Doing it all, 2.0

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Some people say the hardest transition is the first. Others say the real challenge lies with the second kid. Still others think going from “man to man” to “zone” defense—i.e., from 2 to 3, when the kids outnumber the pairs of arms needed to carry/restrain them—is the one that really makes the difference.

But everyone I know agrees on one thing: beyond three kids, it really doesn’t make all that much difference.

I’m thinking about this today because over the holiday weekend, my mother’s family had a big family event to celebrate a wedding and a 91st birthday. I was talking to my grandmother about cars. I asked how in the world they found vehicles big enough to haul ten kids. Of course, she couldn’t answer—who can remember minutiae like that? I can’t remember enough about night nursing to answer my sister’s questions, and it’s only been two years!

What she did remember was mothers coming up to her and saying, “I don’t know how you do it all! I’m so busy with the two I have!”

I suppose it’s a fair question. How do we do it?

Well, I’ve been thinking about that, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I don’t have time to obsess about how I do it. That’s how.

When you’ve got one or two kids, you try to be everything to everyone all the time, and you think, “I couldn’t possibly do more!”

But actually, you can. See, when you cross into more-kids-than-hands stage, all the chaff burns away…all the emotional energy we waste worrying about, you know, how we can possibly do it all. You just put your head into the wind, shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone (fill in the cliché), and you do it.

You know what? It’s probably a good lesson for other times in life, too. If I’m feeling cranky and whiny, and I have enough time and energy to devote to obsessing over the subject, it’s probably a sign that whatever I’m struggling with probably isn’t nearly as overwhelming as I think it is.

What do you think? Am I onto something? Should I compress it down to a slogan and trademark it? Or am I missing something obvious? 🙂

21 thoughts on “Doing it all, 2.0

  1. If one were given 4 or 5 kids at one time, it would be extremely difficult. But God in His wisdom, generally gives them to us 1 at a time…. it’s not that hard to work in a new family member. I generally find life is back to ‘normal at about 6 mos. How did I handle #5 when I had a toddler, preschooler and 2 in the primary grades? I have no clue but I did….. somethings are left to slide (like dust bunnies)

      • Not for me…both times, at 6 months was when the delayed-onset PPD hit. That PPD was the reason, more than exhaustion or advanced maternal age, I would never THINK of having another child. Too dangerous.

        Now I cuddle other people’s babies. 🙂

      • That was about the time I had my insomnia bout. Thank God, that was as bad as it ever got. I can definitely see not wanting to repeat a much more traumatic version.

  2. Marcie Elfrink

    I have definitely found that when I finally tackle the task I have been obsessing about it is much less difficult than I thought. And if we worry about how we will do something (more children, more work) we never get to enjoy the moment.

  3. Barbara Brady

    My baby son will be 30 in September and my daughter will be 33 in July. It seems like they grew up in the blink of an eye. My son had been ill as an infant and the doctors did not think that he would be able to sit up or walk. I felt totally overwhelmed. I prayed over him that God would take him so he would not suffer or heal him, but God’s Will and not mine. The next morning the nurse reported that he had gained 2 ounces. My son was healed. I still continue to thank God for all of His Blessings.

    • Thanks for sharing this story. It makes me realize that I painted things a bit too black and white. “You can do more than you think” is not a universal truth–there are certainly situations in which that’s not the case, and that line is in different places for different people. But all too often, we let our fears define our reality, which is why I wanted to put this thought out there.

  4. I think that there are different aspects of truth that are applicable (thus “true” in the sense that we commonly use the term) for different women (and families) at different times. This seems like a very useful truth for you to be focusing on now, and presumably is helpful for most of your readers as well.

    And at the top of my “draft” folder is a post about precisely this (with a different take) based on recent conversations with my MIL and mother. Perhaps I’ll link over hear for those who are at the point where they need this alternate perspective.

    • Please do. I’ll be interested to see your thoughts.

      It’s kind of ironic for me to be posting this, actually, considering we have just crossed the line into overcommittment. Again. So trying to tell myself “you can do more” just seems…well…ironic. 🙂 But OTOH, that’s all about the petty day to day stuff: to take a wedding gig or not, to have guests or not, etc. The big stuff–the baby–that’s not really in question.

  5. I found that the transition from 2 to 3 wasn’t as difficult as I feared it would be… and then my youngest daughter turned one and became a living tornado. In terms of getting into stuff, I think she’s worse than my first two combined — and she can’t even walk yet! I just pray that she calms down a bit by the time baby #4 arrives in December, otherwise I’m not sure what I’ll do.

  6. As Renee, the first commenter, mentioned: the key is having them one by one.
    As the older ones grow into independence, they can start helping Mom corral the younger ones….

    Having a large family, you get extra sets of hands for doing chores, and live-in babysitters. 🙂

    At least, this seems to be my personal experience.

    During the day, the toddlers drive me completely insane with their constant demands and antics… but when my 9-year-old comes home, she takes the burden from me (for a while… until she needs something!)
    And when my husband gets home, he lifts the burden from all of us, for a while, until HE needs something! LOL

    • I always feel conflicted @ that…Alex is super responsible, possibly b/c his earliest memories involve a little sister who had so much drama surrounding her. His self-image is formed in worrying about others, more so than the average first child. But at the same time I feel so if-fy about asking him to keep his sibs out of trouble while we discuss paint colors or have a wedding meeting downstairs…it just seems so wrong to saddle him with that burden. Anyway, I’m not disagreeing with you…just fretting about balance (as usual).

  7. If “I have enough time and energy to devote to obsessing over the subject, it’s probably a sign that whatever I’m struggling with probably isn’t nearly as overwhelming as I think it is.”

    I do think you’re on to something! It might indeed be overwhelming, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by obsessing over it instead of doing something about it. I’ll have to think on this 🙂

  8. “I suppose it’s a fair question. How do we do it?”

    I’d say by not having a choice, and thus not worrying about it.

    We have 5 kids, 2 are out of the nest, and we also help out with 2 grandkids.

  9. I’m the oldest of five. By the time #3 came around I learned how to change diapers and bottle feed as well as baby food feed. When the last two arrived in a two year time span I was cooking dinner for the whole family. We all had our household chores. Friday was cleaning day and all of us had dusting and vacuuming to do. Every night I was on dishwashing duty and floor sweeping duty while my closest brother dried. We had no dishwasher then. The answer is pressing brothers and sisters into service. Moms and Dads don’t have to do it all. I liked my allowance for all the chores I did and I made a good living as a teenager babysitting other large families just because of my experience with my brothers and sisters.

  10. I do think you are on to something, if we have the time to obsess, worry, or let fear take over our every thought than if we took control of our mind would we not be able to take that same time and energy and speak truth to ourselves and calm down a bit??

    Definately come up with a catch phrase and trade mark it 😉

  11. There’s an old saying that describes both how sometimes having more kids is (sort of somewhat!) easier, and also describes how several children together will do things that a child alone would never dare:
    pardon the grammar, I’m just quoting:

    “You got one kid, you got a whole kid. You got two kids, you got half a kid. You got three kids and ain’t got no dang kids at all.”

    I’m the youngest of four, and it’s little wonder that MY SISTER taught me how to read. 😀


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