“You’ve got your hands full!” This is hands-down the most frequent comment I get from strangers when I’m out with all or even some of my offspring. If you have more than one kiddo, I’m betting you’ve heard it, too. It’s true, I do. But, I’m amazed people are unaware that the last 9 people who walked by said the exact same phrase to me. I’ve come to employ a standard response: (smile and nod) “A little bit!” That seems to satisfy most of the gawkers, and I’m permitted to walk 5 feet and repeat it to the next lookie-lou.
Next in the line-up, (but more often from other moms who know me): “I don’t know how you do it! I’ve only got __ kids and I go crazy!”
I’ve even had several requests (I’ll be honest, they were all from Mac) for a 4SmartPants post about how to handle life with a million kids. I have been hesitant, because I don’t feel like I have a great answer. But I’ll do my best, and hopefully a mom is reading this who is sleep-deprived and at the end of her rope, feeling like she must be the only mom in the world who can’t get it together, and comparing herself to the mom she knows who has a couple more kids than her and makes it seem easy.
Here is the secret to caring for little kids without pulling your hair out and wanting to lock yourself in a room and hide before it’s even naptime:
You are not alone. You are not crazy. Every mom who looks like she’s got it together wants to pull her hair out and lock herself in a room before naptime, too…. on a daily basis. I hope that doesn’t shatter your view of that woman in your life. Hopefully it helps you feel a little more human to know that even the calmest, patient mothers experience the stress and chaos you thought only existed in your home.
I get asked how I do it all the time. (I have two 4 year olds, a 3 year old, 18 month old, and 5 month old, I’ve spent the last 5 years pregnant.) The answer is I wake up, put one foot in front of the other, do what I gotta do, and survive the day. There are a lot of time-outs, a lot of refereeing, a lot of rescuing one child from another, a lot of pants-wetting (usually by the kids) and a LOT of deep breaths. At the end of the day, I usually feel so exhausted from wrangling munchkins that I convince myself the kitchen doesn’t look THAT bad and I’ll have all kinds of energy to tackle it tomorrow. My laundry is generally sitting in baskets rather than in dressers, and I haven’t dusted since we moved in. My kids rarely wear socks because I can’t find 2 that match, and IF I wear makeup, I put it on in the van while the whole family is going somewhere and my husband is driving.
It’s more than a full-time job, and it wears me out daily. I do have a few practices in place that keep me from being resentful or forgetting why I do this. I make it a point to note everything my kids do that make me laugh. Kids are hilarious! Especially mine. I often post on Facebook or text family and friends funny things my pipsqueaks do, because everyone else usually finds them humorous, too. That reinforces it for me. I take a million pics of them with my phone. Kids are adorable! Especially mine. My screensaver on my Mac Mini is a slide show of thousands of pics of my kiddos, a constant reminder in my home of how beautiful my children are. I tell them how amazing they are everyday. They are smart, and funny, and gorgeous, and brave, and fast, and silly, and awesome. And hearing myself tell them they are those things reminds me of what incredible creatures I have the privilege of raising.
It’s hard. It’s stressful. At times, I DO remind myself that this phase won’t last forever, and one day they’ll be more independent, and I will sleep again, and go to the bathroom alone again, and eat a plate of food before it’s cold again. But then again, this phase won’t last forever, and one day they’ll be too big to fit on my lap, and they won’t wear pigtails, and I’ll be “Mom” instead of “Mommy,” and I’ll miss the smell of a brand new box of Luvs.