Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Tidbit of Advice

I was at a graduation party recently and met a women with four little ones all in row.  She had a tiny baby strapped to her chest and then boom, boom, boom, the kids went right up in age.  Someone introduced me as "a mom with six" and this young mom asked right away, "Oh good, you can give me advice."  I listened to her for a little and I will admit that I am becoming an old lady because in my head I'm thinking, "Just enjoy these days, they go so fast, look at how cute and small they all are!" and I know that is such general unhelpful advice that moms with little ones don't really want to hear-I know I couldn't really wrap my head around that sentiment until my oldest started high school, and then as those big milestones came quickly year after year, I "got" what all those moms of older kids were talking about.

But advice?

I will say this. Almost every time a younger mom with more than two little ones has asked me for some advice on how to manager her growing family the answer is almost always:

Stop doing so much outside the home.  

That's all.

Rushing and a tight time table does not equal happy moms or happy babies or happy toddlers. Settle in. Settle in at home with your role as mother, embrace it fully and trust that the time you give these years-if you give your children your attention, and structure and find ways to enjoy your days at home, it will all pay off.

There is time for everything!  There is time for kids to do all those fun activities as they get older, and there will be more time to explore our own interests whether it be yoga classes or tennis lessons or a master's degree and there will be time for us to be passionate about a career-there is time for it all, but if you want it to happen all at once (I understand the pressure, I really do!) you will struggle to be able to enjoy any of it.

When we feel rushed, frazzled, stressed and our little ones will feel our energy and react, they will be less enjoyable for us to enjoy.  Does that make sense?  We have eighteen or more years with each of our children in our homes, and it does get easier, and as their needs let up as they grow and become more independent, there is time to fit outside activities into their lives and our lives.

I would give myself this same advice twenty one years ago.  I have learned slowly and surely (and back then there weren't quite the abundance of distractions and classes and activities and opportunities that exist now!) that children need breathing room, quiet time at home, activities that don't involve time tables, and that mothering little ones takes a lot of time and energy and focus to be enjoyable.


  1. YES our children do feel our anxiety, rushed feelings, insanity. I couldn't agree more. Over scheduling is not our thing. We are into the 4th week of summer vacation and I am relishing that the kids are learning what it feels like to be bored. They need to learn that feeling, just as they need to learn how to make their own fun! I love that they are home for the summer. I love that I get to spend the time with them. Have you watched the Goldbergs yet? I swear I am that mom (just minus the clothes, hair, accent since mine is Southern, and I am more realistic.) You have to watch.

  2. Absolutely...slow things down, determine your boundaries and protect them....don't get pulled into the vortex of activities which lead to more activities and birthday party invites and book clubs and volunteer gigs...I would rather be snuggled up with a child reading bedtime stories than anywhere else. Make play dough, bake cookies, color, embrace naptime and quiet times, go to the library, and when things are going amuck, go outside...for a walk, to a park or playground, out on the driveway to color with chalk or play or ride bikes. Fresh air turns around a cranky day!

  3. This is such sage advice. And real advice. Much better than my "just wait, it gets worse" comments! Well, I try not to say that too often. I would trade baby days to teen years in a heartbeat. When my kids were little, I loved the routines, the naps, the early bed times. We recently took down our sandbox that was played in by children and adults alike. For years, the kids spent hours there with the neighborhood kids. I loved those unstructured days of summer or seeing them break free outside after a long day in school. Too often, today, kids are running constantly, eating on the fly, and out too late. Being the youngest of 6 kids and having only one car, if we couldn't walk to it, we didn't do it. I still blame my mom for me not even being a girl scout. I did take piano lessons because I could walk to the teacher's house. But those long, summer days were filled with girlfriends, playing games on the porch, swimming, tennis in the street, hide and seek. Such wonderful memories. I tried to give that to my kids when they were young. They had to beg me to play sports. My son still claims that if I would have put him into T ball he might have won more than 10 games in his years of baseball! Ha! He's a jazz pianist....I did put him in Kindermusik and then piano lessons at some point. But I just couldn't drag all my babies around just to put him into baseball. It was always a balance between the desires of the child and what was best for the family. As busy as I am now, I still crave the quiet days at home, with everyone around the dinner table. (Well, those days are not always quiet!) Those simpler days did slide away in the teen years when activities increased and bed times moved to later times. It seemed to be a more constant buzz of activity and presence.

  4. Thank you for your (always) helpful and insightful advice. This advice couldn't have come at a better time for me. I am a mother of just one (exactly 6 months younger than your sweet Janie) and we have been struggling these past few days with crankiness and moodiness and separation anxiety, and I realize it's probably because I don't have my act together or my priorities in order, and my stress is impacting her. I often find myself trying to be "perfect mom" at all times and in all aspects of motherhood and sometimes I get behind the 8-ball and the only way to catch up is to take a few shortcuts where it doesn't really matter (e.g. cereal for dinner one night) to allow for breathing room in the areas that truly count (like having time to get down on the floor and play with my daughter instead of having to cook dinner and clean a messy kitchen). Sometimes just one night of shifted priorities like that is all it takes to get us back on track. So, tonight, we'll be having cereal for dinner. :)

  5. I Needed this. I have a 5 year old and a 3 year old and I'm 38 weeks pregnant with my third and I've been asked to do a few things this weekend outside the home which I just don't want to do. Often feel bad saying no but sometimes it's the best thing for me and my family.
    Thank you x

  6. I am also a mother of six...and I completely AGREE. Yes...yes...yes. That is all. :D

  7. Thank you for your beautiful words. I am totally this mom with four kids and one strapped to me at all times. I really appreciated this perspective this morning. Hugs!

  8. I agree 100%. My children are in their 20s, and this would be my advice, as well ;)

  9. Good Morning...
    A few quick comments and then a quote.
    As a long time reader, I love that you are writing a wee bit more.
    As an older mother with ages from 24 to 6. This is the best advice. And even though my children are all spread out in ages, this advice is beneficial to children of all ages and stages...along with the mamas. Having some sort of peace and quiet and schedule makes us all better and filled with joy!
    Having the comments back in was an unexpected surprise and blessing.

    And finally, I think you'll love this from Sally Clarkson.

    When you are taxed by your children, your friends, your husband, what flows out from the depths of your heart? Whatever you have cherished inside is what will flow out. When you are squeezed you will spill out what is in your heart. So it is essential to understand, what you are pouring in will surely spill out in your words, your eyes, your attitudes, your actions. Filling the inside of our souls with beauty, goodness, humility, faith and love of Christ must be intentional so that there will be substance of his life to spill over to others.

    Bless you today!

  10. Oh Sarah... I just couldn't agree more! And this is why I'm still reading your blog after nearly four years.., because there s just such wisdom to be had here. I have a three year old and a two year old, and now a two week old, and this is my conviction too, but it seems to goSO AGAINST society (here in the UK at least) and I find myself needing to justify myself that I am no working and don't intend to until the children have flown the nest, and that we spend every afternoon, and most mornings, just being at home... Thank you for this! Glad to ave the comments back!xx

  11. We rarely do things outside the home, unless it's all of us, daddy included, as a family. This is one of the reasons I wanted so desperately badly to have acreage and a big garden and some animals to care for- life at home is so fulfilling for all of us and we have enough activities and work to pour our hearts into and keep us occupied in a calm, peaceful, soothing rhythm. I wholeheartedly believe it is better for my children but also so much better for me and when I am in a peaceful state, I am much better able to handle the messes and training of mothering young children.

    I debated about whether to send our oldest to vacation bible school 2 weeks ago and decided to send him. Two days in he was vomiting with a virus that worked its way through every member of the family, including me at 30 weeks pregnant which was horrid!

  12. Your blog is so refreshing to read. Thank you!

  13. Thank you so much for this Sara!! I am so glad that you are back posting a little more and sharing your wonderful book suggestions on your sidebar. I have all ready ordered a few from the library for the kids and myself. Your example of motherhood has been a huge inspiration to me and I really can't thank you enough for sharing everything that you do!!! I am a stay at home mom of 3 boys 13, 10 and 3 months (bit of a break there due to secondary infertility and a still birth). This is an area I struggle with in balancing everything with a teen and a baby and I definitely miss those days when my older boys were little. A simpler time for sure. Such great advice :). I hope you are all having a wonderful summer!!

  14. Ahhh so refreshing. Thank you for being a voice for what is good and true.

  15. Sarah, that is such good advice. I hope the Mom will take it to heart. I give this same advice to Moms who are starting w/home schooling. Guard your time! It is too easy to get involved in outside activities, and before you know it, you're rushing through the lessons and maybe even skipping things. Moms (often) have the unique responsibility to take charge of the household's schedule, and that is a precious gift, not to be squandered.
    So glad to see your posts in my newsfeed again!

  16. Hi Ashley-This is a big important question and I'm not sure I can answer it in a few sentences. The simple answer is no, I didn't have help, I would rely on my husband to be home with the kids if there was an evening when I had a social activity, and there were times when I was involved in a play group here or there, or a book club etc but my social schedule was pared down considerably when I had my first, and then with each incoming child. A lot of my social time (talking to other adults) was done with children in tow (and still is).

  17. Sarah,
    I wish more people thought like you. I like reading your blog, it reminds me that I am living my dream. I need to slow down and enjoy it. Instead I find myself planning the next dream, at my families expense. Summer days can be very long with busy boys. But, they are worth it.
    My Mom passed away a month before my first was born. I look for sage advice anywhere, everywhere and often. I can always find it on your blog. Thank You.