“Oh, boy! Don’t you have your hands full,” a sweet lady said while passing me as she exited the grocery. “If you only knew,” I thought to myself! Little did she know that the baby I was packing in my baby carrier was actually a twin whose sister and almost-two-year-old sister were both at home with their dad. Honestly, I was kind of feeling like I was on a mini-vacay taking only three of my five kids to the grocery! Heaven knows I haven’t taken all of them to the grocery store since the twins were born five months ago. Part of the reason is that I’m not crazy — yet — and the other part is that I can’t fit all of my kids and all of my groceries in my car at the same time!
I couldn’t help but smile the rest of the day as I thought of her comment to me, kindly intended, no doubt. I have been hearing something similar since my third was born. Of course, the frequency has doubled since we have added two more sweet surprises to our crew. I mean, just picture our family outing to the zoo: two double strollers full of four kids, three of which are one and under; another cute girl skipping along; my husband usually carrying one of the babies because, you know, they can’t both be content at the same time; and me passing out snacks frantically because, well, something about going out in public makes my children act like I haven’t fed them all day. I seriously need a nap just thinking about it.
The lady at the grocery was right! My hands are FULL, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Before the twins arrived, I spent months thinking about how I was going to handle life as a mom of five, especially when so many of my sweet children are totally dependent on me. I wanted this busiest stage of life to be the happiest, most fun, and best time of my life. In order to make that happen, I decided there were a few behaviors I had to start implementing in my life that I knew were definitely not my strengths. I am going to share those with you, and I hope that whether you have no kids, five kids, or fifteen kids, this list can find a way to help you live happier days during your busy season of life.
Learn to Say No
This is probably the hardest one for me. I am a sucker for saying, “yes” to everything. Something inside of me wants to be the person that can do it all perfectly, but I was quickly finding out that instead of giving 100% to each thing I had committed to, I only had time for about 25% of that with each commitment. It sucked. I felt like I was running around frantically all the time trying to juggle all of the many hats of being a mom with other obligations I also have. I finally realized that I couldn’t do it all. I mean, I guess I could do it all, I just couldn’t do it all well.
I decided I needed to re-evaluate what was most important to me, commit to it and say “no” to the rest. Finding a balance between work and play and family and church service can seem so daunting. I’ve found that the perfect balance can usually come by simply crossing a few unnecessary items of off your to-do list. In this stage of life, I have found that less is definitely more, and I am learning to be a better mom because of it.
President Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Isn’t that the truth? If you let it, comparing yourself to others can strip all of your happiness away with a two-minute scroll through Instagram. Despite your best efforts, you will continue to fall short. You will likely always be able to find someone that can DIY better than you or design and decorate their home better than you. You most certainly will find someone that will drive a nicer car than you and live in a larger house than you. You will even find that (fortunate) person who can still squeeze into the same size jeans she wore in college! Maybe there is someone you envy who seems to have it together all the time and you find yourself wishing you could be that person for just one day (or at least just have it together for one morning trip to Target).
Noticing positive attributes in another person can help you to re-evaluate who you are and what talents you may want to improve. However, if you focus so much on everyone else’s strengths and only your weaknesses, you’ll find yourself very unhappy and often missing out on the blessing right before your very eyes. Let’s get one thing straight — your children don’t care about what size clothes you wear or how big (or small) your house is. They don’t care what car you drive when you roll up for car pool. They don’t care if you made dinner from scratch (and posted about it) or if you pulled your meal out of a box and threw it in the oven. They really only care about you and the time that you spend with them doing the things you love to do together. Life is hard enough trying to keep up with your own goals and expectations. Don’t make it impossible by constantly comparing yourself to others and robbing yourself of the joy found throughout the journey.
Choose to Laugh
The best wedding advice I ever received was on my wedding day. A gentleman said to me, “It’s a good thing you have a sense of humor because you’re really going to need it.” Hours later, my husband and I were bobbing around in a lake moments after the gangway snapped and collapsed during our reception exit. When the shock wore off, I immediately thought, “I can either laugh or cry … laugh or cry?!” In that moment, the wedding advice given to me only hours before rang true as we laughed ourselves onto a boat and rode off soaking wet into the sunset.
Fast forward seven short years and three kids later: I find out that I am pregnant … with TWINS! Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in that ultrasound room! There’s nothing like having a surprise baby that ends up being TWO babies while you still have a baby! Am I right or am I right? Needless to say, we had my OB/GYN and his entire staff laughing that day. Life can get busy and overwhelming more often than we’d like to admit, but I have learned the best way to stay happy through it all is to choose to laugh.
Ask for Help
Okay, I lied earlier. This one definitely is the hardest for me. Remember that whole do-it-all-yourself talk a few paragraphs back? Yeah, you can’t do it all; ask for help when you need it. Chances are, you are surrounded by family or friends and neighbors who love you and want to help make life a little bit easier for you. They may offer many things from meals to babysitting to yard work — let them help. You may get so exhausted and feel like you’re at your breaking point — ask for help. YOU are important. Not only are you important as a spouse and mother, but you are important as an individual. Make sure you are taking care of your individual needs and you will find that you are much better equipped to take care of your family’s needs.
I will forever remember a friend who sent me a text one afternoon that said, “I know you are going to tell me not to and that you’re good, but I am bringing over dinner tonight so you better answer your door when I get there.” Little did she know that I was on the brink of tears strictly from utter exhaustion. My twins were a couple months old and I’m pretty sure right when one stopped crying the other would start … all day long. My toddlers were sick. My husband was going to be gone the entire day. I hadn’t even thought about lunch, let alone dinner. She saved the day!
Some days you may be able to do it all, but some days you will find that a little help might be just what you need. Don’t be too proud (or embarrassed) to ask for it.
We will all go through stages of life that are a little bit busier than others, but remember that your family is perfect just the way it is. Material things come and go, but memories made will always fill your heart. Choose to laugh and love through this crazy journey of life, and never be too proud to ask for help or too busy to offer help to those in need.