Saturday, June 4, 2011

So, does it get easier?

Waaaaaay back when I was the young mother of just one little baby boy - which, honestly, seems like it was just yesterday - I used to think that as children grew older they required less work and effort. In fact, I distinctly remember telling another lady at church that I couldn't wait for Solomon to grow a little older (and, as I thought, less labor-intensive) so I could "get my life back".

Hahahahahahaha! Can you say "naive"? I figure I'll get "my" life back right when I'm old enough to about die. And really, that is totally okay with me. I love being a busy wife and mommy.

Sometimes, though, I have to chuckle when new moms, or mothers with all little kids, moms with  less kids than we have, think that my life is such a walk in the park compared to theirs. "Must be nice!" is the universal vibe that often comes across. I am NOT thinking of anyone in particular at all. In fact, I'm certain that I used to fall into this same line of thinking - that once children got old enough to no longer require my help in feeding and dressing themselves, once they were old enough to actually start helping ME, they somehow required less work and effort on my part. In fact, to this day I often catch myself thinking that life is easier now than when I only had one or two children to care for. Until my husband takes one of the kids off my hands for a few hours and I notice how much it lightens my work load, even if he took just one of them, or just one of the older ones. 

The truth is: our children need us as long as they are alive. As they grow older, their needs change in that they become less physical and more emotional, but they always need us.

Take, for instance, Annie, who is not quite 6 months old: as long as she is cuddled, fed, and diapered, she is the most content, happy baby. She never asks for candy for breakfast, doesn't question why I won't let her go swimming in the pool in freezing temperatures (well, you know, relatively speaking...), or asks me every day to take her to X store so she can spend her allowance money on Y toy. The only things she wants are easy things, like milk, and being held.

On the other side of the spectrum is our oldest, Solomon, who is turning 10 this fall: he can do every part of laundry from sorting loads to hanging and folding the clean clothes. He can cook simple foods, take care of younger siblings, haul groceries into the house, and tend the garden and pets. He can run into the store, post office, or library for me if it's just a quick stop to save me having to haul the whole family in. But does that mean that I work less because of having him? No, not at all. Unlike the youngest children, I spend a lot of time each day teaching him. Which requires a lot of planning, choosing curriculum, and agonizing over what the best choices are for his particular style. He gets chauffeured across town for activities such as piano lessons and P.E. He has important (to him) errands to run such as putting his allowance in his bank account and then withdrawing it, so he can go spend it at a store that he needs me to take him to. He likes writing books and building stuff and inventing things, but inevitably he ends up needing my help and it takes a lot of time to keep up with it all. He has good days and bad days and moody days and happy days just like all of us do. Instead of waking up at night to feed him, I wake up wondering if I am doing a good enough job advancing his natural talents and helping the areas he struggles with. Last night, I was up for a full hour (!) after only a few hours of sleep, contemplating with great sadness the fact that years ago I had failed to record a major milestone for him on video camera, and now the moment is gone forever.

The other children are at various stages between these two extremes. In Germany there is a saying: "Little children, little worries, big children, big worries."

Taking care of an older child is more of an emotional drain than a physical one, but I almost prefer the latter because it is so much more straight-forward and simple. I imagine it does not get easier even as they become adults and leave the home. I will probably be laying awake at night wondering whether they are well, and praying that they do not die in a horrific accident. At least now, I can go into their room and check on them anytime. At least now, there is a time each day when ALL of them are asleep at the same time, affording me some mental peace knowing that they are all SIMULTANEOUSLY fully cared for and safe.

Have you ever had company over? Of course you have! Even though you likely didn't do their laundry, or agonize over their well-being to the extent that parents agonize over their children, and even though your guests probably did everything in their power to not cause any trouble, it was still extra work having them. Simple reasoning tells us that 8 people are louder, track in more dirt, and eat more food than, say, 2 or 3 people. What if both your parents, and your spouse's parents, lived with you 100% of the time? That is the reality of having just 4 extra people living under the same roof. Mind you, almost any adult will be less work than almost any child, although you may not think so about your particular mother-in-law (just for the record, mine is FABULOUS! - which explains why she raised such an awesome son).

My conclusion: Unless kids are safely tucked away in bed sleeping, they are work. Even while they are sleeping, they weigh on our minds to be prayed and agonized over while we pick up the day's messes and clean the house like busy little elves. It NEVER ends, and it never gets easier. Being a mom is the hardest job there is, both physically and emotionally. The more children there are, the more work there is, or else everyone would be having lots of kids because we are naturally inclined to be lazy. But oh, the unspeakable blessings that are ours every single day, the little things that outsiders never see or experience because they are only shared in the intimacy of the immediate family circle. Those make it all worthwhile, and then some.


But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. - Proverbs 4:18

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing that post. It is so absolutly true! My hugest thought as they get older is, "am I training them in the way they should go?" Eleven year old GIRLS are so emotional, and there come such NEW challenges, worries, "talks", and it is EVER-SO-HARD!
    But like you said, the reward is amazing! I LOVE being a mom!!
    Sometimes when my kids do something great, with such wonderful biblical character, I say, "your reward is in heaven" :) At first they got a little bit of an irritated look on their faces, like they were expected to be rewarded here and now. It's kind of funny. Now they kind of chuckle a little bit (because I say it often).
    But we have to stay faithful to the awesome, wonderful, priviledged job of being a mom...because while we may reap many benefits here on earth of raising our children.... really my little saying is true...our reward is in heaven!

    Anyway... had to share that :)
    You're doing a wonderful job! Not many are so blessed to have a mom like you!!

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  2. i have two girls 20 and 18 and they are a lot of emotional work. I loved raising them and also thought when they got older I would just sit back and watch them get on with life. I was terribly wrong! Like your quote said the bigger the child the bigger the problem. That is so true! I love my girls and they have turned out to be wonderful, confident ladies with the Lord's help.

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  3. While I agree with you fully that parenting is never over, but simply changes, I am looking forward to the day when I can have such joy in the good, independent decisions my children make for the Lord. Not just that they are just "good people" or good "pre-adults" (I loathe the word "teenager"), but that they are truly Godly Christians who serve God because they love Him.

    It's a daunting task. I often think of Paul writing "let us run with patience the race that is set before us..."

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  4. I agree. I used to think like that too, like it would be way easier as they grow. It is a whole new chapter in life. And it is like at first they are babes and you give them their milk, then they grow and they need much watering, pruning and nurturing and with it comes worry, worry about their growth. I am a worrier type mama, not the laid back go with the flow and I know that I will be like this until I am in glory with Him. It is such an honor to be a mother, we have no choice but to become less focussed on our selves and to grow in our character. Every time I have a baby I feel like the Lord shows me my selfishness and wants to stretch me. It is so good. Who would we be without our children? EAK!

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  5. Goodness, and you have such a range of ages for which to care--as you said, from the 'just need milk' phase to the pre-teen set. It must be difficult to try to give each what they want, within reason.
    My sister-in-law has a shirt that reads "Motherhood: The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love."
    I know you worry that you're doing right by them, but from what I've read you do plenty to stimulate and nurture each child as an individual.
    You're the children's general, for now, and each day is precious. I promise that the memory that you have of Solomon trumps any video you may have missed. Your chicks are in their roost, so try to relax and get some precious sleep.
    Look forward to the time when you can hand your cranky grandchild *back* to its parents!
    God Bless You and the Family,

    Mindy

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  6. My first child was a VERY challenging baby. However, my second was a walk in the park. Ha ha. For me, it did get easier...for now. LOL! You are such a wonderful mom...your children will definitely rise up and call you blessed! :)

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  7. I agree, children are a lot of work, a huge responsibility. This is why we stopped at 4. And I am much busier now that they're older than I was when they were in diapers! Between running them all around to their various activities, and the money it costs for those activities (sports, scouts, youth group, music, special lessons, etc.), I could not have handled more than 4 kids and kept my sanity.

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  8. It is so funny what we think when we only have 1 little baby, and what we imagine it will be like. It is nothing like I imagined, yet even with its difficulties I wouldn't change a thing. Motherhood is so rewarding, lot's of work tho:-) As my 7 year gets older (hopefully wiser;-0) I see all sorts of new task or area's of training. I know that my job is just beginning with his character.
    I do have to say that I can't wait for the day that I don't have to unload a suburban full of kids to deposit a check into the bank.

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  9. I agree that parenting older children requires more effort in ensuring that their emotional needs are being met! But, oh so rewarding! This was such a thought provoking post, Zsuzsanna!

    I LOVE motherhood too!

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  10. I wish more women in Christian circles would be upfront about the challenges of having older children. I'm not suggesting that we wouldn't have our children if we only "knew" but rather it wouldn't be quite so shocking to discover that hormones are REAL!

    The teenage years are very rewarding as you see your child grow and mature. However, they are also very challenging as your child learn to manage unexpected emotions and you learn to deal with the ensuing fallout.

    I have 2 teenage daughters (and 4 younger children)and I'm regularly complimented on my delightful girls. They are lovely but they are not immune to the momentous changes going on in their bodies and it can be hard on all of us. All this to say, I do wish people would stop denying there is such a stage as "teenagehood". I don't believe it's a societal construct but a very real change physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. And we need to be ready to walk with them through this time. The pay-off is the laughter and pure fun it is to have emerging adults in the house. Retaining a sense of humour is a must.

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  11. as a mother of kids that range in age from 2-21 I have found that babies and younger children are actually much easier than pre-teens, teens and young adults (who seem to think that since they've turned the magic number 18 I should cease being their mother). Older children present many more challenges babies and little ones are simple they just want affection, food and a few toys. Older ones need so much more from you they are caught between childhood and adulthood. I will say though the best career choice I made was being a mom with all it's challenges I wouldn't trade a moment of it for the most prestigious or high paid job outside the home. I am so thankful I didn't follow my first career path after college.

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  12. Holly, I must say I absolutely agree that 'teenagedom' is a real occurance, filled with 'silent treatments,' unexplained angry moments, braces, acne, and awkwardness towards the opposite sex where as previously there was none. To every thing there is a season, and indeed, this has the ability to make things difficult for the entire family!

    However, I think the 'teenager' as we've known it from the first generation out of World War II has become a social construct made for mass media marketing and is often confused with puberty as the real, hormonal, emotional, and spiritual change of which you speak.

    So often, television, movies, magazines, even books push children to mature faster than they would naturally. Even other teenagers are a source of pressure and have the ability to make focusing on ones inner self at such a crucial time difficult, when these years are the years that are very important in every young person's life and can determine their destiny as to things so serious as staying with their Christian faith and choosing an appropriate spouse, and maintaining purity (young ladies AND young gentlemen) until marriage.

    I work with a teenage prayer group and phew, it can be a mental and spiritual workout! However, they are a wonderful group, but oh Holly, it takes humour by the gallon, as well as making the time for quiet, one on one talks (sometimes, these young ladies (it seems mostly ladies, but I put that up to being of the same gender) will ask questions and open up to me as they wouldn't a parent. So I find it is also intrical that young people have trusted adults with whom to speak and will give them the positive, God-supporting answers that will help them in their lives. Even suggesting someone (For instance: You know, if you feel you can't talk to my about something, Mrs. Jones is a wonderful listener...)

    I think this goes back to Mary and Martha: We must guide our teenagers more than ever, and finding a trusted mentor for such a difficult time. And we all still need our Marthas, teen or no.

    Mindy

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  13. I just want to say, it is obvious that you were "cut out" to have a large family. You have six children, and are still hoping for more. You have even suffered extreme morning sickness, which I find amazingly incredible - that you weren't ready to throw in the towel by now! I realize that you feel God is calling you to continue having children. Not all of us are. I am a Christian, but I feel that having more children than the four I already have would be going AGAINST the will of God - because I know I could not handle it. Four is my limit. (I commented before.) Honestly, it would be unfair for me to purposely bring another human being into this world, given my circumstances! I think God has truly given us a BRAIN to make this kind of discernment!'

    I wish you would consider that perhaps that your god has NOT demanded you have children whenever you are fertile. Perhaps you are worth more than a multiplying tool.

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