My 9yo son asked me yesterday if it was easier having a baby in the house with big kid helpers or if it’s easier to just have one baby in the house and no other kids to care for. (We just had our fourth little one in August.) I had to think about it for a minute. Having big kid helpers is so different than having only toddlers! It’s downright dreamy. But life is certainly pretty busy over here, and messy.
I told him that it’s technically easier just to take care of one baby–less laundry, snack getting, cleaning, question answering, etc. But, I explained, it’s easier for me to have three “big kids” (9, 7, and 5) and a newborn than it was having just my first baby–because I’M different.
I know stuff about raising small children now. Every childhood illness is not a source of extreme anxiety for me because it’s not my first rodeo. I’m better at defusing tantrums, making dinner one handed while holding a kid in the other, and surviving on no sleep. But most of all, I’m used to not being in control of my life in the same way—my time, my energy, I’m accustomed to these things not being my own anymore.
If someone refers to spit up stains on the shoulder of all your clothes and the sheer number of poopy diapers that you have to change as the challenges of parenting, they’re probably not a parent. It’s not the bodily fluids or the work involved that makes it hard, it’s how parenthood requires us to give up our expectations and control at the service of others. That’s the hard part.
With our first baby I was still under the impression that I was OWED certain things: uninterrupted sleep, time to be alone, a baby who acted the way the parenting books said he would. Instead our sweet baby boy was miserably colicky.
He would not sleep, he would not be put down, no matter what book’s advice we tried–he did not cooperate. And I was angry. I loved him with every fiber of my being and would have died for him without a second thought–but this wasn’t what I expected.
I felt a little betrayed by the parenting books. I thought I was going to be in control. Reader, I was not in control.
By baby #2, things were so different. Our baby girl wasn’t colicky, but it wasn’t just differences in circumstances that made mothering her easier–I was different.
I didn’t expect to sleep at night anymore. If I got a great chunk of uninterrupted sleep cycles I was over the moon. If I didn’t, well, that’s to be expected. I was going with the flow. (But it still took me a couple more kids to be okay with naptimes that went up in flames because I have been known to cling to the naptime break to retain that last thread of my sanity.)
When we offer our time to God–when we see the day ahead as an adventure to unfold and not a Schedule That Better Not Be Messed Up By The Kids Or So Help Me!–there is so much more peace.
Easing into all that parenting is and giving up on our illusions of control makes me think of laboring to deliver a child. Some birthing techniques like the Bradley method that I’ve used for my births teach a woman how to relax into her labor pains rather than fighting the contractions. By easing into the waves of pain, letting my body do the task at hand, releasing all the tension, I can handle the pain better. It doesn’t hurt as much as when I fight a contraction and try to control it.
I think parenting is the same way. Heck, life is the same way. As long as we refuse to surrender our plans, our time, our control to God we will not know peace. God knows what He is about when He makes some of us parents. He knows that parenthood is the path that will help lead us to holiness, the path that will help us give up all the things that keep us believing we’re in control.
Yesterday morning, my husband took the big kids hiking so I could finish the freelance piece I was working on. The baby was asleep in the swing. Just as I was hitting my stride, after 15 minutes of sweet silence, the baby started to wake and cry. I just closed my laptop and scooped her up to nurse her. The familiar feelings of annoyance or frustration at a thwarted nap didn’t come. What a different person I am than I was 10 years ago–even 5 years ago.
I’m still on this journey, like you probably are. I still lose it on the regular when things don’t go my way. I didn’t plan to clean up a mess of kinetic sand! Which kid scattered it all over the floor? And how did they even find it because I swear I hid this stuff really well so I wouldn’t have to sweep it up anymore! I didn’t plan to be up at 3am with a puking kid right before a writing deadline, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I didn’t plan to still be paying off outrageously high ER bills from our daredevil child’s head injury. But here we are.
We’re not in control and parenthood highlights this for us. So parents, we need to just give up our death grip on our expectations, ease in, and allow ourselves to be transformed by the path God has laid out for us. I’m beginning to accept that something beautiful waits for us on the other side.
Yes, yes, a billion times yes. With a 4-y.o., 2-y.-o. and 10-month-old, I am *better* at this than I used to be, but it remains THE struggle of my motherhood. Even when I’m flying high for a time, doing really well at this, it always crops up again. It’s something I must eternally work on. I wish there was a shortcut to prying my fingers from the stranglehold I have on MY precious entitlement, but God wants me to do the hard work, I guess. I concede that He’s right, of course, but, boy, do I hate it!
Rachel Friesen says
Needed this today – thank you!
Laura @ Life is Beautiful says
So, so good. I have a 2yo and 8mo…still on the brink of learning this. I hold on more loosely to control than I did with my first, but I still try to grasp it even though I KNOW better! Oh, sanctification is painful sometimes! 😉 Thank you for this post!!
Yep. I was an oldest child in a big family, so my learning curve wasn’t as steep as some…but this is definitely something I’m still learning. And it’s taken me by surprise that I’m still learning. But…yeah. This rings very true.
YES! So well said. I feel this way completely! With my first I don’t feel like I completely accepted my role as a mother. There was a whole world I had to leave behind in order to create a new different one. Once I let that go it was so much more fun.
Thanks so much for this. The same can be said for people with chronic health conditions. Once I gave up control and trusted in God’s plan instead of my own did I find some semblance of peace through all of the pain, broken plans and uncertainty.
Becky Deaver says
We just had number 7 and I have said to myself a hundred times “I’m so glad I only had a first baby once!” For all the reasons you said. I wonder if that can ever be learned except through living it! Great post, as always!
Lynn Marie says
This is pure gold Haley. It reminded me of a line from Danielle Bean’s blog years ago. She had been up all night with the baby and realized she was only going to get a few hours sleep. But instead of getting upset she said to herself, “I’m going to have a lovely three hour nap.”
Sarah C says
This hit the nail on the head for me today. I have 5 kids 9 and under and my 2 year old is incredibly trying right now. Thank you for this note of encouragement! !
Michael Adamiak says
Thank you for putting life in perspective!
Mom of Eight says
So true. In some ways, caring for newborn twins seems easier now than learning to care for our first baby did at the time.
I’m not a parent, but I’ve been trying to conceive for years. This very same message applies to me. The more I try to “control” my fertility the more anxious I feel. As I surrender to how this process is growing me and changing me I feel more at peace.