Life with Four..five and under
So… I recently became a mom of four kids five and under. Uh-huh… yup! That’s right. That means I was either pregnant or nursing for the last 6 years. Because of my “baby production situation, I have been given “the look” a lot. “The look” that is notorious for being known as the nasty, shocked and mortified wide-eyed look that someone gives you when they find out you are a baby machine. The one I’ve learned to chuckle my way through while walking around the mall, or sitting on the park bench or getting into my minivan in a busy parking lot but most of all at Costco and Target. Yup! That’s the look!
Just the other day, I had a conversation with a older lady who was grunting at me (in a different language) while expressing to me how crazy she thought I was walking around the mall with my four children alone. She probably said, “YOU’RE CRAZY! Four kids?!? Four kids?!?” (Literally like five times while shaking her head and throwing her hands in the air.) “It’s so hard! So hard! You crazy!”
I have learned to laugh and take this reaction as a compliment because mommy-ing is HARD and it requires a lot of hard work, long days and sometimes even sleepless nights. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!! I was asked recently by a few friends how I’ve managed to survive juggling four kids- from shuttling my first to and from school, to homeschooling my middle two and nursing my youngest; working alongside my husband- occasionally jumping in for emergency call offs and managing to stay alive!
I came up with this.
My five SAHM life survival must haves.
1. Making my walk with God a priority.
I have come to realize that this season of motherhood that is monopolized by caring for my children is temporary but my faith and relationship with God goes past this point.
The other night, as the boys watched me read my bible on the dining table (I didn’t know this because they were “supposed” to be in bed) one of them said, “Mama, are you reading for your bible study?” I said “yes buddy I am.” He smiled and said, “oh! Is it just like when we read our bible before bed?” I nodded and he said, “ohhh!!! Even grown ups have to keep reading the Bible! That’s cool mom!”
Honestly, choosing to spend time with the Lord is hard especially when I am constantly interrupted with “Mama…” as soon as I sit down to read or pray. But the Lord gently showed me that the best way to make Him known in my home is to live by my example, to consciously find time to spend with him. Whether it is reading the Bible alongside my son while he does his homework or while they build puzzles or draw pictures or praying while simultaneously nursing my littlest one. I have learned to use this time of peace to pray for each of my children and thank God for each of their uniqueness. I usually pray for my husband- for his walk with God, excellence in his job and his commitment to our family while I wash dishes or fold laundry. I actually taped a prayer guide by the cupboards so I can read through them while I wash dishes. I would memorize bible verses along with my kids and listen to sermons on my way to work. I’ve come to realize that I always have time as long as I make time. If I want my children to pursue Christ, I must make the most effort to model this to them.
2. Work as a team!
God put Chris and I together for a reason. Without him, it will be IMPOSSIBLE for me to stay sane. Learning to adjust and maneuver through our differences has helped us grow in our marriage and in our parenting. I used to think because I stay home I’m in charge of the calendar and what happens in the week. I’ve learned to say “Let me talk to my husband and get back to you.”, instead of committing right away even if I know we are available. This includes birthday parties, church commitments and dinner with friends. He is usually agreeable but giving him the respect of asking him has made things better.
Ladies, talk your husband before you commit to another thing for the calendar, even for yourself. It will go a long way toward his supporting you when you need it. Remember, it’s a two way street!
We all know this, but communication, communication, communication is key. Because he leaves early to go to work and the mornings are always chaotic, we talk before bed- we talk about his work, my daily drama, random musings and watch the videos I took of our kids. We use this time to connect with one another which occasionally leads to unwanted arguments (which extends bedtime to midnight because we can’t go to bed upset.)
Don’t forget Date Nights!!! We try to go at least twice a month whether it is a double date with friends or just a quiet dinner and movie somewhere. We make sure we make time to invest in each other and keep dating one another. Our rule for our date nights from the start has been: no talking about our kids on our date because we want the time to be about us. We have to admit, it is hard because my day usually revolves around the kids but we’ve managed to come up with ways to talk about everything else.
Chris and I have our own versions of me time. His often involves GOLF. You know how some men have a man cave inside their house, well his is his golf net out in our backyard. Every night after he gets home from work or before bed he goes out for “a few minutes” to hit golf balls. It’s his time to relax, remove himself from the craziness of home and just enjoy himself and the sport he loves. He also gets a couple of weekends off to play golf with his buddies or join a tournament. Mine on the other hand often include a walk around Target right after bedtime, my usual Wednesday Zumba and boba night and the occasional GNO (girls night out.) This means that we get the time for ourselves and the other one fully takes over. No calling each other unless you dial 911 first. This just means there’s no situation you cannot handle.
We have also committed our Thursday nights to attend our church’s men’s and women’s groups. Since it alternates every Thursday, we both get to meet and study God’s Word and grow alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. This has been a great way for us to stay accountable, go deeper in the study of the Word and build relationships with fellow believers. It has definitely been a huge source of encouragement in our lives.
3. Train your kids!
My children are my ministry. I need to equip and train them to be the best that God wants them to be. Each of them have been blessed with different skills and abilities that are to be shared with our family and others. Their gifts are essential to make our family work. My kids know that because they are a part of our family, they are expected to take part in it. Whether it is putting away the dishes or loading the laundry or tidying up their room, there is always something they can do to help around the house. Through constant and consistent reminders (both gentle and not so gentle..) our children are slowly learning to be productive members of our family. Their recent favorite job is making meals for the family. My five year old is perfecting a couple of dishes and desserts while my four year old is mastering the art of being the best rice cooker, scramble egg maker and his most recent achievement- daddy’s coffee guy! My favorite part of it all is watching them beam with pride as their contributions are appreciated and their efforts are acknowledged.
Teaching our kids to take responsibility prepares them for their future. It sets an example for others. It is an opportunity to show them what kindness means. When we teach our kids to practice good manners, to clean up after themselves and to honor a commitment.
4. Block out free time (even for your kiddos).
If it’s not on my refrigerator calendar, it often doesn’t happen. Leave space on the calendar for NOTHING. Take a bath, or take a nap. Let the kids read with no expectations and close the door of their room. Have them build legos without instructions, make spaceships with magnetiles and construct forts with blankets and pillows. Enjoy a chat with your neighbor or have a friend over for lunch. But leave time with no expectations, and honor that time. It gives us the R&R that we need.
Resist the temptation to keep your kids busy every moment – they need brain-space to get bored and to get creative. I’ve noticed that the days I leave them to make their own agenda, they end up laughing for hours and playing peacefully (for the most part) with each other. Their favorite days are the Saturdays when we have nothing to do and no where to go except the library and ride their bikes in the empty parking lot- which has been their routine with daddy.
I decided to cancel all our extra- curricular activities last year because I knew big changes were coming and we had to find our new normal. How in the world was I gonna make it karate after finishing homework and be back in time to have dinner by 5? (Yes, we have dinner between 5 and 5:30 to avoid unnecessary tantrums due to nap protests and random life events after lunch.)
Yes, even church activities and friends’ birthday parties – While they can be good things, they may not always be the BEST thing. OR, it can be a commitment that replaces much needed family time, the opportunity to genuinely mentor our kids and discuss life issues, make memories, and point each other to Jesus. Sometimes, you really have to ask yourself the hard questions…is this necessary for my family right now? Just because “everyone is doing it,” even if it’s a good thing, it may not be the right investment of your family’s time in this season. It’s ok to say no sometimes.
5. Find or form your MAMA TRIBE!
I can name a handful of moms that are on my Mama Tribe Board of Trustees. These are the women whom I can call when I am feeling sad, happy, crazy, frustrated and overwhlemed. Whether it is a situation that made me crazy because I’m having the it is that time of the month moment or it’s an absolutely amazing self control achievement of a lifetime or an uh huh I told ya so MOMent I know I can count on these women to help me get through the day. I praise God for sending them my way because I would be totally failing at this mommy thing if I didn’t have them to come alongside me and cheer me on. I can feel their love in the form of a text, an email, a phone call, an IG message or sometimes even just an emoji! I don’t have to isolate myself and my struggles in motherhood. It is in my vulnerability that God has used these women to bless me the most. But I’ve also seen how my experiences- both victories and defeat have blessed other moms as well.
To say that I have a LOT on my plate is pretty accurate, and sometimes it feels like it’s too much. Some things get dropped when other things get added, but through it all, my desire is to honor God and to honor relationships He has put in my life. First, in my marriage and children, and then in connecting with others for more intentional fellowship. These five things have helped not just to survive, but to thrive. I pray that this encourages you busy moms to take the time to reevaluate your day and think through what matters most in this season of your life. By deciding which ones need to take the lead, you are able to balance your marriage, your motherhood, your ministry and maintain your sanity with much more grace and joy.