My husband is a researcher. Not as a profession, but just on a regular basis regarding matters for our family. He likes to explore ALL the options before making a decision. I am more the type of person who just explores until I find an option I like, then I jump off a cliff with it.
Run and jump. And see how it turns out.
This method has served me pretty well for most of my life in that I’ve not made too many major life errors. However, since I heavily rely on my gut feeling during this process (and what I consider some common sense), one never is quite sure how the whole thing will turn out. I figure that’s part of life. Moving forward even when you don’t know exactly how things will turn out. Enjoying the adventure along the way. This has been my general way of living.
Well, this was my approach to growing our family as well. After each baby, I was ready for another. Within a few months. Seriously. Not because this baby raising thing is a piece of cake. Hardest thing I’ve ever done, actually. But that hasn’t detoured me. Made me think I’m crazy for doing it four times, yes. But stopped me, no.
So, here I am, pregnant with our fourth. And I literally waited for about a year and a half for my husband to agree to this baby. When our son was a few months old, I was pretty sure I wanted this fourth baby. Upon telling my husband, he looked at me like I was a nut case. I mean, that jump from having two children and each being able to deal with one, to having a third and being outnumbered is a big one. Forget the high jump, hurdles, or long jump. Having a third child should be an Olympic sport. It’s stinkin’ hard work so I get why my husband was a little hesitant to agree…not to mention the fact that our youngest little man has given us a run for our money unlike any child before him. Thanks, Micah. You’re a champ.
Despite the challenges of raising these little people, my husband regularly did his research to try to learn what it might be like to add one more child to our family. Mostly he read the stories of those who’ve gone before us. And we admired a couple families we knew well who had four or more children and had very successfully raised them. And do you know what he learned in all his hours of research?
Having more kids is less stressful. Say what?!
Your family grows, your circumstances change, it all seems like chaos….but the real deal is that it changes you. And you can’t go back. The size of your family, obviously, dramatically effects who you become. I suppose this is like any big life choice you make. It changes the course of your life. But oh.my.word. Having more kids is unlike any other choice I can think of having made in my life aside from marrying the man who’s helping me do it. And do you know what? It is turning out exactly the same according to what my husband found and read to me. Having more kids actually cuts down on stress because….you have to let go. When you have one or two kids, you can maintain some semblance of sanity and control. Add that third kid and you are outnumbered. You might as well just count your losses and let go of everything going exactly according to your well intentioned plans. And you will be better off for it.
You see, I am the type of person who prefers to be organized and prepared. I know my decision making process outlined initially may make it sound otherwise, but I suppose it’s a balance. I’m ready to jump off a cliff, but I prefer to be organized as I do it. I like everything in my home to be in its place. I like things to be done in a certain order. I absolutely cannot cook dinner in a messy kitchen. I like to get into a made bed (I will literally make it at 9pm before getting in it). So, in general, a little neurotic. But I know there are others just like me. Right?!
And I have found that I have this funny tendency to feel like if I’ve done something once, I absolutely must do it again. If I don’t, I feel like everyone will know and think less of me. Example; Christmas cards! This holiday has just passed and I sent out not a single Christmas card. We just made an international move and I had neither the money nor the energy to do it. However, I always feel pressure around this time to be sending out a little card with my adorable family on it because I have done it before. But right now, my life is a little crazy and I just couldn’t do it.
Ok, disclosing all my weird tendencies has a purpose. The more kids I have, the more I have to let go of my perfectly laid out plans. And just enjoy life with my family. Not a perfect life, just life. As it is. As I have the energy and time to live it. Setting my priorities around them, not around a to do list or around what I think others might think of me. Some examples of what this has looked like recently:
I took a nap while Justin set up the Christmas tree with the kids. And the tree was covered in colored lights and the ornaments of my childhood. No tree skirt. To top it off? A star made out of aluminum foil. Is this how I would like my Christmas tree to look? I’ll be honest. No. Would it have looked this way if I had only two kids. Probably not. I’d have the energy to have gotten the ornaments I want, a tree skirt, a star for the tree topper, and I wouldn’t have been napping.
Did my big girls have an absolute blast hanging each and every ornament themselves? Absolutely. When I got up to come look at the tree, they were so incredibly proud of themselves. They worked together to create a system of Aviya handing the ornaments to Hadessah, who would put them on the tree…even the ones at the top. And Hadessah had solved the problem of ornaments that had no hook. She told me she had been ‘bery creative.’ They were so proud of themselves. And if I had been in ‘two kid mode,’ they never would have experienced that because I would have done things my own way. I would have certainly invited them to be part of it, but they would have had very little say in anything about the tree. Just invited to whatever role I doled out to them.
But this mama has had to let go. And my kids have had so much more fun than they would have otherwise. Things don’t go perfectly. I’ve become more flexible. I’ve learned to see the value in letting go of my own expectations of everything going and turning out as perfectly as possible. And I’ve given a lot more energy, attention, and love to my children because of it.
Another example for your reading pleasure…my girls are rather enjoying the process of picking out their own clothes in the morning. When this little interest began, if we weren’t planning to leave the house, I was pretty ok with it. But if we were leaving the house or I had the slightest bit of energy to review their choices, I gave them an a choice of keeping the pants or the top they picked out and then helped them choose something that matched the option they chose to keep. This was much more a possibility when my son wasn’t so mobile. Now, he is going a hundred miles a minute and I consider it a huge help that my girls dress themselves at ages three and five. And I literally don’t care what they wear for the most part. Ok, on picture day and holidays, I’ll have some input…and I’m sure there will be a few other occasions. And eventually, I believe with all my silly little heart that I will have more energy someday and I’ll give my children the important life advice of how to match clothing. For now, I’ll take whatever they pick out. Oh, and don’t even get me started on their hair. I have no idea how mom’s with girls keep those little girl pig tails in all day or even keep hair looking brushed.
Now, I will admit that letting go of my expectations in the above situations as well as (literally) hundreds more was a stressful process. But as I’ve given in to it more and more, the stress has gone down. And my kids have enjoyed things more and more. And I totally get what those crazy people with three or more kids wrote about. I’m living it daily.
And now, because I ‘let go’ this morning and chose to write this blog post at the kitchen table at 8am, I get to go clean up the spare room where my kids got the styrofoam packaging out of a box and colored it. For Nana and Papa. Very sweet intentions. Quiet and occupied for an hour. So happy, proud, and excited of what they’ve created. And all three playing and working together kindly. But now there are styrofoam bits everywhere.
It’s totally worth letting go. No matter how many kids you have, letting go is a benefit to everyone in the family. You can wait until you have more than two kids and you have no choice but you can also do it now.
But the bottom line is, the more kids you have, the less stressed you will feel. Eventually. I promise. Nothing will go perfectly but you will all enjoy it.
And you’ll be changed.