I am coming to the conclusion that there is a line between having five kids and six kids. At five, you are considered to still have a normal number of children. At six, well…that is over the line and out of normal range. At five, people have plenty to say about having your hands full. At six, they stop to count twice because they can’t believe their eyes. Well, for now they’re counting the kids and the bump. It amuses me a little, if I’m honest.
Really though, one might be astonished to hear any number of the comments I hear on a regular basis about our family size or something related to it. Some are kind, others are not at all kind. Not many of them bother me too much. People are curious. It’s ok. Don’t we all feel a little uncomfortable when we encounter something far outside our personal experience?
There is one comment that comes up innocently, and rather often, so I wanted to write about it…largely because it is a comment I have heard at different times from friends who have one, two, three, or four kids of their own.
It usually goes something like this:
So and so is telling about one of their parenting challenges…vulnerably (beautifully) sharing about a hill they’ve been climbing or a struggle they’ve been going through, and then in an instant, its like they suddenly remember I have twice or three times as many children in my care, and they back-pedal with a statement like, “Oh, but I only have X number of kids, so I can’t imagine how much harder it is for you.” See, a totally innocent comment. And well-meaning. But I cringe a little every time I hear it. Especially when it includes the word “only”.
Sure, it is different to have many children vs. few children. There are basic logistical differences, and there are different challenges, different dynamics, and different needs…but I really want to say out loud that parenting is challenging from day one, whether you have one child or ten children. My heart is to encourage all parents of littles, regardless of how many they have, that what you are doing every day to raise your little ones are all really hard things. You’re doing them! The hard things! You are living with less sleep, less money, less “free” time, less personal flexibility to do whatever you might like to be doing. You are learning-as-you-go how to solve the various problems you run into at every stage of development. You are doing the important, holy, hard work of meeting all of your child’s needs that you possibly can in a day, even when you yourself are scraping the bottom of your nearly-empty barrel to give what you can to them until you collapse on the couch minutes after they fall off to sleep. I’ve been there. I am there. I just can’t stomach the idea that mamas look in on my life and feel like they’re not measuring up because they feel like they can’t gracefully handle their X number of children while they happen to catch a few graceful moments of me handling mine.
It’s all messy, every step of the journey. Messy and beautiful and so hard at times. I will say, for as odd as it sounds, I think it may be more difficult to have fewer children…especially if you’re at two or three under the age of 5. Oh man, I remember those days, and I can tell you with certainty that life will not always look the same! Life with infants, and toddlers, and preschoolers is NO JOKE. You’re pretty much up to your neck in the deep water of parenting at all hours of the day and night. It takes all you’ve got, and it is totally important to be able to share your struggles, heartaches, troubles, and challenges without discrediting the incredible amount of love you’re pouring out every day to your children because you “only” have X number of children.
A mother is not more heroic or more admirable because she has more children vs. less children…All moms are heroes of the greatest kind–heroes that give selflessly, serve faithfully, and love their own children in a way that no other person could. You’re doing beautiful, hard things, and have no reason to compare your victories or failures to other moms. As your children grow, you grow as well…learning skills and techniques you may not have had in your pocket during the earlier years. If you happen to have a few more children, you will learn the skills and techniques you need at that time to handle those new challenges and dynamics.
I guess I’m just saying, hang in there, and don’t downplay the difficulties of your particular stage of parenthood. We are all fumbling through the best way we know how, and it is important that we stick together in this, whether that be to share our struggles, compare notes on particular stages, or just to cheer each other on in the marathon of motherhood.
“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.…” Psalm 127:3