It comes at me from every angle. While sitting at a birthday party, over a glass of wine, a mother of two looks at me incrediculously. “How do you handle five? I can barely handle two.”
When I explain to a new teacher or specialist that no, she is only one of five. “When do you sleep?”
As I am running after one with another on my hip and two more running behind us. “You’re always so calm! How are you so calm?!”
Even my therapist has asked, “How do you do it all without losing your mind?”
It’s a question I’ve come to expect in all it’s various forms, one I have multiple answers for at any given time- answers that are typically cloaked in sarcasm. “Wine,” is a favorite of mine as well as saying “I don’t handle five, they handle me.”
The actual question never bothers me because I am aware it’s usually being asked in kindness and awe; coming from people who truly can’t imagine my life with five, and at one point six, kids running around. My answers are not cloaked in sarcasm because I am annoyed, nor because I hate the question. Usually, they’re quick and easy so I can go running after another child as soon as I squeeze the words out.
I do believe people are genuinely intrigued though, by how I manage five kids, a house, a husband, cook these dinners, and still put make up on before I leave the house. (The answer is I don’t. Rarely is makeup put on before exiting my front door.)
But I do acknowledge, five kids is a lot of work and I do have a pretty awesome list of ways I am able to handle all curveballs life throws at me.
First? I’m not as put together or as calm as I look. Recently, my five year old had a spill down a hill that could have ended much worse than it did. After he was back up and playing, smiling like always, another parent commented on how calm I was through the entire ordeal. Truth is, I wasn’t. The second I heard “Lauren he fell down a cliff!”(the joys of a sixth grader watching him fall) I was a nervous wreck. Flashing through my mind was everything that could be wrong with him, from broken bones to impaled lungs. I come across calm in moments of panic because my mama taught me from a young age to always work to appear more calm than you are. If you lose control of yourself, you lose control of the situation and no one wants that when you are a mom of 5.
(My mom’s seven kids!)
Secondly, we put our priorities in a different order than most would expect. I find one of the biggest downfalls I’ve seen of other parents who suffer from overload is that their kids come first in their life. Now, let me clarify-if your child is dying, yes they should come first to go to the hospital. If you have an addiction, yes please quit and put your kids first. They should be number one in situations like that.
But they do not need to be number one all the time in your day to day life. I get a lot of side eyes for my list of care, which goes God, Me, Husband, Kids.
Yes, that’s right: God, Me, Husband, Kids. And my husbands list goes: God, Me, Wife, Kids.
First on my list is God. I make sure I get time to myself everyday, with just Jesus. Somedays it’s a half hour reading the bible on my side porch, enjoying a cup of coffee and being the epitome of a put together Christian woman. Most days, it looks like my locking myself in the bathroom for five minutes to pray or taking an extra two in the shower to throw out my thoughts to Him. Not everyone has this need on their list, but if you are a Christian-you do. And it is amazing what a half hour of you and Jesus time will do.
Second comes me. My me time is often tangled in with God time and Husband time, but me time is there. I relish in going out with just my lady friends, in going for runs, in my time in therapy taking care of me. I find this almost competetive nature among mothers nowadays that breaks my little heart. It’s as if we try and prove how much we do for our kids, what we are willing to sacrifice for them, how much of ourselves we can let go of who we are to be a mom-and I flat out do not get that. We can’t give up all we are to be moms ladies. You kids will leave you and who is left when they do?
Which brings me to third on my list, my husband. Yes, my husband comes before my kids, for the reason I just said, our kids will move on from us. My husnamd is always going to be here. Until we have chosen to no longer be married, or he dies since divorce is not an option, we are what our kids see day in and day out as a healthy relationship. I want them to look at us and see two people, madly in love and who enjoy each other. When our relationship hurts, they hurt. When we are not getting along, they see marriage in strife and view an unhealthy relationship. They learn how to communicate and live with another person based on us and I want them to be as loved and adored as I am when they find who they are meant to be with forever.
And lastly, I have an amazing support system. I know not everyone has our families for support, but our system goes beyond blood on both sides. We have our church and friends as well, all willing to step up and help us. It makes life a lot easier when you have a Mema who can watch the kids at the drop of a hat or a mother in law who comes over and does dishes for you(if you’re ever about to be a mother in law, do dishes for your kids. It’s pretty awesome.) I also had my kids with an amazing man, one who steps up day after day to be a wonderful father. Ladies, don’t make babies with boys who consider watching their own children a chore they need to be rewarded for. Make babies with men who know rearing a child is 50% their responsibility.
If you’re looking at having five or more kids, because crazily enough we aren’t done, I highly suggest making sure these things are part of your day to day life. Your set up and life may look different than mine, but self care, support systems and help are all things I believe every successful parent needs-whether you have two or ten!
(Anyone crazy enough to have ten?)
Parents out there, what do you suggest to younger, new parents to be successful?