You Won’t Hear Me Say I’m Done

The other night my mom stopped by with two of her girlfriends for a quick-ish visit.

Wait. Let me be clearer: These women didn’t simply stop by. No, they had driven an hour and a half for the express purpose of meeting my boys. Mom’s friends were in town from other parts of the country and amazingly, they’d decided that their visit just had to include this brand of mayhem:

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I could be wrong, but I think Mom’s (lovely, kind) friends are probably from smaller families, because they seemed equal parts delighted and exhausted by my boys’ lively, LOUD antics.

Either way, their reactions reminded me that most people in our society aren’t actually raising (soon-to-be) four children aged five and under. Huh. Imagine that. I’ve gotten so used to this madness that it’s easy for me to forget that some find it curious. (Also, I’m sufficiently immersed in the Catholic mom blog world that four seems like nothing in comparison to others’ six, eight, or ten.)

Then I go out in public with my three small boys and my not-so-small belly and I’m stared at and I remember: This intense, chaotic, busy, yes-I-have-my-hands-full life that I’m living? Most people are daunted by it, even if they’re kind enough to find it endearing. Most people I encounter have not, and would not choose it.

Sometimes I question whether I should have.

Sometimes I think of how much peace I would have in the middle of the day if I had just two children who were both in school full time. (Note that I said peace, not leisure – I’m well aware that running a household and a family makes for quite enough responsibilities to keep even the parents of smaller families perpetually well-occupied.)

Sometimes I see pictures of friends’ vacations and weekend camping trips and visits to museums and I pine for the freedom that one or two semi-reasonable, potty-trained children would give my family to enjoy the world around us.

Sometimes I hear other moms’ declarations that they couldn’t possibly handle any more than the two or three children they already have and I wonder whether I’m foolish to think that I can.

Sometimes I even post things like this on Facebook:

I’m making a real dinner tonight, which means I’ve had yet another opportunity to reflect on how OH MY GOSH THEY’RE DRIVING ME MAD I’M GOING TO LOSE MY FLIPPING MIND WHY DID GOD GIVE ME ALL BOYS? WHAT WAS I ON TO THINK I COULD HANDLE ALL THESE LITTLE KIDS AT ONCE?

But then.

Then I look at my boys’ sweet (or mischievous or even sobbing) faces and I thank God for my foolishness, for my lack of freedom and peace. I wonder how I could have ever lived without these infinitely precious little people in my life.

I thank Him for the experiences that lead me down this path to a larger-than-average family. And I look forward to where the path will take me.

Because as much work as it takes to raise a bunch of little kids, as much sleep and sanity as it costs you, the reward is mind-bogglingly huge.

Today, I get the love and snuggles and hilarious stories and charming questions. I get to witness my boys’ camaraderie. I get to watch my husband struggle to perch all three on his lap at once. I get to feel my boys’ jostling against my belly, vying to feel their baby sister move within it.

Tomorrow – many tomorrows from now, I hope to get so much more.

I hope to experience jolly, chaotic Christmases. I hope to never know which loved one will walk through the door next. I hope to have sons who will step forward to fix something around the house so their dad won’t have to. I hope my daughter and her sisters-in-law will bring each other meals when they have babies. I hope to have enough grandchildren running around this place to make my head spin.

I hope my children and grandchildren enjoy the security that I grew up with – the comfort of knowing that no matter what life brings, they will have plenty of people to love and care for them.

I am blessed to come from a very large, very close family. My mom’s family, in particular, includes her six siblings and their spouses, more than twenty grandchildren and (with only six of us having kids so far) another twenty some great-grandchildren. Plus, my family maintains close connections to many of my grandparents’ siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews (as well as great and great-great ones).

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All but four of us.

But beyond all the numbers, there is the love. There is the love that is expressed and the love that is shown in helpfulness and kindness and patience and laughter.

There is not perfection, but there is more food on the table than one family could possibly eat. There are jokes over late-night card games and extra hands when a new baby is born. There is medical advice from the nurses, real estate tips from the realtor, construction and renovation and decorating expertise from the family members in those fields.

There is the knowledge that should tragedy strike and someone be left without the one(s) he loves best, there are dozens prepared to stand there beside him.

I know that my extended family’s closeness is unusual in this day and age and I know that my husband and I have no guarantee that our own one-day family will echo it. But I’m hopeful that if we raise our children with as much love as my grandparents and parents did with theirs, then maybe we’ll have a pretty good shot.

So that’s what I look forward to. That’s what I hope to build. That’s what consoles me on the days when they’re pulling at my clothes and I’m pulling out my hair.

And that’s why you won’t hear me declaring that I’m done – that no way, no how could I handle another child.

Because as long as these days may be, these years – these years of exhaustion and NOISE and limitless responsibilities – I know that one day they’ll seem short. And that when they’re through, my husband and I will be left with the fruit of all our work: our people.

Our people.

No matter how many they number, I know that each and every one will seem infinitely precious to us. I’m sure I’ll wonder how I could have ever lived without them.

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Are you new here? Welcome! I’m glad you’ve stopped by!

If you liked this post, here are some more you might want to check out:

Wonderful Because They’re Them: Thoughts on Mothering All Boys
Here’s to Another Fifty-Four
Another to Love
The Unremarkable Worth Remembering
Honesty From a Fed-up Mommy
What Matters to Him

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These Walls - You Won't Hear Me Say I'm Done

28 thoughts on “You Won’t Hear Me Say I’m Done

    • Don’t ever think the grass is greener – you are blessed many times over. I have one child in heaven and three wonderful children with me. I would have loved to have more (7) children, but circumstances didn’t permit. 😦 Family is what matters – all the love, laughter, fights, crying – it’s all life and all so very, very worth it. Count your blessings and enjoy as many children as God gives you – enjoy for those of us who would have given anything to be in your shoes.

  1. Beautiful. Funny how God has been speaking to me through posts such as this. We just discovered we are pregnant with twins….again. Our older boys are 7, our daughter is 16 months. This will be 4 and 5. I’ve been having a hard time with it, but He has really been using the blogosphere to open and soften my heart. So thank you….

  2. Sitting here in my last trimester of my ninth pregnancy. All morning I have been nesting and trying to clean up my boys’ (six of them!) room. Perhaps I am overwhelmed or just hormonal, but our post made me cry!!! Especially when you said “Our people…” Yes. I love OUR people. Beautiful post!!!!

  3. This is lovely. I am in the very early first trimester with our 11th baby – at 44. This baby was of course, not a huge surprise, and yet, still surprising… as we “know what causes that”, as my mother so graciously asked me this time when we called to tell her.
    Our people are growing, I have a daughter getting married just before this baby is due in the spring. I can’t wait to see what unfolds! Blessings and congratulations on your beautiful and growing family!

  4. Love this! I can relate to just about every sentence. 🙂 Especially those moments when you remember you’re kind of the odd one out when you’re out in public. “Oh wait … that’s right, most of the people around me DON’T have many young children … that’s just my Catholic mom group/blogging friends.”

  5. I love your blog and your family. And you are so right. When they grow up they will always be there for you and each other. I have 8 grown children and like you at the beginning I had 4 two and a half and under,( a set of twins in there). I always loved the big family and we had such marvelous celebrations. My husband passed away 5 years ago and most of my children live close by, help me out a lot, and are always there for each other. We still have giant get-togethers a lot, vacation in New Hampshire with as many of the families that can make it, and are the best thing that could have ever happened to me. You are on the right track. Just keep going.(((HUGS)))

  6. Exactly how I think. The difference is that our first 3 (of 4, currently) are already well on in school. I have an 8th, 6th, & 4th grader, all girls. We had a plan early on…Our youngest just turned 4, another girl. We prayed we might have some in between there, but God had other plans. Our olders are much more self sufficient and helpful now and believe it or not, I sometimes get things done. To everything there is a season. 🙂
    Who knows if this is where the children train leaves us, but I look so very forward to those Christmases you talk about. That is exactly my vision for the future. I grew up in a family like that myself on my dad’s side. He was one of 8 and I have over 20 first cousins, most of us are married or entering religious life already and having our own families…it makes for a wonderful world of fun and love!

  7. I love the “long-term outlook” of this post. Makes the burden of the day to day seem a little less daunting. P.S. I also have three boys 5, 3, almost 1 (and a 6yo girl)… the boy craziness definitely rules around here 🙂

  8. There are many reasons other than being overwhelmed with tiny hands or wanting more peace and freedom that might cause someone to say they’re done. I’m happy for you that you don’t have any of those reasons right now, but never say never. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I am done having children, despite my heart’s cry for more little hands and feet and these types of blogs are hurtful. I know you and others don’t intend it that way, but I wanted to offer another perspective to consider.

  9. Thank you for sharing a thoughtful and insightful post. I had a talk with my mom today about this very thing. My husband and I have been married 10 years, and have 5 kids. We always say “could have been farther apart, and could have been closer together” spacing wise. We make it very clear that we are open to more. I joked that our baby could be our “middle child” one day, which I find fascinating, but my mom does not. She cannot relate to our attitude toward more children. Thankfully, we are at a place were these differences do not push us apart. Please pray for us that it will not cause resentment or even casual drifting. Pray for my mom that she may witness and be persuaded of the blessings of openness to life. And pray for us to be the very best witnesses we can. I’ll do the same for you and your precious family!

  10. Absolutely perfect! I just happened upon this from a facbeook post. It made me teary. This is the life I strive to achieve. The life my mom currently lives. She is 82, one of 8 children, she has 27 grandchildren and 2 great grand babies. We are a very close family with connections to, cousins near and far as well. My mom had 7 children, with me as the “baby”. At 42, I have 8 children. I have said ” I am done SEVERAL times.” Even though I still have a 3 year old a.t home, I also have a 20 year old in college. I can get glimmers of the other side of the chaos. This is the longest I have been not pregnant and not nursing (I nurse them all for a year). We do not buy diapers anymore (we had a party for that one!) and for a mere 5 hours a week I have ALL of my children in school. I found myself trying to quickly fill those 5 hours! Crazy, eh? One would think I’d just come home and sit down. But I can’t. I love my crazy, full, faith filled life. I LOVE my Catholic faith. I tell my mom it is the best gift that she gave me. It has seen me through some rough times. So keep on keeping on, my Catholic friend. You know your time is actually very short down in the weeds…although it seems it will never end. You’ll get there.

  11. This only child says BRAVO! I grew up longing for siblings, even though I had friends who were annoyed by theirs, because growing up without partners in crime felt empty. The real payoff, though, is when the kids are grown – when the parents age, and need in home care or have trouble living alone, when relatives age and the number of family deaths increases. Then the wisdom of larger families becomes apparent.

    • Yes, after seeing how well my parents’ and [some] of their siblings cared for their aging parents, it makes me glad my parents and parents-in-law had lots of kids; as a group we can care for them when the time comes. . . .and glad my husband and I will have at least three to care for us hopefully!!

  12. I was there 9 years ago. My friend calls this time of little ones ‘life in the trenches’. But now my 4 boys, 4 girls, and one on the way not only keep me busy, but keep me happy and help me more than I could have imagined. God gives us what we need, when we need it. And no, I’m not done either.

  13. I love this. It is so perfectly said. we have 4 boys (9 – 1.5) and are not planning to have any more but I can’t say we’re done until nature says we are done because it is not for me to close the door. Even though we don’t plan to have more. But, as you know, you get asked that question a lot. a lot! But what I love most about the post is the description of life with a big family. It is so accurate. Perfect. Thank you.

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