Oh honey, said the elderly lady at the store looking at the colicky newborn in my cart, cherish these years with your little ones. They go so fast.
It only gets harder as they get older, said the frazzled mom of two teenagers to me in line at the Registry of Motor Vehicles as I chased around a toddler with my 9 months pregnant belly.
I wanted to cry.
Every time somebody would tell me that raising a bunch of little kids was the easy part, or should be the best time in my life, I wanted to cry. It can't get any harder than this, I would think. I'm exhausted every day, I don't know what a full night's sleep feels like. I actually dread going to bed because somebody will be waking me up in a few hours. I can't fit in my clothes and there's never enough money. All I do is clean and cook and cook and clean. My kids are going to hate their childhood. How did our mother's do this??
If the homeschooling mom of 15 kids seems to have it altogether and doesn't have the constant glow of sweat that seemed to be my daily companion in those early years of motherhood, then why can't I? How in God's name does she handle it all with grace and ease?
I'll let you in on a little secret. She doesn't handle it ALL with grace. She struggles with the things that are difficult for her, which may be vastly different from our temptation and weaknesses. She doesn't blog or tweet or instagram her worst days, she shows pictures of her best moments. Or if she does give us a *real* glimpse into a chaotic day, she makes it seem funny and entertaining. Maybe her kids are learning Latin and can play classical piano because that's what is important to their family. It doesn't have to be what's important to my family (and it's not).
We can't compare our interior with another's exterior, said the wise Danielle Bean.
Comparison is the thief of joy, said Theodore Roosevelt.
It's okay to have feelings, said my handsome husband. It's how we act on them that can be judged.
It's okay to feel overwhelmed and exhausted and unhappy at times. Raising children is hard, hard work. It's messy and tiring and draining and sometimes thankless. But we don't give up. We don't stop loving and serving them. We look at our struggles as opportunities of growth, as ways to fight vice with virtue.
Because, no matter how challenging being a mother can be, it's also an awesome gift from God. God didn't have to let us participate in the care and guidance of our children's bodies and souls. He could have just created adult human beings that didn't need families at all. How boring would that have been?
|Getting out of the house with four babies aged three and under = a successful day!|
So to Rosie (pictured above) and all the other wonderful young moms out there, chin up. You're doing amazing things - you're raising saints! Cut yourself some slack, and redefine your definition of a good day. Maybe it doesn't mean preparing the perfect dinner or taking the kids to the park. Maybe it just means stopping to say a prayer of thanksgiving that you get to be a mom and then getting on the floor with your kids and actually playing with them for ten minutes. Confession: I used to have to force myself to do this. Keeping the house relatively clean: check. Cooking somewhat healthy meals: check. Taking my kids to playgrounds and zoos and friend's houses: check. But actually playing with my kids? That had to go on my to-do list. See? We all have our own struggles.
I wish someone would have told me when I was in the trenches of my twenties raising lots of littles that those days were hard, and encouraged me instead of scaring me for the future. It does get easier, they do grow up, and you will look back on these days with fond and funny memories (said the ancient 34 year old mom of five). Maybe I'm just in a sweet spot, or have gained more patience with each baby. Maybe I have no clue what I'm talking about because I haven't yet had the opportunity to raise teenagers. But all I know is that this stage is easier, and you will get here one day. Trust me.