Sometimes, It’s Just Plain Hard

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.

7 thoughts on “Sometimes, It’s Just Plain Hard

  1. Pamela

    This was a truly inspiring article. I raised 3 children and my daughter-in-law is currently raising 4. I passed this article along to her as I know she sometimes feels overwhelmed. I have 6 grandchildren with one on the way who are such a joy and blessing in my life. I am fortunate to live close to all 3 of my kids therefore get a lot of hands on time with my grandchildren. You are a wonderful role model for mother’s everywhere. Children truly are a blessing even in the moments they are causing us the most stress. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Dorothee

    Dear Janet,

    First said, I am sorry not to be able to express myself better in English, than I am. But I will try my best.

    This is a wonderful posting.
    I really love it A LOT.
    I really would like to give you a big, warm hug.
    Although I only have one single daughter so far, and I do not homeschool anybody, I can totally feel what you are describing.
    I can imagine how much work it would be with five children. Living overseas or not. But speaking of living overseas: We are living in an incredible chaotic situation these days, because we are packing all of our stuff to fill a container, because we are moving to Brazil… And although we only have one daughter so far, I can say it is crazily hard these days. But I choose joy, to say it in your words!
    And I ALWAYS try to choose joy, no matter in which situation. Our daughter deserves the very best of me, and that’s what I want to give her! I don’t want her to feel annoying, stressing, or anything bad at all EVER. And that’s how I live.
    Janet, I really wish, I could tell you, how much I can find myself in your words.
    Ok, I don’t have five children, don’t do homeschooling,…
    And, to be honest, I do not have that strong believe in God. (I hope you won’t mind….)
    But despite all this:
    (One day

    Reply
  3. Dorothee

    Dear Janet,

    First said, I am sorry not to be able to express myself better in English, than I am. But I will try my best.

    This is a wonderful posting.
    I really love it A LOT.
    I really would like to give you a big, warm hug.
    Although I only have one single daughter so far, and I do not homeschool anybody, I can totally feel what you are describing.
    I can imagine how much work it would be with five children. Living overseas or not. But speaking of living overseas: We are living in an incredible chaotic situation these days, because we are packing all of our stuff to fill a container, because we are moving to Brazil… And although we only have one daughter so far, I can say it is crazily hard these days. But I choose joy, to say it in your words!
    And I ALWAYS try to choose joy, no matter in which situation. Our daughter deserves the very best of me, and that’s what I want to give her! I don’t want her to feel annoying, stressing, or anything bad at all EVER. And that’s how I live.
    Janet, I really wish, I could tell you, how much I can find myself in your words.
    Ok, I don’t have five children, don’t do homeschooling,…
    And, to be honest, I do not have that strong believe in God. (I hope you won’t mind….)
    But despite all this:
    (One day) I could have said that. It feels so.

    A big hug!!

    Reply
  4. Melinda

    Love the very REAL post! Any one of these things is hard… and I also know that ALL THREE are especially hard! So true… we must CHOOSE our response. Thank you for the Godly reminder for me and others. Praise the Lord, He is our STRENGTH in our weakness. Praying for you as you have so much to do in this last month. God is enough! Bless you, friend.

    Reply
  5. Polly

    Janet,

    Thank you for your honest look at what it is to be a mom of many.

    We have a house full of little ones, too (six under 10 years), and the days can be full and exciting, but also full of drama and exhausting. It’s always nice to run into another family who understands and hear how they are living it out.

    Thank you for the reminder to choose Him in those exhausting moments!

    Reply
  6. Yin

    Really love this post, thank you for sharing. I have my moments with only two children, teenagers, different situation but so similar in terms of Choosing joy, choosing to rejoice in being a mom, in 2nd chances He gives us all the time, in choosing our Right response. Thank you for the spiritual reminder and inspiration.

    Reply
  7. Rebecca

    Janet,
    I have just come across your website today. It is amazing! Thank you for this particular post. It made me cry because I could relate to it SO MUCH. I have two boys and a third child on the way and it’s lovely to know that others find it as challenging, frustrating and hard work (at times) as me. Thank you for reminding me, for reminding us ALL that it’s not what happens in any given day, but our response to it. Choosing joy is so important and looking at things from God’s perspective and remembering how precious my children are and that they are a gift from Him. Thank you from my heart, Beccie

    Reply

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