My 6 kids aren’t a burden, my selfishness is

I already feel like a doof just from that title alone because oh, really, Jenny, that 11 week old baby upstairs qualifies you to address the world as a mother of six? Technically, I mean, yes, yes it does…but please remember to take any “expertise” you may encounter here with a hulking pound or two of salt since my eldest child has yet to hit double digits, mkay?

I have always thought of this blog as more memoir and reflection than instruction, also, for what it’s worth. So there’s that!

I was emptying the dishwasher this afternoon and tossing tiny plastic medicine cup after spoon after syringe from the sink into the silverware rack when it occurred to me that to the outside observer, whether they’ve peeking in from Instagram or happen to glance up as I’m schlepping through Trader Joe’s, my life looks like a dumpster fire. I say this without self pity or self loathing, but I’m a chubby, makup-free mess of 3rd day hair and maternity leggings and XL Old Navy pullovers, and there are usually enough people trailing along with me at any given moment that it looks like I’m running a low budget in-home daycare. The kind without hand sanitizer stations.

I felt a lot of pressure when we “only” had two and three kids to maintain as sort of “I woke up like this” facade of wearing real clothes at all times and losing that baby weight asap (because I um actually could hashtag 37 is not 27) and laughing and shaking my head when people said stuff like “better you than me!” or commented on the fullness of my armload.

Look this is fine. I totally got this! Anyone could do it! It’s fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE PLEASE BRING WINE HOME.

(To be clear I still send that precise text at least once a week)

Now, however, I almost always agree with the casual observer bagging my groceries or commenting in the waiting room that yes, it really is a lot of work.

But it is not work that is performed in vain.

Because these kids? They’re not a season to endure. There are seasons that we grit our teeth and endure as a family, for sure. Illness, newborn days, developmental challenges and unpleasant life phases that wax and wane over the course of a childhood, sure. And parents have seasons, too. I feel like your early thirties is when the bill for your reprobate living in college and your early twenties starts to come due and suddenly you’re spending more money on counseling and physical therapy than you ever spent on clothes and drinks.

No? Just me?

Anyway, it has been particularly real for me during the past 2 years or so that I’m now the adult. That I’m responsible for the kind of childhood my kids have, for better or for worse.

And I don’t mean that in a bullshit wellness-culture sense, like if only I buy the right organic cotton crib sheets and take the right probiotics nobody is ever going to get seriously ill or make poor choices or end up a complete reprobate, but that I set the tone, overall, for the level of peace and happiness in our home. That I have that power. It’s awesome! It’s terrifying! I’m totally incompetent!

And when people tell me they could never have x number of kids because they don’t have the patience or the money or whatever I want to throw my arms around them, start weeping and also laughing while yelling into their ear NEITHER DO WE, MA’AM, IT’S ALL A CHARADE. But that would be inappropriate in the grocery store.

I am way, way too selfish to be a mother. I want to sleep through the night, every night. I want to weigh 50 pounds less than I do, and drive a car that isn’t filthy and doesn’t smell vaguely of Chicfila and old fish (which is exceedingly strange, because we are on a very strict budget in 2020 and I don’t eat seafood.)

I want to work for 4 uninterrupted hours before breaking for lunch which I eat off of a plate, sitting down, and from which no hands other than my own are removing food.

I want to take a hot shower. A leisurely bath (actually, I manage more of those than you might think…) The requisite courses to finish my graduate degree in theology.

I want my kids to fit neatly into the cracks of my daily schedule, to never get sick or upset or resist my efforts to direct their prodigious energy. Or to be easily contained if they resist said efforts.

(Guys do you see where I’m going with this? It turns out I don’t want kids at all, I want…a dog!)

But honestly, I wouldn’t trade all the money and hot water in the world for any one of them, these messy bundles of needs and feelings and human frailties. Each of my children is worth an ocean of suffering, an entire universe of going without and making do and getting up when you really don’t feel like it.

Each of them.

I’m learning to love like the Velveteen Rabbit, and I always figured he didn’t actually mind being shabby and nasty and burdened by a heavy viral load by the story’s end, but I think he probably just learned to love enough that he was willing to accept the price love demands, and so in spite of his objective wretchedness, he was truly happy.

Does that make sense? Where I’m going with this is I never want another mom – especially a younger mom in the trenches with three kids which was my personal kryptonite number – to feel like oh my gosh, I could never do what she is doing because I wasn’t built for it, I don’t have the resources, I just couldn’t handle it…sister, newsflash: me too.

But also, yes, you totally could. Practice makes passable, and patience and endurance and grace cover a multitude of ills and inadequacies and abject failures.

The burden of motherhood is the same burden demanded by any form of real love in this fallen world: selflessness over selfishness. And if it’s having an unglamorous and unfavorable moment thanks to selfie culture and the comparison game, well, where does the dysfunction lie? Is it motherhood and parenting that sucks, or have we grown collectively cold?

I know this much, that in my own struggles to suffer well, to accept hard things, to endure pain, the one screaming the loudest of all is usually…me.

My kids aren’t the cause of my suffering, but man, do they ever provide a great metric for measuring exactly how far I still have to go in the self improvement department.

And they’re utterly and completely worth it.

4 kids and 40-something pounds ago, once upon a time in Rome. When I got dressed every day, accessories, and BABY WORE. #allthethings #slayallday #alsowascripplinglydepressedinthisseasonoflife #howsthatforironic


  • Cami

    Really enjoyed this and did a whole lot of nodding my head in agreement. We had 5 children in 7 1/2 years while moving 6 times in 5 years (3 different states). It’s a recipe for chaos and therefore, stress. It’s hard enough to be pregnant with littles home all day. Thank you for the great point that it’s not the kids that are the burden but our own desire for a self-centered lifestyle, and therefore the culture’s message that we should live a self-centered lifestyle. We live in Connecticut now and I’ve never seen so few children! We are a real spectacle out here! I haven’t figured out how to balance out my life yet with parenting, homeschooling, marriage, social life, prayer life, and self care… but for sure… those little darlings that at the moment are asleep… are worth it!

  • Jenny T

    This!!!!! Just had to take a deep dive into humility and admit to my (non-Catholic, “why do you have so many kids”) in-laws that I am drowning. [Five kids, a baby, first year homeschooling, no help.] But I feel hopeful that there is value in admitting that this life is incredibly difficult but definitely worth it!

  • Kerry Lynne Greenwald

    I always knew that helping my kids get to Heaven was my primary goal as a Mom. What I didn’t realize is how much my kids are helping ME get to Heaven!

  • Meg C

    Girl. You are on to something aka my life. Thank you!!!! The comment about therapy vs clothing was #100. Do we need to come up with a Velveteen Rabbit, mivemebt, hashtag or mantra/motto. Best analogy I’ve heard this far except for maybe Christ. #goals. ALSO please tell me you saw the suggested ads at the bottom of your webpage for this post

  • Mindy

    Yes, oh yes. We have six kiddos too and it’s a ping-pong match between “dumpster fire” and absolute joy. The pressure to show the world a perfectly kept family with well behaved children is exhausting – and not so much for our own sake (though that’s part of it, I’m sure), but for the sake of promoting a culture of life! Most people aren’t ready to see the realities of a family with six kids – thank you for sharing your raw, unfiltered stories for the rest of us who are just like you!

  • Jean

    You are a tremendous (no where near the best word) gift to all women who struggle with being Moms. You speak truth and light and nourish our souls. Most of all, you write truth….and that is something that everyone else is afraid to do!

    Your columns should be required reading for all priests, bishops, and Pope Francis himself, so they can understand what being a Mother involves.

    Keep feeding our souls, Jenny!

  • Julie

    Goodness, YES! But if you stop for a moment and imagine them all taken away (coronavirus anyone?), and you were suddenly without them…. How awful life would be.

    Despite the demands, stress, chaos and (yes) heavy burden of getting these souls to Heaven, we wouldn’t have it any other way. They do indeed sanctify us.

    God bless you, Jenny!

  • Eva

    So many lines that made me laugh. I remember crying after my 1st, 2nd, all of them actually, that it BURNS when another layer of selfishness is peeled off by the new being in our family. The adjustment period after every baby.. the more selfless I have to be.. is uncomfortable! It stings! I hate it! But it’s like a flashlight beam: this one here, still too selfish! All this is to say, it’s worth it. It’s worth it now, and it’ll be worth it when I’m (hopefully a grandmother) and it’ll be especially worth it when I’m dead. I want to be a saint, and it appears children have the means, the tones and the energy to make me just that, God willing I let them in.
    Keep the posts coming, we sure appreciate you carving out the time to feed us!

  • Annette

    I was torn away from future career prep when I found out my son’s babysitter was sleeping on the job and we had to live out of town. Dream dissolved happened twice. But I will never regret protecting my kid and I will never regret being where he needed to be.

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