Oh wow! How? how do you do it?
It’s the question that I’m asked more frequently than anything else. Somehow, having four kids and doing anything functional appears superhuman to most people I meet. If I’m at the mall or doing grocery shopping or taking my kids out for a walk, people wonder if I have some secret power that enables me to remain alive. So I’ve decided to finally answer the powerful and constant question. I’m gonna tell you how it’s done.
Before I give away my big secret, let me first start by saying that it isn’t easy, and that I’m still working hard at it. By working hard, I don’t mean that I’m always on top of my dishes or that the toys are always neatly put away. It definitely, most definitely, doesn’t mean that I win any battle I have against the laundry. Clutter and dust and crumbs always seem to have the last laugh. Working hard also doesn’t mean that my kids never watch any videos or eat junk. They don’t always use their manners or their words or their listening ears. So what’s the big secret then? How is it that I do it?
In the most basic terms, I took Elsa’s advice and just let it go. How do I do it? I try not to do it all. I fight my mama urge to keep moving at lightening speed. I have staring competitions with my piles of dirty dishes and, although some days I just can’t handle it, I try to force myself to sit down and let them be for a while. I’m learning to make realistic to-do lists and not be too disappointed when I don’t finish everything on them. I practice my patience with my children diligently so that I can control my temper and my tone when I speak to them. I try to savour the little moments I have with my little ones when we’re reading together or playing a game. And above all, I practice a lot of self talk about what is essential and what can wait. The bottom line is that I gave in to the fact that the condition of my house or the performance of my children or even my own mood are not a reflection of my success as a mom.
I remember about a week after I had my third baby, my husband and I were sitting in our family room trying to wrap our head around how we will handle being outnumbered by our children. Suddenly, it felt as though in an instant, all three of our kids threw simultaneous fits. The newborn was hungry, our 1 year old had dropped her toy behind the couch and our 2 year old desperately needed some milk. They were all crying at the same time. I remember my husband went to get milk for Zico, I started nursing Leo, and there was Kiwi standing there in a full tantrum. At that moment, I had a life-changing realization. I will no longer be able to make everyone happy all the time. Before I had my third baby, I had worked really hard on getting the kids what they need, be it a toy or a drink or a blanket, as fast as I can. They barely had to do much waiting. But now, it will be impossible. Kiwi had to wait until either daddy or I were free and able to retrieve her toy. It was a pivotal moment for me because although it made me sad that I can’t stop them from crying sooner, I realized that maybe that’s not as bad as I think. Maybe it’s okay for my daughter to realize that sometimes, she can’t get her toy back as fast as she’d like. Sometimes, she’ll have to wait for her brothers to get what they need first. It turns out that life really is a great teacher. My initial fear that my kids are missing out on attention by having more siblings was replaced by the knowledge that life is teaching them about cooperation and sharing and waiting.
So when someone looks at me at the park and says, “wow, how do you do it?”, I say “with a lot of grace.” Grace from God and grace from myself. It’s really the only way to do it.