Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Long Letter


When my sister-in-law had baby #4, I sent her this letter. I wrote this after having my #4...an extremely difficult (but darn cute!) baby. I had a lot on my plate and really had to assess the situation and lay down my ground rules. These are things that I personally had to remind myself of often. Someone else might have a different set of rules depending on their strengths and weaknesses and relationships. People often ask me, what was the "hardest" addition-adjusting to four was mine.

1. You are now the C.E.O. (working 24/7 w/o paid vacation) of a large, profitable (to the world) family: Act like one. Be the boss-anticipate and delegate and try to stay on top of your days. Focus on the task at hand and let the less important stuff fall away-prioritize!

2. Don't try to do everything yourself. Don't feel guilty about your older children being forced to be more independent! They might resist at first, but self-reliance and independence is what they need in life. You will be surprised at what they will do for themselves when you can't, and they will be proud of themselves in the process. Remember that in the "olden days" really young kids had to shovel cow manure, plow the garden and walk 5 miles to school in bare feet all before 7 a.m. Making yourself and your sister a PB and J and getting your own juice cup is a walk in the park.

3. Lower your expectations, especially the first few months. If you get out of your pj's it's a great day! If the kids are decently dressed and eat more than cereal for dinner, it's an accomplishment! If you don't expect anything more than this, you'll go to bed at night knowing you accomplished more than you set out to. Every new addition requires more from us, and we must let go of something-let go of the perfection and the comparison and unreachable expectations.

4. Take care of yourself, and start at the basics: the right to use the bathroom with no one watching. The right to eat one meal not standing over the sink. The right to take a quick shower, put on mascara, some clean yoga pants, and feel a little refreshed.  We aren't talking about nights out and spa days, we are talking about fitting a few essential things to our days.

5. Smart mothers say no often and without guilt. That means putting the happiness and well being of yourself and your family FIRST- not school, friends, sports, neighbors or extended family. You have the rest of your life to do all the things you cannot do right now-trust me, they'll all be there and they'll all ask in one or two or five years. Every one's threshold for commitments is different, and if you don't know yours, you'll find out, it's called stress-and it rears its head in the form of yelling, impatience, resentment and exhaustion. Get rid of the guilt of saying no (without rambling explanations) and your life and your family will function so much better.

6. Laugh when you feel like crying. There will be many days when you swear your head is twirling on top of your unwashed, leaking, bleeding body-the kids are sick, or whining, or crying, or spilling, or fighting or all of the above. Disconnect from the situation, stand back and laugh.

7. And most importantly: Time flies whether you are having fun or not. It is impossible to not get caught up in the work of being a good mom....but it is good to remember that these are the sweetest, irreplaceable memories you will ever have. You might not get to buy teeny diapers, onesies, or little jars of carrots again, or smell the scent of your baby's neck, or kiss her soft, tiny, un-calloused feet, or witness the love an older brother has for his baby sister before the teenage years hit. You will never be so WANTED, NEEDED, SUFFOCATED with LOVE again. Your life will get easier, but one day I think we will all wish we could go back to these days for a just a little bit.

27 comments :

  1. i love these posts from you....we are on the fence about a third...i am ready when HE is ready to give me one...but i also have reservations...and your blog makes me realize i can do it...and that when i do it will be worth it...which i know now anyways because for a while i have felt like someone is missing from our family...and i just cannot imagine never having the experience of being pregnant again...or never having baby feet to nibble on again...or that sweet sweaty smell...

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  2. Thank you - I needed this letter badly! I've been up virtually all night with a fussy 3 week old and a toddler who decided if there's going to be a party at 3 am she wants to be part of it. I feel terrible, like I can't cope anymore unless I get some sleep. Thanks for the reminder that these are precious days, and yes, I'm going to start saying NO and buy myself the best nursing bra I can find.

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  3. I love children and we have 3 contemplating adding a 4th if the Lord wills. I love reading your blog knowing that it is possible. I love that your so real about parenting and that you don't pretend to be perfect. You have a gorgeous family! My burning desire is to have all my children home with me so that I can homeschool them eventually!

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  4. I don't know how you do it! WIth everything you write and your attitude towards life is awesome!! I sometimes feel overwhelmed with just my 2 boys. ...and you have 5! Thank you for alwyas writing such thoughtful posts about your family and your family values. You truly inspire people I believe and I hope you continue to write/blog/email your personal values to share amongst us all.

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  5. Great attitude! I was feeling bad yesterday for asking my 5-year old to get her own water, but it's what she needed to do! I tell her all the time that she needs to learn to do things on her own.
    Love the letter.

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  6. I have just come across your blog and i love it. I too have 5 beautiful children, and life is so crazy but i know soon enough i will miss all of this craziness! Fabulous blog! Your family is gorgeous.

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  7. Those are great! I was smiling and nodding... and then I got to #8 and started crying!!

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  8. Excellent letter, I'm due to have number 3 tomorrow and will be buying a great feeding bra!
    Am now going to have a quick look at your archives, love the way you write.

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  9. I love this list. There are many times I look at my husband and say we have to laugh or else we would be crying. One of the many reasons I love your blog.....You think like me.

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  10. So beautifully and honestly written. Thanks for sharing, your truths are always what I need to hear! :>

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  11. You have a way of just lifting my spirits. Thank you for reminding me that I chose this job and I love it.

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  12. Oh, how I LOVE this letter. Every single point of it. I feel that I have stepped into a room and discovered my long lost sister and feel right at home, affirmed, encouraged, understood in this crazy, wonderful roller coaster ride of motherhood. You are beautiful, your thoughts are beautiful, and this letter just made my day. I'm printing it out and sticking it in my day planner!

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  13. I remember reading this letter again and again on Julie's fridge. It's so beautiful... I love it!

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  14. I love this ! I had a miscarriage on baby #5 and never could get pregnant again, oh how I wish I had known that baby #4 was it, I would have held her every moment! I think you are WONDERFUL!

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  15. You are a wise woman. Did your husband know how wise you were when he married you? I also like your recipes. I too stick to some favorites that I know they love and I don't change anything if there is one of my 3 who doesn't like what's for dinner. They just get a lot of applesauce.

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  16. this is a fantastic letter.

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  17. Again, just what I needed to hear today! Thanks!

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  18. oh this is so good.
    such a great reminder to tell myself what the heck i am doing...raising human beings!
    you are a great writer.
    and a great photographer!

    do people tell you that you look like juliet from LOST? :)

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  19. This is the best mothering advice ever! I wish someone had sent me that letter before I had kids. But I will print this and save it for my daughter. Thank you!

    Your blog is precious.

    ~Heather

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  20. what a lovely letter. i was completely fine and held back tears until the line about smelling your baby's neck. and then i lost it.
    i posted your letter on my blog.
    thanks!

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  21. Sarah,

    This is great. I love hearing your thoughts---right on!

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  22. Bless you.
    I just had my 4th and having FOUR kids has turned my world up-side-down! Seriously, I feel like I'm drowning most days but I'm working on it, especially your #5 tip. I'm finding that saying No is essential (and sometimes so hard to do especially when I WANT to help). My "reality" with 4 little ones is so different but I'm adjusting, slow but steady.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  23. love your post. thanks for sharing this!

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  24. Made me cry! I love this letter, I'm the Mother of 5 great kids 25 to 16. I wish someone would have told me how fast time flies. I miss those crazy, busy, chaotic times. My second to youngest leaves for college in the Fall and we will be down to ONE!...... WEIRD!!! My two sweet grandbabies make it all better though!

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  25. OH YEAH...that was to me!!! I am famous...documented and now blogged about...well, sort of JK!!!! This letter ROCKS! Still does in my house....and I too have passed it on to many of friends....of course, with "written by my sis in law, Sarah" at the top...to give credit where credit is due!!! I love that letter....always refer to it...and wish that I could still smell my babies....THANK YOU SARAH!!! xoxo Julie

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  26. You should write a book. Seriously. You have such great insight and I'm grateful I found you early in my parenting career. Thank you.

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  27. Some good advice here! But this is probably directed toward to the type of mothers who have guilt complexes and a tendency to go overboard with the spoiling and exhausting themselves by doing way too much for the kids. Unfortunately, I know more mothers who are disconnected from their children and expect them to act like responsible adults way too early. I don't think that the advice "Say NO often" (#5) is good advice for those kinds of mothers. Alternately, Dr. Sears' ideas on how to say No in a positive light is a better route (http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/discipline-behavior/18-ways-say-no-positively).
    However, that #7 is spot-on! Learning to laugh more is probably the most important thing as a mother! :)

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