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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mothering Many: From Fatigue to Finding Joy

A friend posted a link to this woman's blog, recounting her experience as the mother of four-plus-one-on-the-way, being met by strangers in public places, aghast and amazed (and not often pleasantly) at the size of her family.

I know the experience. As a mom of four, I've had similar encounters. But lately, as my girls are older now, the baby being fully six and school age, the response from strangers seems to have changed. I am finding, or at least sensing, more acceptance, even delight in the amazement at so many children "all yours?" So, I responded to her link with the following, and thought it was worth sharing more broadly as well:

I haven't had that experience (negatively) in a long time, probably because I rarely go downtown any more, and that's where I ran into it most, even with just two or three children--the "intellectual, enlightened" ones who seemed to judge me for reproducing at all. Once, I was unfolding the double stroller to take a walk downtown with just my first two, and two women stopped to chide me for my choice to "not travel lightly" in this world. They didn't see children with me. They saw luggage, and consumers of resources, rather than unique, creative, purpose-filled individual souls.
But lately, I've found great positivity, though sometimes astonishment, yes, from strangers seeing my string of little ladies. Given, it's only four of them, and somehow that even, balanced number seems to have gained acceptance. Five, perhaps, would be "right out." An odd number, odd and obvious. But we've walked the corridors of Target and the mall, played at the park. and made our presence known at other typically suburban venues, with me more often lately keeping my cool when they got rambunctious and instead of stressing (which I have done on far too many occasions), calling out simply, happily, "Line up, ducks! Line up!" and as the girls giggle and fall in single-file behind me, bystanders and disgruntled shoppers have stopped to watch and even smile. 

And it's been OK lately. I don't know if anything other than my own perception has really changed. Maybe I've found more security in the size of my family. Maybe it is that I'm not as worn out as I was when one or more were in the infant stages. There does seem to be some truth in the statement that "Everybody loves a WANTED child," and perhaps I gave the impression, in the past, when I was so worn out and sleep-deprived and fearful of looking bad in public if one threw a temper tantrum or broke something or looked dirty, that I wished I didn't have so many. Perhaps I seemed burdened.

But like this author/mom, I say, no. That's not the truth at all. Every one of them is a wanted child and every one of them is so beloved that I can't imagine life without them, each and every one. Knowing one made me want another. And I hope that's what the astonished strangers can see now, instead of the exhaustion and people-pleasing fear which might have sent the wrong message, and prompted them, if I may give them the benefit of the doubt, out of misunderstanding and concern for me, to have wished to liberate me instead of congratulate me.

Too soon, however, time will keep moving and liberate me entirely from this stage of life, with little ones underfoot, consuming everything in sight or reach, creating chaos where I can only dream of order. But even that is right. It is right that they should grow up and out of the baby stages and into adulthood. So far, there has been a little grief at the letting go but more contentment in the progression of the stages than I had expected. I can only hope that a little of the true joy that underlies the fatigue and stress and guilt for failure is now beginning to show through, and perhaps that is what is being seen by those on the outside.


Carolynn Markey said...

this is sweet. I can read the words of love for your children in every word. I want a large family too! I know raising kids is one of the hardest and most controversial topics around, but its also one of the most beautiful, and perhaps rewarding! I applaud you for loving yours!!

--Rebecca said...

Thank you, Carolynn! I do love them, even though I feel like I fail them All The Time. We are always so dependent on grace.
I hope God grants you that large family that is your heart's desire. From just what I know of you from your comments here, I think you have the right heart for it.
Good to hear from you again, as always!

Anonymous said...

Dear Rebecca,
I don't know if you'll remember me. My maiden name was Ruth Ann Errick and I attended CRPC when I lived in Asheville from 1993-2001. I first came across your blog because a mutual friend (maybe Ginny Barker or Lerenda - can't remember now) shared one of your blog posts on facebook. I have so thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts. Wonderful words - filled with grace and truth!

This post especially resonated with me. I just wanted to take a moment to (re-)introduce myself and say a big thank you for your words. As I read your writing I think about how CS Lewis said that we read to know we're not alone.

So - thank you, thank you!
Ruth Ann Knight

--Rebecca said...

Hi, Ruth Ann! Of course I remember you! I remember when you got engaged. I remember Terry making the announcement. :)
Thank you for reading. I had no idea you were out there, stopping by here sometimes. I'd love to hear about your life. I do know that you've had several children. I think I remember one or two names--a boy and then a girl, is that right? I won't post anything more specific here for privacy's sake. BUT--so good to hear from you. Thank you for commenting and letting me know it's you. I'm encouraged to know that something I say sometimes helps another know she (or he) is not alone. We are supposed to be in this together. Loneliness shouldn't have to be a reality. (At least, it's something I tend to fight against a lot.)