The Age Shift: it happens every couple years. The older kids are a huge help around the house and with the younger children. They fill in when Jay is out of town and even babysit at a moment’s notice. They really are great about sharing the burdens of being a large family. Family life flows smoothly during these times, or at least it feels smoother to me when I can get a break now and then and have someone to hold the baby while I make dinner.
Then all of the sudden, they get jobs, get involved in ministry at church, or find themselves in very challenging classes at school, or even all of those things at once. Suddenly I find that I am mostly on my own again with all the small children in tow, no babysitting availability, and no chores done. I’m overtired from a baby who doesn’t sleep, and I realize that I have kind of forgotten how to do this on my own. How did I manage before there were older children around to help out? In my memories I return to that time when I had four children, age seven and under and I realize…
That I can’t remember a darn thing about that time. In fact, I have little photo evidence that it occurred. I was thoroughly overwhelmed. For one straight year, almost all of the pictures I have of our children they are either sleeping or in the bath. Those were the only times that I could take a breath and think, “Oh look! They really are sweet!” But the rest of that time I think I blocked out – either through exhaustion or just the trauma of it all.
Here I am again. My older children have matured and gotten all responsible and have their own lives. Sure, they help out now and then. A couple even do their own laundry. Jay has quite the work schedule, and even with that, he jumps in and works in the family the moment he walks in the door. But for the day to day minutiae, I am wading through this on my own.
I keep thinking that as a mother of nine, I should know how to navigate these waters. I suppose I am doing better than the first time around with a group of little ones, but that isn’t saying a whole lot. I recently have been working on my bad attitude about some of these issues. And I have been actively trying to find a way to live through this part of our family joyfully. Just because we have several small children at once, doesn’t mean we can’t still thrive. I know other families who can do it, so there must be a way for me to do it too.
I started this journey when a friend posted this article on Facebook: How to be a Good Mom on a Bad Day. I realized that ALL of my days could be summed up with her definition of a “bad day”. There was just never a time when I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed and crabby. That couldn’t be a good sign. So I started loosely following those steps and trying actively to move myself from that bad attitude into a better one. In reading that blog and a few others I found a treasure trove of mommy-blogger books and have been relying on them to help me adjust my attitude and reorient myself in the right direction.
Here are a few that have been so helpful: (Some are available only in ebook format. Links follow list, turn off Adblock if you don’t see them.)
- Maximize Your Mornings: Very specific tools from Inspiredtoaction.com on getting moving towards treating yourself right so you can treat your family right. This one is free, only about 30 pages long, and available on their website. I’m not going to give you the direct link because I want you to go to her website and find it. One of the steps in this program is a morning Bible Study. I have been using reading plans I find on the YouVersion app (free for iphone, android, and Kindle).
- Loving the Little Years: because I just wasn’t loving these little years. I was spending all of my time fantasizing about the days when they will all be older, past diapers, past bedtime fights, past carseats in the summer.
- Steady Days: A Journey Towards Intentional, Professional Motherhood: Motivation to get my act together and the practical tools to do that.
- 31 Days of Prayer for our Daughters, and Warrior Prayers: Praying Scripture for Our Sons: Both of these gave me specific ways to pray for my children and helped to open my eyes to them again as something more than work generators.
- Hope for the Weary Mom: Exactly what it says. I read this one evening when I had practically run out of the house, desperate to get a few minutes on my own to collect my thoughts. I was thoroughly weary, I needed some hope. And I found a good dose of it here.
- Mindset for Moms: This is a different author that Hope for the Weary Mom, but feels like a very expanded version of it. This one has one short chapter for each day of the month, although I didn’t read it slowly. I may use it to review a little at a time like that though
- First Steps Devotions for Families with Small Children: This has been a nice way to reconnect to my children spiritually and the devotions are short enough that no one even has the chance to get squirrelly halfway through. We’ve added these to our bedtime prayers a few mights a week.
By changing some habits and seeking out encouragement I found, not so suddenly, that I’ve been having fewer “bad days”. I even find myself smiling for no particular reason. And, as much as I still really need sleep, I am less likely to feel overwhelmed and overworked and more likely to just have fun in the busyness of my days. Oh, its still a ton more work to not have extra hands to help as often as before, but one day at a time we’ll get through it, and I am very sure I will miss it when this time is past.
The days go so slow but the years go very fast.