You Don’t Need To Feel Sorry For Me–And Neither Do I

“Are they all yours?”

“What do you do in your spare time?”

“Do you run a day home?”

“You do know what causes that, right?”

“How do you afford it?”

“You sure have your hands full!”

“That’s why I got fixed.”

“And I thought I had it hard!”

“You still have a smile on your face- that’s Mom love.”

“I feel sorry for you, dear. But God bless you.”

It’s midnight. I crawl under the cool covers and fall asleep almost immediately. Not too long after, a baby cries. And her twin sister cries. I nurse the only one who will nurse and Jeff bottle feeds the other. We both try desperately to stay awake until the feeds are done and, when they are, we quickly tuck babies back in and dive into bed because we know how precious sleep is and that we might not get much. Two more times that night we are up and down, and our four other little alarms go off bright and early as they are eager to start their vacation fun.

The day prior had been a long one. A six hour drive turned into almost ten because of a long delay on the highway and necessary stops to feed children. It always takes the kids a long time to settle the first night we’re away and, this night, I was extra low on energy. We still needed groceries so we’d be set for the next day and I knew I’d likely be up multiple times in the night with the babies. I was right.

Our day started off with the business that comes with raising six young children. Change the three youngest. Nurse the one baby that still nurses, give both babies bottles, feed the older four breakfast, feed babies breakfast, clean up breakfast, get kids dressed, put babies down for naps, make sure the older four are being semi quiet so babies can nap, get myself ready…

After breakfast we decided we wanted to take the kids to the pool. After all, this was our vacation. It might look easy but getting six kids sun-blocked, packing the diaper bag, packing drinks and snacks, getting all the life vests and getting the stroller takes a lot of time. During all this babies needed another bottle. The older kids were all clustered in the entryway dancing around the tiny space when they were supposed to be getting their shoes on.  Being patient was difficult.

Once we got to the pool there was the very important task of watching all six between the two of us. It was very hot and the babies were sweating so we decided to bring them in as well. I had one baby in my arms and another in a floatie, Jeff had our 2 year-old and was watching the other three. Packing up to go was a challenge in itself but we managed to get all six safely back to the condo.

Then it was time for lunch. We prepared lunch for the older kids, fed the babies theirs, gave them finger foods. Lunch was all over the table and floor. The babies needed changed, our youngest son needed changed. The babies needed a nap, our 2 year-old fell asleep. Jeff and I gave the three older awake children some quiet time and ate our lunch quickly before we started the cleanup. We wanted to have a few minutes to sit and rest before quiet time was done and we were at it again.

In no time at all the babies and our youngest son woke up from their naps, so it was time to head to the beach. We fed the twins another bottle, re-sunblocked all six, got everyone ready, got the life vests on the kids, packed up the beach toys and tried to figure out how we’d get everyone and everything to the beach in a manageable, safe way. The older four had a lot of fun but the babies were unusually fussy and wanted to be held at the beach—not the easiest since Jeff was out on a boat with the kids and the twins were no longer the four-pounders they used to be.

Once we were done, we needed to pack everyone and everything back up and get back to the condo. There we hung all the wet stuff up and put things out of the way so we could make supper. Jeff took over that task and barbequed while I bathed all six kids. One was jumping on furniture, everyone was running around the small space we were in, the noise volume was getting louder and louder and, by this point, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Afternoons are the hardest for me—they have been for a long while now. I think it’s a combination of lack of sleep and just the sheer business of the day that wears me out.

This is my life. It’s busy. Often it’s nonstop. Everywhere we go with the kids we get comments. Everywhere. People stare. People whisper. “I feel sorry for you, dear.”

As I was drying off the last baby who was bathed, I caught myself feeling quite anxious and overwhelmed. Maybe six kids is too much. People seem to think I made a bad decision. Maybe it was a bad decision. What if something happened to Jeff? How could I possibly do this on my own? Things were easier when we had two. Or even four. How can I keep going on like this day after day? How am I going to get through this day, let alone tomorrow? It’s tough sometimes. It’s tough most of the time.

Those who know me are aware I take a multitude of pictures on a daily basis. I love it. I love taking pictures. I love looking at pictures. And in those pictures I look happy—the kids look happy. But we aren’t always happy. “I feel sorry for you, dear…” Some people do feel sorry for me. This particular day I was coming close to feeling sorry for me. Just because I have six kids and appear to have it all together doesn’t mean I do. I’m not a person to strive to be. I’m not an exceptional mother. I struggle. I get down. I get afraid.

“I feel sorry for you, dear” echoes over and over in my head. But what about the second part of this lady’s statement? “But God bless you.”

“God bless you.”

God has blessed me. Tremendously! Why am I feeling sorry for myself? I have no reason to. None!

I thank God every day for the blessing of my family. My children bring me SO much joy. They love me unconditionally, and I love them unconditionally. They make me laugh—they melt my heart. I have heard that “making the decision to have a child—it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I believe that. I have SO much love for my six precious blessings I cannot even put it into words. They are a gift from God and I thank Him every day—whether the days are good or trying, in the end I thank Him. I thank Him for each day He grants me with each one of my children. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James1:17). Every good and perfect gift is from above- from God. To Him I am truly grateful. But this isn’t the main reason I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself.

Jeff is my other half, my partner, my supporter and encourager. He tells me I can do it-that I am doing it. He reminds me that in a few minutes the chaos will subside and everything will be OK. When I’m feeling down he pushes food my way and quite often I do feel better! In this scenario, that’s what I needed and right after supper I was back to feeling like all was well! Jeff is a blessing in my life—a gift I feel so unworthy of. He lifts me up with wisdom from Scripture when I need it most. God has blessed me with His Word, His promises, His comfort and strength. He has enabled me to love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Jeff and the kids are a foretaste of heaven. His love for me is a picture of Jesus’ love for His people—the church–and the love of them all is an image of the love God creates among His people for each other and for Him.

I have family and friends who love me. I have a home to live in, my health, food on the table. But all these things can change. This can’t: God has blessed me the most with His grace! Though I didn’t deserve it, Christ died for me and drew me to Himself. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In that very moment, when I felt so anxious my heart was racing, these words came to me. “The Lord is the stronghold of my life.” He is my place of survival, my refuge. He isn’t going anywhere. Ever. “Of whom shall I be afraid?” Of what shall I be afraid? Nothing.

To those who think my children were a mistake- they weren’t. They aren’t! To those who think I have it hard—I do some days. This particular day, when I was sitting on the floor drying off the sixth bathed child, I felt like I couldn’t do it any more. I felt depleted. I felt helpless. But God spoke to me through His Word and reminded me that He is my stronghold. Even when I have nothing left, I have Him and He is more than enough. The Lord gives me strength.

To those who look at my children as an inconvenience or a burden to me—they are not. They are a joy! Do I forget that sometimes? Yes. Am I sometimes selfish and complain because I go go go? Yes. But I am quickly reminded how precious they are when they hug me, smile at me, kiss me, ask me questions thinking I know all the answers. My fridge is overflowing with pictures they made for me. “I love you, Mommy!” touches me in a special way every time I hear it. The giggles, the firsts I get to witness. I always have a buddy. I have six buddies! So, to those people who look at me and think I’m crazy—I am. I’m crazy about my six sticky fingered kiddos no matter how much work they are. I’d give my life for those kids. No matter how hard it is.

But even though they are a tremendous blessing, they are not how God has blessed me the most. He has blessed me the most with His grace—the undeserved love and salvation He has freely given to me. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

I feel sorry for you.

Don’t.

But God bless you.

He has—in more ways than one. Thank you for reminding me that I am truly blessed.

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Mommyhood: Painting A Picture

Things have been pretty crazy here some days. With a husband who has to be away several evenings a week with his work, I find myself trying to keep 6 kids busy on my own, make sure they’re getting along, cook supper, baths some days, playtime with them if I can, homework, bedtime devotions, stories… And in between I’m nursing babies, bouncing babies, changing babies, changing Joey, making sure Joey doesn’t get hurt when I find him sliding down the wooden stairs on a pillow… Sigh. I find I lose my temper sometimes. I feel overwhelmed sometimes. It can get crazy.

I remember one day, a few weeks ago, I was feeling quite exasperated. I had taken the kids to an activity and got home right at supper hour. I was trying to throw something together as I hadn’t had any time that day. The babies were crying, the “older” ones- my 2, 3, 5 and 7 year old- were being extremely loud, some were picking at each other. It was chaos. At least in my little world. I was wondering how I was going to get kids fed, babies fed, kids ready for bed- all in an hour lest I lose my mind. I did what I could in that moment- I stuck bottles in the babies’ mouths so they were happily drinking and a frozen pizza cooked away. Was it ideal? Maybe not. But it worked.

Sometimes we paint Mommyhood as a perfect happy little picture. I think of Cayleigh’s pictures where the princesses in puffed sleeves are always smiling. Where there are rainbows and suns and flowers in blossom. Where everyone is holding hands and everyone is happy. But Mommyhood isn’t always like that. There are struggles. We hear about the crafts and the baking and the games Moms play with their kids. We hear of how good they sleep, how well they play together, how they can read and count. We hear of the outings and the healthy things we prepare, the fingerpaints, the tickles, the laughs. We hear of the smiles and the cuddles and the forts and the stories. But do we ever hear of the struggles? Do we ever hear of the exhaustion? The times where we feel overwhelmed? Challenged? Do we only tell people our strengths but never our weaknesses?

I always knew I wanted a “bigger” family, God willing. And I thank God every day for the wonderful blessings He has given me in my children. But it’s not easy. Pretty much the second we found out we were having twins the morning sickness hit and it’s been quite challenging since. Caden turned 7 a month before the twins were born–the oldest child now with 5 underneath him. We dealt with babies not eating, not nursing, not sleeping, a strong-willed not quite 2 year-old and 3 others who needed Mommy and Daddy, but we were exhausted beyond exhausted and didn’t know how we’d get through even one day on no sleep, let alone months. 4 1/2 months later it’s getting easier in some respects but harder in others. What can I do on those days where I feel like I can’t do it on my own? Can I pretend things are perfect and easy and all smiles and rainbows? Or can I look elsewhere?

‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me’ (2 Cor 12:9)

A lady at our church had twins several years ago and her kids are grown today. I thank God for her. I thank God for one conversation in particular I had with her. We haven’t talked much but I remember, just after the twins were born, being honest with her. Honest about how they weren’t eating well, about how it was hard to get out, hard to give my other 4 attention. Did she tell me everything was going to be ok? No. Did she tell me it was going to get a lot easier? No. What did she tell me, then? She said, “Erin, The Lord is your strength.” She told me it wasn’t having a clean home- that wouldn’t give me strength (and I’m still wrestling with that- mind you, the babies are wearing me down!), it wasn’t what I did with my kids. That wouldn’t give me strength. The Lord is my strength. And you know what? God’s power is made perfect in my weaknesses.

It’s not easy being a mom. It isn’t. And let’s stop painting the picture that it is. No one is perfect- not even our precious children. No one sleeps perfectly, eats perfectly healthy all the time, does the perfect activities, has the perfect amount of Mommy and/or Daddy time all the time. Sometimes there might be tons of TV here, not the greatest frozen meals, and sometimes I might feel so overwhelmed that I shed a tear or two. That’s when I need to cry out to God for He alone is my strength. If I yell, I need to confess my sin and ask for strength to move on and do better next time. And pray and pray He will change my heart and my mind and help me to me more patient. That is where I am at.

So, instead of painting the picture of Mommyhood as roses and rainbows like my daughter’s pictures, I’m going to be honest and say it’s a job where I need to (more than I do) confess my sins to the Lord daily, ask for forgiveness, and ask for strength. It’s tiring and it’s trying. Yet it is beautiful and fun and the best job I’ve ever had! But let’s be honest. It’s not all flowers and happy faces. It isn’t. We all have weaknesses. And who helps us in our weaknesses? Christ. Let us all point to Christ. Let us boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon us. Let us remember “every good and perfect gift is from above”- it’s not by anything we have done or can do. Everything good is from Him. Let us tell others our strength is from God, our help comes from God and that we need help.

Now wouldn’t that paint a beautiful picture? 🙂