Hi Jerri, Just a few ideas for you.
What was your life like when you had all littles and no big kids to help much?
What was homeschooling like for you at the beginning?
How do you handle postpartum and illness with so many little ones needing you physically?
Kimm, great questions! Here goes:
Wish I had digital pictures from when my older kids were all little, but I don't. I found this one from Dec. 2004 and as you can see (click on the image to see a larger version) the little people still outnumber the older ones. When this pic was taken there were seven children nine years old and younger. There are still times when I don't have any of my older helpers around and I have to take care of all the little ones on my own (there is a nine day trip usually in Aug. when the older kids, and last year dad too, are gone). It isn't easy, but I manage to survive. Last year that meant seven children 10 and under with me, without Dad or older sibs. So, I guess what I'm saying is if you have a large family (eventually, maybe) the solutions you find that help you through the early years when all the children are under, say, ten years old, will be your tried and true friends as the years go on and you still have young children in your home.
But I digress....
Back when my oldest four were age six and under (they were all boys, by the way) my life was very different than it is now. My life was less stressful and less busy (there is nothing like having teenagers who need rides here and there and that work and have schedules of their own to keep to make life a bit stressful for the parents! LOL!), because most younger children are not involved in many out of the home activities (our personal choice not to be in sports for tiny tots, preschool, extra church programs, etc.), I was home most of the time. I had much lower expectations (well, in all honesty, I learned to lower my expectations for myself, my home, etc. during these early years). My sisters will tell you **gulp** I didn't do the dishes till the sink was overflowing. Ahem.... I spent my time training my boys to do chores (never too young to start!), discipline, playing together and eventually doing school together. We did park days with friends from church, a highlight of our week. Life was, simply put, more simple.
When life got a little easier, I would begin to add in more to our lives and when it was hard, I'd take away stuff till we had an even balance again. We made it through four successful pregnancies, an ectopic and five miscarriages before my oldest turned seven. I nursed all but my first baby (tried, no support, had bad, bad problems,etc.), almost lost my husband to a ruptured appendix and peritonitis, moved three times, sold Christmas Around The World, Tupperware and Country Neighbors "on the side" (different years) and was even successful at it (ALL God for sure!). Our life was, well ....just real life. Ups and downs, busy times,slow times, job loss, pregnancies that went great, one that required 4 months of bed rest, being broke and being blessed through it all.
Through all this, God was by my side. I didn't always have time to be in a Bible Study group at church. I didn't always have time to read my Bible or keep a prayer journal. I sent up "arrow" prayers as I could. God KNEW my heart, after all, He placed me here to raise my family and knew some of these years are very busy. He didn't leave me, He was always there to carry me when I was weak.
On the practical side, during bed rest, recovery or illness the children would climb in bed with me and we would read or watch movies till Daddy got home. Or I would camp on the couch and could direct and oversee them from there. Even small children can get something mommy instructs them to get. When children napped, mommy napped too! Sure laundry would get behind, or those dishes, ahem, maybe dinners were not high cuisine, but no one went hungry. Life was rich and full of the business of raising a family.
Did I ever get discouraged? Sure. I was tired a lot. It seemed diapers, nursing, potty training, doing all the housework myself would never end. Then, I'd go to bed, get a decent amount of sleep and have a totally different perspective the next day (Thank You LORD!).What a difference sleep makes for me and my emotions! Did I ever envy the families with older children (still do sometimes, those with teenage daughters...really, teenage boys are just not the same as teenage daughters, and my oldest girl is 8...the irony is that when I finally get my very own teenage girls, I will have a flood of them! LOL! Being as my girls are 8,6,5,3 and 1 right now, I will have a 19,17,16,14 and 12 year old at the same time in eleven years! Oh did I have to figure out that calculation? Is it really THAT long till they are all those ages? **sigh**)? You know the ones who had "built-in" babysitters, had kids who did some of the major chores (like washing dishes! Ahem...), and washed their own cloths, some even had kids who helped with the cooking and the babies! Lots to envy, thinking their grass was greener. I know better now. Along with all those nicer things goes a lot of hard work, and prayer, getting them there and keeping them there!
As far as homeschooling went, the first year I had one child, the second year two, the fourth year three and so on and so on. As part of God's perfect plan, He started me out small (one student) and over time grew me and my abilities to do more. We've had good school years and not so good school years. Years when mommy was pregnant and would fall asleep every time a child would TRY to do their reading lesson. LOL We didn't try to do all the subjects the public schools do, like science and history, but focused on the basics. We did school when the baby , whoever that was at the time, was napping. We did school between nursing times. If we had sick kids, we had a sick day. If the teacher, mom, was sick or too tired from being up all night with a fussy baby, we had a Teacher-Out-Of-Service Day (our answer to the Teacher In-Service days in public schools - aren't they in service every school day? Huh?).
Balance. It is all about balance, no matter what season of childbearing, homeschooling and/or parenting you are in. Don't envy those with older children. They "paid their dues" to get where they are, believe me! Instead, look at them and rejoice that someday, not that far away, you will have some older kids to help lighten your load. I'm so thankful God gives us our first children when we are still young instead of in our 70's! LOL! We have more stamina and usually better health with those first children and then as we age and slow down, we have the strength of our older children to help us. Balance...always.
blessings to all you young moms,
January 18, 2007