mom5Of all the questions I get asked, this has to be the most asked. Of all time.

“Kathryn, how do you do it?” or more commonly, “I just don’t know how you do it.”

Let me tell you a true story.

Just a few weeks after baby number two was born, I was sitting on the couch nursing him. Scott sat across from me and said, “How are you doing?”

And boy did the wateworks start. Clearly and distinctly, in between sobs and nose blowing, I said, “I cannot have anymore kids. This is too hard.” Then I blubbered, “People will know I am such a horrible Catholic, but I have no patience, no energy and no ability to be the mom of a big family.”

“I just. CAN’T. DO. IT.”

We still laugh about my couch breakdown.

You know what my problem was? I was trying to parent the children I did not have.

We {society, friends, family, best friends, co-workers and your neighbor’s best friend’s cousin} all do it. We look at what other people do, apply their gifts to our lives, throw our hands up in the air and shout out the “I can’t do it’s.” We look at our current state, think of adding MORE children to that scenario and we start having recurring nightmares. We evaluate our current abilities and current situations to future made-up scenarios and deem that we will  never be fit to be mothers of more children than we have in this very moment. Heck, some of us worry if we’re actually a good enough mom to the kids we already have. Now, I’m not saying the whole wide world should buckle down and have six kids. Because that would just be crazy talk. But, I am saying this: cut yourself some slack, girl. And, just stick with parenting the real kids you have, not the imaginary ones you see running through your hallways.

If you’re the mom of littles, as in age five and under, let me just tell it to you straight. You are in the trenches. You are sleep deprived, you have only a few years of parenthood under your belt and you are feeling overwhelmed at the magnitude of motherhood. When I had three under four, I thought I was headed straight for the crazy house. The thought of having any more children made me just want to go to bed and sleep. I had no patience as it was, so adding more children? That was just plain ridiculous.

People sometimes scoff when I tell them that five is easier than two. Only moms of five (and then some) really believe me. But, I only speak the truth. We have entered a new phase of parenthood here, one where the older children are actually super helpful. Not all the time, but mostly. The little ones have older ones to look up to, to emulate, to see “how it’s done.” I have built-in homework helpers, dinner preparers, diaper changers, go outside and play in the backyarders and lots of gigglers. Yes, there is sibling rivalry. If a mom tells you she doesn’t have any, she is a big, fat, liar. But, we’re also learning problem solving, sharing and a crazy thing called “entertain yourself.” It’s amazing the creativity your kids show when left alone. It’s also sometimes dangerous and ER-prone, but still.

There are some days when we get an enormous amount of things done. The laundry gets washed, folded and put up. Beds are made! People eat balanced meals! All the boo-boo’s get bandaged! And then there are days when I sit at the kitchen table and check Facebook while a raucous fight erupts upstairs. I figure that checking Facebook is preferred over putting one of your children up for sale, so I go with the former.

But, mostly, I see the fruits of my love for Scott all over my house. And when I say all over my house, I mean it. I envision family Christmases in 15 or 20 years, I think of our trip to the Christmas tree farm or how when I’m feeling sorry for myself how my children bring levity to the situation. I think of our community, our beautifully imperfect family unit, and how it has changed my life.

How my children are purifying and sanctifying my soul with every glass of spilled milk, every Sharpie mark on the wall and every sticky kiss.

So, to answer your question of how I do it: I just do it one kid, one day, one Hail Mary at a time.

23 Comments

  1. Tamalyn L. on December 16, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Love. This. Post. I have (only) four but as much as I’m trying to keep our family having a “calm and reflective” Advent, it doesn’t seem to be working. Emotions are on overdrive, sibling “picking” (fights) are at an all-time high, and I’m ready to can the whole season and wake up in January! But you’re right, it’s one kid, one day and one Hail Mary at a time – dang, I’ve said a lot of those lately! And because we love our kids and families so darn much, we just keep plugging along, knowing that with the good, bad and the ugly, God’s plan is at work in our hearts and in our home.

    Thank you so much for your blog and your stories. As a fellow Texan (I’m in Dallas), they warm my heart and make me laugh (to the extent I’ve even told my husband I wish we lived in Austin!) and make me feel like you’re a great friend right next door. May you and your precious family have a blessed remainder of Advent and Christmas season!

    Tamalyn
    AMDG

    • Kathryn on December 19, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Aren’t you kind!

  2. verdinalouisa on December 16, 2013 at 8:34 am

    How beautifully put (as only Kathryn can)! How encouraging!

    God bless you!
    V

  3. Britt on December 16, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Love this so much! You do an amazing job of it, too!

  4. Dianna @ The Kennedy Adventures on December 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

    K,

    Thanks so much for this. After hearing all of the ‘standard’ questions today a of being pregnant, six kids, blah blah blah, I NEEDED this.

  5. Julie on December 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you for this! I’m currently “in the trenches”. (I have a 3- and a 2-year old and I’m due just before you with boy #3.) I feel like things are going decently well right now, but it’s in an emerging-from-the-darkness, that-was-really-hard sense. I haven’t allowed myself to think too much on how hard it’s going to become again in a few months’ time. It’s so good to see moms-of-more talk about that light somewhere down the tunnel.

    • Kathryn on December 19, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      Congrats on baby #3! When the time comes, you will do fabulously.

  6. Kimberly on December 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I well remember those days in the trenches! I have 5, ages 14, 11, 9, 6, and 2. You mommies with little ones, HANG IN THERE! I have far more help now than I ever did. I have no family close by, so I’ve really learned how to just depend on my hubby and the older 3 kids. Once you have kids old enough to empty the dishwasher and put away laundry, you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Oh…and babysit…that’s HUGE. Don’t worry…you can do it!

  7. Maria K on December 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more Kathryn! Love your posts! Helpful to remember that I am not the only imperfect mom (of 5) out there!

  8. Jenny on December 16, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Amen girl! I am the mother of 7 and cried when I found out I was having my 2nd. I tell young mothers all the time after Mass, you are at the hardest part right now. I know you wonder why you got all dressed up and got the 3 children under age 3 all dressed up so yo could wrestle in the vestibule, but hang in there. It does get easier in a sense. Now I’m in the teen years, preteen years, whatever years and toddler years, and all of those hold their own challenges. But at least we can all, for the most part, sit still at Mass or the dinner table.

  9. Cat W. on December 16, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Wow. I had an “I just can’t do it” meltdown yesterday, and I only have one. I’ve heard this “it gets better” wisdom before, but it just feels sooooooo far away. The days certainly are long here, but I did notice when my daughter’s cousins were visiting for Thanksgiving, everything was a bit easier. (Plus, my parents were here, which always helps.) Thank you for the reminder at such a crucial time.

    • Dixie on December 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Cat, I don’t know how old your child is, but remember that children (especially babies) are always changing. Whatever it is that is making life truly difficult right now is going to go away, or something will chnage to make it easier. You are never going to have to make it through today again!

    • Kathryn on December 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Girl, we *all* have those days, no matter our age or our children’s ages. The days are long, the tunnel will be there but none of that negates the pressures and demands of today. I loved what Dixie said, “you are never going to have to make it through today again” – remember that on the hard days and cherish it on the good ones!

  10. Nicole on December 17, 2013 at 7:21 am

    What a great post, K! While I can’t relate with saying any Hail Marys, I say a lot of prayers, and I also fully agree that it’s so much easier with five than it ever was with just two… Always encouraged by your posts!

    • Kathryn on December 19, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      You are such an encourager, Nicole. No matter the prayers, they always end up at the same place – the foot of Jesus!

  11. Kimberly on December 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

    I love this post! As a new momma with just one little, I often think how I can even add one more in the mix. Thanks for the post and the reminder to live in the now and not tomorrow. I’m sharing this with my sister who is also a new mom. Thanks!

  12. Lindsey @ Running in Circles on December 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I SO needed this! I am barely getting through the days with a 4 YO and a 1 YO. We’ve always wanted a big family, but right now the thought of another baby makes me want to crawl into bed and never come out! I love the encouragement to “stick with parenting the real kids you have, and stop worrying about the imaginary ones that don’t even exist yet!” It’s like my mom always tells me– you only get grace when you need it, never in advance! Thanks for the encouragement.

  13. Amanda @ Erring on the Side of Love on December 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Thank you for this! I read your blog and am always in admiration of your amazingness and feel challenged in a good way. I currently have two, two and under, and my youngest has proven to be very challenging. This week has been one of the most challenging with him (we think we may have discovered he has had reflux these past 8 or so months and may still be struggling with it, his allergies decided to make him all runny and stuffy to boot, annd who knows what kind of havoc his teeth are wreaking!). I think I’ve had a total of 7-9 hours of sleep since Saturday and am just feeling desperate, exhausted, and like a failure. Your post today gave me some hope for that little light at the end of the tunnel and hope that with God’s grace and mercy we’ll be able to help our little one best we can.

    • Kathryn on December 19, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      None of us is supermom, but we’re all trying to be a great mom to our kids. We just sometimes get lost in the details. I’m honored you’re here…and the sleep will come. I promise!

  14. Alicea c on December 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Love this! So honest and real. Refreshing to hear someone say it aloud. I say things very similar when asked too..only with 5, 9 and under to 19months.

  15. Bea on December 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    So true. I think if we were out of the woods with Caleb (which won’t be happening until he’s 18 & flying solo with his medical care), I could easily have 5 or 6. I would have another with him if we won the lotto. My husband probably not, but I could.

  16. Victoria on December 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Oh girl, you got me. I’m sitting with napping nursing toddler crying, Again, cuz I TOtally parent the kids I don’t have. I [think] I want more until weeks like this, and last week, etc. The trenches are hard and I don’t know how God will help enough for all the energy of another- said the person who makes God too small all the time. So, gracias for this my friend. Looks like lots of us needed this. Amen.

  17. Rita Rossini on December 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Love your points… and I identify with each one. Yes- even the couch meltdown. I think I had one with each subsequent child beginning with my first all the way to my 5th- who was also my only preemie (27 weeks). I really enjoy your blog= a gal that I can actually relate to! Enjoy the holidays and remember, advent is messy!! 😉 God bless!!!

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