It wasn't that long ago that I felt like I was going to lose my mind on a daily basis. I'd count the minutes until I expected my husband to be home, and then he'd walk in the door and I'd hand him a kid, or escape to my room to breathe (or cry) for five minutes. I felt overwhelmed most of the time, unable to get everything done, unable to meet every need, unable to stay bubbly and joyful and not turn into a dragon lady by 5 o'clock.
My sister just had her third sweet baby a couple of weeks ago. Her oldest is three. So, they are really in the thick of it. Wading through the adjustment to three really little littles is hard. My brother in law said to me the other day, "We think of you guys every night around bed time and wonder how you did it." The truth is, not very well. I loathed bed time, knowing it would be chaos every night. Knowing someone, if not many someones (including myself), would have a meltdown before it was all said and done. Pleading with them to stay in bed. Definitely yelling on a regular basis. Feeling defeated almost every night.
But as I sat there talking to him about those feelings, remembering feeling like you have almost no control over the situation, I realized how much has changed so quickly. Jim Gaffigan has said, "People ask what it's like having four kids. I say, 'Imagine you're drowning and someone hands you a baby.'" It's funny because it's true. But I think it's even true for one kid, two kids, three kids... adding another kid to the mix is always a huge, hard adjustment. But there are beautiful moments of grace where you step back, zoom out, and feel overwhelmingly blessed and grateful and undeserving of these precious gifts you've been given. Granted, it's usually when they're sleeping, but still.
And here is my encouragement to all of you wading through it: it gets easier. The workload isn't less, the needs don't go away, but they change. And best of all, you change. I can honestly say we are at a really sweet time in this journey of parenting. There are hard days. I still don't relish bedtime, but it's not a chore. My older kids (5, 5 and 8) have their hard moments, but I feel equipped to handle them. And when I don't feel equipped, I've learned to ask for help. My oldest has reached an age of reason, where we can hash things out in productive conversation, rather than tears and tantrums. Things rolls off my back in ways they didn't used to, probably because I just don't have the time. I won't die if they don't eat my dinner. I have come to grips with the fact that my furniture is going to be scratched and dented for the next ten years. Clothes will have irreversible stains. My kids are going to fight. But in the big scheme of things, I don't really care. I get little flashes now and then, of an empty house, tiny laundry piles, undefiled furniture, and honestly? I get a little misty eyed. My job isn't to hover over them and micromanage, my job is to encourage them in the right direction. To help them deal with (or provide) the consequences for bad decisions, celebrate their accomplishments, lift them up when they're feeling down, challenge them when they could make better choices, ask for forgiveness when I fail (daily), LOVE them.
Every day is not blissful joy. I still get frustrated and yell and plead with them. But that's the exception, not the rule. And while it felt like those hard days, feeling like I was drowning, would never end, I blinked and everything was different. "The days are long, but the years are short." I feel like I'm beginning to get that now. I'm probably going to be that annoying lady at Target that looks at a young mom trying to wrangle three unruly kids and tells her to enjoy every minute. (I will NEVER EVER tell her she has her hands full.) But really, it does go so quickly. I know there will be new challenges ahead. Teenagers, you guys, I know.
So, take heart, mamas. It will get better. Before you know it, you'll look back and realize you got this after all. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of something good, give yourself a whole lot of grace, and know you are not alone.