They say hindsight is 20/20, and now that I am a grandmother and my youngest has passed me on the height chart, I can definitely reflect back on the early years with a unique perspective. Although my memories of those days seem to be a general fog, I do remember many laughs and even more diapers. I can still smell the spit up on my blouse and the scent of new baby from holding them close.
Entering the phase of life where it is my responsibility to pass along to the younger generation the wisdom I learned in my early years, I want to share a little bit about having a season of life full of babies, busyness, and a bit of homeschooling.
In my efforts to streamline productivity and try to manage this crew most effectively, I established a few guidelines early on.
It’s not about me.
As a young mother, I was confronted with a hard truth. Once single and carefree, my life had become much more defined; it was full of responsibility for a little one. A few years later that responsibility encompassed five little ones. Gone, for a season, were the days of having time to shower each day, apply makeup, and iron my clothes. Knit t-shirts and ponytail holders were my new “look.”
I had a very blunt and firm conversation with myself. In this period of life, I needed to park myself on the back burner and take care of others. Plain and simple. I decided to have all of these kids, and now it was my responsibility to take care of them. I told myself to stop the complaining and get on with the job.
This goes against the modern culture of me, myself, and I. When I had time to watch TV or listen to the radio, I had to be on guard to deflect the overwhelming feelings of “poor me, look at my difficult life.”
Staying home is the best strategy.
I loved running errands about town, meandering through the grocery store, and doing a bit of thrift store shopping during the weekdays. However, once little ones started to arrive, I learned pretty quickly the importance of staying at home. Not only was it less exhausting than pulling the diaper bags, car seats, and strollers out each time we left the house, but it gave both myself and the kids time to accomplish our daily tasks.
Little ones need those naps. Almost as much as we need them to take those naps! Staying home four of the five work days allowed me to stay on top of the mountain of laundry, keep kids on a scheduled nap routine, and create healthy meals, even baby food.
Staying home was helpful in keeping myself from becoming drained and worn out. It also gave me the time to create a home atmosphere that enhanced the developing family culture. I will never forget the hours spent in playtime, reading, or cuddling while watching cartoons.
When it came time to homeschool, we still had infants, toddlers, and preschoolers roaming the house. When naptime scheduling included the infant going down every 2-3 hours, the toddler twice a day, and the preschooler once a day, I had to strategize with wisdom those moments when I could fit education in.
This also forced me to recognize that I would most likely only be able to achieve the absolute essentials of education. Math and phonics were the highest priority. So, I started in the morning with math and utilized the afternoon for phonics. As the entire family grew, I was able to incorporate more subjects by utilizing playtime and activities for discussions on science, God, and history.
Somehow our first little girl, who I feared I had messed up because I didn’t give her twelve subjects in kindergarten, turned out just fine.
The early years of childhood required a lot of hard work with feelings of exasperation, loneliness, and concern about whether or not I was doing it right. But this is also where my relationship with the Lord grew, just as my skills in mothering and my relationships with our children grew. The hardest times in life can often prove to be the most valuable and impactful. Stick to it, do the hard things, and watch as Christ takes our sincere efforts and uses them to create a thing of beauty.