Living with 5 kids, I essentially run a small daycare in my home, in which I would be awarded the worst teacher of the year. My patience is spread thin.
Three months into the transition to five kids and I repeatedly get asked, “So, how's it going with five kids? What's it like?” The words of Jim Gaffigan come to mind:
“You know what it's like having five kids? Imagine you're drowning. And someone hands you a baby.”
I essentially run a small daycare in my home, in which I would be awarded the worst teacher of the year. My patience is spread thin amongst the constant demands, my floors are never clean, the sink is hardly empty even if I do the dishes twice a day, my table is covered in paint, and many days are spent with too much screen time so that I can work from home or get a minute to breathe all by myself. I constantly worry I'm not spending enough time with them one on one so that each feels loved, wondering if I'm giving them enough hugs every day, or not reading enough books. Attention and needs, pulling me in every direction so that I feel like an octopus pulled by every tentacle. Mom guilt: I have it. That's what I drown in.
I have been drowning since we welcomed our third child four years ago. People ask often what the hardest transition was after having a baby, and three was that for me. Granted, I did experience a late setting postpartum depression after her birth as well, making it even tougher to transition into. The newness of being sleep-deprived and out-numbered was a new huge adjustment for me. However, my kids have all done well adding another sibling to our crew, for which I'm thankful. Their joy and affection for each new baby is infectious. In their joy, my own expands. Their sibling rivalry doesn't seem to hit until the youngest is old enough to defend themselves and take toys —- that's when the real fun begins.
So, in truth, since drowning has been my normal for the past four years ... welcoming our fifth has been no different. I'm already in this mind set of diapers and wake up calls. I'm used to buckling a ton of carseats before we leave, keeping snacks in my gigantic diaper bag, changing fifty diapers a day, and having a mountain range of clean laundry to fold. I'm used to having to let the baby cry for just one more minute so I can change a dirty diaper of a toddler, or baby-wearing while making dinner. My husband and I are well acquainted with kid “zoning,” where we divide our group and conquer bedtime or the playground together.
This is my normal — no matter the number I have now. Is it loud? Yes. Is it crazy sometimes? Yes. Do I get overwhelmed? Yes. But really, once you reach this point in motherhood — what's another? You learn to find the joy in the chaos. You learn to balance priorities and to cherish the fleeting moments that make you beam. You learn that the moments of overwhelming anxiety are balanced by the overwhelming love that flows when glimpses of “I'm doing something right” happen. Like, when your two middle girls hold hands as they take a walk or giggle in their shared room before sleep. Or, your ten-year-old makes pancakes for the family while the six-year-old makes it his mission to make the baby smile with goofy faces. Those moments make it all so worth it.
There's so much love with five — that's what it is like. It's helping hands, it's passionate tempers, it's constant companions, and love. I'll happily drown within the love we have.