People often ask about what it is like to have five children. About living overseas. About homeschooling. Few dare to ask about what it is like to have all three of those combined. Usually when I respond, I just smile and say, “We’re busy, but we love it.” And when I say that, I am not lying. I do love it.
I love having a big family. I see tremendous value in having this many children. I see God’s design for family. I see the amazing benefits to my character, to the character of my children.
Living overseas offers an amazingly new perspective to the world, to “needs,” and to what “normal” is. We’ve lived in Asia for nine of the past 12 years and I love it.
Homeschooling is amazing. The honor of teaching my little ones and just experiencing the beautiful weave of life, learning, and discipleship is really awe-inspiring. I wouldn’t trade it. Not for more “me time” while they are at school, not for a cleaner house, not for anything.
I love having a big family. I love living overseas. I love homeschooling.
But you know what? Sometimes, it’s just plain hard.
I don’t ever want anyone to get the impression that I have it all together. That we never have bad days. That I never feel stressed, frustrated, or overwhelmed. I don’t want people to think that somehow I got lucky and have five perfect children who always do what I ask, behave in ways that are appropriate, and always, always love each other at every minute of every day. Just like anyone else with little kids, we have bad days. We have days when moods are foul (often mine!) and when children fight. We get stressed, angry, and we make silly mistakes.
Sometimes, it’s just plain hard.
I had to take a few minutes today during school to go up to my bed and cry. Bethany had been fussing all morning. I am going on day four of a headache. I was reading with Caleb and no matter how many times we came to the word, “says” he just couldn’t remember it. Worries fill my heart—lists of things to do, things to sell, things to settle before we leave in 27 days. Trying to sort out a bazillion details when you can’t speak the language is maddening. The tears filled my eyes and I told the kids I just needed a break. A few minutes to myself. I brought Bethany upstairs, laid on the bed, and let all inadequacy and fear and stress and fatigue wash over me and I let the tears fall.
I’m not superwoman. I get overwhelmed. I get frustrated. I feel sad, scared, and unprepared for this task of parenting. I am just like every other mother out there.
The difference comes, perhaps, in my response to all of this. When the tough days come, I remind myself that no one ever said that this mothering thing was going to be easy. No one ever said that we would have the strength and patience on our own to get through the long days. No one ever said that parenting comes naturally.
When people ask me, “How do you manage with five kids?” I think about the choices I make. I choose to receive my nourishment from Christ. I feed on His Word. I find my peace and solace during my reading time and my praying time. I don’t look to friends, books, movies, “me time” or anything else to help me endure, to help me persevere. I choose joy. I choose to see the joy in parenting. I choose to not complain about my kids. I choose to see the honor of God allowing me the privilege to raise these little people. I choose to remember the pain of three miscarriages before having kids (and wondering if I would ever be a mother) and the two miscarriages since having kids (and wondering about the little people I will never know) and I choose to rejoice that He has made me the joyful mother of children. I choose to embrace this calling and this trust from God. Remember, when He comes back He wants to see what we did with what was entrusted to us.
And so on days like today, days when it’s just plain hard, I choose God. I choose to be a Mother. I choose to pull myself together, remind myself of God’s love for children, and humbly go back downstairs and start again. I listen to stories, I dry tears, I cuddle a baby, I make lunches, I clean up messes, and I remind myself that this—this is my spiritual act of worship. This is the denying myself that He is asking for. This is the serving the least of these. This doing everything to the glory of God (even if the everything is changing dirty diapers, making binoculars out of yogurt containers, or cleaning wax out of ears while little boys do their math.) This is doing, in word and deed, all in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is doing my work heartily, as for the Lord. This is the “anything” I told God I would do if it was His will. This is what God has called me to, what He has called any of us with children to do.
It’s not failure or struggle or inadequacy that sets people apart. It’s their response to it.
And I am praying…daily, hourly, and even minute-by-minute, to have a right response.