Motherhood is demanding.
It's a fact.
There's just no quibbling about it, or denying it. It's hard, tiring and challenging on many levels. I'm not out the other side of the childhood stage, but I'm also pretty certain that the challenges of being a parent never go away - they just change.
That's all true of motherhood at every age or stage, but analyse it when you are the mother of only little ones - adding in the element of them being close in age - and motherhood has a whole other sting in the tail.
Mothering many littles is a stage of parenting which, in my opinion, is one of the hardest you will face. I've been there. I've survived. If it was down to sheer determination and self-sustenance, I wouldn't be here to tell the tale. Simple as that.
When you have only little children life is demanding. You are the only one who can provide for the every need of your children. They can do very little for themselves, and anything they CAN do invariably involves you having to micro-manage, and often redoing yourself. Quite simply, they are not old enough to do much, but they place a huge level of work upon you, as the mother. Add to that the fact that there will be children who are at the stage where you have to put a lot of effort into character training (read "telling them "no, you can't do that - no, you shouldn't be doing that" ALL.DAY.LONG.....), and you are royally going round the twist.
Yup. Mothering lots of little children is HARD.
I can remember days when I just wept. I cried. Then I cried some more. I was exhausted. I was frustrated. I was worn out mentally. I hardly had time to have a quiet time, without little ones crawling all over me. Jobs got behind, and that just made me feel worse. I look back, and it now all seems like a distant memory. I got through it.
So, how DO you get through it? Obviously, there's no magic formula. Each person has a unique set of circumstances, that shape how your family operates. I do think there are certain principles that can help any mother, in any family setting. At the very least, they are things I know helped me, and may help others.
1. Never forget that God is in control.
Sweet, exhausted, run-ragged mother. God planned for you to be the mother of the children HE gave you. They are a gift from Him, and they are a blessing. God says so, and hard days don't remove that fact from being true. When God gave these blessings to you, they didn't come with a promise of peachy days, with nary a trouble or trial. In fact, we are told we WILL have trials and struggles. The fact of the matter is this - raising and caring for our children is part of the trial of motherhood. The children themselves are not the trial - the work involved in parenting them IS. The overarching principle of the matter doesn't change though - God is still in control! No matter how hard the days get, God, and His ways, are perfect. We cannot ever allow ourselves to forget that. It's the most important thing for us to remember. God doesn't make mistakes, and if He made you the mother of your children, it's because it's just the way He wants it to be. Hard days included.
2. Embrace the hard days as a way to bring you closer to God.
Undeniably, the times where we feel at our lowest, the most under pressure, and struggling hardest, are when we cast ourselves more fully upon the Lord. "When I am weak, then am I strong". It's only when we recognise our weakness, and our frail humanity, that we fully rest upon the everlasting strength and provision of God. He NEEDS us to come to the end of ourself, to rely fully upon His grace and goodness. Mothering many littles CERTAINLY brings us to that place, so embrace it, and cast yourself upon God's unfailing nature, and bountiful, loving care.
Raise your tired heart in prayer. Make the time to commune with the Lord, and strengthen your prayer life. You don't need silence. You don't need hour upon hour. Prayer can be raised any time, any place. Don't silently battle on. Do not. Bring your burdens to the Lord. Ask Him to help you and meet your needs. Seek Him for wisdom as to how to make it through each day.
Thank Him for the hard days, and seek Him in the struggles. You will find yourself in a closer place with the Saviour, as you acknowledge your weakness and throw yourself completely into His care.
3. Seek out scriptures as your "watchword".
Take some time to read the Bible, and find a verse, or verses, to be your "go-to" verse on those really hard days. A verse that will instantly transport you into a place of peace and comfort, and will carry you through your trials. The Bible is FILLED with verses that will lift your spirits. Different verses will mean something to each of us. Ask God to speak to YOUR heart, and when things get tough, simply speak those words to your heart, and experience God bringing calm to your soul. Personally, mine is Philippians 4:19. "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." My needs are so much more than food on the table, and clothes on the back. My mental and emotional needs are often far greater than my physical needs, and bringing that verse to mind brings me so much comfort and strength. Why not print or write out the verse or verses that you find? Put them around the house, in your Bible - anywhere that you will see them regularly. Prints on the wall, or bookmarks. You can even get verses on ornaments and home decor items, just to have at perfect eye level. More importantly, write it on the tables of your hearts. Commit God's Word to memory, so it's in your heart and mind above all else, ready to pluck out and raise with your voice, whenever you need it.
4.Find people to support you.
Whether it's real life people, or people on the other end of a phone or a computer - FIND people. We live in a day and age where there are always people you can call on for support and advice. Just knowing that there are others who know how it feels, and can give you ideas about how to cope, is a massive help. When I just had little ones I had very little real life, or virtual, support. It was so hard. My family didn't live nearby, and I had very few friends nearby. I am very thankful for the few I had, and I can remember just crying, sometimes, and saying how hard I was finding things. They were able to help me, support me, and pray for me. That, above all else, is such a comfort. The prayers of people who understand and care. If you can, meet up with others, or invite them over to yours, if that is easier. Whatever you do, don't try and go it alone. Talk to your husband. Tell him about your struggles. He may have suggestions that you wouldn't have thought of, looking at it as the one not in the daily throes of it all. Be willing to listen and respect his suggestions. They may not all work, or even be practical, but be open enough to listen and consider them - you may be pleasantly surprised!
5. Simplify your life.
One of my worst enemies, when I had lots of littles, was myself. I tried to do too much. I look back and think how insane I was, attempting to do things that just weren't necessary. I was so keen to home educate, I jumped into "formal" education quite early. Looking back, I just didn't need that pressure upon myself. Little children can learn so much without needing a curriculum. The moment you add a curriculum you feel bound to use it, whether from pressures outside the home, or those you place upon yourself. "I paid for it, I'd better use it". "People say I should do X, Y and Z, so I should". "I'm failing my child if I don't do things a certain way". Children are little sponges. They are more likely to learn, negatively, from your stress levels and irritability stemming from your over-worked schedule, than they are from any formal "schooling" you do with them. Prioritise what you want your child to learn. Keep it simple, and don't put more demands upon yourself than are already there from just EXISTING!
Education aside, we can also make life too complicated in other ways. Media bombards us with all sorts of new-fangled and clever ways to do things - everything from making cute lunches to fun craft activities to do with your little ones. Pinterest is either a curse or a blessing! These things are all great. If you have one child. Maybe two. And if two, several years between the children. Many ideas are lovely, and probably clever and fun. They are not fun if you are already stretched to the limit in the area of patience and time. They are torture and unnecessary. Don't ever fool yourself into thinking that you have to do lots of complicated and fancy things, in order to be a good mother. A good mother knows her own limitations and skills, and only does what she knows she can handle. Little Johnny's Mum does it? SO WHAT! You're not little Johnny's Mum. (well, maybe your son IS Johnny, but you get what I mean!) Keep your life as simple as possible, and you will be able to cope a lot easier.
Even a simple thing like laundry. Don't have too many clothes to have to wash and put away. Don't fold and iron everything, even if you used to. Put things back on if they are just a little dirty, and you won't see anyone today. NO-ONE WILL SEE, and it won't kill them!
If you are the kind of person who needs to go out, go out. If you are finding it hard to do logistically, plan ahead to make the actual exit from the house easier. Get everything ready in advance, and you can just go. If you are someone who needs to just be at home, stay at home. Don't go out because someone said you should. If staying at home means you stay sane, and keep in your bubble, stay at home. It won't harm you, or your children, to not get out much. It's all about getting through the days, weeks, months, or, (said in hushed tones, lest I scare you....) years, of this particular age and stage.
Which brings me to my last point....
Its a stage. It WILL pass.
It's true! No kidding. You will get through the other side of this. Your children will get bigger. They will start to help more. The strain and struggle will be lifted from your shoulders, and shared around the family - and that is PART of being a family. So long as you train them well whilst they are young, life will get easier. You won't be so tired. Sleep will return. Sanity will prevail. Even if you have many more children, life gets easier as you go on. When I had Tabitha, and even when I was pregnant with her, it was my 8th, but it was so much easier! My older ones were, and are, a wonderful help. Every little bit of help adds up. Each tiny little thing a child does as part of their everyday routine, is one little thing less for you to do. I rarely set the table, empty the dishwasher, take out the bin, or clean the toilets! All these are jobs spread between the children, but make my life that little bit easier.
Trust me, it gets better. You will look back and these days will be a hazy memory, and you will have the joy of children, getting bigger, FAR too quickly, resulting in a life that is much easier than it is now. You will never look back and wish you hadn't had these days, because that would mean wishing you didn't have your children. Children make work - children ARE a blessing. Therefore, work is a blessing!