When 4 is less than 2 (Or the more kids I have, the easier it gets)
November 11, 2015
First off, thank you guys for the enthusiastic response to yesterday’s announcement. I have lots of fun ideas for content thanks to you fine people, and I’m excited to start laying down tracks. In fact! I just recorded the first half of episode 1 earlier today. And by recorded I mean pushed “record” and talked into a flat-lining screen for 10 minutes, thinking all the while I had an exceptionally well-modulated voice. Like, I actually had that thought. (Punchline: it wasn’t recording.)
So, ah, as soon as we get the minor technical details like actually recording my voice under control, I’m sure it’s gonna be a real top seller.
Judging by the sound of Legos hitting the ground and the baby’s intermittent-but-not-yet-frantic vocalizations, I’d wager I have a minute or 10 to tap something out. And since I’ve long since mastered the art of hitting “save,” today’s content will still be the visual variety. Technical prowess be mine.
The first thought I had when deciding to launch a podcast was “that’s pretty stupid. You have 4 kids.” The next thought was “eh, why the hell not?” It’s not like I’m writing War and Peace in all my downtime throughout the day. I’m generally either nursing, sweeping under the table for the 7th time, or trolling Facebook for “just a quick check in” (45 minutes later…)
In fact, a not-insignificant motivating factor is the very real fear of God in me that knows I will have to account for time spent on social media in my final judgement.
But honestly? I do have a lot of free time. Not like, leisurely time, but time to do what I want – or need – to do, almost every day. I can choose when to clean the bathrooms ( I mostly choose never), I can choose when to start cooking dinner, I can choose when to take a shower (again, neve….ah, not too frequently), I can choose when to go grocery shopping.
So what’s the secret? Lots of babysitting, maybe? Or a really well-run ship of a household that has my little snowflakes scheduled and polished to a shine by 8 am every morning, sitting in a tidy row doing their Latin grammar?
Here’s the secret: 4 kids is the easiest number I’ve had so far. And it’s not because there’s less work.
There’s a literal crapload of diapers to change every day, I’m constantly picking single grains of rice out of the carpet, and I have been stopped 12.4 times during the compilation of this single uninspiring sentence to make 2 paper airplanes, answer a question about penguins, and remove yet another sticky hand from my shirtsleeve and redirect a shrieking pterodactyl to another part of the house. #whitewasabadchoice
I list that out not to sound impressive, but to illustrate how very far I’ve come from the time when, with one kid, I was so completely overwhelmed by a trip to Target that I would time it around my nursing schedule and sit in the backseat of my car, furtively suckling my firstborn for 40 agonizing and sweaty minutes, praying nobody could see the sliver of exposed flesh through the heavily-tinted windows of our (RIP) sporty Honda Accord.
And now there are four of them. And still only one of me. But I’m 99% calmer than when our ratio was 1:1. (I mean, I probably drink a little bit more frequently than I used to also. But I didn’t know about the myriad health benefits of red wine before I had my 3rd and 4th. Wink.)
I hear all the time from other moms that “I can’t even take my two to the grocery store by myself, forget taking four to Costco!” and I’m like, amen sister friend, neither could I.
I mean I did it, when I had to, but it was just as traumatic as you’re describing.
And you know why? Because I was completely maxed at that level of motherhood.
I still maintain that the transition from one to two children was the most jarring thus far. Perhaps even more jarring than going from not-a-mom to why-won’t-he-stop-crying?
There’s only one time in the span of your mothering career when you have to double your output and halve your resources, and that’s why it feels so insane.
Think about it; when Luke was born, I only had to reallocate a quarter of my energy and brainpower. And I was already maxed out, so HAHAHA WHY NOT ADD ONE MORE TO THE PARTY? (slightly hysterical rising high-pitched cackle)
But it’s been fine. It’s been more than fine, in fact, as I was attempting to communicate to an overwhelmed mama at the park a few week’s back, watching with a mixture of dread and fascination as my sister and I rolled up with our double strollers and disgorged 8 children under the age of 7 between the two of us in a torrent of pint-sized humanity across the playground.
“I can hardly make it through the day with my two…” she trailed off, looking into the distance with a dazed expression. And I’m like, I know. I know that’s true.
But for whatever reason, I don’t (usually) feel that way at the end of most days. I’d say 75% of our days end in “well, that definitely could have been worse,” and not because anything was terrible, but just that I’m tired.
Motherhood at any level is physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting. It takes everything you have, whether you’re mothering one child or (I suspect), seven.
But the secret formula to feeling a lot less crazed and a lot less like a hunted animal than when I was getting double teamed? It’s that I have more to give.
There’s more of me (literally. postpartum midsection, I’m looking at you.) to go around, because I’ve been training and learning, yes, but primarily because God has given me – is giving me – more grace, more patience, and more energy to meet the challenges of mothering more kids.
It’s the divine economy, which appears to operate almost antithetically to the human economy. The more you give, the more you receive.
So am I a better mom, a seasoned veteran who no longer shudders at the thought of potty training and who meal plans and gently encourages with a smile and a soothing voice?
ah, no. No I am not.
I’m still struggling with night-wetting, still shrewing at my beloved children for the umpteenth infraction of the morning, and usually in a less-than-modulated voice. And still hopelessly making it up as I go along.
But maybe because I know it’s not all up to me, perhaps precisely because I am physically incapable of meeting everyone’s needs in a given moment, I’m more content and more peaceful in this work.
And that makes it seem easier. Even though there’s more whining, more noses to wipe, and more bedtime stories to read.
When I only had two kids, I could at least pretend I was completely in control. And I tried my damnedest to do exactly that.
Now? I know it’s not possible. There’s no way I can plan for every contingency, and there’s nothing I can do sometimes but cry out “God, help me!” when 3 out of 4 of them are going off like sirens in the back seat, wailing their disappointment with begin immobilized in rush hour traffic.
And He does. And I think, because I have so many more opportunities to ask Him, He actually helps me more.
So the moral of this story? Don’t be a stubborn control freak like me.
But if you are? Maybe He’ll send you a couple more kids to try and work it out of you.