Monday, November 12, 2012

Days of Motherhood

Life with one baby is significantly different than life with one baby plus four children. As in all things, the differences are varied. One isn't really better or easier than another, it is just different.

Many people think of a mom with three or more children and think it must be incredibly difficult and can't imagine how they would  handle it. I get that--I often had that thought myself. Yes, there are challenges to multiple children, but having four children is not four times harder than having one child.

Living in Utah, I see many large families around me. Something consistent you hear from people with large families is that after three, the difficulty is all the same. It really doesn't get harder. Even my friend's mom, who had 13 kids, says 3 was the hardest number. She was absolutely done at three. She wanted no more--it was too hard. She felt she should have more, however, and after that it was actually easier than three was. 

I think one reason it doesn't get harder and harder is that children get older. When McKenna was a baby, Brayden was 3 going on 4 and Kaitlyn was 1 going on 2. Having three children who really needed me was a challenge. With Brinley, Brayden was 7, Kaitlyn was 5, and McKenna was 3. Brayden and Kaitlyn are very self-sustaining and can help with McKenna and Brinley when needed.

I must interrupt myself here and caveat that my intention is not to tell you that you must have more than two or even one child. I don't believe in a "minimum" requirement. My parents had two kids and that was perfect for them. My intent here is only to be encouraging.

In many ways for me, having more than one child is easier than it was just having one. Having your first baby is a bit of a shock. It is your first time having someone so incredibly dependent on you. It is your first time consistently being deprived of sleep. These are things to adjust to.

With one baby, your days can easily get lonely and monotonous. For several months, you are home all day with a baby who only slowly becomes interactive. You feed baby, spend some time with baby, then you put baby down for a nap. Things are quiet. You do some stuff, then you start all over again to feed baby, play for a bit, put baby down for a nap...I remember the hours dragging on before my husband would get home. I enjoyed Brayden and loved being a mom, but day after day of the same things means that by Friday, you are just ready for something different to happen. Maybe your baby is fussy and so you spend hours in a day trying to calm your baby down. You can get overly consumed and worried about poor naps and fussiness from baby. 

As a mom past that point in life, let me just encourage you to do your best to enjoy the perks of that time! When your baby is asleep, you can sleep, too, if you want. You don't have another child who needs you. You can clean your house and it will stay clean. You don't have another child who will come along and mess it up right behind you. You can read a book in silence. You can put your full energy into that one baby. Perhaps if you are home on maternity leave you are better at relishing the moments you have since you have a known deadline when things will change.

There are many perks about one baby that you won't realize you have until it is gone.

And with that said, I love the atmosphere that many children bring to the home. Believe me that my days are anything but monotonous or lonely. Seven years ago, I counted down the hours until my husband got home. Today, when he walks in the door I am shocked that the day is almost over. My children keep things interesting. If Brinley has  bad nap (and it happens--all babies have off days), I just don't have the time to mull it over and stress about it. Luckily, I know babies well enough that I don't need to put a lot of time into problem solving. I just don't have time to worry about those naps. I have to move on because there is a lot going on--and there are bigger things to be concerned with than a bad nap here and there.

What is the point of this post? I have several points. One is, if you are a first time mom stuck in the monotony of babyhood, know that you are not alone in this. As I talk to other moms, most if not all of us felt the same way. Try to find the things that are unique to your situation and savor every minute of that. Find the positive and focus on that. You get to give all of your time and attention to one baby--take advantage of it! Take in every coo and smile. Spend some time just holding the baby and savoring the ability to focus on your one baby.

Another point is to encourage you that yes, one baby is hard. Definitely hard. It is an adjustment--a HUGE adjustment. When you have one baby you look at moms with multiple kids and think, "how does she do that?!? How will I ever manage more than one child?!?!" When Brayden was a baby, I had a hard time managing to get ready for the day each day. That is not difficult for me in the least now, even with a baby and three other kids to take care of. As a mom, you learn how to do juggle. It is a learned skill that you pick up over time. You get better and better as time goes one. You build the skills to be able to care for multiple children over time, just like you would build endurance to run long distances over time. If you want more than one child, but are worried about your ability to do so, you can do it! You can have more than one child. It does not get exponentially harder. My husband and I often laugh, "Remember when we thought one baby was hard! Ha!" But it was. It was hard for us at the time. 

Another point, and possible caveat, is to not overlook the importance of training your children while they are young. My children can be self-sustaining because I have taught them to be. It takes a lot of work and effort, but it is so worth it! Oh yes, it gets hard. And you don't have a lot of free time. I spend most of my time helping my kids with something or other. My three oldest can wait for me, but they do still need me often. Taking the time to teach children from the beginning makes managing and juggling a larger family much, much easier.

Finally, no matter where you are in life, try your best to really enjoy the moment. Every stage has its good points and bad points. Every stage has joys and difficulties. Do not spend today wishing away what is before you. You might have a moment of perfection somewhere along the way, but it would be fleeting. Life isn't perfect. Take what it has for you and love it. Love what there is to love right now. I love this quote:

If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the piles and piles of laundry will disappear all too soon and that you will, to your surprise, miss them profoundly. – Thomas S. Monson

I always try to keep this quote in mind as I look at the disaster my children managed to create in the course of the last 20 minutes. Someday, my children will be gone and things will be perfectly clean. I have no doubt I will miss the mess. Profoundly. There isn't one week that goes by at church when some older person comes to me and tells me, essentially, to enjoy it and that time goes by so quickly. It isn't the same person each week. Every one of them seems to take turns spreading that wisdom around. I don't think the one piece of advice these people with years of wisdom consistently choose to give should be ignored. Enjoy it. Times goes by too fast. If there is one thing they want to collectively tell me, it is to enjoy it. So I look for the happiness in what is before me and try to live in the moment. Savor it. Have a sense of humor about it. I don't want to wish each day away. Because of that, I am able to be very content and optimistic about what our life is. 

And that is how you manage life with multiple children. You love it for what it is. There is much to love! You laugh at the blunders that are sure to come. There are many! You plan for the worst and expect the best. You love each moment. You are grateful for what life is now, not upset about what it isn't. No matter what your day looks like, spend your days of motherhood trying to enjoy it for what it is so you can look back with fondness rather than with regret.

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15 comments:

Leigh Anne said...

So very true! Thanks for you insights! We have 3 kids (5, 3 & 1) and we have been trying for #4. I have been concerned that on some days that it is just too crazy, but your post gives me hope!! And I did think it was hard w/ one....boy, those were the days! LOL!

Melissa Vucijevic said...

This post couldn't have come at a better time. Thank you!

Christi said...

Thanks for this post! We have 2 year old twins and are thinking about trying for one more. I keep worrying that I just won't be able to handle 3 because having twins is hard! Thanks for the encouragement, just what I needed.

c4e461aa-2d02-11e2-9c47-000f20980440 said...

I have recently gone from 1 to 2 and what a shock that has been. I do want 3, but I am terrified now after the shock of adding 1 more. What was going from 2 to 3 like? Easier than 1 to 2? I sure hope so! I know this will get easier. She is only 11 weeks, but it has been tough at times!

Carito said...

It is good to era you. I am in the baby honor stage with My 21 week daughter. I am old mom who did not want kids and now we are thinking is late for a second. Sometí es I would like to have a second but sometí,es I think better and say one is just perfect!

Brittany W. said...

I agree with the person who said this post couldn't have come at a better time! I am pregnant with my second and for the last few days all I can think about is... what were we thinking again??? :) I needed that encouragement so thank you for giving it!

Alex said...

Thanks for this encouraging post! I really couldn't wrap my head around having two children until I had my second. Like so many things about motherhood, I think you can prepare and read only to a certain point, it's really just the hands-on experience of doing it that teaches you how to be a mother. As someone who excelled at reading and regurgitating information in school and job situations, this has been a challenging but exciting and joyful part of wing a mom.

kmbutrfly said...

this is a beautiful post! thank you!

i very much look forward to adding a second child to our family when we are financially ready. praying for it!

Shea Lafferty said...

This is completely off subject. This was a great blog by the way, and something I always need to remind myself of. Anyway, I read in an earlier post that you have dealt with thrush/yeast several times. My baby now has thrush and I have yeast, too. What have you used to effectively treat it. We're you both put on diflucan or did you just use a topical ointment and baby put on diflucan. Just wondering because I have read where people tried for weeks and could not get rid of it, and I hope to get rid of it as soon as possible. It is very painful. Thanks so much!

Plowmanators said...

You are all welcome!

Plowmanators said...

Shea, see the blog label "yeast" for a run down. In short, no, just topical has never worked for me. Look up "Jack Newman's protocol"--he has a very aggressive approach. Not all doctors will take it. My OB won't go there initially--she tries topical first. Then a less aggressive diflucan approach. So I literally wait until her day off to call so her partner will be the one to treat. Her partner takes Newman's approach and it is much more effective.

Amanda said...

Love this since I'm expecting #3 any day now! I had a harder time transitioning from 1-2 than from 0-1 but now that my boys are a bit older I find even 2 to be super easy a lot of days. It's more work physically I suppose but I do a lot less entertaining and it's more engaging for me mentally, I feel more fulfilled and pleasantly busy.

I think the best advice I received for the monotonous one-baby phase was to read and pick up a hobby. I read so many wonderful books during those naptimes and taught myself how to sew. Now I have a little less time for those things but I continue to benefit greatly from my time spent doing the initial learning back then. And it set up good habits so that now I'm very apt to pick up a book still for fun or information, which keeps me balanced among the busy-ness of life with two little kids.

And I couldn't agree more about taking the time to train each child when they're young so that they do get easier and more helpful and self-sufficient as they age. Tobias at 4.5 is such a help to me and even Peter at 2 has learned a few independent skills that'll make it easier for me to focus on the new baby's needs when she comes. It's hard work but definitely pays off in the end.

Talita said...

Valerie, you are just an amazing woman. When I had Nicole, my firstborn, I remember spending hours and hours reading your posts. They were really helpful for me! Now that Nicole is 3 and I have another child (Alícia, who is 17 months), I don't spend much time visiting your blog anymore, but whenever I do I very much blessed! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. : )

Tara said...

I really enjoyed this post Valerie. Thank you!

I am expecting twins and find myself wondering what it will be like going from 1 to 3. Will it be easier than going from 1 to 2, then to 3? :) I kinda hope so...not that I have any choice in the matter! HA!

Erika Shupe said...

Hi Valerie, Thanks for this fun post and insight into these transitional times. I would also suggest that typically once a mom is bringing her third child home she has (in most cases) accomplished a fair amount of learning and gained a level of competence that makes the third and more manageable than the first and second. I have read that in work, it takes about five years of continuous time at a task to start approaching the level of "expert". A great many moms will have been mothering somewhere in the range of five years about the time baby number three is blessing her home. I dont mean to take away from what you have said here, Im just commenting. *smile*

I would be interested to read about how you see Babywise playing into this time of life as well. How does having a plan make bringing home a new blessing more manageable not only for mom but for dad and babies one and two as well.

Thanks again for this post and for your blog page.

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