How do you retain a semblance of order, or your sanity, with so many children. I am holding on by a thread and I only have a 23 month old and a 4 month old.
Simple Answer: I don't. Most people would say that I am certifiably insane (without sanity) to have 13 children.
More Spiritual Simple Answer: Prayer
Don't you just love it when people come up with simple answers to your very serious questions, that you are looking for honest help with?
Seriously, I hear your heart's cry and I am sure that people have laughed off your question, or given you very spiritual answers. I remember clearly, when my life revolved around a houseful of little ones, the older adults at church who had absolutely no sympathy, caring, or understanding for the life I was living.
#1 Never quite worded this way, but so often I heard the attitude of "you dug your own ditch, now you have to lay in it". Basically, it's your fault that you have so many children ... it's your fault that they are so close in age ... it's your fault that life is hard, so don't expect any sympathy from the rest of us.
#2 The often heard ... "This too shall pass ... your kids will grow up ... I remember when my kids were little (as if their memory says that they never had days like I had) ... "
#3 When our church had great adult activities but didn't provide childcare ... "When your kids get older you'll be able to enjoy these times of fellowship ..."
When I heard these things, I promised myself that I would NEVER be so callous to young moms having a tough day/week/life ... I promised myself that I would ALWAYS remember these times, so that I could truly hear the heart's cry of young mamas ... I promised myself that I would do ANYTHING that I possibly could to help support and encourage those coming after me. Now ... 15+ years later, I have remembered those promises and kept each and every one.
So, I hear the words of this precious (slightly overwhelmed) mama ... and I remember ...
#1 It is not your "fault" that your children are so close in age ... it is God's wonderful blessing! I understand ... I remember ... I hear your heart and want to lift you up in prayer, and with practical support and encouragement.
#2 Yes, your kids will grow up. But, hopefully you'll have many more after this, so you won't forget what these days were like. I was a mother of preschoolers for 22 years. Praise the Lord!
#3 I completely understand that you need fellowship and support NOW ... not just after the kids grow up. Even if all I can offer and provide is a few words of encouragement on this blog ... I AM HERE FOR YOU !!!
Okay ... enough rambling and ranting ... time to get practical ...
#1 Prayer needs to be a priority. I am not suggesting that you have the time nor energy to spend an hour a day reading your Bible and praying (uninterrupted, of course). Your reality is ... sleep every possible minute that the children are sleeping. I remember ... I understand. However, prayer needs to be an all-day, every-day "talk to Jesus" time. Some of my most precious prayer times when I had 5 children under 5 years old, were in the middle of the night while nursing one twin after the other. I would sit in the dark, in my big rocking chair, in the corner of their nursery ... worshipping Jesus. I would pray while washing dishes, or folding clothes. I would pray while driving my big van (with kids worship music keeping the children entertained). I would pray while the children played at the park. Yes ... prayer needs to be a priority.
#2 Friendship & Fellowship: Even though life revolves around your little ones, you need "mommy-time" too. One of my most favorite times for many years was the fellowship I got at my local M.O.P.S. (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. I could take all my kids with me. There were wonderful nursery workers to play with my little ones (or my nursing infants could stay right with me). I heard great teaching times, enjoyed the small group discussions, and, most of all, enjoyed the craft time. This was the one time in my week that I could actually start a project and complete it in one sitting. I could proudly take home my completed project and feel like ... I accomplished something today. My husband probably sometimes thought that I was acting like a kindergartner (and I probably was). But ... I realized years ago why craft projects were so important to me, and I always encourage young moms to make time to do some.
#3 Craft Projects: With parenting ... the project is never completed. We hope and pray that our work will "look okay" after 18 years of refinement, but we also know there are never any guarantees. Day after day we work ourselves to the bone, with nothing to show for it. We can clean the house spotless, right before Daddy gets home. But, if he happens to be delayed by 30 minutes, he may never see the hard work we put into it. We spend our days cooking, cleaning, and raising children ... only to have to get up tomorrow and start all over. I found, many years ago, that craft projects provided a fulfillment that I couldn't find any place else. They helped me to keep my sanity ...
The interesting thing ... while all 3 of those things were very important to me with my house full of preschoolers ... they continue to be very important to me.
Prayer is still a HUGE part of my life. It still doesn't look quite like I "think it should", but my on-going, daily journey with Jesus is centered on prayer. He helps me to get through my days ... and, let me tell you, I still have "those days".
Friendship & Fellowship: Sadly, after 22 years, I am no longer a M.O.P. But, I still need my friends. As a homeschooling mama (with 7 still at home all day) I NEED time with adults. I need coffee dates, play dates with the kids, and scrapbooking days.
Crafts: I still get so much satisfaction from a completed project. I still act like a kindergartner when I come home with new completed scrapbooking pages. I LOVE my scrapbooking. I may go several months without working on them, but then I will set aside a day or two to crop with friends. Not only do I accomplish my project ... but I get hours and hours of "girl-talk" time. In the past 12 years, with a house FULL of kids and teens, I have completed sixteen 12x12 scrapbooks with approximately 45 pages each. If my house catches on fire ... they are the ONLY thing I would probably run back into my burning house to save (after, of course, I got the children and my hubby out).
I hope that you understand how important all 3 of those things are for you young mama's at home (and us not-so-young mama's at home). But, you may still be saying ... "What about NOW ... when I'm pulling my hair out?" Read the post below ...
As I was re-reading my ranting above, I realized that I needed to share that we have always had wonderful people surrounding us, loving us, encouraging us, ... in addition to the ones that didn't understand, etc... So, for all of you that read this and say, "Hey, I was her friend 15+ years ago ... THANK YOU for loving us, even though we were a crazy, overwhelmed family with "too many children we didn't know what to do".