For another month here, I have four children four and under (plus one in the oven).
Two in diapers, one in the middle of potty training, one potty trained with not-infrequent accidents.
I have three children who can turn on the sink faucet, two who can turn it off. All four can climb to get their hands under the faucet and splash water over the entire room (and beyond).
I have four children capable of pulling clothes out of drawers and dragging them through messes. None of them can wash, dry, fold, and put away those clothes.
I have four children who need fed four times a day. None of those children can provide any meaningful help in the kitchen.
This is an exhausting season.
I’m clinging to the idea that it’s just a season.
One day, these children will be able to consistently go potty in the potty chair and be able to wipe properly once they’re done.
One day they’ll all be able to turn off the faucet after washing their hands AND they’ll be able to clean up the water they spilled on the floor.
One day, they’ll be able to do their own laundry – and if they don’t do it I can let them deal with the natural consequences of their inaction.
One day, I’ll be able to send them off to the kitchen to tend the oatmeal in the morning or to reheat the leftovers at noon or to prepare tea in the afternoon. One day I can turn over even some dinners to the children.
These days of doing everything for everyone are numbered.
That’s what I’m telling myself.
But so many of you other mothers say “It only gets harder” and “just wait until they’re teenagers.”
I try to smile politely, but I just can’t believe it’s true. Sure, the rest of parenting isn’t a walk in the park, but it can’t be like this or worse for twenty years.
And then a fellow mother of many, a dozen years beyond me in the parenting journey, asked me how I was doing. I told her a bit about how hard right now is, how I feel like all I can do is put one foot in front of the other, trusting God to carry me through the next hour (sometimes even just the next minute).
She said she remembers that. When she had five under seven, it felt that way. And then, somewhere along the way, the children started to be able to do some things for themselves, started to be able to actually help. And it’s not just making it through the next hour for her anymore.
I could have cried with relief. Someone to confirm that the hope I’ve been holding on to isn’t a vain one.
Now, maybe it’s just confirmation bias. I want to hear what this woman had to say and I don’t want to hear what all those other mothers have to say about it only getting harder.
But the reality is that the mothers who were telling me it only gets harder? They’re mothers of two, three or four years apart. They haven’t experienced the utter exhaustion of having five little humans completely dependent on them for every aspect of their care.
So forgive me that I take what you say with a grain of salt while I cling on to every drop of encouragement that falls from the mouths of the women who’ve done this “many small children at once” thing.
It’s not that I don’t love you and value your input – it’s just that this crazy life my family is living right now is a whole ‘nother ball game.