There is a pile of baby clothes on a desk in my bedroom, and I’ve started knitting a pink baby blanket. Other than that, we haven’t done anything to prepare for our fourth baby. But, whether we’re ready or not (we’re not), a baby is coming in November.
Recently I commented on a friend’s Instagram that I was so impressed with her, she recently had her third baby and she was HANDLING it. In response she said something like, “No. Not handling it. Struggling. I’ve always wanted four babies but I’m not sure now. How do you do it all, Amanda?”
I read her message over and over and thought, THIS is what’s wrong with social media! If you can follow me and somehow get the impression that I have even one thing under control — ONE THING — then you’ve been misled.
There’s laundry strewn across living room floor, it’s 2:30 p.m. and the lunch mess is still on the table, and I put Thomas down for his nap late today (and almost every day) ONLY because I can’t motivate myself to walk up the stairs.
These are not hyperbolic examples I made up to be funny, these are all actual true examples. And I could go on.
If you follow this blog, or on any other social media platform and you’ve ever wondered how I manage to keep it together and rear children with such ease, here is the truth: I’m frustrated with myself because I rarely exercise, and I buy more processed/prepackaged food than I ever have in my entire life. I almost never read, I spent too much time on my phone, and I’m completely overwhelmed by keeping my house clean.
And the chaos is about to at least quadruple when the baby arrives. (As Jim Gaffigan says about four children, “Imagine you’re drowning…and then someone hands you a baby…” HAHAHA! ha. ha.)
The lesson I learned by having three kids is that your ability to do it all has nothing to do with whether or not your family has room for another child. Not for me anyway. Certainly there are people whose mental health is tied to having a clean home, but I don’t even think those people should get discouraged by not being able to keep up; it doesn’t mean you are irresponsible, lazy, or have awful children who won’t quietly occupy themselves with Waldorf toys while you scrub your floors. It just means that this stage of life, is busy, messy, and all-encompassing. Is anyone on top of their game? Really?
When I think about having a fourth child, I definitely feel overwhelmed, but I know it will be ok. There will be dishes in my sink and my floor will need to be vacuumed, but it will be ok because our family is full of love. My marriage is strong, and I know I can trust Christ to sustain us.
I do not mean to imply that Tom and I have a perfect marriage, or that I my walk with God has no room for improvement. What I mean is that the foundations are strong.
I’m also not one of those earth mothers, so overwhelmed by Christ’s love and so enamored with my children’s chubby cheeks that I don’t even see mess! And who could see mess because we spend all day dancing, baking pies, creating memories, and spending quality time together! I love being a mom and I have an amazing family, but we don’t fit into ANY idealistic construct. We’re tired, we’re messy, we’re grumpy, we’re happy. We have to repent and start over all the time. That’s it.
I think that’s what kids need; it’s what they remember. Clean floors are nice (I’ve heard, anyway), but kids thrive in love. (And that’s the good stuff. You can fake a clean house and a fun activity on Instagram, but no curated post really shows the depth of a loving family.)
I want to be very clear — I am not implying that families with fewer kids DON’T have a stable, loving home environment. There are lots of reasons for having one or two or 10 kids. All families are different. What I’m saying is the woman with 10 kids doesn’t have all those kids because after the ninth, she looked around and said, “I’m super organized and my to do list is all checked off!” I’m saying it has nothing to do with that at all.
I also hope it doesn’t sound like I’m over-simplifying what is actually a very important decision. I’m not — because these are big, multi-faceted questions. Are you ready for another child? How’s your marriage? How’s your family structure? How’s your relationship with God? It’s actually a lot easier to assess your laundry situation.
That’s my answer to my friend. I’m not thriving if thriving means a clean house, and brushed hair. Not at all. But, in other ways, we’re completely thriving.
When I think about having a fourth child I AM scared. I have no idea how I’ll manage to nurse a baby in the morning and get David to the bus on time, or how I can possibly do more laundry or even have time for each child. But when I feel overwhelmed, I lay claim to God’s promises and say with confidence that He will provide. We might be VERY tired, and very late all the time, and wearing the same outfit three days in a row, but God never promises that we won’t be covered in spit-up and awake all night. He does promise that He will be with us, and will provide for us so that through him we can respond in love when we are struggling to be patient. He promises that he will sustain us when getting through the day feels impossible, and that all our needs are met in Jesus Christ.