayers. By 8:30 or 9 PM the older three are in bed and Josh and I are finally able to spend some time together.
I relish that evening time and it goes by so quickly. Before I know it the clock reads 11 PM and I sense the futility of getting in bed just to be awoken in an hour by Silas.
So here’s the truth. I do have my hands full. And I don’t do it all.
My house in constantly in shambles. My children are usually in different stages of dress (or undress). I wish I could say I walk with them to the park each day for a picnic lunch after we’ve had our morning devotional and worship time. But…this is my life right now. I’m not particularly happy about the TV and crazy schedules, but it’s working for us.
Eli starts kindergarten in three weeks and then life will require more of a routine. I like routine, so I think this will be a good thing for us.
And my response to the question, “How do I do it?”
By the grace of God alone…
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain…
I Corinthians 15:10a