Friday, January 14, 2011

Glorious but not so Glamorous

This is a response for my dear friend Lisa in Alaska. I am going to try to answer her questions and share some insights into having a “large” family.

A few days ago Justin was calling for me and found me in the girl’s bathroom with Annie in the assumed “wipe me” position. As I stood up we were laughing, and it occurred to me…. My life is full and glorious, but not so glamorous at times.

I always thought I would have four kids. So do I feel “done” since I’ve had number four? I don’t know. Ladies that I have talked to say they “know” when they are done having babies. They describe it being like feeling that overcomes you when you know you found the man that you are to marry. You can’t explain it, but it’s that calming assurance that overwhelms your inner being. I asked my doctor at my last appointment if there was any medical reason I shouldn’t have any more babies. Her answer was no.

Is being pregnant hard? Yes. Is it part of being a woman? Yes. From Genesis 3:16, it’s a part of my role in this life. Do I like being tired or throwing up or being nauseated? No. Do I like not being able to tie my own shoes? No. Do I like the constant worry of feeling the baby move or worrying if everything is ok from month to month appointments? No. Did I complain? Yes. But why should I complain and be bitter about my temporary pregnant condition? I love the rush of love nanoseconds after seeing my baby for the first time! I like seeing other people hold my babies and love on them too. I don’t look forward to that time of mourning when I know my baby making days are done.

We realize that our home is loud, constant, and chaotic to most people. I realize that my life with lots of kids and a husband with a crazy schedule is not for every woman. Some people ask, “How do you do it with four? I am exhausted with one or two kids.” The answer is simple. I just do it. I do my best to be strong and focused. I try to do what needs to be done one day at a time without complaining. I talk myself through the day. One thing at a time. Step by step. Have patience. I ask for help when I need it. I am devoted to my husband and to raising our children to be godly adults.

Is it easy everyday? No. Are there days when I want to sleep, shop, read, eat a warm meal or get to eat first, get in and out of the car without taking 10 minutes? Yes. Are there days when I am ashamed of my behavior as a parent? Yes. But, the days that end with extra hugs and kisses, days where the laughter overtakes the house, when they look at you and snuggle you with complete love make it all worth it. Which one of my kids would I not want? God made our kids so unique and perfect, each in their own way.

We are not perfect parents. We have learned to trust others. I cannot watch my children 24/7 and do it right all the time. We have to have help sometimes, and I have learned to ask for help when I need it. And whether it’s Bible class, a babysitter, or the daycare at the gym, we have learned to have trust, grace, patience, and gratitude when someone else is watching our kids. They are not perfect either. As Francesca Battistelli sings, perfection is my enemy.

When I was pregnant with the girls I threw up mornings and nights for the first four or five months and then again the last month or two. I threw up so much that Jones would mimic me. Half way through a meal, she would run to the bathroom. With West I was nauseated all day long. I would be so tired that I would parent from the couch. We would read lots of books, color, puzzles, blocks, sing, watch PBS and movies. Most mid mornings we would still make it to the gym, story time, or ladies Bible class. The afternoons were usually good for me, we would nap and then go outside or in the garage to play. After supper or after the girls went to bed was when I would try to get the dishes and laundry done. The days I did feel good, I made the effort to do the deep cleaning jobs. When Justin is home, he steps in and makes supper, does the dishes, and lets me sleep late in the morning. (I say that sentence in present tense because he still does all those things and more.) It works well that he is a morning person and I’m a night person.

Justin and I also made it a priority to make sure the youngest could do certain jobs before the next baby was born. They could pick out their clothes, dress and undress themselves, get in and out of the kitchen chair and be able to sit to eat/color etc., feed themselves, get in and out of the bathtub, use a washcloth in the tub, do their own seat belt buckles, be able to walk in stores, church, and library holding my hand and follow commands as we walk through a parking lot.

I have two terrific mentor moms. One is a grandmother who doesn’t have any of her own grandchildren here. She (they) have taken ours in as adoptive grandchildren. They have four children too, and she and her husband are so wonderful to us as they teach us, love us, and help us with the kids and our marriage. The other lady is such a blessing in my life. She has taught me to cook, she is awesome at crafts, she is my workout motivator, and my go to for advice and counsel. We cried together this past September as her youngest went off to college and our oldest started Kindergarten. Her husband has a job with a crazy schedule too, so she is wonderful to talk to because she has experienced the lifestyle I am living. I am a big believer in Titus 2, learning from the older women.

Justin and I have been listening to Vision Forum’s Baby Conference over the past several months. It has covered several different topics from naming your child, to adoption, the effects of feminism on today’s families. It’s been a real eye opener. Our family is now considered a large family in today’s society because we have more than two children. We know one family who has seven children, and I met a lady at a restaurant this past week with her tenth baby. This is a new experience for Justin and me since we both come from two children families.

We are learning as we go, but the Lord has provided for us all along the way.


Dave and Lisa said...

This is awesome, Leslie, and I am so blessed to read your thoughts! Thank you so much for sharing. I wish I had thought to train Samuel to be a little more independent, now that you mentioned how you had trained the youngest to be able to do all those things by themselves before the new baby arrived... but hopefully the transition won't be too bad even though I'm still doing half those things for him. And I wish I had even one mentor mom or some woman willing to be in that position for me here; I am so thankful to God that you have two! God has been very good to your family, and to mine as well. I love you and am honored to be your friend!

Leslie said...

Lisa, you still have time. It's not too late. Pick one thing, the thing that causes you to tense up or stress everyday, and teach/help/work on it starting now. You can do it. Sam can do it. Have your mom help when she comes. She can help guide him into the chair to sit on his knees, into the tub etc. Children can end up doing alot more than we give them credit for or give them the patience they need to do the job. It won't be done correctly, but if they can do it without harm to them or someone else, it's ok. (Haven't you seen pics of how my girls dress :)? )That is one that I have to work on too, the firstborn perfectionist in me likes to just take over and do it myself, but that's not teaching them to be big and responsible.

I will begin praying fervently that someone will come into your life to help guide you through this mommy journey. Keep your eyes and opportunities open for someone who has children just a few years older than Sam, a lady whose kids are in school, a grandma with extra love, or someone who is there without family too. We have been here seven years, it takes time to find and develop that special relationship. Surely, there is someone who needs a baby to hold and feels called to minister to new moms.

From what Justin and I can tell, you and Dave are doing great. Your precious growing family is doing just fine! Hang in there and know you can call me or email us anytime.
Love and miss you too dear friend!

The Northrups said...

Beautiful! I love the 'full and glorious but not glamorous' phrase. And you capture it - the uncomfortable and unpleasant parts are so temporary; that flood of love you feel for your child and the things they do that make you smile until your face hurts are forevever. Well said :-)

Anonymous said...

Leslie, what a huge blessing it was to read this blog entry! You are an inspiration to me as a mother, wife, and woman in today's society! Thanks for sharing your wisdom! You are an incredible mother and I think you and Justin are doing a wonderful job as parents!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to write that. I just love the partnership you and Justin have. It spurs me on as a husband and father.

Aaron Tungate

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